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Sub And Super Octaves (and Unison Off)

Peter Clark

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" it is interesting to see how far one can push the boundaries - and what ostensibly bizarre registrations actually work in this acoustcally arid building. In fact, I have found that the most satisfying registration for Bach's Chorale Prelude on Aus tiefer Not, is the full choruses of Pedal, G.O. and Swell, with the Swell Sub Octave and Octave, and all unison couplers (except those for the Positive), with the upper pedal part played by a colleague on the Positive with Gedeckt, Principal (4ft.), Cymbal (29-33-36), Crumhorn and the Chamade - in octaves. I have yet to hear a convincing version played by one person with the double pedal part played as written. Whatever registration is used I find this method unsatisfactory. Either the lower pedal part is too prominent (or lacking in gravitas), or the upper part is not prominent enough. Even a divided pedal board would not necessarily solve the problem, since it would require the combination system to act also upon the point of division - which would change a number of times during the chorale - and therefore be programmed on several general pistons, in order to take account of these alterations."



(I would like to ear that!) Here, you exercise the creativity of the player -something quite welcomed

for a teacher, who will pass this passion to his pupils-, whose duty is to try to get more out of

an instrument that what its builder imagined possible; Mr Mander himself explained it some years ago

about his organ at St-Ignatius NY.

But this is no reason to deliver an organ that would limit itself to gather a stock of tones, up

to the player to "DIY" with them; there must obtain a structure, a "tonal architecture" as Audsley

wrote it.

The extreme reverse is to be find in the neo-baroque period, when Lawrence Phelps wrote the player

just had to come in, draw the prescribed stops for the work Z and play the notes, period; the builder

had to arrange that the result was the same everywhere. In Belgium the specifications had commenced

to be the same everywhere as well (8-4-2-Mixtur, Bourdon 8- Prestant 4'-Flûte 4'- Nasard- Quarte-Tierce-

Cymbale-Cromorne); the standardization was well underway when the reaction arrived towards the 1990's.

Today I tend to believe both sides need to be creative: the player, as you explain it with your example,

and the builder, who must deliver a beherschbares, a "controlable", understandable instrument

which provides guidelines from itself to help the player, and whose voicing may be beautifully made

because the voicer knew exactly the place of each stop in the tonal structure.


You cannot, for example, "put" an octave coupler on a Schnitger (original) stop with its "Mixed scaling",

because the result will be a soup of whatever compared with the "normal" sound; such stops are made

to fit in a dedicate, vertical structure, not extended compasses. Actually, the octave couplers were,

stricto Sensu, a step towards the unification of the organ.

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