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Books About Organs/organ Music


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The title says it all really B)

 

One of my favourites at the minute is "French Organ Music from the Revolution to Franck and Widor". Definitely worth a read if you're interested in the French stuff, and of course there's the "Cambridge companion to the Organ" which is essential for quick reference.

 

 

Recommendations welcome

 

 

 

 

EC

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Rollin Smith's book Louis Vierne: Organist of Notre Dame Cathedral really is a must for the picture it gives, not just of Vierne, but also of the milieu of Parisian organ music during his time. You'll need a mortgage to buy it though.

 

Rollin Smith, Towards an Authentic Interpretation of the Organ Works of César Franck. A fairly slim volume that examines what we can divine about Franck's playing from contemporary evidence and from accounts from his pupils.

 

Peter Williams, The European Organ 1450-1850. (Long out of print, but I don't think there's been anything to superseded it.) Examines the various regional styles of organ during this period. "Europe" here does not include England.

 

Stephen Bicknell, The History of the English Organ.

 

Peter Hurford, Making Music on the Organ. Well worth reading, even if only to think about and then go your own way.

 

Not exclusively about the organ by any means, but The Bach Reader should be required reading for any organist.

 

Long out of print (it was published in 1951), but extremely useful for its account of how the French ventil and German Freie Kombination systems work, is Reginald Whitworth's, Organ Stops and their Use. (Is there a more up-to-date alternative covering this ground?) Whitworth's advice on registering English Organs is interesting too, but rather unfashionable today, being quite strongly concerned with "cleanliness".

 

Oh, and for light relief, Jenny Setchell's Organ-isms is absolutely brilliant - but we've all read that, haven't we? B)

 

One I've not read, but wondered about is Rollin Smith's book Saint-Saëns and the Organ. Does it have much to say that isn't in his other books?

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Ditto to many of the above (particularly the Cambridge Companion and the Hurford book).

 

I quite enjoy the odd biog, not so much for the factual information and analysis of works, but also for the social commentary of the time. For which I would recommend the Whitlock biog by one of our forum members, and also Alfred Hollins biog. The latter is fairly weighty, but hey, here was a blind musician who played the piano and organ in front of royalty and embarked on lengthy world tours that many of his better-signted contemporaries would have struggled with.

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I have many favourites. I grew up reading Peter Williams (A History of the Organ from the Greeks to the Present Day as well as The European Organ) and although Williams' standpoint is perhaps slightly over zealous in favouring anything built before 1750, these remain standard texts.

 

In addition I would recommend 'The Organ as a Mirror of its Time' (ed Kerala Snyder, OUP 2002) simply because it succeeds like almost no other book in putting significant instruments into their broadest possible contexts both musically, socially, and culturally.

 

These are also marvellous if you can find a copy: http://www.amazon.com/Charles-Brenton-Fisk...s/dp/0961675519

 

And, at the moment, I'm reading Charles Callahan's 'The American Classic Organ, A History in Letters' which, among other things, gives a hair-raising glimpse into the psyche of Henry Willis III...

 

Bazuin

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and there are the biogs of GTB by Jonathan Rennert and Marcel Dupre by Michael Murray along with a brief history of some french organists/composers, French Masters of the Organ, oh, and Grant Degens and Bradbeer, 21 years of Organ Building. All good reads and light weight stuff

Peter

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For me a watershed came in 1984 with the publication of John Norman's beautifully illustrated "The organs of Britain". I don't know if it was ever updated, since a number of instruments featured have since undergone rebuilds, some very significant instruments have appeared and a few have sadly gone up in smoke. but for the first time I had a ready reference to the specification of many of the finest organs in the country, including many of our cathedrals' - a joy that was only surpassed when many years later I discovered the website of the national Pipe Organ Register. Worth seeking for its historical value despite its age.

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The Vierne book mentiond by Vox - a must. Another I found a good read was Jean Langlais , The Man and his Music by Ann Labounsky. I obtained it from Amazon, probably still available.

 

Kathleen Thomerson's bio-bibliography of Langlais is also very useful. Not sure if it is still in print though.

 

Peter

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For me a watershed came in 1984 with the publication of John Norman's beautifully illustrated "The organs of Britain". I don't know if it was ever updated, since a number of instruments featured have since undergone rebuilds, some very significant instruments have appeared and a few have sadly gone up in smoke. but for the first time I had a ready reference to the specification of many of the finest organs in the country, including many of our cathedrals' - a joy that was only surpassed when many years later I discovered the website of the national Pipe Organ Register. Worth seeking for its historical value despite its age.

 

Well, yes - but there were, as one reviewer [Paul Hale?] stated, some surprising omissions. Cornwall in particular fared rather badly.

 

I would also endorse the books on Vierne and Duruflé. The Peter Williams volume on The European Organ is a mine of information. I was supposed to have been given a copy of the Callahan book (in return for turning pages at a recital he gave in Guildford Cathedral a few years ago). I have yet to receive it. However, to be honest, I am not remotely concerned.

 

The book French Organ Music from the Revolution to Franck and Widor is indeed fascinating and well worth the price.

 

I also possess two slim volumes, one entitled The Organ: its Tonal Structure and Registration, by Cecil Clutton and Lieut-Col. George Dixon and Organs and Tuning: A Practical Handbook for Organists, by Thomas Elliston. This latter book contains some old specifications of well-known organs, in addition to much other interesting information.

 

I also enjoy re-reading some of Laurnece Elvin's works: The Harrison Story, Bishop & Son, Organ Builders and Pipes & Actions, for example.

 

Stephen Bicknell's book The Making of the British Organ is indeed fascinating. However, The Organ Today, by John Norman, Sumner's great work The Organ and Twenty-one Years of Organ Building, by Maurice Forsyth-Grant also make interesting reading.

 

I must admit that I enjoy dipping from time to time into Ralph Downes' book Baroque Tricks: Adventures with the Organ Builders. His frankness and often candid descriptions are often amusing and always fascinating.

 

I have a number of other books, but I must (of course) mention the work Pierre Cochereau: Témoignages, by Yvette Carbou.

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