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Principal Vs Open Diapason


rcolasacco
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I admit to ignorance, and even gross ignorance sometimes but not to stupidity; I leave that for others to call me. I just noticed this morning while perusing specifications of NYC Organs that St. Patrick's Cathedral, for one, has a Principal 8', an Open Diapason 1, 8" and an Open Diapason 2, 8', in the Great Division. First, I've always wondered why quite a few (especially English organs) often have two diapason choruses and secondly, why does this organ have not only that but a Principal as well!? I have never read why this would be in all the literature I've read on organs, nor has it ever been explained to me. Thus, I ask this here since this is a list started by and for organ builders.

Robert

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Guest Geoff McMahon

In the Edwardian era (and indeed after) the prestige of an organ seems to have been measured by the number of Open Diapasons it had on the Great Organ. Two, three and four such stops were by no means uncommon (there may even be some with more). I am not entirely sure what it was all for, although it did give the organist a number of foundation stops to play with, or add together to give a nice rich muddy sound, but grand and solid.

 

I can only guess about St. Patrick's Cathedral as I don't know that instrument, but I wonder if the Principal 8 is the narrowest of the three and intended as a more baroque stop (introduced or altered since the last war?). The Open Diapason I might be slightly larger than that and the Open Diapason II larger than that again. Usually if there are just two Open Diapasons, they are termed Large Open Diapason and Small Open Diapason. It is not unusual for there to be two Principal 4 stops to go with the large and small Open Diapasons. They don't normally get called Principal I and Principal II but Principal 4 (the smaller scaled of the two) and Octave 4.

 

Is this all a good idea? Well, it has its problems. Although it is common, indeed usual, to have a correspondingly scaled Principal (or Octave) 4 for the two or more Open Diapasons, it is rare that this luxury extends to the 2ft stops and beyond. So when it comes to the upperwork, the organ builder has to decide which foundation stops (8 & 4) the higher pitched stops are going to be scaled to work with. Even more significantly, when it comes to the tonal finishing, how is he going to balance the upperwork? Is it going to belong primarily to the Open Diapason I and Octave 4 and so be too loud for the Open Diapason II and Octave 4? Or the other way about perhaps? Or a compromise so that it works half way with both, but not properly with either? This is a real dilemma and there is no resolution to it. Of course, one might provide two mixtures, one for the Open I and the other for the Open II. But how much more useful two complimentary and very different Mixtures would be, one "grave" and the other higher pitched.

 

In my experience the introduction of additional Open Diapasons introduces problems which actually compromise the final outcome of the organ so much that I question whether it is worthwhile. That is not to say that they do not have a place in the instruments in which they are to be found. The philosophy there is quite different.

 

John Pike Mander

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A quite important matter!

 

Maybe the Diapason 1 was intended as a basis for the diapason chorus, and the other(s) to go with the others 8' flues, like with Cavaillé-Coll's "choeur des fonds" ?

 

Montre 8' (slotted)

Flûte harmonique 8'

Gambe 8'

Bourdon 8'

 

Cavaillé-Coll's mixtures evolved greatly, but I'm pretty sure they were rarely meant for 8-4-2-mixture, excepted perhaps his first and very late organs.

 

One could even imagine a combination of the two:

 

Open diapason 8' (not slotted, basis of the chorus)

Montre 8' (slotted)

Flûte harmonique 8'

Gambe 8'

Bourdon 8'

 

This is something I dream to try (on a work's chest, not in an organ !)

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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I remember on the Great at St Pauls Cathedral there were two Principal 4 stops (Principal I and II rather than Principal/Octave) after the 1972/77 rebuild. But this was changed during the 1990s I think, with one of the Principals displaced with a new Claribel Flute. At the same time the South Choir gained (or regained?) a Principle 4 (was this simply transfered from the Great?).

 

Has this made the registration on the Great any easier now there is only one Principal 4? With two Open Diapasons I assume the second Diapason (the old one) now sings alone, or can the single Principle make do for both?

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I have always associated Open Diapason stops with a more rounded smooth tone and Principal (8ft) with a more classical edgy sound, but this is not always the case.

 

I am actually in favour of multiple Open Diapasons on the Great of a large organ.

My personal favourite - Durham Cathedral has 4 on the Great and 2 on the Swell. Anyone who has heard this organ will know that it is far from muddy, and the additional Diapasons are generally used for quieter sounds or special solo effects, with perhaps two together being used in the chorus build up. Sometimes in Skinner organs there is a large Open on the Solo as well.

 

I think many large organs were ruined in the 1960s and 1970s when large Diapasons (often part of original schemes) were thrown out in favour of Sharp Mixtures. A particular case in point is York, where they threw away several unison stops and replaced them with numerous mixture ranks, and whilst this organ still makes a spelndid sound the Great chorus does to my ears sound top heavy.

 

Finally I would like to mourn the almost total dissapearance of the Swell Open Diapason from small - medium new organs. This often results in unsatisfactory chorus building based on a Gedact or something similar. If I were in the fortunate position of ordering a new 20 stop pipe organ, I would make sure my Swell department was furnished with a full length 8' Open Diapason.

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Hear, Hear to the demise of the Swell Open Diapason! Although this is a gross generalisation of modern swell organs, I find many modern small swell organs, (usually a gambe and gedact, a 4' principal, a 2' flute (all to different scales), a mixture, a 16' reed of some description (which is never quite satisfactory as an oboe) and an 8' trumpet) lack the blend to allow a smooth build up through the swell organ, which is necessary for choral accompaniment. I find the quieter traditional swell cominbations and sounds (e.g. Diaps 8+4 and oboe) can often be found lacking.

 

Personally, I would favour an oboe over a 16' reed on the swell and I don't accept the view that you can use a trumpet as an oboe in a romantic situation with the box shut because what happens when you want to open the box?

 

Can we apply pressure through this forum for more effective swell organs in modern organs?

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Guest Geoff McMahon

That is an interesting observation and in an ideal world I think that most (if not all) organ builders and organists would prefer a full length Open Diapason in the Swell. But sometimes there is simply not the space to do that. One might take the new organ we have built for Sydney Grammar School as a case in point. With the best will in the world, nobody could have managed to get an Open Diapason into that Swell department, so the Gedack/Gamba solution is the only option. It is not as good as having an independent Open Diapason, but it works remarkably well for all that. The 16ft Bassoon and 8ft Hautbois work together very well to give a full Swell effect and the organist there has expressed particular pleasure with the versatility of the Swell Organ although it is small.

 

John Pike Mander

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I also understand that the size of a swell box is quite important. The little 4' swell boxes of small Victorian Hills and Walkers of about 12-20 stops (with a stopped bottom octave - if there was one) can have quite a remarkable dynamic range. They tend to be quite tightly packed as well, which perhaps contribute to the effect as well.

 

I haven't played a small modern Mander (except about 5 minutes at Holborn) so I'm not really qualified to speak about them but I am glad the Sydney Grammer School Organ's swell has been well received.

 

I guess space must always be at a premium so it is a question of deciding what is right for that particular project and organ - sometimes there will be strings and others it will be Open Diapasons. It'll be interesting to see a new 20 stop organ that takes the Open Diapason option, though! ;)

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  • 11 months later...
Guest Leathered-Lips
I have always associated Open Diapason stops with a more rounded smooth tone and Principal (8ft) with a more classical edgy sound, but this is not always the case.

 

I am actually in favour of multiple Open Diapasons on the Great of a large organ.

My personal favourite - Durham Cathedral has 4 on the Great and 2 on the Swell. Anyone who has heard this organ will know that it is far from muddy, and the additional Diapasons are generally used for quieter sounds or special solo effects, with perhaps two together being used in the chorus build up. Sometimes in Skinner organs there is a large Open on the Solo as well.

 

I think many large organs were ruined in the 1960s and 1970s when large Diapasons (often part of original schemes) were thrown out in favour of Sharp Mixtures. A particular case in point is York, where they threw away several unison stops and replaced them with numerous mixture ranks, and whilst this organ still makes a spelndid sound the Great chorus does to my ears sound top heavy.

 

Finally I would like to mourn the almost total dissapearance of the Swell Open Diapason from small - medium new organs. This often results in unsatisfactory chorus building based on a Gedact or something similar. If I were in the fortunate position of ordering a new 20 stop pipe organ, I would make sure my Swell department was furnished with a full length 8' Open Diapason.

 

I have never been fortunate enough to hear the organ at Durham, but all those open diapasons reminds me of where English organ building now seems to be going wrong. You can never have enough rolling 8' open diapason tone in an English romantic organ, and all the diapasons do not always have to be drawn at one time. although that is a possibility. With regard to the Swell, one of my favourite combinations is the Swell Open Diapason 8' with the Flute 8' and the Oboe, possibly the strings also. Maybe with the 4' principal and 2' added at a later time with it. It gives the organ that lovely English Evensong feel, not much use to a Baptist organist. :(

I agree sharp mixtures are not the way forward, they can sound most unpleasant. <_<

 

Every good wish

 

Edna

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In the Edwardian era (and indeed after) the prestige of an organ seems to have been measured by the number of Open Diapasons it had on the Great Organ. Two, three and four such stops were by no means uncommon......(snip)

 

It is not unusual for there to be two Principal 4 stops to go with the large and small Open Diapasons. They don't normally get called Principal I and Principal II but Principal 4 (the smaller scaled of the two) and Octave 4.

 

Is this all a good idea? Well, it has its problems. Although it is common, indeed usual, to have a correspondingly scaled Principal (or Octave) 4 for the two or more Open Diapasons, it is rare that this luxury extends to the 2ft stops and beyond. So when it comes to the upperwork, the organ builder has to decide which foundation stops (8 & 4) the higher pitched stops are going to be scaled to work with. Even more significantly, when it comes to the tonal finishing, how is he going to balance the upperwork? Is it going to belong primarily to the Open Diapason I and Octave 4 and so be too loud for the Open Diapason II and Octave 4? Or the other way about perhaps? Or a compromise so that it works half way with both, but not properly with either? This is a real dilemma and there is no resolution to it. Of course, one might provide two mixtures, one for the Open I and the other for the Open II. But how much more useful two complimentary and very different Mixtures would be, one "grave" and the other higher pitched.

 

In my experience the introduction of additional Open Diapasons introduces problems which actually compromise the final outcome of the organ....(snip)

 

====================

 

 

The quest for larger foundation tone actualy goes back a long way; to the late baroque in fact. At the Bavokerk, Haarlem, can be found a two-rank 8ft Principal on the Hoofdwerk. (1727?)

 

With the early romantic German organs and Topfer, came bigger scalings and therefore louder 8ft unison stops, which organ-builders such as Schulze seized upon with relish.

 

When Schulze completed the Doncaster instrument, it cause such a sensation, that everyone wanted at least one "Schulze diapason," but probably got nothing of the sort unless they were genuine articles. The English organists never understood the Doncaster "double chorus," of one based on the 16ft pitch and one based on the (louder) 8ft pitch; each with their own complement of Mixtures/mutations etc.

 

Go to almost ANY Victorian/Edwardian instrument, and there in all its' glory will be a "Schulze" Diapason no.1, which usually stands out like a musical sore-thumb, simply because no-one really bother to work out what Schulze had been doing; except T C Lewis of course.

 

In the Harrison & Harrison "standard" instrument, sheer outright power was very much the order of the day, and the organists loved it because it could not only lead large-scale congregational singing, it could quell riots!

 

Of course, without the appropriate upperwork, the Great choruses simply lacked brilliance; the dreadful Harmonics mixtures little more than a sticking-plaster for the equally awful Trombas, which never stood a chance of blending with such assertive flues without a little help.

 

I therefore believe that the "Fat Alice" Diapasons were a travesty born of misconception, and really have no place in a serious musical instrument. If the English organists had done their homework, and actually worked out what Schulze had been doing, we wouldn't have been saddled with stringy and ineffectual Willis chorus-work, or the ridiculously loud choruses of Arthur Harrison/Geroge Dixon, and those large-scaled, leathered Diapasons.

 

Now if Willis hadn't strangled the Lewis company and dealt the death blow to the company, English organ-building might have taken a different and better turn....but that never happened.

 

Of course, the idea of "Grave" and "Sharp" Mixtures was exploited by Schulze very effectively.

 

MM

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Well, the 8' duplication began in southern Germany during the baroque

area, under italian influences (one Manual, two Principals one of which

often tuned as a celeste). Indeed the english baroque organ could

have been influenced by Italy too.

Late-18th century southern Germany's organs often had four flue 8' (or even more

like Ochsenhausen) on each manual but the secondary ones.

 

Later they became an ensemble, a minutely differencied entity which gathers:

 

-A Stopped Diapason

-An open Diapason

-A Flute

-A Gamba

 

This is the basic one, one can add a second Gamba, Gemshorn etc.

 

In the british organ a registration like this won't work, so the foundationnal ensemble with differentiated voices has to be build within the Diapason family alone

 

So it's no surprise between a Dulciana and a Diapason phonon there are many variations that arose within that family.

Now of course we may "condemn" this or that one, according to the even greater

diversity of fashion and tastes, or according to the need for some spare knobs in order to hang bags.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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In the Edwardian era (and indeed after) the prestige of an organ seems to have been measured by the number of Open Diapasons it had on the Great Organ. Two, three and four such stops were by no means uncommon......(snip)

 

It is not unusual for there to be two Principal 4 stops to go with the large and small Open Diapasons. They don't normally get called Principal I and Principal II but Principal 4 (the smaller scaled of the two) and Octave 4.

 

Is this all a good idea? Well, it has its problems. Although it is common, indeed usual, to have a correspondingly scaled Principal (or Octave) 4 for the two or more Open Diapasons, it is rare that this luxury extends to the 2ft stops and beyond. So when it comes to the upperwork, the organ builder has to decide which foundation stops (8 & 4) the higher pitched stops are going to be scaled to work with. Even more significantly, when it comes to the tonal finishing, how is he going to balance the upperwork? Is it going to belong primarily to the Open Diapason I and Octave 4 and so be too loud for the Open Diapason II and Octave 4? Or the other way about perhaps? Or a compromise so that it works half way with both, but not properly with either? This is a real dilemma and there is no resolution to it. Of course, one might provide two mixtures, one for the Open I and the other for the Open II. But how much more useful two complimentary and very different Mixtures would be, one "grave" and the other higher pitched.

 

In my experience the introduction of additional Open Diapasons introduces problems which actually compromise the final outcome of the organ....(snip)

 

====================

The quest for larger foundation tone actualy goes back a long way; to the late baroque in fact. At the Bavokerk, Haarlem, can be found a two-rank 8ft Principal on the Hoofdwerk. (1727?)

 

With the early romantic German organs and Topfer, came bigger scalings and therefore louder 8ft unison stops, which organ-builders such as Schulze seized upon with relish.

 

When Schulze completed the Doncaster instrument, it cause such a sensation, that everyone wanted at least one "Schulze diapason," but probably got nothing of the sort unless they were genuine articles. The English organists never understood the Doncaster "double chorus," of one based on the 16ft pitch and one based on the (louder) 8ft pitch; each with their own complement of Mixtures/mutations etc.

 

Go to almost ANY Victorian/Edwardian instrument, and there in all its' glory will be a "Schulze" Diapason no.1, which usually stands out like a musical sore-thumb, simply because no-one really bother to work out what Schulze had been doing; except T C Lewis of course.

 

In the Harrison & Harrison "standard" instrument, sheer outright power was very much the order of the day, and the organists loved it because it could not only lead large-scale congregational singing, it could quell riots!

 

Of course, without the appropriate upperwork, the Great choruses simply lacked brilliance; the dreadful Harmonics mixtures little more than a sticking-plaster for the equally awful Trombas, which never stood a chance of blending with such assertive flues without a little help.

 

I therefore believe that the "Fat Alice" Diapasons were a travesty born of misconception, and really have no place in a serious musical instrument. If the English organists had done their homework, and actually worked out what Schulze had been doing, we wouldn't have been saddled with stringy and ineffectual Willis chorus-work, or the ridiculously loud choruses of Arthur Harrison/Geroge Dixon, and those large-scaled, leathered Diapasons.

 

Now if Willis hadn't strangled the Lewis company and dealt the death blow to the company, English organ-building might have taken a different and better turn....but that never happened.

 

Of course, the idea of "Grave" and "Sharp" Mixtures was exploited by Schulze very effectively.

 

MM

 

 

Whatever the 'moral' justification for the Large Open Diapason, many of us quite enjoy listening to/playing English music written between c. 1880 and 1960... <_<

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  • 3 years later...
Guest Echo Gamba
Hear, Hear to the demise of the Swell Open Diapason! Although this is a gross generalisation of modern swell organs, I find many modern small swell organs, (usually a gambe and gedact, a 4' principal, a 2' flute (all to different scales), a mixture, a 16' reed of some description (which is never quite satisfactory as an oboe) and an 8' trumpet) lack the blend to allow a smooth build up through the swell organ, which is necessary for choral accompaniment. I find the quieter traditional swell cominbations and sounds (e.g. Diaps 8+4 and oboe) can often be found lacking.

 

Personally, I would favour an oboe over a 16' reed on the swell and I don't accept the view that you can use a trumpet as an oboe in a romantic situation with the box shut because what happens when you want to open the box?

 

Can we apply pressure through this forum for more effective swell organs in modern organs?

 

I find a good Swell Open Diapason to be one of the most useful stops on an organ, as they can do so many things in repertoire and accompaniment. I far prefer a diapason as the foundation rather than the flute+string option. I used to play a Father Willis with a "minimalist" swell of Open Diapason, Gemshorn, Mixture and Trumpet. The whole thing was was superb, and the diapason was a real "multum in parvo"

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I find a good Swell Open Diapason to be one of the most useful stops on an organ, as they can do so many things in repertoire and accompaniment. I far prefer a diapason as the foundation rather than the flute+string option. I used to play a Father Willis with a "minimalist" swell of Open Diapason, Gemshorn, Mixture and Trumpet. The whole thing was was superb, and the diapason was a real "multum in parvo"

 

Couldn't agree more. I also often play an 1870's Willis with the minimalist Swell of Open Diapason, Lieblich Gedackt, Gemshorn and Hautboy, albeit with later Octave and Sub couplers. The Open is often the first stop you draw when registering. It's small scale, about 2 7/8'' Tenor C, the bass is stopped wood, 4 1/2 mouth, slotted and drilled. There's enough foundation tone, but it's not weighty, and, understandably, has a slight cutting edge to the tone which helps clarity. It also works well up to about treble g on a partial draw, beating against the Great Dulciana. If it didn't have these characteristics, very much inherent in its period Willisness, I doubt it would be nearly as useful.

 

AJS

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Guest Echo Gamba
Couldn't agree more. I also often play an 1870's Willis with the minimalist Swell of Open Diapason, Lieblich Gedackt, Gemshorn and Hautboy, albeit with later Octave and Sub couplers. The Open is often the first stop you draw when registering. It's small scale, about 2 7/8'' Tenor C, the bass is stopped wood, 4 1/2 mouth, slotted and drilled. There's enough foundation tone, but it's not weighty, and, understandably, has a slight cutting edge to the tone which helps clarity. It also works well up to about treble g on a partial draw, beating against the Great Dulciana. If it didn't have these characteristics, very much inherent in its period Willisness, I doubt it would be nearly as useful.

 

AJS

 

My old instrument is here. I knew it when it was at Hawkhurst which had rather a "dry" acoustic; I don't know what it sounds like in it's new home.

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