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8' Cornamusa

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I have had the opportunity to play the Tamburini organ at St Hugh's College chapel, in Oxford. It's specification is as follows:

 

8' Bordone Bass (to B just below middle C)

8' Bordone Soprani (from middle C)

4' Flauto

4' Ottavao

2' XV

1 1/3' XIX

1' XXII

8' Cornamusa (from middle C)

 

16' Subbasso, with manual to pedal coupler.

 

I wonder how Sig. Tamburini intended the Cornamusa to be used in this instrument. It is installed in a small and acoustically dry chapel, and the sound of the Cornamusa stop is particularly strident. It sounds rather like a cross between a Vox humana and a bagpipe, and is quite piercing.* Given that it begins at middle C, it can only be usefully paired with the 8' Bordone bass, which is significantly quieter. Adding any of the other stops makes the situation worse, since they are all at 4' pitch or above and are full length.

 

I confess that the Cornamusa remains sadly unused for the most part, both by me and by the organ scholars at the College. Has anyone come across one of these stops anywhere else? It seems particularly unusual on such a small specification. Can anyone shed any light on how this stop might have been / might be used in either historical or contemporary context, and some suggestions of what music might work well?

 

* OrganStops.org has this to say: http://www.organstops.org/c/Cornemeuse.html

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I once posed a similar question about the little three-stop Hoffheimer organ of (?) 1592 in the museum of Carisbrooke Castle in the Isle of Wight. There the situation is even more peculiar since the Regal, which runs from middle C upwards, is the only 8' stop, the others being 4' and 2' flutes. It is, to be sure, a later addition, but that does not solve the problem of how it was intended to be used. I can only guess that it was meant to take a single line in consort with other instruments - but that is pure speculation.

 

I do not know the Tamburini organ, but one use for such reed stops in early Italian instruments would have been the playing of Pastorales, a genre intended to imitate the sound of shepherds' bagpipes. Without checking I believe the few pastorales I have seen (e.g. Zipoli) all descend below middle C, but it is worth remembering that much early Italian organ music was improvised. This organ, for example, doesn't even have a music desk (click the pictures link on the left)

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I have had the opportunity to play the Tamburini organ at St Hugh's College chapel, in Oxford. It's specification is as follows:

 

8' Bordone Bass (to B just below middle C)

8' Bordone Soprani (from middle C)

4' Flauto

4' Ottavao

2' XV

1 1/3' XIX

1' XXII

8' Cornamusa (from middle C)

 

16' Subbasso, with manual to pedal coupler.

 

I wonder how Sig. Tamburini intended the Cornamusa to be used in this instrument. It is installed in a small and acoustically dry chapel, and the sound of the Cornamusa stop is particularly strident. It sounds rather like a cross between a Vox humana and a bagpipe, and is quite piercing.* Given that it begins at middle C, it can only be usefully paired with the 8' Bordone bass, which is significantly quieter. Adding any of the other stops makes the situation worse, since they are all at 4' pitch or above and are full length.

 

 

I know this organ well. The Cornamusa is a bit of a squawk, and only seems to be of use in solo context a little like a Mid C Cornet stop. You can add it to make a raucous full organ noise if you want to, otherwise I would tend to ignore its existence.

 

AJS

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I do not know the Tamburini organ, but one use for such reed stops in early Italian instruments would have been the playing of Pastorales, a genre intended to imitate the sound of shepherds' bagpipes. Without checking I believe the few pastorales I have seen (e.g. Zipoli) all descend below middle C, but it is worth remembering that much early Italian organ music was improvised. This organ, for example, doesn't even have a music desk (click the pictures link on the left)

 

Thanks - I had a go today, and a middle C/G drone with a solo melody over it does sound relatively convincing. Having the stop begin at tenor C would make a big difference though, as the melody inevitably gets pushed rather high.

 

 

I know this organ well. The Cornamusa is a bit of a squawk, and only seems to be of use in solo context a little like a Mid C Cornet stop. You can add it to make a raucous full organ noise if you want to, otherwise I would tend to ignore its existence.

 

AJS

 

I have been covering for the regular organist's maternity leave this term, and experimenting on and off have found the full organ with the Cornamusa to be unsatisfying since, beginning at middle C, it inevitably sounds like half a rank. It seems such a shame to simply ignore it, but I can't really find an tasteful use for it.

 

Porthead - you mention that you know the organ well. I'd be interested to know something more of its history, and how a Tamburini came to be installed. It certainly isn't well-suited to accompanying the English repertoire, and seems something of an anomaly (not that there aren't a number of anomalous organs in Oxford college chapels) but then I draw a blank as to what its use is, given that you have drawn the same conclusion I did which was to ignore it as far as possible...

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I'd be interested to know something more of its history, and how a Tamburini came to be installed.

 

I believe John Rowntree would be the person to ask.

 

Whilst something of a curiosity (and subject of at least one rebuild, I believe), it's a good deal more successful and interesting as a musical instrument than some of its contemporaries - St Edmund Hall, for example, which is even more of a curiosity.

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