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What on earth was the point of ADDING a stop to the Albert Hall organ? Seems to me, judging by the carping elsewhere on this site, that it was only in order to make the instrument the biggest in the UK again. What is the point of this? Is spending money on installing a new stop purely for this purpose the actions of a organ committee of integrity/artistry? If the organ did NEED a new mixture, then please tell me.

Also, the piece on this site about St.John's Cambridge is inaccurate - it claims that 'only a handful' of old pipework was retained in the new pedal organ. Not true - the pedal organ is comprised almost entirely of old pipework, with the exception of the Open Diapason (Metal) and the 32' reed. The swell strings, oboe and (obviously) the Trompeta Real are also old. It is a shame that the opportunity wasn't taken to extend the compass of the Trompeta. Even though it is not for use in chorus (heaven forbid!) it would surely still be useful for it to go all the way up/down.

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What on earth was the point of ADDING a stop to the Albert Hall organ? Seems to me, judging by the carping elsewhere on this site, that it was only in order to make the instrument the biggest in the UK again. What is the point of this? Is spending money on installing a new stop purely for this purpose the actions of a organ committee of integrity/artistry? If the organ did NEED a new mixture, then please tell me.

Also, the piece on this site about St.John's Cambridge is inaccurate - it claims that 'only a handful' of old pipework was retained in the new pedal organ. Not true - the pedal organ is comprised almost entirely of old pipework, with the exception of the Open Diapason (Metal) and the 32' reed. The swell strings, oboe and (obviously) the Trompeta Real are also old. It is a shame that the opportunity wasn't taken to extend the compass of the Trompeta. Even though it is not for use in chorus (heaven forbid!) it would surely still be useful for it to go all the way up/down.

 

It always makes me dispair to read articles like this.

 

Just when the organ world gets a huge piece of investment to restore a monument like this then Victor Meldrew can always be relied upon to pour scorn on the whole thing- especially when it can now be used to play Bach nicely.

 

So what would have been preferable to broadening the tonal palette of this glorious instrument still further? Removal of all the Harrison and Harrison additions and return to the W.T. Best / Willis scheme? An extra set of tubular bells to mixture pitch for added authenicity in Pietro Yon's Toccatina? Oh I know............. yes ............... some more pistons I bet! Oh that'll go down nicely.

 

Are you a conservationist or maybe as I suspect a Liverpool devotee, jealous of the fact that their organ is no longer the largest in the UK? Well don't worry about that - neither are as nice as Durham anyway :D

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It always makes me dispair to read articles like this.

 

Just when the organ world gets a huge piece of investment to restore a monument like this then Victor Meldrew can always be relied upon to pour scorn on the whole thing- especially when it can now be used to play Bach nicely.

 

So what would have been preferable to broadening the tonal palette of this glorious instrument still further? Removal of all the Harrison and Harrison additions and return to the W.T. Best / Willis scheme? An extra set of tubular bells to mixture pitch for added authenicity in Pietro Yon's Toccatina? Oh I know............. yes ............... some more pistons I bet! Oh that'll go down nicely.

 

Are you a conservationist or maybe as I suspect a Liverpool devotee, jealous of the fact that their organ is no longer the largest in the UK? Well don't worry about that - neither are as nice as Durham anyway :D

 

 

Or York Minster.

 

What's the betting that Liverpool Cathedral will add another stop or two in the fulness of time?

One-upmanship was the done thing in the era of Victorian town hall organs and I'm all for it!

 

John

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Guest Roffensis

Oh well, the musical validity of any addition is always open to debate, and no person is going to agree with another totally. For my money, give me a Chichester Cathedral anyday, it's never going to blast you through the west door, but its musicality is, to me, unrivalled. A veritable gem. Organs can simply be or become too large, and really become curiosities, and often the logical musical purpose is overshadowed. :D

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Oh well, the musical validity of any addition is always open to debate, and no person is going to agree with another totally. For my money, give me a Chichester Cathedral anyday, it's never going to blast you through the west door, but its musicality is, to me, unrivalled. A veritable gem. Organs can simply be or become too large, and really become curiosities, and often the logical musical purpose is overshadowed.  :blink:

 

 

Well, Richard, I would certainly agree that the Hill/Hele/Mander at Chichester Cathedral is a wonderful organ, but it might sound a little tame in York, Lincoln or Durham.

 

I also think that those instruments are fantastic, too - especially Durham. I must admit that I have never heard it 'in the pipes', as it were; notwithstanding, on recordings it sounds superb.

 

I did not think that I would like Liverpool (Anglican) but ,having attended Ian Tracey's excellent recital at the end of August, I must admit that it was a superb sound (except the big tuba, but then, I do not generally like tubas). I am pleased to note that the organ booklet is incorrect - virturally all the chorus mixtures appear to be comprised of quint and uinison ranks. There was none of that reedy clang one normally associates with a 'Willis' organ. (The sound of which mixtures I quickly tire.) Instead there was just a glorious brightness.

 

Of the RAH I am less sure. I suspect that I might like it better if the orchestral canopy and the mushroom-thingies suspended from the roof were removed and the original (or close) acoustics were recovered. Orchestras have had the bias in their favour for a long time - perhaps it would be good to redress the balance - and actually put on a series of organ recitals, perhaps early evening, or Sunday afternoons (or whenever people might actually be persuaded to attend). I did play it once when I was a student. Even then, it was slightly unwell and whole sections were either unplayable or had been disconnected for remedial work. However, whilst playing the Dupré B major P&F was very comfortable, I have to confess that the sound of the organ from the console did not really excite me.

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"virturally all the chorus mixtures appear to be comprised of quint and uinison ranks. "

 

(Quote)

 

Maybe there have been "improvments" there? Originally there were 17th and even flat 21sts...

 

Pierre

 

Sorry - I forgot to say that in the pub after the recital, I asked the same question of Ian Tracey, who informed me that Harry Goss-Custard hated tierce mixtures and had them re-cast. He then bought me another drink. (Ian Tracey, not Harry Goss-Custard....)

 

However, since this must have been some considerable time ago (HG-C died in 1964), I do wonder why the book was ever printed with the old mixture intervals (at CC) given, incorrectly.

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At least we shall be able to reconstitute these mixtures because of that!

(And the Dulciana chorus as well...)

 

I have the original schemes in Emil Rupp's "Entwicklungsgeschichte der Orgelbaukunst" (1929).

Now it's just a matter of time before the right decisions are taken -like for instance at Doncaster too-. We look at you, we expect these treasures to be given the care they deserve and need.

 

Best wishes,

pierre

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Well, Richard, I would certainly agree that the Hill/Hele/Mander at Chichester Cathedral is a wonderful organ, but it might sound a little tame in York, Lincoln or Durham.

 

I also think that those instruments are fantastic, too - especially Durham. I must admit that I have never heard it 'in the pipes', as it were; notwithstanding, on recordings it sounds superb.

 

I did not think that I would like Liverpool (Anglican) but ,having attended Ian Tracey's excellent recital at the end of August, I must admit that it was a superb sound (except the big tuba, but then, I do not generally like tubas). I am pleased to note that the organ booklet is incorrect - virturally all the chorus mixtures appear to be comprised of quint and uinison ranks. There was none of that reedy clang one normally associates with a 'Willis' organ. (The sound of which mixtures I quickly tire.) Instead there was just a glorious brightness.

(end quote)

 

 

The (alleged) story of how this change came about might be of interest. In the early 70's Noel Rawsthorne approached Henry Willis IV and asked him to draw up a scheme to lower the windpressures in several important areas of this organ, and revoice some of the reeds. HW4 is not a shrinking violet and with a restraint and intelligence that few would now question, he said that he would not be responsible for spoiling what he considered to be his father's greatest masterpiece.

 

At around the same time, that same HW4 was asked if he could fit mechanical swell-pedals to Salisbury Cathedral replacing the infinite speed and gradation pedals.

 

In both cases, because he refused to do these things, Willis lost these two contracts. I believe that the Salisbury contract initially went to Manders, Liverpool went to H&H.

 

They had not quite the same difficulty in agreeing to modifications, and (although you will not read about it often) a number of stops at Liverpool were changed at this time. I don't believe that the pressures changed much, but some of the mixtures definitely did.

 

I consider it still to be in the 'masterpiece' class - and if a 'full-blooded romantic organ' is what you love, I believe that St.Paul's and Liverpool grant the finest such experiences to be had in this country. I'm not saying that these instruments play everything perfectly, but considering the exceptional spaces into which they speak and the variety of peculiar means that are used to bring about the effect (such as a number of double languid Diapasons at Liverpool on the Great) they both handle remarkably 'normally' which is, frankly, a surprise.

 

I have not heard Liverpool live since the new Trompette Militaire went in. I don't know if I will be permitted to use it when I play next year, but if so I will be careful to reserve it for the last few moments of the last piece. I understand that it puts the remainder of this (already perfectly-adequately-powered) instrument rather in the shade which cannot be anything like a natural experience.

 

I mentioned a while ago somewhere on this site but will repeat (please pardon me): The House of Willis, certainly up to the end of the HW4 era did not (as house policy) tune in mathematically accurate equal temperament. They always bent E to improve the chord of C major (and, by so doing, gave that little bit more colour to other keys). As has often been remarked, Willis organs do not always sound quite the same in other hands. I venture to suggest that this is one of the reasons that this can be so. Compare on recordings!

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I have not heard Liverpool live since the new Trompette Militaire went in.  I don't know if I will be permitted to use it when I play next year, but if so I will be careful to reserve it for the last few moments of the last piece.  I understand that it puts the remainder of this (already perfectly-adequately-powered) instrument rather in the shade which cannot be anything like a natural experience.

 

I mentioned a while ago somewhere on this site but will repeat (please pardon me): The House of Willis, certainly up to the end of the HW4 era did not (as house policy) tune in mathematically accurate equal temperament.  They always bent E to improve the chord of C major (and, by so doing, gave that little bit more colour to other keys).  As has often been remarked, Willis organs do not always sound quite the same in other hands.  I venture to suggest that this is one of the reasons that this can be so.  Compare on recordings!

 

Actually, I was expecting it to be louder. Admittedly I had a seat in the front row, so was almost directly under the east corona gallery, but it was not that hair-raising. (Ian coupled it and the Tuba Magna to everything else - and then added both Sub Octave and Octave couplers.) I can testify that N-D is louder, with all claviers coupled and the four ranks of chorus chamades in play.

 

The second point - surely no-one tunes in a 'mathematically accurate equal temperament' - the octaves would be too wide. Most organ builders (and, for that matter, piano and harpsichord tuners) have their own system of modified 'equal' temperament tuning. Fourths and fifths (in 'white-note' keys) are often bent one way or another, for example. This is surely why each key has its own tone-colour. To my ears, D-flat major is a richer sound than D major - which I find brighter than E-flat. I also find G major brighter than A major, to name but three examples.

 

One of the reasons Willis organs do not sound the same after having been tned and maintained by other firms is probably more fundamental - they usually effected tonal alterations! Mixtures were often changed and reeds revoiced. Choir organs commonly also received a revised tonal scheme. One of the most obvious examples is St. Patrick's, Dublin, which received a 'standard' Walker Positive Organ scheme in the 1960s. Unfortunately it is now neither one thing nor the other, since H&H 'restored' it. They replaced the excellent Walker Cymbal with a much lower-pitched mixture, which does nothing for the chorus. Since the Willis work had been lost, I personally feel that this was a retrograde step. They (H&H) left alone the odd Solo scheme, with its Sesquialtera (and nothing suitable to go with it). Why not replace it (the stop was not original) with a Viole Céleste ?

 

St. David's Cathedral fared better - the FHW Choir Organ pipework was stored in the Deanery and re-instated (by H&H), together with a second Choir Organ, consisting of a brighter chorus and mutations - the old Choir Organ assuming the role of a Solo Organ.

 

The H&H at Carlisle Cathedral was also substantially altered. As Walkers left it, it was a bright, versatile instrument, with a Willis/H&H foundation. After the recent work by David Wells, the Choir Organ is again somewhat of a half-way house. Having a familiarity with Walker Positive Organs, I suspect that the previous Choir Organ scheme was of greater general utility than the present incarnation. What exactly does one use a Dulciana for? Certainly not (as far as I am concerned) to accompany an oboe - the timbre is usually too similar. I have never understood organ builders' fastidious inclusion of dulciana ranks in almost every scheme - to me, it is one of the most useless, colourless stops on an organ. In any case, it often duplicates ranks found in an enclosed Swell Organ, where they are of more use.

 

Then there is this current obsession (as at Carlisle and, I believe, Lichfield - to name but two examples) of organ builders (or consultants) specifying two 2p ranks on a Choir Organ - often at the expense of mutations or contrasting 8p ranks. I can think of several instruments where a well-designed and well-voiced 2p rank serves as both a flute and an integral part of the chorus - to good effect. St. Alban's Abbey, is a case in point. In fact, several schemes designed by Ralph Downes include this feature. However, I am less happy with his tendency to plant GO twelfth and fifteenth ranks on one slide, drawing as a Rauschquint. Personally, I strongly dislike having the GO twelfth as part of an 8p, 4p and 2p chorus - I prefer this combination without the muddying, quinty effect of the fifth rank.

 

This is, of course, just a personal opinion.

 

To those who like Dulcianas - I do not have a problem with that; as I said, it is a matter of personal choice.

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I sat more or less underneath the Trompette Militaire at a recital a couple of years ago. It was certainly exhilerating, but did not overwhelm the rest of the organ - though I suspect it was being balanced by full Great and Swell.

 

On the subject of dulcianas, I would mention that the Halifax Harrison has a 16' one available on the choir and pedal - so much metal, so little sound, but quite useful.

 

Another instrument I play is an 8 stop Harrison of 1897 on which a dulciana is one of the two 8' stops on the Great; the other is an open diapason that is so loud that there's little point in drawing any other stop with it. So the dulciana does get used quite a lot. The third stop on the Great is a harmonic flute 4', but for some reason the stop knob is engraved 8'.

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Personally (and especially on a small instrument) I would much prefer to have a good 8p flute or Stopped Diapason instead of a Dulciana. It would be more useful in supporting singing and in the playing of voluntaries.

 

Consider this, tough:

Flutes and Stopped Diapasons you fill find by tents of thousands worldwide.

True Dulcianas, on the other hand, you will never find outside Britain or with

some modern builders in the USA.

It's like to say bread is better than oysters because more useful.

Do we really want standardised organs? With Diapasons, Stooped Diap, Mixtures, Nasards and tierces, two reed types and period?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Consider this, tough:

Flutes and Stopped Diapasons you fill find by tents of thousands worldwide.

True Dulcianas, on the other hand, you will never find outside Britain or with

some modern builders in the USA.

It's like to say bread is better than oysters because more useful.

Do we really want standardised organs? With Diapasons, Stooped Diap, Mixtures, Nasards and tierces, two reed types and period?

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

Yes - but I still do not find Dulcianas remotely useful. They are usually very quiet and are flat-toned (I do not mean in intonation). The sound I find quickly palls. It is generally too quiet to use even with a 4p flute. Their only use, to me, seems to be to provide a 'true-tuned' rank against which a quiet Unda Maris or a Vox Angelica can beat. The ranks would, of course, not stand on adjacent slides.

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Yes - but I still do not find Dulcianas remotely useful. They are usually very quiet and are flat-toned (I do not mean in intonation). The sound I find quickly palls. It is generally too quiet to use even with a 4p flute. Their only use, to me, seems to be to provide a 'true-tuned' rank against which a quiet Unda Maris or a Vox Angelica can beat. The ranks would, fo course, not stand on adjacent slides.

 

The Dulciana was at home in a Green organ, so it's understandably rather shy

in a louder one.

The answer was -and still is- to make a chorus with it. If you cannot use it with a 4' Flute, then have a 4' Dulciana, a 2' Dulcet (etc, according to size of the organ/ size of division/acoustics). From a 8' alone to 16-8-4-2-Mixture, there is a wide enough scope.

 

Like with the grande cuisine , this is of course completely "useless"; hamburgers and french (belgian!) fries are all we need to survive (or indeed fish and chips, these places where one usually find no fish at all).

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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I am sorry, Pierre - I do not know what to do with one Dulciana - the last thing I want is a whole bunch of them!

 

Interestingly, the Great Organ of Liverpool Cathedral had a family of (unenclosed) dulcianas - which were unceremoniously ditched in favour of a nice Positive section decades ago. There is now no Dulciana in the entire instrument - unless one includes the Dulciana Mixture V on the Choir Organ.

 

:blink:

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Interestingly, the Great Organ of Liverpool Cathedral had a family of (unenclosed) dulcianas - which were unceremoniously ditched in favour of a nice Positive section decades ago. There is now no Dulciana in the entire instrument -

 

(Quote)

 

To my immense sadness when I visited. As I said elsewhere, they should

come back...

 

Pierre

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I am sorry, Pierre - I do not know what to do with one Dulciana - the last thing I want is a whole bunch of them!

 

Interestingly, the Great Organ of Liverpool Cathedral had a family of (unenclosed) dulcianas - which were unceremoniously ditched in favour of a nice Positive section decades ago. There is now no Dulciana in the entire instrument - unless one includes the Dulciana Mixture V on the Choir Organ.

 

:P

 

Actually, I think they were on the Choir organ (unenclosed section). I'm sure the replacements (Positive section) proved to be much more useful.

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The second point - surely no-one tunes in a 'mathematically accurate equal temperament' - the octaves would be too wide. Most organ builders (and, for that matter, piano and harpsichord tuners) have their own system of modified 'equal' temperament tuning. Fourths and fifths (in 'white-note' keys) are often bent one way or another, for example. This is surely why each key has its own tone-colour. To my ears, D-flat major is a richer sound than D major - which I find brighter than E-flat. I also find G major brighter than A major, to name but three examples.

 

At the risk of wading in with both feet where I have no right to tread, I think the reasons for "stretch" tunings (where octaves aren't exactly octaves) on the piano (and for all I know the harpsichord) is to do with something called inharmonicity which is something to do with the harmonics/partials of a particular note not being exactly "in tune" with the fundamental, particularly the first harmonic/second partial.

 

The key-colour thing is a real can of worms: there are very good reasons for key colour on, for example, string instruments (where the open strings have a palpable effect on the resonance of the instrument) and un-modernised woodwind instruments (where notes involving compicated "forked" fingerings have a very different basic timbre to those using simple fingerings); however modern playing techniques and instrument design have the elimination of such vagaries at their core. I would ask what differences you find, in terms of key colour, between performances of the Bach Magnificat in its original version in Eb and its revised version in D and, and this is the clincher, between performances of both versions at A440 and performances of both versions at A415 (the common modern standard for "Baroque" instruments). Also remember that when Bach was writing the "48" he transposed existing pieces to fill up his scheme.

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At the risk of wading in with both feet where I have no right to tread, I think the reasons for "stretch" tunings (where octaves aren't exactly octaves) on the piano (and for all I know the harpsichord) is to do with something called inharmonicity which is something to do with the harmonics/partials of a particular note not being exactly "in tune" with the fundamental, particularly the first harmonic/second partial.

 

 

I must confess that I have never heard of 'inharmonicity'; however, I suspect that we may be talking about two different facets of the same point.

 

As far as I am aware, it is the octaves which are kept in tune - one normally tempers fourths or fifths, etc. However, this is becoming difficult (for me) to explain, since it depends on what tuning method one adopts, and on which keys one 'favours' - and which notes are the octaves of which keys....

 

....did that make any sense to anyone else?

 

:P:P

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Ummmm.... I thought that was what I said!

 

The Positive section is delightful - and probably very useful.

 

Sorry, I thought you said Great Organ. I was wondering what a family of dulcianas would be doing on that manual.

 

As to the usefulness of a family of dulcianas, I can see a purpose on a secondary manual as an echo to the Great but, apart from the largest instruments, I think there are probably far more useful stops with more interesting voices.

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I must confess that I have never heard of 'inharmonicity'; however, I suspect that we may be talking about two different facets of the same point.

 

As far as I am aware, it is the octaves which are kept in tune - one normally tempers fourths or fifths, etc. However, this is becoming difficult (for me) to explain, since it depends on what tuning method one adopts, and on which keys one 'favours' - and which notes are the octaves of which keys....

 

....did that make any sense to anyone else?

 

:P  :P

 

I went to a lecture by Dr David Ponsford in Cambridge last year on the subject of temperament (he illustrated with a harpsichord) and there was absolutely no question of tuning the octaves wide. As far as I know this is only ever done with pianos, and I am not sure how widespread it is even there. If you tuned an organ with stretched octaves the result would be hideous.

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