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When Is A Stop Not A Stop?


father-willis
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From time to time I wonder about stop names: when I am at the organ, investigating another which I not seen before, asked by someone who isn't quite sure what one is or just idly pondering the question while walking the dog. Now I'm actually thinking about it while reading the forum messages so here goes!

 

The titles sum it up really: When is an organ stop not the actual stop? When is a stop misnamed? How accurate are stop names and do we, quite often, have to make assumptions about a stop we use based on experience and knowledge?

 

OK, so we all go rushing to the dictionary of organ stops when we come across something unusual or exotic. (And I should add that this is something really focussed on English organs and their derivatives). Baryphon, Diapsason Phonon, Dolce, Flute a Pavillon, Orlos, Pyramidion and the like make us reach for the shelves. Open Diapason, Mixture (III / 2 / 15 19 22 / etc), Rohr Flute, Sesquialtera II, Trumpet etc etc seem to pose no problem and are taken as read with, often, no hint of excitement or interest. But, are they always what they seem?

 

We explain to people, that are interested, what stops are and what the names mean. 'This is what a Principal pipe looks like. The number refers to the length or pitch of the pipe at bottom C.' So far so good. But what about naming the stop? Unlike pitch (to some extent) do we name stops from what is at the bass end of the compass or by what the majority of the pipes are over that same compass? Oboe 8, Open Diapsaon 8, Principal 4, unless short compass are usually no problem. We know what the pipes look like and they are, in principle, the same throughout.

 

Some examples and puzzles:

Stopped Diapason - OK but does it have chimneys? Is it a Rohr / Chimney Flute? Does it matter?

Claribel / Clarabella - Open wood, but is it? stopped for the bottom octave? Some builders are truly honest here and write 'Stop'd Diapason & Claribel'.

Dulciana - Is the bass stopped wood?

Gamba or Viola?

Horn or Trumpet or Cornopean? These can change their names, especially after a clean-up or some attention by a builder. Does it matter?

Double Open Diapason - where the bass octave is stopped wood?

 

Mixtures are perhaps more problematic.

Sesquialtera II - We assume it is 12 / 17. Is it that at the bass or is it really a tertian bass, 17 / 19?

Sesquialtera III - 12 / 15 / 17 or 17 / 19 / 22 or the Hill style with teirce in the bass giving way to becoming a quint mixture for most of the compass?

Almost the same can be said for Cornet with or without the number of ranks designated or Echo Cornet.

 

There are probably many other examples. It seems to me that as organists we do really have to have a little more knowledge about the instrument, its construction, history, organ builders and their style than perhaps even we had realised.

 

Any thoughts and obsevations very welcome.

 

FW

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What is in a name ? :rolleyes:

 

The stops nomenclature reflects the sheer diversity of the organ.

Let us take for example the most standardised one, the french nomenclature

of the 18th century: it contains about a dozen of names.

BUT.....Is a Nasard a Nasard ? No, there are countless minute variations

of the same. Scales and construction vary according to the builders and

the position in the scheme (Grand orgue, Positif, Echo).

Maybe we should consider a name as an indicative of a role rather

than a strict definition.

 

The Sesquialtera is a good example of those sheer variations. The flemish

one starts with 1 1/3'-4/5', and breaks towards the middle of the compass

to 2 2/3'- 1 3/5'. This seems to have been the original version (principal scales),

issued from the southern german "Hörnlein".

In Britain it became a tierce Mixture, with three ranks or more.

The Neo-baroques misunderstood it completely and built it flutey, simply

a Nasard and a Tierce put togheter (large scale).

 

Etc....

(I wrote a book about that matter, a dictionnary; halas the editor played games...)

 

Pierre

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Aha!

 

My ex-boss has a lot to say on this perplexing and at times bewildering matter. His thoughts found their way into a recent article for OR, in fact, but you can read his original text - a lecture given for an IAO Organ Day in Wells nearly three years ago - on his website:

 

http://www.peterking.org/14.html

 

At the risk of seeming biased, it's a superb essay and quite an absorbing read. I commend it to you all if you haven't already seen it in one form or the other!

 

"father-willis" - you'll find that Dr King is very much on your wavelength! And Pierre, in light of your comments about continental variants and different builder's interpretations, you too may find yourself nodding in agreement with the article in places.

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I'll second that recommendation... this sort of thing

 

And how do we meet the demands of Jehan Alain (or his sister)? Now there’s a problem or two. Firstly Alain wrote his music for a highly idiosyncratic house organ which is unlikely to be reproduced in most churches or even concert halls; secondly his music is all produced in editions by his sister Marie-Claire who says she remembers exactly how her brother played all his music, even though she was only 14 when he died. Moreover she’s not above producing new editions from time to time, presumably whenever her memory gets jogged.

has got to be worth a few minutes of your time!

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From time to time I wonder about stop names: when I am at the organ, investigating another which I not seen before, asked by someone who isn't quite sure what one is or just idly pondering the question while walking the dog. Now I'm actually thinking about it while reading the forum messages so here goes!

 

The titles sum it up really: When is an organ stop not the actual stop? When is a stop misnamed? How accurate are stop names and do we, quite often, have to make assumptions about a stop we use based on experience and knowledge?

 

OK, so we all go rushing to the dictionary of organ stops when we come across something unusual or exotic. (And I should add that this is something really focussed on English organs and their derivatives). Baryphon, Diapsason Phonon, Dolce, Flute a Pavillon, Orlos, Pyramidion and the like make us reach for the shelves. Open Diapason, Mixture (III / 2 / 15 19 22 / etc), Rohr Flute, Sesquialtera II, Trumpet etc etc seem to pose no problem and are taken as read with, often, no hint of excitement or interest. But, are they always what they seem?

 

We explain to people, that are interested, what stops are and what the names mean. 'This is what a Principal pipe looks like. The number refers to the length or pitch of the pipe at bottom C.' So far so good. But what about naming the stop? Unlike pitch (to some extent) do we name stops from what is at the bass end of the compass or by what the majority of the pipes are over that same compass? Oboe 8, Open Diapsaon 8, Principal 4, unless short compass are usually no problem. We know what the pipes look like and they are, in principle, the same throughout.

 

Some examples and puzzles:

Stopped Diapason - OK but does it have chimneys? Is it a Rohr / Chimney Flute? Does it matter?

Claribel / Clarabella - Open wood, but is it? stopped for the bottom octave? Some builders are truly honest here and write 'Stop'd Diapason & Claribel'.

Dulciana - Is the bass stopped wood?

Gamba or Viola?

Horn or Trumpet or Cornopean? These can change their names, especially after a clean-up or some attention by a builder. Does it matter?

Double Open Diapason - where the bass octave is stopped wood?

 

Mixtures are perhaps more problematic.

Sesquialtera II - We assume it is 12 / 17. Is it that at the bass or is it really a tertian bass, 17 / 19?

Sesquialtera III - 12 / 15 / 17 or 17 / 19 / 22 or the Hill style with teirce in the bass giving way to becoming a quint mixture for most of the compass?

Almost the same can be said for Cornet with or without the number of ranks designated or Echo Cornet.

 

There are probably many other examples. It seems to me that as organists we do really have to have a little more knowledge about the instrument, its construction, history, organ builders and their style than perhaps even we had realised.

 

Any thoughts and obsevations very welcome.

 

FW

 

Isn't there however a distinct difference between a Cremona and a Clarinet stop in it's construction? I know there are variants on the Spelling of Cremona from country to country but my understanding is that the Cremona or Cromorne is open at the top same scale roughly and a short taper at the base of the resonator, compared to a clarinet or any other name which is capped and slotted at the top narrower in scale and having a longer taper at the base of the resonator. The best form of this family I have found is 1. France - Poitiers Cathedral - the Cromorne 8ft on the positive and 2. UK - St. Pauls Cathedral Corno di Bassetto 8ft on the Solo.

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One of the most mis-named stops is Gemshorn. Very few Gemshorns I have seen on stop knobs are actually of Gemshorn (tapered) construction. A real Gemshorn is Nothing like the stringy 4' Principal sound which usually emanates from stops with this label. A real Gemshorn is (IMHO) one of the most beautiful stops on an organ!

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One of the most mis-named stops is Gemshorn. Very few Gemshorns I have seen on stop knobs are actually of Gemshorn (tapered) construction. A real Gemshorn is Nothing like the stringy 4' Principal sound which usually emanates from stops with this label. A real Gemshorn is (IMHO) one of the most beautiful stops on an organ!

I used to play a gemshorn. It had a rather beautiful sound that was chiefly like a recorder but less bright but slightly reedy. Whilst that article says that the organ stop is modelled on the instrument, in fact the instrument is conical and stopped whereas as the organ stop is conical and open. What difference does this make? If a real gemshorn is like an ocarina, where the position of the holes is sort of irrelevent, could a version of (?Compton's) polyphone be made that is like a large sphere-like ocarina, with more holes being uncovered for successively higher notes?

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There is also the dutch Gemshorn, witch is a large scale 2' Flute...

and

 

-The two forms of the Dulciana (and their variants)

 

-The two forms of the Clarinet/ Clarinette/ Klarinette (and their variants)

 

-The two forms of the Vox angelica

 

-The multiple incarnations of the Querflöte/ Traversflöte/ Flûte traversière,

harmonic and non harmonic

 

And and and...... :lol:

 

Pierre

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"And Pierre, in light of your comments about continental variants and different builder's interpretations, you too may find yourself nodding in agreement with the article in places."

(Quote)

 

Indeed, and, as you say, "in places". The author missed an important point about

the german organ in general, and the organs Bach knew in particular...

 

Pierre

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  • 10 months later...
One of the most mis-named stops is Gemshorn. Very few Gemshorns I have seen on stop knobs are actually of Gemshorn (tapered) construction. A real Gemshorn is Nothing like the stringy 4' Principal sound which usually emanates from stops with this label. A real Gemshorn is (IMHO) one of the most beautiful stops on an organ!

 

Indeed, and on our example (Laycock & Bannister, 1972) the name was applied to the 8' Open Diapason, with a scale of 6inches at the CC pipe!

 

CP

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I used to play a gemshorn. It had a rather beautiful sound that was chiefly like a recorder but less bright but slightly reedy. Whilst that article says that the organ stop is modelled on the instrument, in fact the instrument is conical and stopped whereas as the organ stop is conical and open. What difference does this make? If a real gemshorn is like an ocarina, where the position of the holes is sort of irrelevent, could a version of (?Compton's) polyphone be made that is like a large sphere-like ocarina, with more holes being uncovered for successively higher notes?

Gemshorn is tapered in at the top, Ocarina is tapered out at the top, Spitzgedeckt is the nearest thing I know to tapered in and stopped. I should think an open polyphone could be done, but I also think there are some jolly good reasons why it's not been. Chiefly the size and cost of the pipe vis a vis it's effectiveness when compared to a stopped pipe doing the same thing. What I ask is why JC, and anyone subsequently has not hit the compromise of 2 pipes for the 32' octave to allow the notes to go all the way to the bottom and go some way to sorting out the scaling. Such a painfully simple solution.

 

AJS

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Gemshorn is tapered in at the top, Ocarina is tapered out at the top, Spitzgedeckt is the nearest thing I know to tapered in and stopped. I should think an open polyphone could be done, but I also think there are some jolly good reasons why it's not been. Chiefly the size and cost of the pipe vis a vis it's effectiveness when compared to a stopped pipe doing the same thing. What I ask is why JC, and anyone subsequently has not hit the compromise of 2 pipes for the 32' octave to allow the notes to go all the way to the bottom and go some way to sorting out the scaling. Such a painfully simple solution.

 

AJS

 

 

I do believe that JC did do exactly that on some occasions.........

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