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ECLECTICISM - PIECE PIPES OR PIPE DREAMS?


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There are different ways of building an eclectic organ; not all of them terribly successful. Was the idea ever valid, or was it merely a musical sleight of hand? Is it desirable to build organs suited to all pieces of music from all ages? If the idea had validity, who did it best, and why?

 

MM

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What do you mean by eclectic?

 

I will again repeat a point I have made before (it is not of my inventing, but I think it is a good one). I think one needs to draw a distinction between the eclectic organ, which consists of an instrument with a hotchpotch of disparate styles of voicing, e.g. Willis Great & Swell, Schnitger Positiv, Cavaillé-Coll reeds, etc. and, for want of a better term, what one may call the all-purpose organ, which contains a wide enough variety of stops to cope with most different types of repertoire, but voiced in a a single coherent style which, while not seeking to reproduce exactly any particular historical tones, nevertheless acquits itself musically in the majority of the repertoire.

 

An example of the first type of organ is St George's, Windsor, which I thought was the bee's knees when I was young. It worked well in the sense that you could make most styles sound musical on it, but I doubt anyone would pretend that it is totally coherent instrument from the voicing point of view. The classical Choir section, for example, sounded effective enough in Baroque music, but became a bit of a liability if you wanted to use it in Franck. AFAIK, the voicing has not altered since I knew it, though I believe the Great Mixture has had things done to it at one time or another (anyone know more?)

 

An example of the second type is the Tickell at Worcester Cathedral - probably my currently favourite British instrument, though I've only sampled it briefly. That does seem to have the wherewithal to cope with anything, if not "authentically" (whatever that may mean), at least very musically.

 

All I ask from an organ is that be capable of delivering fine colour across the spectrum of richness, smoothness, nobility, mystery, clarity, incisiveness, sparkle, fire - and no doubt a few other things besides - so that any music can avoid having a wholly inappropriate sound world forced upon it (even if the wholly appropriate sounds are equally elusive). Not much to ask, I know! Windsor can do it a great deal of the time; Worcester, I think, does it better. Or is it just differently?

 

Is it desirable to build all-purpose organs? I think so, though not everyone has to like tham. I think it depends on what you want from music. If your mantra is that the only valid interpretation is a historically informed one that represents the composer's sound world as closely as it can be recovered, then clearly a compromise organ will be unacceptable. It's a perfectly tenable point of view. However, I can't quite bring myself to accept the corollary that Mozart's sonatas are musically invalid when played on a modern piano, so I am perfectly happy to embrace the modern all-purpose organ.

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The "all purpose organ" is a myth, sometimes described as

"no-purpose-at-all organ", and we should get rid of that aim

should the organ live and continue to evolve.

This said, the "Néo-classique" organ, if it did not satisfy its goal,

is today the historical style with the biggest "repertoire"; Duruflé, Alain,

Langlais, Messiaen, to name only four, are enough to justify those instruments.

 

So, I understand them as belonging to a style of the past, suited to a dedicate "Repertoire"

if we must absolutely think under such terms.

Do we still need to build such organs ?

I think that we should not, first because we experimented, in Belgium, that the belief

"you can play all upon them" renders them invasive, to the point the others organs

were rebuild after their standards !

The organ cannot live with only Messiaen organs.

 

Today we should build after historic styles AND modern, experimental ones, in order

to have both in any significant place.

Pierre

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There are different ways of building an eclectic organ; not all of them terribly successful. Was the idea ever valid, or was it merely a musical sleight of hand? Is it desirable to build organs suited to all pieces of music from all ages? If the idea had validity, who did it best, and why?

 

MM

I suggest that it would be useful to look at what was being done prior to the main 'eclectic' period, quite where one argues that it should start, develop and end I think is part of the difficulty in understanding it. It is easy, as it tended to coincide with the neo-baroque, that the two can be muddled. It also needs to be looked at alongside musical developments in the associated period of time, arguing about which side drove the other, or whether they developed together in a form of synergy. Having achieved some kind of respectable conclusion to those debates, I think one needs to look at those instruments that were built 'eclectic', those that were changed to be 'eclectic', and those that were 'eclecticised', but are not necessarily 'eclectic', and as per my point above, those that were neo-baroqued to make them 'more versatile', and hence in some senses 'eclectic'.

 

Having trudged through the mire of these arguments, I suggest that what we commonly produce now in the UK is an 'eclectic' instrument which has developed from what we used to call an 'eclectic' instrument, and doubtless will evolve further into an equally 'eclectic' instrument.

 

Is it desirable ? Well, I find it easier to argue from what seems to me to be the other side of the same coin, which is homogeneity. There is a great risk that, in pursuit of the goal which you quite reasonably suggest above, the net result can easily turn into all instruments sounding broadly the same, which is what I tend to find now. This leads to your last point, again justified I think, about validity, and leaves the point about who did it best as virtually unanswerable.

 

AJS

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The "Néo-classique" organ emerged in 1925 from a reaction against the

neo-baroque one, which appeared 1921 (the Oscar Walcker organ in Freiberg

University, "vaguely inspired by an abstract from Praetorius book" (O. Walcker).

 

The aim was to obtain a "compromise between romantic and baroque"; actually,

the result was just another form of the post-romantic organ, the next stage after

Emil Rupp's "alsacian Reform".

 

So Neo-baroque and néo-classique co-existed practically from day one.

 

The differencies are:

 

The Neo-classique organ always has a Swell manual, with one kind or other of celeste

and reed chorus. The voicing has nothing in common with baroque or neo-baroque organs,

and differs from the romantic one as well. It is a sui Generis style.

 

Here is an example with Beauvais cathedral:

 

 

The Neo-baroque organ is a sui Generis creation as well, though it was pretended it was a copy of

"the true ancient organ".

This was as mandatory an ideology as Mao-tse Tung's little red book, to the point carreers were destroyed

during the 70's and 80's simply to have discussed this point.

 

The Neo-baroque organ has never a Swell, or, sometimes, an expressive Brustwerk, but this was

soon despised as a scandal. This should be particularly laughed at in Britain since baroque

british organs actually had Swells since 1712! (And Spain well before that). It is shrilly voiced,

with no soft stop whatsoever (even a Gedackt is loud).

Today those instruments are going out of fashion and are already endangered, and we are,

once more, at risk to destroy the good ones along with the less good ones...

 

Here is an example of a (good!) neo-baroque organ:

 

 

Not the same world as the Gonzalez also.

 

While surfing on Youtube to illustrate this post I found another interesting video,

featuring another good Néo-classique organ (a Gonzalez restored by Bernard Dargassies,

a french builder who understands this style and respects it; he restored a Delmotte

organ in Belgium, Charleroi, with excellent results), and which demonstrates quite

well the tonal features of such an organ:

 

 

....So you have a dynamic range, while the Mixtures do not really top a chorus, but,

rather, imparts the color of a french "Plein-jeu" to any combination behind them, be

it a simple Bourdon or the tutti, they always stand apart. They are no structural stops,

but colors.

This is a post-romantic trait actually; E-M Skinner already did the same, as well as

Donald Harrison later.

 

One cannot write about the Néo-classique organ without evoking Walter Holtkamp Senior,

its best representative in the U.S. Here is a video featuring his Syracuse organ from 1950:

 

 

This is first-class organ-building! (Please note, though, the comments below!

it is today "de bon goût" to criticize such organs, which are at risk to end

in local Severn Rivers...)

The "caseless" designs originated with the Klais company already 1930, with the

Kristuskoning Kerk, Antwerps,( whose Specifications I gave here earlier as a "teasing"

for a new project...) and are another typical feature of this organ style, inspired from

the Bauhaus.

 

Pierre

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I suspect that the understanding of eclectic that we have, is closer to your use of the term neo-classique. The problem with the term eclectic is that it can encompass the baroque and neo-baroque too, hence my multiple use of the term eclectic to differing degrees.

 

I think perhaps we could tighten up our use of terminology a bit, and certainly consider that what we have as a common organ style now is closer to your description of neo-classique. However, eclectic and neo-classique cannot be interchanged, and I wonder if our thread author might have meant neo-classique. This would remove a certain amount of mud from the mire.

 

If so, I would think it was the extant style from the early 50's onwards in the UK, and is in fact far more common than neo-baroque. It started by being weighted by its Romantic forebears, moved towards it's neo baroque cousins, interbred with them, and produced a lighter breed of instrument, looking more like its romantic forebears on paper but with a moderated lightness of tone assimilated from the latter.

 

In short, a hybrid, definitely eclectic, but the eclecticism of today is not the same as it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I'm therefore still struggling to answer our author's questions.

 

AJS

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Really good meaty topic this.

 

I think there are many different factors which define how one perceives an organ. Is it 'flexible' enough to fulfill its (many or in other place very few) tasks in the liturgy? Does it play chunks of the literature in a manner convincing to one's own set of norms (dictated to a greater or lesser extent by the teachers we admired and the instruments we studied on)?

 

But, for me, eclecticism or 'versatility' to put it slightly differently is a much mis-understood concept. Because, in my experience, eclecticism has too often become a substitute for a properly understood tonal style (those things which define the organ as being a child of its creator). In other words, eclecticism can only exist in stoplist form to a very very limited extent. Eclecticism (or at least an organ's ability to behave in different ways in different musical circumstances) must always be the result of an organ's inherent quality. This is why Reger sounds incredible in Alkmaar, Saint Saens sounds fabulous on a Father Willis, and Tournemire is amazing on Dirk Flentrop's magnum opus, the 1965 organ for St Mark's, Seattle.

 

What bores me to tears in modern 'versatile' organ building is "eclecticism as the form of least resistance". In other words, the "crucial" effects (full swell with 16' reed, a cornet separee on the choir, exclusively quint mixtures never at 16' with one squeeky one up to 33 on the choir, at most 1 open 8' principal rank on 3 manual divisions, rock-steady winding, mechanical action which nevertheless sends no real information back to the player, pistons, RCO pedalboard) are present on paper and, as a result, we are told that the organ can play the entire repertoire with conviction. I experience these organs (mostly) as painfully self-conscious, no matter how loud...

 

Surely there are much cleverer ways to build eclectic organs, and again the answer surely lie in a really in-depth understanding of historic organ building styles. Verschueren's house style borrows cleverly from the Konig dynasty precisely because those organs are so flexible (Bach, French Classical, Northern European, Liszt, Schumann, Reubke, Alain all sound well! - go to Nijmegen to see what I mean!).

 

However, the combining of seemingly disparate elements is such a fascinating venture that it surely can't be ruled out as an artistic path. The really clever organ builders in this context are the Americans. Consider this Fisk organ from 1990:

 

http://www.cbfisk.com/instrumentFiles/95/095_Stoplist.pdf

 

Schnitger and C-C Great reeds, flexible winding OR non-flexible winding, tierce plenum OR non-tierce plenum, the C-C fonds de 8 pieds all in place, variable mixture compositions (Great mixture with or without the 5,1/3 quint for example), mechanical coupling OR electric coupling, Barker machine (actually the Kowalushyn lever) OR no Barker machine. Flat pedal board, C-C ventils, but also Anglican pistons...

 

I've only heard this organ on CD but it obviously EVOKES a big C-C uncannily well because those guys crawled around inside those organs and worked out why they function in the way they do. Organs don't have to do everything authentically but they MUST be evocative...

 

Taken one step further: http://www.pasiorgans.com/instruments/opus14.html

This organ is more straightforward in some senses (only quint mixtures for example) but with 20-something stops also available in 1/4 comma meantone, the portion of the repertoire it can play evocatively is rendered much greater. Listen to the Naxos Buxtehude recordings of Julia Brown and compare them with the Widor recording on the same organ by Robert Delcamp. It's quite fantastic.

 

Of course, such organs cost more to build but dare I suggest that too many organs built in the UK and elsewhere are simply much larger than they need to be precisely because of the dogma of "eclecticism as the form of least resistance"?

 

Bazuin

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The nearest organ to the french "néo-classique" definition I heard in Situ

in England was St-Alban's (I went there in the 1970's). And it was -I hope it still is-

a good organ.

 

I am slightly doubtfull with the "buffet", make- it- sound- as- you- like, ecclectic concept.

If an organ needs to be ecclectic, I would rather prefer to revisit Holtkamp or

Victor Gonzalez, who ended up with a personnal style.

 

And of course "ecclectic" can mean several things; the baroque organ in Thuringia

and Saxony -the ones Bach played- were actually ecclectic organs which mixed

traditional german, italian and french traits -and even stops!-.

The post-romantic U.S. organs like Skinner's also were ecclectic in that they were

the fruit of several traditions, re-interpreted to get something new from them.

 

And maybe THAT is the point: to render a synthesis interesting and a work of art,

its aim should maybe not to add the bits and the repertoires mechanically,

but to create something new.

 

Pierre

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The nearest organ to the french "néo-classique" definition I heard in Situ

in England was St-Alban's (I went there in the 1970's). And it was -I hope it still is-

a good organ.

 

I am slightly doubtfull with the "buffet", make- it- sound- as- you- like, ecclectic concept.

If an organ needs to be ecclectic, I would rather prefer to revisit Holtkamp or

Victor Gonzalez, who ended up with a personnal style.

 

And of course "ecclectic" can mean several things; the baroque organ in Thuringia

and Saxony -the ones Bach played- were actually ecclectic organs which mixed

traditional german, italian and french traits -and even stops!-.

The post-romantic U.S. organs like Skinner's also were ecclectic in that they were

the fruit of several traditions, re-interpreted to get something new from them.

 

And maybe THAT is the point: to render a synthesis interesting and a work of art,

its aim should maybe not to add the bits and the repertoires mechanically,

but to create something new.

 

Pierre

 

Is there a difference between mixing one, two, three or four elements, or 're-interpreting the fruit of several traditions in order to get something new from them' (without which there would be no traditions at all), and consciously trying to encompass all of it and create something which claims to do everything?

 

Perhaps the eclectic label (as an implied pejorative) applies only to the latter. The former is inevitable. Any attempt to create an organ in a bubble, exhibiting nothing at all from other builders, other ages and other styles, is doomed to failure. Even detailed reconstruction of a Smith or England will contain ideas those builders learned from other styles. Like raising a child with no negative personality traits whatsoever, it is simply not possible to do.

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The nearest organ to the french "néo-classique" definition I heard in Situ

in England was St-Alban's (I went there in the 1970's). And it was -I hope it still is-

a good organ.

 

Pierre

 

 

It still is - and one of my all time favourites also - especially since it's recent revamp (all in the best possible taste though). 'Am off up there on Saturday to hear Sophie - Veronique C-C from S. Sulpice play - 'should be good!!

 

A

 

PS 'May try and get in to year our host's rather splendid 3 man. at St. Peter's too - St As is the place to be obviously re organs!

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Now one can imagine all sort of synthesis. One of my favorite

would be from british, german and french post-romantic organs,

something rather normal for a belgian; Anneessens went somewhere

along that way, and Stahlhuth a bit further. Big, tick metal Diapasons

with german soft stops and free reeds, british chorus reeds and Tuba

and some french Trompettes and Clairons for the final "Bamm".

 

Pierre

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Now one can imagine all sort of synthesis. One of my favorite

would be from british, german and french post-romantic organs,

something rather normal for a belgian; Anneessens went somewhere

along that way, and Stahlhuth a bit further. Big, tick metal Diapasons

with german soft stops and free reeds, british chorus reeds and Tuba

and some french Trompettes and Clairons for the final "Bamm".

 

Pierre

 

'Sounds a bit like the recent incarnation of Bridlington Priory organ - Anneessens is there, big thick Diapasons, soft stops, Tuba, 32' Polyphone, 32' Tuba and the rest. And the right side of the country for Belgian access!

 

A

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I indeed had Bridlington in mind, but also the Ypres cathedral organ

and the Stahlhuths in eastern Belgium and the Luxembourg (Dudelange).

But the process was interrupted by the WWI; it was no longer possible

for a german builder to import french and english reeds (like Stahlhuth did it!).

Afterwards the Néo-classique -also a synthesis of differing epochs, no more

countries- reigned supreme.

 

So my idea is to carry the process to its logical conclusion (there are many examples

of such projects on my Forum). In "repertoire" terms, such things -if successfull-

would provide an organ for Dupré, Howells and Reger (and their contemporaries).

 

Now how to have so differing things working togheter ?

There are excellent examples from the 18th century in central Germany; it is

incredible to hear, in Angermünde, how Joachim Wagner could unite french Trompettes,

Cornets and Tierces with a traditionnal german Principal chorus; you can draw whatever

you want -and I mean it: for example, add the Tierce décomposée of the second Manual

to the Principal chorus up to Mixture, or add the Cornet to the Scharff on the Manual I-

all works.

There are things to be learned there, even for post-romantic organs, besides the

remaining Anneessens, Stahlhuts, Kerkhoffs etc of course.

I forgot to mention Dalstein & Haerpfer in Lorraine, France, along with alsacians builders

like the Rinckenbachs, who realized acomplished french-german synthese organs.

 

Pierre

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What is Eclecticism?

 

In architecture and art (probably the closest areas we can consider to organ building), eclecticism is the combination of elements from different historical styles in a single work.

 

Of course, there are many organs that meet this definition, especially since the organ reform movement. Pierre points at the 1950s Holtkamp organ of Syracuse, Bazuin uses the 2006 Pasi organ at Omaha as an example. There are many examples of eclectic organs that try to combine elements from different historical periods, from the Holtkamps, the organs of C.B.Fisk, to organs today.

 

Today, we see widespread eclectism in the organs being built today. Builders like Fritts, Pasi, Richards Fowkes, etc habitually combine historical styles together - such as Dutch/North German style choruses with swell boxes and combination actions. The new organ at Llandauff cathedral sports Tierces, Cremonas and Choir Mixtures in a roughly traditional English Romantic specification on electric action with a modern, ultra-stead wind system. The new Mander organ at St. Giles Cripplegate draws its casework inspiration of 18th Century serpentine flats with a 12.17 Sesquialtera II and Gedackt on the full-compass Swell organ. All these styles of organ can be justified to come under the term of eclecticism.

 

But eclecticism is nothing new. Pierre cites the Wagner organ of Angermünde. In the 19th century, builders like Foster & Andrews were trying to combine the Schultz-style of German romantic choruses (themselves purported to be inspired by Gottfried Silbermann) with more traditionally English voices, using the then-modern Toepfer scaling system. There's some justification to count this as an eclectic organ...

 

The problem with eclecticism is that the definition is too broad and too basic to be of much use. It covers a huge variety of organs, from organs of over 100 ranks in several locations with electric action (is Crystal Cathedral organ eclectic? I think so!!) to a well-disciplined 2 manual tracker action organ with 18th century dutch-style choruses and a swell organ. It is a term that is often and misguidedly used pejoratively but this does many organs and the appreciation of them a disservice.

 

It maybe worth thinking about the influence historicism has had on organ building. Historicism is to do with the developement of artistic styles that draw their inspiration from copying historic styles or artisans. The work at Gothenburg and in the US is well documented. Maybe this is worthy of further discussion?

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The idea of developing a versatile organ from an existing historical style is equally (perhaps more) valid than the 'buffet' eclecticism displayed by Fisk and Pasi. But eclecticism in itself is not a style and this is where too much present day organ building falls down IMO.

 

I understand entirely Pierre's point about the neo-classique - perhaps the organ at Liverpool RC Cathedral is an even better example than St Albans. With the comfort of hindsight it's clear that these organs have their own repertoire (not that repertoire is required to justify an organ style). I rather suspect though that the French label neo-classique and the British label 'neo-classical' refer to rather different things. Is the organ at Llandaff 'neo-classique'? Is St Ignatius Loyola 'neo-classique'? (Pierre, are 'neo-classique' organs allowed to have mechanical action?)

 

While I'm about it - over-labelling of anything in the musicological sphere is dangerous, but I'm very uncomfortable with Pierre's categorising of the Milan Ahrend organ as 'neo-baroque' (as would Jurgen Ahrend be I think). Surely, if you make the disctinction between neo-classique and neo-baroque then one must also make the distinction between neo-baroque (DA Flentrop, S Zachariasson etc) and style-copy (ie where genuine research into old styles replaced the application of theories)?

 

It is worth remembering that eclecticism was seen as part of the 'struggle for truth'. In France this was especially so - Norbert Duforque and others used it as a manifesto to destroy historic organs. In Sweden something similar happened with the organ commission of the Lutheran Church, which insisted that all organs have 2 manuals and independent pedal.

 

The definition of the modern eclectic organ is defined primarily by the norms of the musicians who commission them. In too many cases (especially in the UK) earlier styles are paid only lip service, and then the 'norms' are those of the 1960s (neo-classique?) rather than the present day. I fear there is (too) little which distinguishes Lawrence Phelps's writings on the subject:

http://lawrencephelps.com/Documents/Articl...gan4rtime.shtml (for example) which are of their time (although in this instance only just) and Paul Hale's 1996 article on the future of the English organ in 'The Organbuilder'. The root of these ideas may perhaps be traced in an article by Dame Gillian Weir:

 

http://gillianweir.com/articles/english-la...ium-or-message/

 

I am deeply uncomfortable with this article because it implies that such vital elements of organ expression (in certain genres) as tuning and alternative winding systems (or even the associated playing techniques) are matters of 'minority' importance and should be eschewed in organs of any size. In fact, DGW goes a step further, implying that the craft of making music is 'above' that of creating great organs. I read this it as a manifesto for 'eclecticism as the form of least resistance'. The idea of the 'organ as tool' does not, in my opinion lead to creative or evocative organ building. On the other hand, this article has many aspects, perhaps I 'read' it too narrowly.

 

Perhaps it's no co-incidence that Gillian Weir is one of the greatest 'neo-classique' organists (and perhaps the greatest Messiaen player of them all). I wonder if her philosophy has changed at all since she wrote this...

 

Bazuin

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"the craft of making music is 'above' that of creating great organs."

(Quote)

 

This idea is 100% typical for the Néo-baroque period; it was

forbidden to search "beautiful tone" -decadent!-. Instead, the

"polyphonic textures" were favorised. But this, still with the

post-romantic herited "Mixtures as colors", i.e., you heard

nothing else...

It was rather strange to come back from eastern Germany (then DDR)

to be confronted again with such ideas, but the conviction was as strong

as those reigning then the other side of the iron curtain -about slightly differing matters-.

This said, this does not mean "Néo-baroque" means "wrong"!

 

A majority of néo-classique organs have electro-pneumatic actions, though Victor

Gonzalez himself built tracker actions wherever he could. It was for this reason

Rudolf Von Beckerath worked with him before WWII, because "this art was lost in Germany",

he said.

He enriched Gonzalez's craft with northern ideas, and as a result there are

extremely precious organs from that period, up to tierce Cymbels!

This period was the best for Gonzalez and may be compared with Holtkamp

at the same period.

André Marchal knew and played Holtkamp organs in the US, so maybe Gonzalez

knew them. But we have no documents for this, while we do have about cooperations

between Holtkamp and Kuhn and Metzler in Switzerland.

 

Ecclectism is not always an "historic" matter.

A majority of baroque organs in Belgium, England, eastern France, central Germany,

were indeed ecclectic organs. BUT....The different styles that they mixed were

from the same epoch, not different ones.

It is THAT which defines the Néo-classique organ: for the first time, styles from

different epochs were mixed. For the rest, those organs do not differ from the

late post-romantic ones.

Whenever we draw Specifications which mix elements from the late-romantic

period, in different countries (Orgellandschafte), we get Post-romantic designs.

 

The modern ecclectic organ is a successor to the Néo-classique one, but the voicing

methods, the scalings and general construction differ. But it is clear there obtains

never any "disclosure" in organ-building, despite the claims.

 

Pierre

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I tend to believe that all organs are eclectic, which is why I teasingly asked the question.

 

Take some of the very finest organ-builders in history, and what do we find by way of common association?

 

Like one of those word puzzles, we could ask:-

 

Cavaille-Coll is to Cliquot, and Schulze is to Silbermann, as Lewis is to ?

 

At Southwark Cathedral, the correct answer is "all of them!"

 

If that is so, perhaps the further question might be, "Was Lewis aware of this?"

 

The answer may well be, "Possibly not."

 

It's all well and good that the Greek word "eklekticus" loosely means choosing and incorporating the best, but as we all know, the concept of "best" is as shifting as the sands of Morecambe Bay.

 

Is a Wurlitzer theatre organ eclectic?

 

Of course it is, because it combined elements of the orchestral organ with the essential characteristics of the fair-organ; bringing them under the control of a single-player by means of a telephone-exchange mechanism. It is "eclecticism" par excellence, yet about as far away from that with which we associate the term to-day, as it is possible to get. There can be no denying that, when the Wurlitzer organ burst onto the stage, (quite literally), it was a new, exciting and infinitely novel concept, which took organ-building in a completely new direction and uncharted territory, yet it has origins and precedents going right back to Weingarten and the cafe organs of Germany and Austria, as well as the organs fronting the bio-scope shows.

 

Would anyone go to the trouble of making such a strangely-hybrid instrument to-day, or to ask a different question, will the theatre organ concept ever be re-visited by future generations?

 

It all comes down to style-choices and the questions surrounding musical taste and fashion.

 

Throughout history, the best organs always seem to have been the brainchild of great organ-builders, rather than great musicians.

 

Surely, this is what makes them an art-form in their own rights, and we as musicians, are merely the hired hands who showcase the artefact to best advantage?

 

MM

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Perhaps the interesting comment of MM suggest we introduce a distinction between

"ecclectic organ" and "multicultural style".

 

All baroque organs in Europe and America (Mexico etc) ultimately evolved

from two late-Renaissance models, in two areas:

 

-The Brabant (roughly today: the flemish Brabant province, the Province Antwerps,

and the Northern Brabant in The Netherlands)

 

-The northern Italy

 

So strictly speaking, only those are "pure styles": the Niehoff kind of organ and

the italian "Ripieno" organ with no reeds stops, a Principal chorus with separate

ranks and an undulating stop.

 

So of course all organs are more or less ecclectic ones, and all styles, even the "purests"

we know, for example the french baroque organ and the northern german ones, actually

evolved from several influencies.

 

Maybe an organ might be said to be "ecclectic" when its builder knew he did a synthesis,

when it was intentionaly done.

Here again, Silbermann and his pupil J. Wagner are excellent historic examples.

When you find in Angermünde, close to the polish border, also more than thousand kilometres

away from the nearest french-speaking area, a Vox humana so "french" that it was built according

to french metrology -in the middle of the 18th century, this says quite a lot!- it is clear the

intention of the builder was to introduce french traits in his organ.

 

Now if we look at the vast number of builders who belonged to the Silbermann or the

Wagner school, Buchholz, for example, or indeed Schulze, we no longer find such

"blatant mixes". These are no more ecclectic organs, but they belong to a muticulturally

based style.

 

As for the influence of the theatre organ, it already obtains in the Neo-baroque style,

which owes something to it and indeed Hope-Jones. This is logical, since each style of

organ was marked by its predecessors. No disclosure obtains in the History of the organ.

 

Pierre

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I do think the Mona Lisa would look better repainted in part in high gloss paint. Just the face, Picasso?

 

R

 

 

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

 

 

I think it was Brian Sewell who said:-

 

"I don't want to appear a phillistine, but I always think that Picasso was a bit of a daub artist!"

 

That brought an enigmatic smile to my face, I can tell you!

 

MM

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May I suggest we go on with this interesting topic without

"the good, the bad and the ugly" games ?

There are interesting ecclectic organs, and less interesting ones,

like with every other style; now to expect of them to add this and

that like a pile of bits is an ideological vision, not necessarily shared

by the builders of such organs. In short, there are the claims of

the consultants,experts, amateurs, players, on side, and the actual

organs, on the other side.

It might be interesting to concentrate on them, leaving the bumps

and the whamoos round them to the human, I mean, strictly human,

history.

 

Pierre

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Just back from St. Albans - recital by Sophie - Veronique C- C from S. Sulpice. Brilliant playing and the rebuilt organ sounded quite splendid. If this is an eclectic organ then I am certainly pro eclectic organs!!

 

A

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I agree with those pointing out the difficulty of the term "eclectic organ". I prefer "neo-classical", and I'm in command of such an instrument, though its tonal qualities are quite hidden behind major problems, as the little symposium here has judged recently.

But this organ (Rostock St. Marien) sounds quite fine with 17th-century music, Bach, Reger, early 20th c...

I have to admit, that visitors would not agree completely, as the instrument contains several obstacles to fully reveal its idea and power. And discussions have shown that my view is perhaps too positive.

But there are organs, who try to mix good attitudes originating from several styles - as the all-time-valid things like

a "singing" chorus,

bright, but not deafening mixtures/foundations,

reeds, who do blend with the rest even if they are a "louder" type of stop (and beeing available in several grades, not a much too loud single trumpet on a 18stop 2m instrument)

flutes with some "poetry".

 

What, in my view, does NOT work, is combining some details from several styles - Schnitger reeds and shallots on a Cavaillé-Coll style soundboard, or combining an early baroque Salicional (intended to be voiced on open toe and without any helps around the mouth) and a flute harmonique on the same soundboard and so on...

 

And of course, there are organs, combining the faults of organ-building from their own and other epoques. I have grown up with them in Austria, where many instruments just were assembled from supplier parts and nobody was there who knew how to add life by a voicing which could be named so...

Those organs have widely destroyed the merits of instruments, beeing capable of quite much music quite well - even for the price, that nothing is as thrilling as Weckmann on the Hamburg Schnitger, Franck on the St. Ouen ACC and so on...

But playing and managing versatile instruments, you always have the advantage of a wide variety! For a longtime employment, I prefer it.

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Having given this some more thought, I think we have a situation in the UK where almost every organ is eclectic in some sense. even those that apparently are not, still are if you start to be very accurate about a style. I think this has tended to muddle our thinking a bit, and leads me to a question about when an amalgamation of styles is deemed eclectic or not, my personal opinion is that I would regard it as such depending on the level of amalgamation. Yet another grey area. Does adding slotted diapasons, flutes harmoniques and french inspired reeds to a Father Willis make it eclectic; I think you see my point. Furthermore, we have precious few true neo-baroque organs in the UK, so I am beginning to feel that we use the term incorrectly. Again, does adding some open toed, unnicked (don't mention the languids) pipes either a. make them neo-baroque (I think not), or b. make the instrument to which they have been added eclectic ?

 

I wonder if we are talking about pedigree in a breeding sense here. Pure bred versus interbred. we have some pure bred instruments, although again not that many as a proportion of the whole, and many of them are mass market 2 manual village organs. What remains is interbred or perhaps hybrid, and I think we need to determine the difference between hybrid and eclectic. A true eclectic instrument is hybrid, but hybridisation does not necessarily create eclecticism.

 

AJS

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