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MusingMuso

The art of the registrant

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I could have posted this under the YouTube category, but so extraordinary is this clip, I thought it would be nice to see what others think of this from Holland.

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcZ456w4vOU

 

 

Not only is the playing as perfect as it comes in Reger, but the preparatory work and detailed registration indications must take an age in the bigger works.

 

For me personally, I am a little humbled by this, because coming from a country where we have thumb-pistons and still get things wrong, I have sat through performances of big Reger works played by both regular and visiting organists at Haarlem (and elsewhere), perhaps not realising the sheer graft and perfectionism going on behind the Rugwerk.

 

And they say that football is a team activity!

 

Wow!

 

MM

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcZ456w4vOU

 

 

Not only is the playing as perfect as it comes in Reger, but the preparatory work and detailed registration indications must take an age in the bigger works.

 

MM

That was from Jos van de Kooy at Haarlem, and there is more similar on his DVD from the Westerkerk at Amsterdam.

 

There is another example of this at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiFLW1pJTyM although Everhard Zwart's DVD from Dordrecht has better examples than shown here. The lesson from this is that every organist should have two children and train them in the art of registration from an early age.

 

It's also worth looking at Jaap Kroonenburg playing Feike Asma at Maassluis, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSkj_hMU8Bc

 

As well as watching, to see how the trick is done, it is worth listening very carefully to the DVDs on good quality equipment and noting how very smooth gradations of dynamics are possible without a swell pedal. But then it works with the Dutch voicing!

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As well as watching, to see how the trick is done, it is worth listening very carefully to the DVDs on good quality equipment and noting how very smooth gradations of dynamics are possible without a swell pedal. But then it works with the Dutch voicing!

 

 

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

 

 

Absolutely right, and I recall a more or less back-to-back experience, when I heard two big Reger works in the same day; one at Haarlem and the other at Duesburg. The organs couldn't be more different......one largely 18th century and the other a big romantic Walcker.

 

Musically, it was a draw, and I had to take my hat off the the registrants and organist at Haarlem, who made the experience utterly convincing.

 

MM

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Quite a few years ago there was a TV programme featuring Gillian Weir at St. Sulpice preparing a recital of Messiaen, anyone remember it?

 

She had 2 registrants, a young man and a young woman who, we were told, were the 'resident' registrants there. Not only did they pull stops but they also operated the ventils.

 

I've been told by French organists that it was common on Romantic C19th instruments for page-turner/registrants to also operate the expression pedal where it is a lever to the right of the pedal board.

 

DT

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I've heard it said (by someone who knew what he was talking about) the the swell pedals on ACC's earlier consoles were designed and placed to be used largely if not exclusively by the registrant, and that the player would have to be on the tall side (at lest by mid 19C standards) to operate it with comfort.

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All of this ends up saying the following to me.

 

Listen to how the music breathes with manual stop changes. I begin to wonder more now that we play like computers because our instruments are operated by them and we are more sensitive than they are.

See the importance of having balancing terraced dynamics not requiring manual couplers, and having colour at all pitches.

Be nice to your registrant. They can make you look a fool, but you can't as easily do the same to them.

With a couple of more romantically inspired stops, the BavoKerk organ is still as close to perfect in sound for most repertoire. Yes, with registrants you could play Howells convincingly on it. There are of course others to which the same applies, but here is colour, power without oppression, density, and brilliance all in one.

 

I've always thought the Dutch were closest to perfection in this respect. It's not often that's uttered in one breath.

 

AJS

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With a couple of more romantically inspired stops, the BavoKerk organ is still as close to perfect in sound for most repertoire. Yes, with registrants you could play Howells convincingly on it. There are of course others to which the same applies, but here is colour, power without oppression, density, and brilliance all in one.

 

I've always thought the Dutch were closest to perfection in this respect. It's not often that's uttered in one breath.

 

AJS

 

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

 

 

I was once rocked back on my heels when a recitalist programmed some English music by Frank Bridge at the Bavokerk.

 

"This should prove hilarious," I recall thinking in anticipation.

 

Fortunately, I didn't share my thoughts with anyone else, or I would have looked a complete fool. It was perfect! :o

 

MM

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

 

 

I was once rocked back on my heels when a recitalist programmed some English music by Frank Bridge at the Bavokerk.

 

Would dearly love to hear some Spanish music by Franco Puente, or indeed some native Welsh music by Frank (Agored) Pontydd. (Sorry).

 

This would bridge a gap in my experience. (Sorry again it's just one of those mornings.)

 

AJS

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

 

 

 

 

Would dearly love to hear some Spanish music by Franco Puente, or indeed some native Welsh music by Frank (Agored) Pontydd. (Sorry).

 

This would bridge a gap in my experience. (Sorry again it's just one of those mornings.)

 

AJS

 

 

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

 

You remind me of an amusing story, when I was talking to the composer Anthony Hedges about something or other, and happened to mention Handel.

 

A slightly disturbing outburst next followed, "Don't mention Handel to me! The man was a musical prostitute, who would do anything for position, money or favour."

 

It's a bit difficult to follow that sort of statement; let alone enter into further discussion. The poor man obviously had his problems, and I felt it expedient to extract myself from the rapidly opening ground in front of me.

 

"Well you're quite right," I agreed, with sickening sycophancy. "I suppose some pretentious twit will compose something for the Humber Bridge."

 

Hedges gave me a steely look, and replied, "Well, as a matter of fact, I am!"

 

Needless to say, after that, neither of us felt the need to exchange Christmas Cards. :o

 

MM

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Quite a few years ago there was a TV programme featuring Gillian Weir at St. Sulpice preparing a recital of Messiaen, anyone remember it?

 

She had 2 registrants, a young man and a young woman who, we were told, were the 'resident' registrants there. Not only did they pull stops but they also operated the ventils.

 

I've been told by French organists that it was common on Romantic C19th instruments for page-turner/registrants to also operate the expression pedal where it is a lever to the right of the pedal board.

 

DT

 

Oh yes, I remember this very well. It was a South Bank Show episode featuring Gillian Weir. The piece in question was Messe de la Pentecôte.

 

 

EC

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In this clip Daniel Roth acts as registrant and page turner as well as operating the ventil pedals for a student at at St Sulpice. His (presumably) regular registrant stands beside him and clearly has a sheet of notes detailing the various registration changes throughout the piece.

 

 

Not sure how I'd feel about the way he was moving the music stand half a minute in though :o

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All of this ends up saying the following to me.

 

Listen to how the music breathes with manual stop changes. I begin to wonder more now that we play like computers because our instruments are operated by them and we are more sensitive than they are.

See the importance of having balancing terraced dynamics not requiring manual couplers, and having colour at all pitches.

Be nice to your registrant. They can make you look a fool, but you can't as easily do the same to them.

With a couple of more romantically inspired stops, the BavoKerk organ is still as close to perfect in sound for most repertoire. Yes, with registrants you could play Howells convincingly on it. There are of course others to which the same applies, but here is colour, power without oppression, density, and brilliance all in one.

 

I've always thought the Dutch were closest to perfection in this respect. It's not often that's uttered in one breath.

 

AJS

 

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

 

 

A fine observation indeed, and see how Reger's music comes alive when it is allowed to breathe and take shape at an unhurried pace.....just the same as Bach's music, in fact.

 

I delight in the choice of words "here is colour, power without oppression, density, and brilliance all in one."

 

That could well serve as an apt description for the good people of the Netherlands.

 

MM

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Thank you for your kind words. I try to pride myself in my ability to listen, and furthermore listen without preconceptions. To hear what is there, and not what you think is there takes a tutored ear and mind, and I hope I may have reached secondary school in that respect.

 

By the by, I often ponder the thought that the last true foreign 'invasion' of this country was by the Dutch, albeit by invitation.

 

AJS

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By the by, I often ponder the thought that the last true foreign 'invasion' of this country was by the Dutch, albeit by invitation.

 

AJS

I suggest that you read "Going Dutch - how England Plundered Holland's Glory" by Lisa Jardine. William of Orange came with 500 ships, 20,000 soldiers and 20,000 mariners and support staff. Clearly, even if he had lost his invitation card, no one was going to turn him away. The semi-myth of the "invitation" began even before he arrived, with the printing of thousands of propaganda leaflets. In William's favour, it might be noted that the itinerary of his triumphant march to London included visits to famous gardens.

 

However, it was a failure; he just didn't bring the same number of organ-builders with him.

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In William's favour, it might be noted that the itinerary of his triumphant march to London included visits to famous gardens.

 

However, it was a failure; he just didn't bring the same number of organ-builders with him.

 

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

 

 

I saw some holes in the wall of a stone stairway in a Dutch castle; the shot apparently aimed at William of Orange. Obviously, they missed their intended target.

 

I rather like the idea of an invasion of organ-builders, but I expect that would have caused trouble. More organists than orangists sounds like a diplomatic disaster to me.

 

How would they have negotiated the peace?

 

MM

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

 

 

 

 

How would they have negotiated the peace?

 

MM

 

By reverting to the book of common prayer and thus avoiding the problem. Indeed reverting to the Roman Missal would have achieved the same.

 

AJS

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By reverting to the book of common prayer and thus avoiding the problem. Indeed reverting to the Roman Missal would have achieved the same.

 

AJS

 

 

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

 

 

How naive!

 

Remember the old saying, "You can negotiate with a terrorist, but not with an organist."

 

I think that the last time I read the BCP or a Roman Missal, it was probably because I'd left the newspaper at home and couldn't do the crossword.

 

 

MM

 

 

PS: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (You see, I do know the words! :o )

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

I was once rocked back on my heels when a recitalist programmed some English music by Frank Bridge at the Bavokerk.

"This should prove hilarious," I recall thinking in anticipation.

MM

 

Many years ago in the last century when I was going to play for the Haarlem festival and be broadcast live and was very green as to playing such extraordinary instruments, I was asked to produce some recent programmes from which they could all choose for mine in the Bavo. To my absolute horror they chose the Glazunov Fantasie for me to play. By return I pointed out that the work demanded compasses far greater than those on offer built by Müller, not to mention an enclosed department needed for the the < & >s. They said all would be fine as for the former 'problem' I should play down an octave and the registrants would add a Mixture or two and for the latter - well, "just leave it up to them". It was a most fruitful collaboration. I have the tape to prove it. I also have the score with all the registrations numbers too from that performance which I recently passed on to Ian Ball.

All the best,

N

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Many years ago in the last century when I was going to play for the Haarlem festival and be broadcast live and was very green as to playing such extraordinary instruments, I was asked to produce some recent programmes from which they could all choose for mine in the Bavo. To my absolute horror they chose the Glazunov Fantasie for me to play. By return I pointed out that the work demanded compasses far greater than those on offer built by Müller, not to mention an enclosed department needed for the the < & >s. They said all would be fine as for the former 'problem' I should play down an octave and the registrants would add a Mixture or two and for the latter - well, "just leave it up to them". It was a most fruitful collaboration. I have the tape to prove it. I also have the score with all the registrations numbers too from that performance which I recently passed on to Ian Ball.

All the best,

N

 

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

 

 

That's wonderful Nigel, thank-you! What an insight into the perils of international recital playing. It's a lot more professional than my own approach, when I almost snapped the little finger of my right hand playing Dupre. Those key jambs are so unyielding!

 

I recall a fascinating performance of the Cocker "Tuba Tune" in the Netherlands, which proved seamless. I was totally unaware of the fact that the top note was 'g' when the Cocker runs up to 'a.' It's amazing what a Cymbel can do when added to a full chorus. The only thing missing was a Tuba, but we just hummed along, adding the missing tune, as you do on the continent when such a stop is needed. :o

 

I'm not sure if it wasn't Rotterdam, with those Real-Madrid "Vuvuzelas."

 

I'm glad someone plays the Glazunov works. They're quite well written, but the right interpretation doesn't exactly leap from the page at first sight.

 

MM

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

 

 

How naive!

 

Remember the old saying, "You can negotiate with a terrorist, but not with an organist."

 

I think that the last time I read the BCP or a Roman Missal, it was probably because I'd left the newspaper at home and couldn't do the crossword.

 

 

MM

 

 

PS: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (You see, I do know the words! :o )

 

Yes, but the peace appears in neither the BCP nor the Missal. (I was also making a small historical snipe at the leanings of King James II, and the circumstances by which William of Orange was 'invited' to invade.)

Peace is therefore, in religious terms, a modern thing to share; wouldn't do in the 17th century. You can make peace with an organist. Get him drunk and offer him a new Cor d'amour.

 

AJS

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Yes, but the peace appears in neither the BCP nor the Missal. (I was also making a small historical snipe at the leanings of King James II, and the circumstances by which William of Orange was 'invited' to invade.)

Peace is therefore, in religious terms, a modern thing to share; wouldn't do in the 17th century. You can make peace with an organist. Get him drunk and offer him a new Cor d'amour.

 

AJS

 

 

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

 

 

I could just imagine Dame Edna with this.

 

William of Orange, an organist and a Cor d'amour....mmmmmm. :o

 

MM

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