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Organ of St Peter, Petersham, London


Simon Walker
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I thought I might ask a few of you about your opinions on this kind of organ design

 

Here is the spec: 2009 Organ by the St. Martin firm from Switzerland.

 

I keep picking up up the July/August 'Choir and Organ' magazine and pondering on it...

 

It is entirely mechanical action and was built last year and has an interesting idea of grand orgue, recit expressive and resonance expressive. The 'resonance' has just 3 stops, 16/8' reeds and an open flute, and is designed to couple to either of the other two manuals and pedals as chorus reeds. In effect this enables the versitility from just a 16 stop spec of repertoire from the romantic period on an instrument which would be ultimately be more 'classical' otherwise.

 

There are a few suggestions in the C&O magazine about how this layout might be used:

 

North German Plenum - Recit used as Ruckpositive, Grand Orgue provides the plunum Chorus to mixture, and resonance coupled to pedal prevides pedal reed.

 

Classical cantus firmus in pedal: Resonance Trumpet 8' coupled to pedal, or to provide ped 4' reed, use the resonance - ped 4' coupler

 

French Romantic: Resonance coupled to swell to provide expressive chorus reeds

 

There are other possibilities too - the 8' flute on the resonance could be used as a pedal 8'flute when coupled down, and in romantic repertoire the resonance could even achieve some use as a 'solo' division. - So lots of possibilities.

 

 

I wonder whether some elements to this design could be further improved upon...

 

It's all very well on a classical organ to have no registration aids, but on an instrument designed with the versatility to compromise to play romantic repertoire too would it be appropriate to consider some - there are already two balanced swell pedals after all! Perhaps mechanical compositional pedals to the recit and grand orgue would be useful, but on this front bringing the reeds into play on the swell (thinking about French Romantic stuff here) would be difficult, but easily overcome with a reversible Res - ped reversible compositional pedal.

 

Also I see a problem with the baroque plenum.... You can't play on the Grand orgue with the 8' trumpet on the manuals and the 16' reed on the pedals... and surely this would be a very useful tutti when playing Bach etc... so would it be possible to have the 16' reed available to draw on the pedal by transmission? I believe the, our hosts, the Mander firm have put reeds on transmission at St. Giles Cripplegate as discussed on another topic.

 

 

What do you folks think of this Spec? Anyone out there played / heard it yet? Are there any builders out there who would like to comment on this design?

 

The organ At Girton College Cambridge (same builder) has a similar but rather larger design, which is also worth a look.

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=R00476

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Hi C-D,

 

I am the DoM at Petersham, and drew up the initial stop list based on what I saw of St Martin's work elsewhere (including Girton). While I do have some - admittedly biased - views, I would also be interested to hear what others think.

 

A comprehensive combination system was ruled out for various reasons - not least cost, space and longevity. It is possible that some mechanical aids would increase versatility, especially acting on the couplers - but there are 7 couplers and it's difficult to single any that are used more often. Maybe G-P. I suspect the reversible pedals operating the hand drawstops are technically difficult to implement(?) Of course there is an argument for having the couplers operated solely by pedals - something we decided against after certain amount of head-scratching (and of course, toe pedals cannot be operated by a registrant). Overall, I've found the organ is not difficult to manage with careful planning - in fact a recent recital by Christopher Herrick, covering a broad repertoire, was played with no registrant. Indeed, only two of our seven recitalists so far have used a registrant!

 

Regarding the plenum, the Grand Orgue chorus does not need the Trompette - the Cromorne works marvellously as a chorus reed, blending nicely with the mixture. Having said that, there are occasions when it would be nice to split the resonance reeds, but I'm not sure they would justify the complexity of a transmission to a different department.

 

JJK

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This kind of concept reminds me of what Georges Heintz of Schiltach (Blackforest) did from the eighties on, if on a larger scale. The first organ with this kind of multi-purpose Résonance is in the Stadtkirche at Rastatt (not far from Baden-Baden). The stoplist doesn't begin to tell just how versatile and musical the organ sounds.

 

Basically, for a Résonance division (Manual IV) Heintz built a divided swell box which contains the Bourdon, principals and chorus reeds of the Récit, and a smaller box for the more lyrical Récit voices (Manual III). The enclosed Résonance sits on either side of the Great (Manual I), taking the position of an 8-foot pedal division. In fact, it serves very well as one, and also blends perfectly fine with the Great and the actual Swell. The Pedal proper only has what the Résonance lacks: a wooden 16-foot Open, an 8-foot Bourdon and a 16-foot Bombarde. The Positiv is purely classical in sound and position, but is being played from Manual II as a French romantic Positif would be.

 

The playing action is entirely tracker, including the couplers (of which there are many!). Three mechanical Appels (Anches / 2' / Plein jeu) complement the couplers. The builder, as well as the organist Hans Peter Eisenmann and the consultant Heinrich Richard Trötschel, were convinced that the organ did not need a combination action, and would last longer and work more reliable without one. The well thought-out stoplist and jamb layout, along with the couplers and Appels, allow for quite comfortable handling.

 

But then, on one occasion I turned pages and pulled stops when a friend of mine played Elgar's entire organ music in one recital. I jogged my way through Opus 28, squeezing time and again through a very narrow gap between the bench and the Positiv case, and gave my friend a loud "quack" of the Hautbois (pushing it in a little late) in one of the Vesper Voluntaries. No pleasant experience altogether. (The "second" sonata was not half as hellish to manage -- for me, that is).

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

P. S.

Our host knows well this player (Michael Gassmann, formerly at Freiburg-Günterstal), and might well know the instrument, as it is in Baden (to where, I understand, he has family ties).

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Hi C-D,

 

I am the DoM at Petersham, and drew up the initial stop list based on what I saw of St Martin's work elsewhere (including Girton). While I do have some - admittedly biased - views, I would also be interested to hear what others think.

 

A comprehensive combination system was ruled out for various reasons - not least cost, space and longevity. It is possible that some mechanical aids would increase versatility, especially acting on the couplers - but there are 7 couplers and it's difficult to single any that are used more often. Maybe G-P. I suspect the reversible pedals operating the hand drawstops are technically difficult to implement(?) Of course there is an argument for having the couplers operated solely by pedals - something we decided against after certain amount of head-scratching (and of course, toe pedals cannot be operated by a registrant). Overall, I've found the organ is not difficult to manage with careful planning - in fact a recent recital by Christopher Herrick, covering a broad repertoire, was played with no registrant. Indeed, only two of our seven recitalists so far have used a registrant!

 

Regarding the plenum, the Grand Orgue chorus does not need the Trompette - the Cromorne works marvellously as a chorus reed, blending nicely with the mixture. Having said that, there are occasions when it would be nice to split the resonance reeds, but I'm not sure they would justify the complexity of a transmission to a different department.

 

JJK

 

Thanks for your reply JJK! This organ has interested me ever since I first read about it. In so many ways I'm sure it gives immense satisfaction and it's tonal finishing is praised in the C&O article. I'd love to see it one day, but I rarely get down to the London area sadly....

 

It is interesting to note that you say the 'Cromorne works marvellously as a chorus reed'. How that wouldn't have been the case in many an organ built 30 years ago! The possibility of transmission was just a thought of mine, and complex it would have seemed when compared to the benefits, I agree.

 

The thing which I do get a bit worked up about though is that modern organ builders don't seem to use composition pedals, when 100 years ago they were standard on just about all small organs produced in the UK. Often 2 or 3 to each department and a G -P reversible. JJ Bins often went further, and employed up to 4 pedals per dept on even modest sized organs. And in day to day playing they are so useful! Also they are reliable and last for ever, and won't give you the problems that electrical systems can after a generation of use.

 

The down side? They can't easily be re set - not a problem when set by the builder, but indeed a problem if an organist with his/her own idiosyncratic ideas get's in the way! In my opinion they should always be set to romantic combinations, ie, i8 foot, ii8s &4, and finally reeds + upperwork. This then allows easier registration of romantic repertoire, and for anything early you just go by hand (as you would if you were playing an instrument of more authentic design). Not long ago I encountered a Binns organ c1900 where the organist had had the combinations re-set to give, 8flute, 4principal, 2 fifteenth on one combination! not much use for general service playing and very annoying!

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What do you folks think of this Spec? Anyone out there played / heard it yet? Are there any builders out there who would like to comment on this design?

 

 

There was a fair amount on discussion on this ingenious and, to my mind, successful design on an earlier thread. A refreshing change from the dare I say 'predictable' 20-stop offerings by native builders.

 

See Petersham

 

JS

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There was a fair amount on discussion on this ingenious and, to my mind, successful design on an earlier thread. A refreshing change from the dare I say 'predictable' 20-stop offerings by native builders.

 

See Petersham

 

JS

 

Thanks for the link to the earlier discussion - I'm sorry I didn't find it before starting this one, but never mind!

Here is a link to some great shots of this most interesting instrument

 

It will be interesting to see if any other builders choose to use this design again the UK. The craftsmanship of it looks splendid too.

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