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SinaL

Oxbridge

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Interested to know the view of members of this board on the Oxbridge organs.

I personally like Queens, Cambridge and New and Exeter in Oxford very much.

Don't particularly fancy Christ Church.

 

Which ones do you find the best, and which ones should go to the scrap.

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I rather like St John's, Cambridge, though the Trompeta Real is a bit fierce. Because I'm an old Johnian, I've heard one story of the purchase of that stop. Whether it is true or not is another matter. George Guest had gone to the college council to ask for money, and he'd put his case before them, insisting on the necessity of the stop. The council were largely satisfied with Guest's arguments for the stop. One member of the council is alleged to have asked, "Where is the nearest place where we can hear one for ourselves?" Without irony, Guest replied, "Madrid."

 

I only really know the Cambridge organs. Emma is not bad, and the fact that it's used for Music Tripos organ recitals shows that it's held in some esteem. I've enjoyed playing on the one at Magdalene, but it's really too big for the chapel. Not mad on Clare tbh...

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I only really know the Cambridge organs. Emma is not bad, and the fact that it's used for Music Tripos organ recitals shows that it's held in some esteem. I've enjoyed playing on the one at Magdalene, but it's really too big for the chapel. Not mad on Clare tbh...

 

I agree. I liked Emmanuel when I played it, although it sounded rather out of tune, maybe this has something to do with the "winding" of the instrument which may be the reason for that "wind control" stop.

Clare is way too bright, and has an awful swell.

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I've always liked the Snetzler in Peterhouse, and the Abbott and Smith in the English Martyrs, which a certain Professor Stanford specified. Both are a bit off the usual tourist routes.

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I'm looking forward to the new Keble instrument. Pembroke (ox) and Exeter are particular favourites, for rather different reasons, obviously. Or, actually, because they are so different. Christ Church frightens me but earns my respect.

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Interested to know the view of members of this board on the Oxbridge organs.

I personally like Queens, Cambridge and New and Exeter in Oxford very much.

Don't particularly fancy Christ Church.

 

Which ones do you find the best, and which ones should go to the scrap.

 

 

I think I'm right in saying the Queen's College, Oxford Frobenius was voted number one favourite organ in a poll of IBO members last year - a remarkable result, if you think about it. It was a revelation back in 1965 and remains, for my money, the most honest, most uncompromisingly musical organ in any Oxbridge college.

 

Discuss

 

JS

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I rather like St John's, Cambridge, though the Trompeta Real is a bit fierce. Because I'm an old Johnian, I've heard one story of the purchase of that stop. Whether it is true or not is another matter. George Guest had gone to the college council to ask for money, and he'd put his case before them, insisting on the necessity of the stop. The council were largely satisfied with Guest's arguments for the stop. One member of the council is alleged to have asked, "Where is the nearest place where we can hear one for ourselves?" Without irony, Guest replied, "Madrid."

 

I only really know the Cambridge organs. Emma is not bad, and the fact that it's used for Music Tripos organ recitals shows that it's held in some esteem. I've enjoyed playing on the one at Magdalene, but it's really too big for the chapel. Not mad on Clare tbh...

 

 

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

 

 

There are stories and there are stories and probabaly few of them contain the slightest truth. However, I did like the one the late George Guest told me about the old professor at John's, who sat well away from his usual "throne" beneath the organ; moving to the other sie of the chancel after the chamade Trompeta Real had been installed.

 

"Why have you moved?" He was asked.

 

"I don't want that darned thing dripping on me!" He is reputed to have replied. :lol:

 

Well.....as I say....there are stories.........

 

MM

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I really do like the Aubertin at St John's Oxford - but am also looking forward to the new Tickell at Keble. The Frobenius at Queen's is in a class of it's own!

 

A

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TAB - keep St Catz (certainly as it was pre-Flentrop - haven't seen it since) and Emmanuel. Bin - Fitzwilliam.

 

OX - keep Jesus, Wadham, Queens, which are my personal favourites in descending order. Bin very little, but I really do find Exeter the most extraordinary conception.

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Is it really that bad? I've played it, and it didn't seem all that bad. The reed in the box was a bit odd though.

 

It's one of life's mysteries to me why people are still ordering these half-voiced, mechanically suspect 1960s imitation north german baroque contraptions. I must be msising something. On balance, it's better than Exeter, Ox.

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On balance, it's better than Exeter, Ox.

 

Interesting this - I went to a 'meet' there a long while back ('can't remember which lot with) and we had a demonstration of the Exeter College organ. Someone from Walkers also came and talked about its genesis - I seem to remember him being quite forthright and almost defensive about the ideas behind it - 'not sure why as (for a change maybe) no one there was arguing. I also remember the sound being decidedly brash and not much like the C-C sound that it was vaguely in the style of - or at least the C-Cs I have heard. I found it lacking also in the 'awe and wonder' one might have hoped to expect with an especially rampant 16' reed :lol: somewhere behind the outer pedal display pipes. However - I have a recording of the Durufle Requiem recorded there and on this it sounds fine - likewise a CD of organ and choral music by Philip Wilby uses this venue and on this too the organ comes over well.

 

A

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Interesting this - I went to a 'meet' there a long while back ('can't remember which lot with) and we had a demonstration of the Exeter College organ. Someone from Walkers also came and talked about its genesis - I seem to remember him being quite forthright and almost defensive about the ideas behind it - 'not sure why as (for a change maybe) no one there was arguing. I also remember the sound being decidedly brash and not much like the C-C sound that it was vaguely in the style of - or at least the C-Cs I have heard. I found it lacking also in the 'awe and wonder' one might have hoped to expect with an especially rampant 16' reed :lol: somewhere behind the outer pedal display pipes. However - I have a recording of the Durufle Requiem recorded there and on this it sounds fine - likewise a CD of organ and choral music by Philip Wilby uses this venue and on this too the organ comes over well.

 

A

 

My only fading memories are -

 

1) The outer pedal display pipes aren't - they're painted onto a sheet of MDF to look like pedal display pipes

 

2) I hit my head at least three million times on a stupidly low casework finnial

 

3) Your assessment of its volume and other qualities is somewhat accurate

 

I was around Ox in the early 90s when it went in. Jesus, over the road, was going in at exactly the same time. Drake and his men were on site for about 3 1/2 months all told, most of it voicing. Exeter turned up late one night in three pantechnicons and, it is said, 72 hours later the job was finished. I don't like repeating gossip and hearsay* but I would be interested to know how many of the stories about subsequent new soundboards and new keyboards and new actions are true. I can tell you that the tuning book at Jesus contains a reference to a pedal reed pipe which lost its tongue sometime in about 1998, but as of the last time I saw it (2005) that was the only fault which had occurred.

 

 

* - that's a complete lie - I LOVE it

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2) I hit my head at least three million times on a stupidly low casework finnial

 

There is so much DNA attached to this instrument because of this gruesome design feature that it surely reads like a Who's Who of the organ playing world. Thrice I have been gouged so have 3 entries. Playing this organ can scar you for life.

N

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I am very fond of Christ Church, which I hear at least once a week. My son is a chorister there........It is a fine instrument, and it makes an admirable account of itself even when the cathedral is full, and the limited acoustic is reduced to almost nothing.

 

In the hands of the two organ scholars, and Mr Driskill-Smith, who know the instrument so well, it is very seldom that I miss the 'thundering English cathedral organ sound', preferring to hear the clarity of the inner parts of contrapuntal writing, and the bold choruses. In the hands of someone (including some VERY famous and skilled organists) who does not know the instrument, the results are less appealing, however. It really sorts out the men from the boys, technique wise, too!

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I've only played Magdalen and Queen's in Oxford, though I've certainly heard Christchurch, Exeter and Merton. For all that people are sometimes - how shall I put it? - less than complimentary about Magdalen, I confess I find it intriguing. I take my hat off to all those over the years who have had to "do battle with it" in order to achieve convincing results in choral repertoire by Stanford, Elgar, Wood, Parry, Stainer (etc.) but I could happily spend whole days on it wading through Bach, Buxtehude, Pachelbel, Bruhns, Bohm, Bruna, Frescobaldi, Cabanilles, de Sola, Couperin, de Grigny, Stanley, Handel, Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Purcell, Mozart, Liszt, Rheinberger, Mendelssohn... The clarity of the voicing and the famed Magdalen resonance can give a wonderful flavour to much organ literature in the right hands!

 

It also strikes me that such a specification would go down well in a Parish Church needing something a bit more varied than three pedal flues and a great big wodge of 8' tone on all the manuals - though I realise that the appropriate specification for any such building is ultimately steered by the acoustics and by the fundamental needs of that Church's music. And of course there's the issue of space; reading between the lines of a letter written to OR by a certain Mr Mander, it seems likely that many headaches were suffered whilst considering how to provide a decent pedal section within frustratingly tight constraints... The result may not be to everyone's taste, but the job's as good as it could have been under the circumstances.

 

Having said all that, I find Queen's a much more enjoyable instrument to play. The specification has the edge over Magdalen's via the inclusion of a 16' flue on the primary manual - not only does it add a touch of grandeur (appropriate for the Romantic choral repertoire I mentioned earlier), it works beautifully up an octave as do several of the other stops (for that matter, the 4' and 2' stops work very well down an octave) so that many effective combinations can be produced out of a limited scheme. And it's a lovely comfortable console at Queen's!

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It's one of life's mysteries to me why people are still ordering these half-voiced, mechanically suspect 1960s imitation north german baroque contraptions.

At least St Peter's College eventually saw sense and courageously binned theirs (albeit dating from the late 80s!). Their reconditioned little Willis is certainly one of the best instruments in Oxford, set in one of the best acoustics too :o

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It's a very nice little instrument (I am listening to my recent recording of it right now), but "one of the best in Oxford" is perhaps elevating it little high, I would have thought.

 

Paul

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It's a very nice little instrument (I am listening to my recent recording of it right now), but "one of the best in Oxford" is perhaps elevating it little high, I would have thought.

 

Paul

I agree. "Better" would have been more appropriate! Too much Château Severn Valley...

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Queen's College, Cambridge has a really fine three-manual Binns in a Bodley case (although not as fine as the slightly larger one not far away at the Old Independent Church, Haverhill).

 

The Bishop at Christ's College was one of the nicer early attempts at the 'old' style. (I claim to have 'opened' this, having demonstrated it to the Organ Club just before it was completed. The Pedal Mixture hadn't been connected and the draw-stop came off in my hand and shot across the chapel).

 

One couldn't imagine the King's sound being what it is without the Harrison....

 

I agree that the Ken Jones job at Emmanuel is a fine piece of work. Not so keen on his one at Great St. Mary, but I rather liked its predecessor, mongrel though it was.

 

If we're not confining ourselves to colleges, the HN&B in Cambridge Guildhall is, in my opinion, underrated.

 

I'm told the new Tickell at Little Mary's is pretty damn good.

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Queen's College, Cambridge has a really fine three-manual Binns in a Bodley case.

 

This one is rather lovely. How could I have forgotten it?

 

If we're not confining ourselves to colleges, the HN&B in Cambridge Guildhall is, in my opinion, underrated.

 

Isn't is unplayable at the moment? I've never heard it, and no organ events have been held there in the past few years.

 

I'm told the new Tickell at Little Mary's is pretty damn good.

 

This is an excellent instrument, with the full organ particularly impressive, being rich but not overpowering.

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I'll put in my vote for the Smith/Metzler at Trinity Cambridge. Such exquisite craftmanship everywhere, ravishingly beautiful flutes and diapasons and comfy action. Able to give an utterly convincing account of lots of repertoire so you could completely forgive the stuff it didn't really play so well. I remember getting away with quite a bit of Howells (nice swell strings that go pretty soft), and Liszt/Reubke/Reger worked rather excellently. French fonds noises were also good (wonderful Great 16' Diapason). Only real tonal irritation I found was the lack of a really robust 16' bottom octave on anything. Because the case pipes aren't 16' long both the Great and Pedal 16' diapasons have got stopped bottom octaves inside the case. Have to say, even the temperament of it didn't normally cause too much of a problem in non-early repertoire (although Howells' Gloucester Service didn't ever sound quite as you'd expect...).

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I'll put in my vote for the Smith/Metzler at Trinity Cambridge. .......

 

I really like this one too - so why did the Metzler in St. Mary's Oxford sound distictly 'lumpy' when I visited a few years ago I wonder? I was really unimpressed. Has anyone had more first hand experience?

 

A

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