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Simon Walker

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Yes, in this country. However, Werkprinzip = the ideal to which a lot of these things were made = Principals at 16 on ped, 8 on HW, 4 on OW, 2 on Pos. Fractions correspondingly higher as well - frequently mutations at 5 1/3 and 3 1/5 on the HW, Nazard pitch on OW, Larigot/Tierce pitch on Pos.

 

That's fair enough, but that doesn't quite answer the question - can a positif chorus with a mixture of flutes and principals at higher pitches sound coherent? I'm sure I've seen a few specs where on the positif there'd be a principal at either 4' or 2', but not both, plus a mixture, whereas I'd expect Principal 4' + Fifteenth 2' before having a mixture.

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That's fair enough, but that doesn't quite answer the question - can a positif chorus with a mixture of flutes and principals at higher pitches sound coherent? I'm sure I've seen a few specs where on the positif there'd be a principal at either 4' or 2', but not both, plus a mixture, whereas I'd expect Principal 4' + Fifteenth 2' before having a mixture.

 

It really depends on the voicing etc. - a skilled hand can make anything sound effective, coherent and good on the ear. It is also not wise to judge an organ by it's written spec. - going by what it sounds like is best!

 

A

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That's fair enough, but that doesn't quite answer the question - can a positif chorus with a mixture of flutes and principals at higher pitches sound coherent? I'm sure I've seen a few specs where on the positif there'd be a principal at either 4' or 2', but not both, plus a mixture, whereas I'd expect Principal 4' + Fifteenth 2' before having a mixture.

 

 

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

 

 

Even within the culture of the neo-baroque organ there are different approaches. One leans towards French colour, and the other towards tonal building blocks and the more ripieno style.

 

A lot of 1960's instruments would have 8ft Flute, 4ft Principal, 4ft Flute, then Nazard, Blockflute and Tierce as a French flute melange, often with an acidic Krummhorn and a shrieking Cymbal. It usually doesn't work too well for Bach.

 

The organ I play, has an unenclosed 4 stop Positiv, with just flutes at 8ft and 4ft, with a single 2dt Principal and a very bright Quint at 1.1/3, which goes all the way to the top note. It blends with the rest of the organ, but it is very bold. Coupling the full Positiv to the Great more or less doubles the power of the instrument. Personally, I would gladly ditch the Quint and replace it with a slightly more useful 2ft Flute, even if that would result in a slight drop in brilliance with the full organ drawn. (The acoustic is so good, it can carry the top end brilliance without detrement).

 

I suppose if one wanted a Positiv to do everything, the 4ft AND 2ft Pricipals would be required, but wouldn't have to be drawn at the same time.

 

I just wish, that when the neo-baroque was being touted, they hadn't studied the fuller flute tones and less savage upperwork of the Netherlands masters. They always seem so musical by way of comparison, but then, they do have the acoustics to match the style.

 

MM

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

 

 

Even within the culture of the neo-baroque organ there are different approaches. One leans towards French colour, and the other towards tonal building blocks and the more ripieno style.

 

A lot of 1960's instruments would have 8ft Flute, 4ft Principal, 4ft Flute, then Nazard, Blockflute and Tierce as a French flute melange, often with an acidic Krummhorn and a shrieking Cymbal. It usually doesn't work too well for Bach.

 

The organ I play, has an unenclosed 4 stop Positiv, with just flutes at 8ft and 4ft, with a single 2dt Principal and a very bright Quint at 1.1/3, which goes all the way to the top note. It blends with the rest of the organ, but it is very bold. Coupling the full Positiv to the Great more or less doubles the power of the instrument. Personally, I would gladly ditch the Quint and replace it with a slightly more useful 2ft Flute, even if that would result in a slight drop in brilliance with the full organ drawn. (The acoustic is so good, it can carry the top end brilliance without detrement).

 

I suppose if one wanted a Positiv to do everything, the 4ft AND 2ft Pricipals would be required, but wouldn't have to be drawn at the same time.

 

I just wish, that when the neo-baroque was being touted, they hadn't studied the fuller flute tones and less savage upperwork of the Netherlands masters. They always seem so musical by way of comparison, but then, they do have the acoustics to match the style.

 

MM

 

Thank you! So is the basic gist of modern "positifs" tending more towards a collection of Baroque-style solo voices (including octave and mutation flutes), rather than a secondary principal chorus (like the old English "chaire" organs)? Hence the lack of a full complement of principal ranks, as I was questioning?

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Thank you! So is the basic gist of modern "positifs" tending more towards a collection of Baroque-style solo voices (including octave and mutation flutes), rather than a secondary principal chorus (like the old English "chaire" organs)? Hence the lack of a full complement of principal ranks, as I was questioning?

 

I would suggest that many recent (ie 90's onwards) instruments will be equipped with an excellent and bold secondary chorus on the positive. A good example will have a principal at 4' and 2', but sometimes even an 8' principal on a large enough instrument. This chorus should balance the Great but be lighter and brighter in character. Increasingly more than one 8' is included eg a gamba. Have a look at the spec of St. Giles Cathedral Edinburgh - and better still hear it! It's an excellent Ruck positive division.

 

A while ago I did a recital at St. Mary's Warwick (an instrument that many don't like, but I rather enjoyed myself none the less - not least because of the amount of beer members of the choir bought me the night before!) The positive on the west organ only has a principal at 2' pitch. Otherwise it has lots of pretty flutes and a screaming mixture. Frankly the result is just the toy box you were describing. The chorus is a complete jangle which the organist there gave me good advice to not include in a plenum. I found solid choruses elsewhere on the instrument (there's an east end organ playable at the same console too...). Similarly the quacking reeds on the positive weren't exactly useful in chorus - only as solo or 'toy' stops. This really is an example of how not to do it - and in the 31 years since Nicholson's built that instrument much progress has been made. (On a positive note (haha ... get it...) I did enjoy the other divisions of the organ, and if used carefully it can make a splendid sound.)

 

Similarly the organ I play currently, which was 'cheered up' in the 70`s has a choir spec where the chorus goes 8,4 flutes 2`spitz principal 1 1/3 larigot and cymbel III. It is similarly a toy box, because there is no way in which the gentle, early 20th Century flutes can support a very thin and high mixture, or even the spitty 2' for that matter. It shouldn't be like this - thats just a neo classical trend. Modern day thinking should always result in a cohesive chorus even when the lowest principal is at 4' or even 2' pitch. Even the cromourne should also fit comfortably into the aesthetic of everything else - some built years ago sound totally alien, and these days a rounder, bolder sound is more commonly preferred.

 

Some times I can't help thinking that the 60's and 70's was one of the most damaging periods for organ building. Some of the so called positive divisions from that period replacing choir divisions are a good example of why I think that. As much as there are some excellent new builds from that period much of the rebuilding carried out was awful - poorly thought through, too radical and often on the cheap. Look at the Bute hall organ in Glasgow University for example. Yet the Victorian original (in that case a TC lewis instrument) was so often built to such a high quality. Similarly I wonder what Carlisle Cathedral organ would be like if Walkers had left it well alone in the 60's.

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I would suggest that many recent (ie 90's onwards) instruments will be equipped with an excellent and bold secondary chorus on the positive. A good example will have a principal at 4' and 2', but sometimes even an 8' principal on a large enough instrument. This chorus should balance the Great but be lighter and brighter in character. Increasingly more than one 8' is included eg a gamba. Have a look at the spec of St. Giles Cathedral Edinburgh - and better still hear it! It's an excellent Ruck positive division.

 

A while ago I did a recital at St. Mary's Warwick (an instrument that many don't like, but I rather enjoyed myself none the less - not least because of the amount of beer members of the choir bought me the night before!) The positive on the west organ only has a principal at 2' pitch. Otherwise it has lots of pretty flutes and a screaming mixture. Frankly the result is just the toy box you were describing. The chorus is a complete jangle which the organist there gave me good advice to not include in a plenum. I found solid choruses elsewhere on the instrument (there's an east end organ playable at the same console too...). Similarly the quacking reeds on the positive weren't exactly useful in chorus - only as solo or 'toy' stops. This really is an example of how not to do it - and in the 31 years since Nicholson's built that instrument much progress has been made. (On a positive note (haha ... get it...) I did enjoy the other divisions of the organ, and if used carefully it can make a splendid sound.)

 

Similarly the organ I play currently, which was 'cheered up' in the 70`s has a choir spec where the chorus goes 8,4 flutes 2`spitz principal 1 1/3 larigot and cymbel III. It is similarly a toy box, because there is no way in which the gentle, early 20th Century flutes can support a very thin and high mixture, or even the spitty 2' for that matter. It shouldn't be like this - thats just a neo classical trend. Modern day thinking should always result in a cohesive chorus even when the lowest principal is at 4' or even 2' pitch. Even the cromourne should also fit comfortably into the aesthetic of everything else - some built years ago sound totally alien, and these days a rounder, bolder sound is more commonly preferred.

 

Some times I can't help thinking that the 60's and 70's was one of the most damaging periods for organ building. Some of the so called positive divisions from that period replacing choir divisions are a good example of why I think that. As much as there are some excellent new builds from that period much of the rebuilding carried out was awful - poorly thought through, too radical and often on the cheap. Look at the Bute hall organ in Glasgow University for example. Yet the Victorian original (in that case a TC lewis instrument) was so often built to such a high quality. Similarly I wonder what Carlisle Cathedral organ would be like if Walkers had left it well alone in the 60's.

 

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

 

 

I agree with 99% of this,because so many re-builds tried to force quiet, gentle Choir flutes into a role they were never intended for. You simply cannot have Lieblichs and renamed Saube Flutes acting as unenclosed Positive foundation stops.

 

The organ I play was designed as new, with very broad and full flute tones, and consequently, the Posotive has high end punch certainly, but well supported from below. More importantly, it blends when required with the rest of the instrument.

 

I never knew Carlisle prior to the Walker re-build, but two other organs by Willis were similarly re-vamped. Sheffield was perhaps a bold attempt at something new and interesting, but the acoustic probably made that concept impossible to achieve to the staisfaction of almost anyone; yet it was not a bad organ....just rather alien to the environment and the choral requirements.

 

Kendal PC, in a much happier acoustic, is a rather fine instrument even in re-built form, whatever one's views about castrating a Fr Willis organ, but it is a rare exception in a rather sorry catalogue of tonal disasters across the land.

 

MM

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I would suggest that many recent (ie 90's onwards) instruments will be equipped with an excellent and bold secondary chorus on the positive. A good example will have a principal at 4' and 2', but sometimes even an 8' principal on a large enough instrument. This chorus should balance the Great but be lighter and brighter in character. Increasingly more than one 8' is included eg a gamba. Have a look at the spec of St. Giles Cathedral Edinburgh - and better still hear it! It's an excellent Ruck positive division.

 

Before the swell became the second manual on English instruments, didn't the Chaire organ on larger English instruments not have such a principal chorus to mixture? Even a small Schnitger such as this has a set of principals on the secondary division. Could not an adaptation of the old English-style chaire organs be a better approach for adapting English Romantic organs than the "toy positivs" described earlier? In addition, however good the St Giles spec. is, I wouldn't have thought a German-style positiv division, even with a full set of principals, would be ideal for an instrument otherwise conceived in an English style. Weren't Gray and Davison, as well as Hill, still making Choir divisions of the old kind well into the middle of the 19C?

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Before the swell became the second manual on English instruments, didn't the Chaire organ on larger English instruments not have such a principal chorus to mixture? Even a small Schnitger such as this has a set of principals on the secondary division. Could not an adaptation of the old English-style chaire organs be a better approach for adapting English Romantic organs than the "toy positivs" described earlier? In addition, however good the St Giles spec. is, I wouldn't have thought a German-style positiv division, even with a full set of principals, would be ideal for an instrument otherwise conceived in an English style. Weren't Gray and Davison, as well as Hill, still making Choir divisions of the old kind well into the middle of the 19C?

 

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

 

 

You need to be very careful with this sort of thinking, because those of us who knew many of the pre-classical period, English romantic organs, were constantly frustrated by the almost useless collection of whistles and Clarionets (sic) which were known as "Choir Organs."

 

Even the very large Gray & Davison instrument, complete with a huge primary and secondary Great chorus, (called Front and Back Great), was conidered to be totally ineffective in the hall. An organ like that could not be favourably compared to almost carrying the name Schnitger, (whether Arp or Frans Cassper).

 

I risk my life and my reputation in suggesting that, without the German influence, William Hill would have achieved little, but he absorbed the philosophy of Mendelssohn's friend, Dr Gauntlett, and brought a useful evolution to the British organ.

 

A better starting point would be the very modified Snetzler sound, which Thomas Hill achieved absolutely brilliantly at Beverley Minster, re-using most of the 18th century pipework and adding to it. Nevertheless, even there, the Choir organ was relatively weak, but at least it blended well.

 

It really comes down to the voicer's art, because a stop-list, like a shopping-list, is based on a certain need and desire, and only a good chef can make the produce taste good. Like a bad chef, a bad voicer can destroy anything.

 

Another, more modern model, can be found at St George's Chapel, Windsor; truly one of the best re-builds in the UK, with a very clever tonal design by the late Sidney Campbell.

 

Englishness yes, but what we do not want is a return to the weak and ineffective Choir Organs of so many 19th century instruments.

 

MM

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Even a small Schnitger such as this has a set of principals on the secondary division.

 

The Schnitger organ in Dedesdorf might not be the best example for a "secondary divison" having a set of principals. If you look closely you will notice that this organ (as well as some other small Schnitger instruments) doesn't have "standard" Great and Positive divisions - through the use of a combined soundboard (I don't know the English term for "Zwillingslade") the stops that would otherwise all have to be played on a single manual are now neatly divided between the two manuals. As Harald Vogel describes it in the accompanying article, what you have here is a Baroque concept of a Concertino (upper manual) and a Ripieno (lower manual). The term "Brustwerk" in this case doesn't indicate a chest positive under the facade pipes of the Great division (you see that there is nothing except for the console under the facade), but actually a sort of a Hauptwerk situated at a level, where the Brustwerk would normally be; the lower manual, on the other hand, has both solo stops as well as the stops for the "full" organ, the latter being played with the upper manual moved to couple both keyboards ("Schiebekoppel" - again, I can't find the English term). All in all, a very interesting and versatile little organ and a concept, which today seems usable in the same way as it was in the 17th/18th century.

 

M

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

 

 

You need to be very careful with this sort of thinking, because those of us who knew many of the pre-classical period, English romantic organs, were constantly frustrated by the almost useless collection of whistles and Clarionets (sic) which were known as "Choir Organs."

 

Even the very large Gray & Davison instrument, complete with a huge primary and secondary Great chorus, (called Front and Back Great), was conidered to be totally ineffective in the hall. An organ like that could not be favourably compared to almost carrying the name Schnitger, (whether Arp or Frans Cassper).

 

I risk my life and my reputation in suggesting that, without the German influence, William Hill would have achieved little, but he absorbed the philosophy of Mendelssohn's friend, Dr Gauntlett, and brought a useful evolution to the British organ.

 

A better starting point would be the very modified Snetzler sound, which Thomas Hill achieved absolutely brilliantly at Beverley Minster, re-using most of the 18th century pipework and adding to it. Nevertheless, even there, the Choir organ was relatively weak, but at least it blended well.

 

It really comes down to the voicer's art, because a stop-list, like a shopping-list, is based on a certain need and desire, and only a good chef can make the produce taste good. Like a bad chef, a bad voicer can destroy anything.

 

Another, more modern model, can be found at St George's Chapel, Windsor; truly one of the best re-builds in the UK, with a very clever tonal design by the late Sidney Campbell.

 

Englishness yes, but what we do not want is a return to the weak and ineffective Choir Organs of so many 19th century instruments.

 

MM

 

Yes, English Romantic choir organs were inadequate, but my point was that there is a model to strengthen them into a proper "Chaire" division while keeping them in an English style. The Windsor and Beverley choir organs were pretty much exactly what I had in mind!

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... All in all, a very interesting and versatile little organ and a concept, which today seems usable in the same way as it was in the 17th/18th century.

The small Schnitgers are models in distribution of resources, and, in my opinion, remain so until today. SlowOrg will remember a discussion in another forum where both of us are members. There was a thread about a recently discovered contract between Schnitger and the church at Bardenfleth, in which the following specification was found:

 

I

Gedact 8'

Principal 4'

Quinte 2 2/3'

Octav 2'

Waltflöt 2'

Sexquialt II

 

II

Holtzflöt 8'

Blockflöt (wood) 4'

Nassat 3'

SuperOctav 2'

Mixtur IV

Trommet 8'

 

Pedal with couplers I/P and II/P

 

So here you have a very complete one-manual organ, distributed in such a way that there is an energetic, rather heavy chorus on I, spiced with the third from the Sexquialt (which, in Schnitger's style, starts 1 1/3' + 4/5' and breaks somewhere around middle C); and another chorus on II, of different colour and leaner proportions but with a true mixture, that can be supported by the Trumpet, which, again in Schnitger's style, makes up for the lack of an 8-foot principal.

 

This distribution works fine in Ripieno-Concertino music, as SlowOrg suggests, as well as it sports two ensembles of equal strength. The pedal, to be coupled, adds to the versatility considerably: E. g. you might play a full, meaty chorus on I and couple the Trumpet from II. So, even though there is no open 8' and no double, this organ might serve a large space and substancial music.

 

As to Rückpositivs, I like to imagine them as soloists standing in front of the orchestra, acting self-consciously, even flamboyant at times. This kind of musical behaviour can take shape in different tonal palettes, depending of the overall character of the instrument. I very much like to listen to a spicy chorus with a true Sesquialtera there, and not-too-modest reeds; it is a good place for stopped flutes or good quintadenas, since even though they might sound soft, they are brought forward in an ideal acoustical position, and a good voicer might put lots of music in their attack alone.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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In reponse to Vox's and Paul's posts:

 

What is equally important to consider is placement of the choir organ within the organ - this will help determine the nature of the division.

 

If the Choir Organ is behind the Great Organ or underneath the Swell Organ (as is typical in a 3 manual British organ), this division is going to be best as choir organ in nature. Sticking a load of neo-baroque squeaks and shrills is likely to be counter to the character of this division.

 

Quite so. Leave well alone. When younger in the last century, my instrument of 3 ordinary manuals (but of heroic construction by Willis I) had the Great and the Choir behind at the same level. Then came the Swell which allowed sound to go through and over those departments as well as into the North Transept through the pedal division. The choir sang in the Choir for Solemn Evensong and Benediction and it was almost impossible to use the Great for accompaniment. However, the Choir plus Swell (always coupled together and both to the Great as well) was just the ticket for most of the time. Only would large climaxes demand Gt to Principal 4ft or to Fifteenth. (The full swell is still to my mind the best in the Capital - even surpassing St Paul's). The first stop to be added on the Gt would be the Small Open or at other times, the 8ft Viola or Claribel.

The English Choir Organ was to my mind a most necessary division in the proper acoustical placing because a Romantic Great is far too large for normal accompaniment.

 

The difficulties arose when organists (and some builders) thought we should go Baroque and have all manner of continental sounds on a Choir keyboard - with dire results. One such rather famous instrument from the 60's had such a Choir division with a weedy Cromorne made from the Clarinet and the Tuba (15") retained from the old mostly enclosed Choir division - except for it, which was extended to the pedal at 16ft to produce a most violent stop on a neo-classical organ from 1961.

I believe that people forgot the use and usefulness of this department within the context of British music and its accompanying rôle.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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Reading the posts concerning the other small Schnitzer specifications, I am reminded how they are produced for the size of the room. Each manual is complete yet each marry so very well. I am all for using imagination when coming to design. I have found that the more remarkable tonal schemes for small organs have come about when up against a mechanical challenge. Interchangeable coupling II -I and I- II is also a boon when the scheme is in effect a very complete one manual but divided into two. There is one instrument in the UK that is a very complete two manual that is split over three manuals and with mechanical coupling III - II, II - III, II - I, I - II. This makes it possible to have a Tutti on III, II, or I. Electric actions will simply allow all manner of easy options but sometimes the actual challenge of a mechanical solution can create a remarkable musical essay. A small organ requires every stop to have a voice. So often on large organs with a non-mechanical action, a voice can so easily be lost in the crowd.

 

Back to topic - properly scaled mutations in the playing hands of those who use ears and imagination are a basic requirement for older and older-styled instruments. The tuning temperament also plays a crucial part in their use and design too. Equal Temperament suits symphonic reeds and something unequal adds delicious spice to mutations.

 

Best wishes,

N

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The tuning temperament also plays a crucial part in their use and design too. Equal Temperament suits symphonic reeds and something unequal adds delicious spice to mutations.

 

This is such a fundamental black-and-white point that I wish would become more widely understood. There are so many who regard anything other than equal temperament as out of tune, as all they have experienced is 1/4 comma meantone. It is very sad. An awareness of temperaments is as profound as your trips to France to experience other instruments; the ears are awakened just as much, I think.

 

Pianists are beginning to show more interest in Romantic temperaments for the most mainstream piano music, so it's only a matter of time before this serious recognition filters through to us, not wishing to be out-done by creatures of only ten fingers.

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This is such a fundamental black-and-white point that I wish would become more widely understood. There are so many who regard anything other than equal temperament as out of tune, as all they have experienced is 1/4 comma meantone. It is very sad. An awareness of temperaments is as profound as your trips to France to experience other instruments; the ears are awakened just as much, I think.

 

Pianists are beginning to show more interest in Romantic temperaments for the most mainstream piano music, so it's only a matter of time before this serious recognition filters through to us, not wishing to be out-done by creatures of only ten fingers.

 

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

 

 

All the organs I have ever played as resident, have always been in equal temperament, but the harpsichord allowed me to experiment with various others. What strikes me about the alternative tunings, is the fact that they restrict the music which can be played, which is probably not a bad thing if you wish to play early music in a French church, for example.

 

The problems start when the organist gets itchy feet and wants to play different music, and that is surely the main problem.

 

Yes, it would be nice to hear Haarlem in meantone or Werkmeister something or other, but then, I wouldn't be able to enjoy Reger played on such a superlative instrument.

 

I don't doubt the marvellous sonorities achievable with historic tempers. A harpsichord tuned in meantone has a unique richness in certain keys, which seems to make the instrument grow in musical stature, but even Bach recognised the value of all the keys sounding more or less in tune, and wrote music that way, as per the 48 P & F's.

 

I know that when I heard the old organ at Alkmaar for the first time, it was quite startling to my ears, so I have to agree with Nigel. Whether I could live with nothing but old-tempers or not, I am not sure.

 

Perhaps organ-builders should incorporate clever little flaps and slides, which operate electronically on each and every pipe at the flick of a rotary switch....an engineering challenge too far, at a guess.

 

MM

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

 

 

All the organs I have ever played as resident, have always been in equal temperament, but the harpsichord allowed me to experiment with various others. What strikes me about the alternative tunings, is the fact that they restrict the music which can be played, which is probably not a bad thing if you wish to play early music in a French church, for example.

 

The problems start when the organist gets itchy feet and wants to play different music, and that is surely the main problem.

 

Yes, it would be nice to hear Haarlem in meantone or Werkmeister something or other, but then, I wouldn't be able to enjoy Reger played on such a superlative instrument.

 

I don't doubt the marvellous sonorities achievable with historic tempers. A harpsichord tuned in meantone has a unique richness in certain keys, which seems to make the instrument grow in musical stature, but even Bach recognised the value of all the keys sounding more or less in tune, and wrote music that way, as per the 48 P & F's.

 

I know that when I heard the old organ at Alkmaar for the first time, it was quite startling to my ears, so I have to agree with Nigel. Whether I could live with nothing but old-tempers or not, I am not sure.

 

Perhaps organ-builders should incorporate clever little flaps and slides, which operate electronically on each and every pipe at the flick of a rotary switch....an engineering challenge too far, at a guess.

 

MM

 

They say there's nothing new under the sun...

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=R01937

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

 

 

All the organs I have ever played as resident, have always been in equal temperament, but the harpsichord allowed me to experiment with various others. What strikes me about the alternative tunings, is the fact that they restrict the music which can be played, which is probably not a bad thing if you wish to play early music in a French church, for example.

 

The problems start when the organist gets itchy feet and wants to play different music, and that is surely the main problem.

 

And that, sir, is EXACTLY the myth which needs de-bunking. Yes, pure quarter or fifth comma meantone is pretty hopeless for general use; Werckmeister III isn't much better. Move into the 19th C, starting with Thomas Young, and your Reger will sound increasingly splendid.

 

Daniel Grimwood has recorded lots of Liszt on an Erard piano tuned in an unequal temperament, and it makes so much sense. There is a particular interval that Liszt uses at a moment of great excitement, which sounds simply unspeakable in equal temperament... and here it doesn't.

 

Even more recently, Sterndale Bennett (d. 1875) uses two particular dominant minor 9ths in his piano music, and he uses these two over and over, regardless of the tonal context he's working in. He uses no dominant minor 9ths at all in his orchestral music. The conclusion is therefore that these two particular chords sounded particularly well on his Broadwood piano, and he wasn't using equal temperament (which he wouldn't have been if his tuner used Broadwood's octave-laying instructions).

 

Then there's Willis I. I call David Wyld to explain how Willis organs were seldom actually equal temperament but an 'improved' version (except in rare instances - e.g. St Mary's Totnes, Devon, which WAS in equal temperament when it was built in 1861 - a fact remarkable enough that the local newspaper mentioned it in a short write-up).

 

Research on alternatives to equal temperament appears to have focussed on the 18th century. The well-known Padgham, Collins and Parker trials of a few years back did just that, and took a broad sweep from 1/4 comma meantone and extreme Pythagorean right up to equal temperament, concluding (through blind listener trials) that the early 1800s temperaments were favoured for most types of music, even contemporary.

 

More needs to be done on this, particularly of the late 19th century.

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

 

 

...but even Bach recognised the value of all the keys sounding more or less in tune, and wrote music that way, as per the 48 P & F's.

 

IMM

 

 

Is that to imply that Bach wrote the 48 for an instrument tuned in ET ??

 

H

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And that, sir, is EXACTLY the myth which needs de-bunking. Yes, pure quarter or fifth comma meantone is pretty hopeless for general use; Werckmeister III isn't much better. Move into the 19th C, starting with Thomas Young, and your Reger will sound increasingly splendid.

 

Daniel Grimwood has recorded lots of Liszt on an Erard piano tuned in an unequal temperament, and it makes so much sense. There is a particular interval that Liszt uses at a moment of great excitement, which sounds simply unspeakable in equal temperament... and here it doesn't.

 

Even more recently, Sterndale Bennett (d. 1875) uses two particular dominant minor 9ths in his piano music, and he uses these two over and over, regardless of the tonal context he's working in. He uses no dominant minor 9ths at all in his orchestral music. The conclusion is therefore that these two particular chords sounded particularly well on his Broadwood piano, and he wasn't using equal temperament (which he wouldn't have been if his tuner used Broadwood's octave-laying instructions).

 

Then there's Willis I. I call David Wyld to explain how Willis organs were seldom actually equal temperament but an 'improved' version (except in rare instances - e.g. St Mary's Totnes, Devon, which WAS in equal temperament when it was built in 1861 - a fact remarkable enough that the local newspaper mentioned it in a short write-up).

 

Research on alternatives to equal temperament appears to have focussed on the 18th century. The well-known Padgham, Collins and Parker trials of a few years back did just that, and took a broad sweep from 1/4 comma meantone and extreme Pythagorean right up to equal temperament, concluding (through blind listener trials) that the early 1800s temperaments were favoured for most types of music, even contemporary.

 

More needs to be done on this, particularly of the late 19th century.

 

 

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Someone has to know about tempraments, and quite clearly, my knowledge is distinctly limited to equal and 18th century versions. At least I've had a go at a few of the alternatives, but this sort of reply might well be written in a long-dead foreign language so far as my knowledge is concerned. I am humbled.....

 

The problem with organs, is the fact that any attempt at some exotic tuning temprament would last about 24 hours in our variable climate......there's much to be said for super-glue!

 

MM

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Is that to imply that Bach wrote the 48 for an instrument tuned in ET ??

 

H

 

 

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See my previous post re: my hazy memory/lack of knowledge. However, I seem to recall that Bach was interested in the then newer tempraments, but don't ask me where I read it a long tme ago.

 

MM

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

 

The problem with organs, is the fact that any attempt at some exotic tuning temprament would last about 24 hours in our variable climate......there's much to be said for super-glue!

 

You make it sound like organs will naturally fall back into ET, like water in the bottom of a glass, unless someone sticks it to the sides. There is a fascinating and largely untapped world of Romantic-flavoured tuning which I long to make reality. For sure, we are long overdue a revisit of the Padgham trials which did so much to get the ball rolling. I had hoped to do a Temperament Recital while I was still in charge of an organ with ten 8' flues... watch this space for an imminent plan to round up several square pianos on a concert platform, however.

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Sounds like a cowboy thingy!

But to be more serious - the Padgham book is an absolute necessity, and so reasonable too.

N

 

Yep, a bit like Wagon Train. Camp fire in the middle of the stage, horses tied up in the wings.

 

Another good author is Owen Jorgensen, but his books tend to be published in runs of 500 and consequently they go for a fortune when they do come up (The Lost Art of Nineteenth Century Temperament is currently on Amazon at over £300).

 

I have just spent a pleasant hour dipping in and out of this which provides an interesting analysis of particular tunings we know to have been in use at the start of the 20th century, and their effect on Chopin's piano music.

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Move into the 19th C, starting with Thomas Young, and your Reger will sound increasingly splendid.

 

And it's not only Reger, Liszt or Chopin, who suddenly sound refreshingly different. I guess many here will be familiar with the recent instruments built by Martin Pasi in the US. One of the really remarkable ones is his dual-temperament organ for the St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha. A number of recordings have already been made on this organ. Obviously, those Buxtehude CDs played by Julia Brown sound beautifully in meantone, but the real revelation was the Widor recording with Robert Delcampt (naturally, this was played with the well-tempered stops). I always enjoyed listening to Widor on French organs, but this really opened up a whole new perspective to his music. I wonder how Widor would feel, if he could hear this? It certainly isn't what you'd expect his music to sound like, but there's really something strangely fascinating about the combination of Widor's music and those well-tempered intervals.

 

By the way, here are a couple of charts, which show different levels of accuracy of thirds and fifths for some common temperaments. There are, of course, a number of ways, how to tune an instrument in a temperament different than equal, and at the same time not to give up the possibility to play in all the keys imaginable. Just one problem remains: one obviously can't change the temperament of an organ in the way this can be done on a harpsichord or even a piano. So it's more or less all about choosing the right temperament for a new organ.

 

M

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