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Pierre Lauwers

Which British Organ For Europe?

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Well, we shall just have to differ - I greatly prefer the Ad nos from the S. Sulpice recording, as opposed to Peter le Huray's from Salisbury - from the point of view of the sound of the organs, that is.

 

Glenn Gould - well, if you like groaning all the way through the music of JSB....! I prefer the Andreas Schiff recordings.

 

As for Rachmaninov on the harpsichord, or Chaikovsky on the Sheng - I think that this is a slightly extreme comparison!

 

Your last comment - I would have probably said that I only missed the Hill!

 

:)

 

I have a private live recording of Nicolas Kynaston's Ad nos at St Sulpice for the opening series after restoration. He was specifically asked to play it by M. Roth. Sensational is the only word to describe performance, organ and player especially when you realize that it was done using the extraordinary labyrinthine combination system.

 

In reality, if you have time, you can play most repertoire anywhere so long as you have the necessary imagination to register and at all times to use ears.

 

Best wishes

NJA

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In reality, if you have time, you can play most repertoire anywhere so long as you have the necessary imagination to register and at all times to use ears.

 

Best wishes

NJA

 

A very wise comment, and in fact just what I was trying to get at..... it would be just about possible to advance the hypothesis that music that can't stand up to it is not very good music, meaning that tone quality is more crucial than notes.

 

Some may ask where that leaves Messiaen. But Almut Rössler played it all on her creaky old Beckerath in Düsseldorf, and M. was delighted - or she says he was, to echo another current thread. According to her, as long as the organ got loud enough and soft enough, the actual colours didn't matter. True? Who knows.

 

:)

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
A very wise comment, and in fact just what I was trying to get at..... it would be just about possible to advance the hypothesis that music that can't stand up to it is not very good music, meaning that tone quality is more crucial than notes.

 

Some may ask where that leaves Messiaen. But Almut Rössler played it all on her creaky old Beckerath in Düsseldorf, and M. was delighted - or she says he was, to echo another current thread. According to her, as long as the organ got loud enough and soft enough, the actual colours didn't matter. True? Who knows.

 

:)

 

Composers frequently adore anyone to play their music either in concert or recording. It is a matter mostly of Royalties lightly sprinkled with a pinch of ego! (I know of one organ composer - for here I shall call him M. Croupier - who sends all programmes he can gather to PRS. Another composer was asked by a fine recording artist of note, if he could play a work to him before it was captured for posterity. After the playing-over he pronounced it excellent and promptly asked for a 3 figure sum!)

 

Messiaen was most generous with his benedictions. As for organs to play his music - I relate a little story of when the whole organ class from Paris Conservatoire went with M. Chapuis to play a huge new organ which was tracker and with unequal temperament. After playing music from 17th & 18th Centuries the organ builder urged them to explore more contemporary sonorities - for it was (as he pointed out) an organ of our times. So the students put the instrument through its paces with Langlais, Messiaen and Alain as well as with improvisations. Almost to a man, they agreed that the colour was extraordinary and the temperament greatly assisted (once the ears were 'acclimatized' to the newness of sound) with the chords and clarity. Dieu parmi nous was never sounding better it was proclaimed. For the rest of the day Couperin and Bach were buried in bags while everyone enjoyed the electricity of a mechanical actioned leviathan - even with no swell. An interesting tale perhaps.

NJA

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I was fortunate enough to play the RFH organ twice in the mid-1980s when only aged about 16. It was amazing really how far sheer chutzpah got me, aided and abetted by a strange willingness by venues such as the RFH, as well as the Royal Albert Hall, Colston Hall (Bristol) and Hull City Hall, which I also got to play, to hand over such instruments for my enjoyment simply based on a nicely written letter.

 

Anyway, the reason I got to play the RFH twice was the first time Ralph Downes was unwell and so instead I was accompanied by his assistant (?) who, whilst a pleasant chap, never left me alone for a minute to sample and find my own registrations for my Bach, Karg-Elert, Mendelssohn etc. A frustrating experience then. Ralph Downes invited me back when he was in better health. To begin with, although he didn't ask me to venture inside the instrument, he did and from deep inside called out to me at the console to play particular notes. We did this for about an hour, and then having earned my keep, he left me to it and disappeared. He eventually reappeared and became thick as thieves with my Grandpa who had by this time arrived. It turned out they were virtually the same age and were swapping war stories. I might not have agreed with his methods - particularly at Gloucester - but Ralph Downes was nonetheless a real inspiration to meet, and I was fortunate enough to bump into him one more time the following year when I was a student at Oundle.

 

As a solo instrument the RFH organ was undoubtedly contraversial and would have benefited from a friendlier acoustic. However, as a frequent concertgoer at the RFH, it seemed to sound at its best when employed with orchestra and chorus when to my ears it lost its rough edges and blended well with the ensemble.

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Guest Lee Blick
For the rest of the day Couperin and Bach were buried in bags while everyone enjoyed the electricity of a mechanical actioned leviathan - even with no swell. An interesting tale perhaps

 

Is it not an good organist's instinctive to adapt to the circumstance of an instrument. People moan about this organ is only good enough to play that sort of music or that organ is only good enough to play such and such musical style but if there is a will you could play any piece of music on any organ, even it means adapting registrations or using one or two stops instead of ten? The only sort organ organists cannot play is a broken one.

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I have it. And I would not dream of saying that Liszt's music was not German; he himself termed his collection of Weimar groupies at the time he wrote his organ works the "New german School".

 

I also agree that the playing is excellent.

 

But it still sounds much more "wrong" than it would on an English organ.

 

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

 

 

Surely, Liszt wrote especially for the Ladegast organ at Mersburg Cathedral, which is a style best represented by the Schulze organs in the UK? (BIG choruses with colouring reeds and a wealth of quieter registers).

 

Of course, there is a further aspect to the Liszt question, for he was well travelled, knew Paris well and came from Hungary, where the Angster organ-building concern were rapidly adopting French organ-building style, with perhaps less powerful reed choruses. I guess this style of instrument was sort of Franco-German, so the sound is one of which Liszt would certainly have been aware.

 

Consequently, the RFH instrument is not that far a distant cousin to that which Liszt may well have approved, Doncaster and Armley seem reasonbly spot-on, but maybe the one organ which combines everything in a strangely Lisztian/much-travelled sort of way, is the Hill at Ulster Hall, Belfast with its' powerful choruses and less than French reeds; which considering that Hill knew nothing about "foreign organs" is a bit remarkable. It's possibly quite close to what Angester was doing in Hungary.

 

 

 

MM

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Is it not an good organist's instinctive to adapt to the circumstance of an instrument.  People moan about this organ is only good enough to play that sort of music or that organ is only good enough to play such and such musical style but if there is a will you could play any piece of music on any organ, even it means adapting registrations or using one or two stops instead of ten?  The only sort organ organists cannot play is a broken one.

 

 

Yes indeed - I play a 21-stop neo-classical instrument. You'd be surprised at how good Alain, Rheinberger, Durufle, Karg-Elert, Vierne, etc, sounds on it. You need to take a few liberties with registration from time to time, but I think it's worth it. To exclude Romantic music solely on the grounds that "it doesn't sound right" would be a mistake - register with your ear!

 

Graham

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Yes indeed - I play a 21-stop neo-classical instrument. You'd be surprised at how good Alain, Rheinberger, Durufle, Karg-Elert, Vierne, etc, sounds on it. You need to take a few liberties with registration from time to time, but I think it's worth it. To exclude Romantic music solely on the grounds that "it doesn't sound right" would be a mistake - register with your ear!

 

Graham

 

Some good points on this post - and the earlier quote from Lee Blick.

 

I would endorse these remarks. Any good organist should be able to adapt accordingly.

 

Having said that, when Marcel Dupré was touring Australia he was confronted with a particular (but un-named) instrument in Adelaide; he immediately changed his programme. As far as I can surmise, this was due to a very heavy action and an unwieldy console.

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:huh: I have a proposal.

 

[A continental cathedral with restricted funds but with a very large space to fill and plenty of room at the west end should immediately make an offer to re-house the large Harrison and Harrison 4-manual concert organ from Newcastle on Tyne's City Hall. This Hall is under threat from a swimming pool complex enlargement scheme. The organ is too big to go in the replacement hall that the City Council have built.]

 

 

I agree - what an inspired idea! This organ sounds magnificent - even in the heavily carpeted/upholstered auditorium - and would be quite stunning in a resonant building. Whether or not the redevelopment goes ahead, I understand the City Hall itself is in a poor structural state. I gather the City authorities understand the importance of the instrument but at one stage where setting an unrealistically high selling price for it.

 

H&H have established a reputuation for restoration work in Sweden (vide Västeräs Cathedral and Stockholm City Hall). Maybe they could find an opening there.

 

This is an organ of integrity and historical significance - it must find a suitable new home.

 

JS

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I agree - but I would also be reluctant to lose this superb instrument from these shores.

 

Having said that, there seems little point in keeping it if it never gets played.

 

A small point - perhaps Paul will know. Was this the first time that H&H grouped the departmental pistons close together in the keyslips? A glance at a photograph of the console will show that the pistons are less spaced-out (as it were) than, say, Westminster Abbey - which has retained the wide groupings (and the multiple setter pistons) ever since the 1937 rebuild.

 

Perhaps someone could at least make a CD on this organ, in order that we might have a record of the sound of this grand instrument.

 

:huh:

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Perhaps someone could at least make a CD on this organ*, in order that we might have a record of the sound of this grand instrument.

 

Re: City Hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne

I'm afraid the time is well past when this* could have been done with any expectation of passable results. My knowledge of the instrument comes from a visit by The Organ Club in May 2004. By that time, I think I am correct is saying that no keyboard would give a complete scale, and (apart from it being immediately obvious what quality of sounds were there) it was also apparent that both key and stop action (where working at all) had minds of their own!

 

Tonally - though massive - the whole thing spoke of high quality and superb variety. It's all 'in the grand manner' and 'in the best possible taste' though in a fairly empty hall, it seemed rather loud for its present home. No doubt with a decent audience the whole thing would make perfect sense. A decent case, too.

 

In its heyday, most of the great names gave recitals upon it - notably Dupre and Germani, we were told. From the 60's onwards it fell sharply out of favour, and the (also fine but very different) large H&H up the road at the University Church (of St.Thomas the Martyr) became the favoured recital venue. Most influential local expert for many years was the late Dr.Donald Wright - founder member of BIOS and responsible for several neo-classic schemes including Hexham Abbey. Accfording to what we were told, he hated the City Hall organ and always steered people away (apparently).

 

Let us be grateful though - if the City Hall organ had not been completely out of fashion and little used, it would surely have been 'tarted up' more than once, baroque-ified (what a dreaful word!) and such. As it is, Pierre and anyone with a taste for a genuine romantic /heroic organ may one day be able to hear it completely refurbished and still, (tonally) completely original.

 

I, for one, would queue up for hours in the rain to hear such an instrument once it had been put straight.

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