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Hi,

 

I just saw that Kuhn is going to build a new organ for the Royal Academy of Music in 2013.

 

It was already mentioned on this forum that the van den Heuvel is getting thrown out, I was wondering, however, if anyone can explain why this ...

 

front_large.jpg

 

is going to be replaced by this ...

 

114480_1g.jpg

 

?

 

M

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Hi,

 

I just saw that Kuhn is going to build a new organ for the Royal Academy of Music in 2013.

 

It was already mentioned on this forum that the van den Heuvel is getting thrown out, I was wondering, however, if anyone can explain why this ...

 

front_large.jpg

 

is going to be replaced by this ...

 

114480_1g.jpg

 

?

 

M

 

The background, I believe, involves defective mechanisms, collapsing case pipes etc - a sorry story all round.

 

JS

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Beside the fact, that it will be an instrument made on highest level, what do English organists think about the tonal concept and the specification, as far as it can be imagined from reading?

It reminds me to several organs (though often smaller) in Germany, when an organ gouverned by "french" taste (whatsoever this may result in) should offer some classical or neo-baroque features.

The one in question, for me, hovers a little bit between general characters and the concept seems to be limited by space (probably not by funding)...

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The background, I believe, involves defective mechanisms, collapsing case pipes etc - a sorry story all round.

 

JS

 

 

 

 

I cannot believe that the ROYAL Academy of Music is considering purchasing a new organ from abroad.

Are you telling me that there is not one English organ builder who could not have provided a suitable instrument for the Academy ?

I think it is disgraceful that we cannot support our own manufacturing industry, and I hope that at least the English companies were asked to quote for the new instrument.

The same thing has happened with the car industry which is now controlled from abroad.

Is anyone else indignant about the RAM policy of not supporting the UK companies ?

Colin Richell.

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I cannot believe that the ROYAL Academy of Music is considering purchasing a new organ from abroad.

Are you telling me that there is not one English organ builder who could not have provided a suitable instrument for the Academy ?

I think it is disgraceful that we cannot support our own manufacturing industry, and I hope that at least the English companies were asked to quote for the new instrument.

The same thing has happened with the car industry which is now controlled from abroad.

Is anyone else indignant about the RAM policy of not supporting the UK companies ?

Colin Richell.

 

It does at the least seem rather strange...

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I cannot believe that the ROYAL Academy of Music is considering purchasing a new organ from abroad.

Are you telling me that there is not one English organ builder who could not have provided a suitable instrument for the Academy ?

I think it is disgraceful that we cannot support our own manufacturing industry, and I hope that at least the English companies were asked to quote for the new instrument.

The same thing has happened with the car industry which is now controlled from abroad.

Is anyone else indignant about the RAM policy of not supporting the UK companies ?

Colin Richell.

As a Charity, I dare say the RAM have no option but to open the project for public tender. Having done so, the trustees have no option but to appoint the supplier who offers a product that meets the specification at a competitive price. I am sure any organ builder who was unsuccessful could request feedback to enable them to uderstand where they fell short and be more competitive in the future.

 

There is no point in being indignant, the UK is no longer an island nation and it is necessary to compete on quality, price and delivery to win a contract.

 

I was once pilloried by staff when I accepted a French tender, rather than the Japanese product they all preferred. I too thought the Japanese product was better, but when it came down to the responsible use of public money, there was no room for sentiment. There may well be people at the RAM who would like to support a UK company, but not at any price.

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I cannot believe that the ROYAL Academy of Music is considering purchasing a new organ from abroad.

Are you telling me that there is not one English organ builder who could not have provided a suitable instrument for the Academy ?

I think it is disgraceful that we cannot support our own manufacturing industry, and I hope that at least the English companies were asked to quote for the new instrument.

The same thing has happened with the car industry which is now controlled from abroad.

Is anyone else indignant about the RAM policy of not supporting the UK companies ?

Colin Richell.

Are you suggesting they should ditch their fine collection of old Italian string instruments too? And maybe churches and schools from the USA, Australia, Japan and Italy should be reprimanded for buying pipeorgans from companies based in the United Kingdom.

 

I do agree that the mock-up picture makes the proposed organ look ugly and completely out of character with the rest of the building.

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I cannot believe that the ROYAL Academy of Music is considering purchasing a new organ from abroad.

Are you telling me that there is not one English organ builder who could not have provided a suitable instrument for the Academy ?

I think it is disgraceful that we cannot support our own manufacturing industry, and I hope that at least the English companies were asked to quote for the new instrument.

The same thing has happened with the car industry which is now controlled from abroad.

Is anyone else indignant about the RAM policy of not supporting the UK companies ?

Colin Richell.

 

 

I have been saying this for years.

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QUOTE(cjr@colinrichell.fsnet.co.uk @ Apr 29 2011, 11:19 AM)

 

I cannot believe that the ROYAL Academy of Music is considering purchasing a new organ from abroad.

Are you telling me that there is not one English organ builder who could not have provided a suitable instrument for the Academy ?

I think it is disgraceful that we cannot support our own manufacturing industry, and I hope that at least the English companies were asked to quote for the new instrument.

The same thing has happened with the car industry which is now controlled from abroad.

Is anyone else indignant about the RAM policy of not supporting the UK companies ?

Colin Richell.

I have been saying this for years.

 

And, apologising for repetition, I have explained that you cannot choose to support a supplier merely because they happen to come from your own country - especially if you are spending someone else's money! My experience of the successful contractor is that they are perfectly competent to provide an excellent instrument.

 

While I agree with Nigel Allcoat and "innate" that the computer mock-up of the design does not look particularly attractive, I think we should remember that it is a mock up, not a finished product. I am not sure either that an ornate case is any more appropriate for the hall - and it certainly has no bearing on the music it makes.

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I have been saying this for years.

So have many others. I remember reading exactly the same complaints in the pages of The Organ when I was a teenager getting on for half a century ago.

 

Is anyone else indignant about the RAM policy of not supporting the UK companies ?

Speaking for myself, no, not particularly. If what were needed were a traditional English cathedral type organ, then one could argue that no one can build these like the English. However that is the last thing the RAM needs in its concert hall - for reasons which should be obvious to mainstream musicians. As John Carter has said, it makes sense for the Academy to go to whoever can supply the type of organ needed for the best value for money - and let's hope they get it right this time. English builders might well be up to the job, but are they competitive? Frankly I have no idea and I'm certainly not in a position to second-guess the RAM.

 

I must be alone in rather liking the look of the new instrument - though I would hope they will go for a tone of wood that blends better with the surroundings.

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These are all trhe same arguments that came out when the RCO announced the new organ for the ill-fated Birmingham project.

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There are a lot of organs in London and one would hope that RAM students would try to experience a good number of them (although Andrew Benson-Wilson was in print a while ago bemoaning the fact that, despite an invitation to the conservatoires, students had shown no interest in the then-new organ at the Grosvenor Chapel).

 

But if it's not totally irrelevent, I used to think the RCO was twisting the dagger with some of the instruments it used for examinations. OK, to be an FRCO, one should be able to cope with a variety of beasts, but a combination of some of the set pieces and Marylebone Parish Church seemed a recipe for failure. The HN&B at Kensington Gore may have been a trifle unforgiving, but at least it felt familiar in handling and one could concentrate on making the music sound as good as possible in the limited practice time available. An organ like that proposed for the RAM might be a total alien to a lot of players - but then again, it could be a great advantage.

 

It used to be said that there were certain recitalist/advisors around who simply would not advise employing a British firm. I don't know if that's still true, but by now there are enough large imported organs around for it to be argued that a big British concert organ ought to be built somewhere. It's a shame to have to go all the way to New York City to hear a job like St. Ignatius Loyola.

 

The case does look rather Euro-standard - you see them all over the world....

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I've had a quick look at the spec of the new Kuhn at the RAM ... and I think I should play an objective devil's advocate.

 

I'm not sure I understand the objectives of the RAM when they commissioned this organ. It has a number of experimental features that are unique to this organ, and although they are quite clever, they bear no relation to any style of organ building seen before. Therefore, I would question what value it will have as a teaching and performance instrument and I am not sure if this is the right direction to take. Furthermore, this organ appears to be designed and specified in wholly modern style with no regard to the style and nature of the hall it is being built for. Therefore I would question how appropriate this organ would be for its situation and therefore how successful this organ would be at an artistic and musical level in this hall.

 

In a mature market place (such as organ building) many tenderers would be able to fulfil the requirements of a large public body tender. However, a good tender will use a number of techniques and scoring mechanisms to select the right bid. The most obvious danger is to ensure that price does not become the overriding factor but I suspect it would be wrong to assume that has been the case here, with the depreciation of the Pound against the Swiss Franc over the past few years. However, the right bid can only be selected if the client gets their priorities and selection mechanisms right at the outset. It is a black art.

 

I would be interested to understand the criteria and scoring process the RAM have used to arrive at this decision. I wonder what they intended to commission here - an experiment in tonal design or a teaching and performance instrument?

 

http://www.orgelbau.ch/site/index.cfm?&amp...FToken=49626693

 

There is a great deal of risk with tonal experiements like this, the danger being that the organ is neither fish nor fowl. We will have to wait and see if the features in this organ compete against each other and confuse the tonal outlook or work together effectively. A great deal will rest with the execution of the concept.

 

However, even if it is brilliantly executed, the danger is that this organ will remain a unique oddity, with no style of organ building or organ music evolving from it. Its unique tonal structure will mean that registering large scale organ works can only ever be approached through use of the sequencer, rather than exploiting its tonal architecture, allowing the organ's nature to speak through the music. If that proves to be the case, I will wonder what students will have learnt from playing and hearing this organ and that in turn will determine whether this organ is a success for the RAM.

 

I wish them well and look forward to being convinced!

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There is a great deal of risk with tonal experiements like this, the danger being that the organ is neither fish nor fowl.

So then, what is fish here, and what is fowl?

 

For example, if you look at Cavaillé-Coll -- whom the RCO seem to have had in mind when outlining the design for a new organ --, his tonal concept found many an incarnation that may well count as "tonal experiment": Orléans, Toulouse, Rouen, Sacré-Coeur, let alone the spectacularly experimental organs at Notre-Dame and Saint-Sulpice. You will see that none of his large organs are alike, neither in sound, nor concerning distribution of stops and ensembles, but they all work fine within the larger frame of C-C's ingenious sonic concept. Even if you look at medium-size C-Cs like at Lyon, you might find a distribution of reeds that is not quite what you would expect, but still works very fine with the typical repertoire, as you may hear on many recordings.

 

Kuhn have developed a valid sonic concept of their own that offers many French qualities -- e. g. intense but noble reeds and warm, blending foundations --, but also choruses of clear, well-balanced and complex character that are, to my ears, superior to Cavaillé-Colls treble-heavy ones, and certainly equal to those you hear at St Ignatius. Furthermore, their recent concert-hall organs, such as the one for the Essen Philharmonie, display a huge dynamic range and marvelous flexibility; and Kuhn's craftsmanship has, for decades now, been excellent throughout.

 

There is one thing in the design that may appear experimental to most: the lack of chorus reeds on the Great (apart from the Fagott, which might be a mild Trumpet emphasizing the unison in polyphonic textures), and instead a pair enclosed with manual II that, probably, will be of bold character apt for providing what is needed for a Grand Choeur. That will be certainly something to cope with. But then it might be a clever move, in a concert-hall organ, to enclose these reeds -- which will be of a quality different from those on the Récit --, and have them available via the coupler. Actually, this kind of experimentation follows highly conservative lines.

 

As Karl-Bernhardin Kropf has been so kind as to point to the Kuhn at Lübeck, you will see where this idea comes from. The basic concept is a two-manual scheme, mainly for space-saving considerations, providing some of the advantages of a three-manual design. These have been expanded for the RCO organ, which also will not have as ample space as a true symphonic organ might want.

 

So yes, there are a few unusual features in this scheme with which one might, in some (not all by far) repertoire, have to cope. But then, coping is what one needs to do, and learn, with all literature and all organs one encounters. And, judging from what Kuhn have done recently, this might well turn out to be an excellent instrument.

 

But then, as history tells (for example Dresden's with the Kern at the Frauenkirche), before-hand supporters as well as before-hand critics will, on hearing the result, end up saying "Have I not been telling you all the time?"

 

Best

Friedrich

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[snip] -- whom the RCO seem to have had in mind when outlining the design for a new organ --, [snip] These have been expanded for the RCO organ, which also will not have as ample space as a true symphonic organ might want. [snip]

 

Did you mean RAM, not RCO?

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Kropf asked what British organists think of having the Great Reeds on Manual II.

 

British organists have long been used to the concept of moving the Great Reeds to a different manual - the "Great Reeds to Choir" transfer is a remarkably useful stop and has been exploited by British organists in countless ways. It is particularly useful to pit the Great Reeds against the rest of the Great organ, either in dialogue or alternatum. It is still useful if the organ has 4 manuals and a tuba as the Great Reeds can be used in dialogue against the tuba and the Great Chorus in alternatum...

 

In addition, the idea of enclosed Great Reeds has been done before - All Saints Margaret Street, Kelvingrove Arts Centre and many Comptons spring to mind straight away. These organs all encourage an ultra-romantic style of playing where smoothness of buildup is paramount.

 

Of course, what British Organists will miss on this organ is not having Great and Swell departmental pistons just a nudge away so they can develop the crescendo and diminuendos without their hands leaving the keyboards. This organ, with the Great on I, the big reeds on II and the Swell on III will be hard, if not impossible, to manage with divisionals.

 

Of course, many of the Cavaille-Coll organs were experimental and I immediately saw parrallels between the RAM concept and the idea of the Grande Organ and Grande Choeur divisions at St Sulpice - the principal difference being that the reeds and mixtures at St Suplice are I and the foundations are on II. However, compared against other French builders of the time like Puget, Cavaille-Coll had a more coherent and easily exploitable style which is instantly discernable in all his work. I would say this organ reminds me more of the experimentation of a builder like Puget than Cavaille-Coll when we look at it against the landscape of organ building today.

 

I would seriously question that the Kuhn scheme at RAM has space saving as a driver behind the enclosed Great reeds. This scheme requires 2 Swell boxes, both requiring space for full-length 8ft reeds, 8ft flues and a chorus. This requires a lot of space and limits what can go behind the swell boxes. There is only one, quite straighforward, unenclosed division. Physically this organ will require more space than an equivalent organ with conventional unenclosed Great reeds.

 

I am not sure that the scheme is as clever and as well thought out as some people think. Consider the French Classical tradition: How would we set about playing, say the Recits de cromorne et de cornet separe en dialogue from the Suite du Premier Ton by Clerambault? This piece requires 3 manuals and pedals, with a Jeu doux, a Cromorne and a Cornet on separate manuals. But the Cornet and the Cromorne are on the same manual in this organ! It's not possible - as there isn't another cornet on the organ, you would be forced to use the (I assume Germanic) Fagott on manual I or a reed on manual III. I would have expected this to be covered much more elegantly on a organ that has the French school as a starting point. Of course, this organ does allow the pitting of the Plein Jeu against the Grand Jeu - waters that have lain fallow all these centuries until now!

 

This brings me on to a further point. The French Romantic style generally has Great Reeds that come on with a crash and turn what was a lyrical singing instrument into a snarling monster that intends to shock and overawe in an instant. The concept of enclosed great reeds is counter to this, although I can imagine some uses (e.g. the build up of Franck Chorale III towards the end) where enclosed Great Reeds might be useful. So I find there are stylistic inconsistencies in this organ with the style it purports to be derived from.

 

The Bristish are very well acquainted with the symbiotic relationship between the Great and Swell Organs, with the Swell Reeds acting as enclosed Great Reeds, with the actual Great Reeds only being used at the climaxes - or with the transfer, as a foil to the Great/Swell division. And of course, British organists rely heavily on their divisional pistons and are heavy use of the swell pedal, which is a critical part of our style of playing. Here that relationship is disturbed to our usual way of thinking, with added complexity, a lack of usefully placed divisionals and the typical British organist will struggle to see the advantages of this scheme.

 

I rather suspect the only way to manage a cresc/dim on this organ will be to stick to Manual I, add the reeds on III, then add the reeds on II, opening the boxes. But how will the chorus on I fit in with this? I don't see that it really will...

 

And how will organists manage that crescendo: Answer - the sequencer!! It will be the only way on this organ. And this makes me question whether the tonal architecture is really that clever if a sequencer is the only way to manage this organ.

 

Classical Trios will be interesting as this organ only has 1 unenclosed division. So you either play on 2 enclosed divisions or one division at the front of the organ with another divison behind it in a swell box... Hmm. We have this problem on our late-Romantic British organs too...

 

I will be interested to see how this organ is received by British Organists. I rather suspect they will find it annoyingly designed, not easy to understand and not easy to manage. And that counts for a great deal in the UK!

 

But my main concern is what this organ will teach student organists. As far as I can make out, they will learn little from this organ. Students need to be led and shown the different structures and styles of organs and the music composed on them to make sense of them and know what to listen out for. Their ears need training in the first place so they know what sounds to listen out for and their hands and fingers how to play the organ with its indigenous style of music. They need to know all of this if they are to successfully translate music onto an unfamiliar or foreign style of instrument.

 

This organ is so unlike any form of organ in a recogniseable style that I suspect it will confuse many students and present them with more challenges than answers. In any case, I think all of them will rely solely on the sequencer to manage this organ in performance and few of them will ever fully understand the structure of the instrument, unless they come to the organ with a good knowledge of different styles of organ already and a clear tonal picture in their mind already. With the organ being so foreign to our way of thinking and so different to any other school of organ building (and difficult to manage), it may lead to the organ being underappreciated in the long-term - this is not uncommon for foreign organs in the UK and it does them few favours. Again, what does this teach British student organists?

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From my time teaching at the Royal Academy, not once did I hear the Duke's Hall organ played nor did I ever teach on it. The main departmental instrument is in Marylebone Parish Church. During my time a Baroque Italian organ was installed in another part of the Academy building and as hard as I tried I never got to play or hear that either. So I am rather optimistic about how this instrument will influence the players as they will certainly hardly ever come into touch with it on a very regular basis. It is in the Hall which is at a premium for ensemble use and would be hard I imagine, to argue a case for a one-to-one organ teaching session. It would not be fair in my eyes to have only selected students able to be taught or be allowed to rehearse on the new organ (it must be for all), when chamber groups and larger, demand the platform.

To teach the Baroque French literature, I took the department for a number of days to stay in Saint-Antoine l'Abbaye. I have done the same for the Oxford Scholars as there is lamentably no true Classical French instrument this side of Calais.

In a way, I feel the design is most probably constructed to deal with the organ as a basic member of orchestra scores - hence a manual being referred to as 'Solo'. The grand De Montford Hall organ in Leicester has three manuals with the bottom one being called Solo. This happened around the start of WW1. Therefore, I would suggest that this is an instrument to play with the orchestra and not to enlighten students concerning registration and indigenous musical Schools from around the world. However, if it is supposed to, then (on paper) it is a strange scheme to my mind. I will happily discuss my thoughts, but not in a public forum.

best wishes,

Nigel

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Colin, your extensive answer did not only respond to my original question (and built-up this topic together with the other contributions), but was very informative for me and answered other questions I wanted to ask when the occasion is right - thanks!

 

Two additions: An enclosed division MAY be suitable for "open" tasks, like playing a trio voice. It depends on the circumstances, I have met divisions which coped well with that task.

And: An organ with really good sounds in it will be very flexible to adopt to styles which seem to be out-of-concept on the first view.

But this takes us to the question: What will this organ teach the students?

If not guided well by the teachers, they will have difficulties to "re-create" the "original" sounds of compositions from different regions and eras. German academies, if funding di permit, tried to have a palette of several instruments with clear profile: A small italian organ for italian and south german baroque and renaissance works, a medium sized classical organ for Bach and other later baroque and/or north german music and even reaching out to Mendelssohn, and a romantic instrument with swell divisions etc.

 

After all, we should never forget that travelling to foreign instruments, attending master-classes there (and enjoy regional food and drinks...!) are one of the most beautiful (and necessary) aspects of our instrument's world, beeing practiced even by people who do not play themselves...

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Please forgive my lack of understanding, but on the pedal there are three transmissions to the Great.

Echobass 16'

Violoncello 8'

Bourdon 8'

 

From what stops on the Great do they come.

Echobass 16' from Bourdon 16' ?

Violoncello 8' from Viola da Gamba 8' ?

Bourdon 8' from Bourdon 8' ?

 

That seems to imply that the Echobass and the Bourdon use the same rank, so why the change in name?

Likewise the Violoncello from the Viola da Gamba seem to use the same rank, but have different names (which would horrify any player of baroque string music).

 

Perhaps there is a more rational explanation somewhere.

 

David

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At risk of being very quickly shot down in flames, I would venture to suggest that there is a much simpler solution available - without any of the necessary compromises and work-arounds referred to above - that enables teachers to teach, and students to study, literature from a variety of countries/schools/periods on appropriate instruments: French Romantic repertoire on a Cavaillé-Coll, German Baroque on a Silbermann or Schnitger, Reger on a Sauer, English on a cathedral Father Willis, etc. In these days of cost-cutting I am surprised that more educational institutions have not yet availed themselves of it.

 

Douglas.

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At risk of being very quickly shot down in flames, I would venture to suggest that there is a much simpler solution available - without any of the necessary compromises and work-arounds referred to above - that enables teachers to teach, and students to study, literature from a variety of countries/schools/periods on appropriate instruments: French Romantic repertoire on a Cavaillé-Coll, German Baroque on a Silbermann or Schnitger, Reger on a Sauer, English on a cathedral Father Willis, etc. In these days of cost-cutting I am surprised that more educational institutions have not yet availed themselves of it.

 

Douglas.

 

We did. We used Ryan Air and Easy Jet almost exclusively. Bucket Airlines are certainly the only answer as I think you suggest.

N

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We did. We used Ryan Air and Easy Jet almost exclusively. Bucket Airlines are certainly the only answer as I think you suggest.

N

 

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

 

 

In these days of economic stringency, what's wrong with Armley, Doncaster, Warrington and National Express? :P

 

What do these students want for their £9,000 per year, luxury?

 

MM

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Please forgive my lack of understanding, but on the pedal there are three transmissions to the Great.

Echobass 16'

Violoncello 8'

Bourdon 8'

 

From what stops on the Great do they come.

Echobass 16' from Bourdon 16' ?

Violoncello 8' from Viola da Gamba 8' ?

Bourdon 8' from Bourdon 8' ?

 

That seems to imply that the Echobass and the Bourdon use the same rank, so why the change in name?

Likewise the Violoncello from the Viola da Gamba seem to use the same rank, but have different names (which would horrify any player of baroque string music).

 

Perhaps there is a more rational explanation somewhere.

 

David

 

The scale of the Great Bourdon 16' will be smaller than the typical scales used for a pedal Bourdon 16' and so the borrowed stop will not sound as full as a pedal Bourdon.

The first octave of a rank of Viola da Gamba pipes is, I believe, below the compass of the baroque stringed instrument. Hence these bass pipes are renamed Violincello.

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