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Beauvais Cathedral

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Having noticed some comments on another thread about the grande orgue at Chartres, I wondered what members' views on the Beauvais instrument are. I have Jennifer Bates' (almost complete) Messiaen cycle which she recorded mostly on this instrument and I don't quite know what to make of it. It actually sounds like a very interesting instrument and really quite nice - but it just sounds so wrong for Messiaen! The tone colours are very far from those at La Trinité and not at all what I understand as "French" (which, basically, is Cavaillé-Coll). Yet, according to the liner notes Messiaen heard the recordings and "endorsed every one with enormous enthusiasm".

 

So do I (as I suspect) have a terribly narrow view of French organ tone? And is the Beauvais instrument typical of Danion-Gonzalez's work?

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Having noticed some comments on another thread about the grande orgue at Chartres, I wondered what members' views on the Beauvais instrument are. I have Jennifer Bates' (almost complete) Messiaen cycle which she recorded mostly on this instrument and I don't quite know what to make of it. It actually sounds like a very interesting instrument and really quite nice - but it just sounds so wrong for Messiaen! The tone colours are very far from those at La Trinité and not at all what I understand as "French" (which, basically, is Cavaillé-Coll). Yet, according to the liner notes Messiaen heard the recordings and "endorsed every one with enormous enthusiasm".

 

So do I (as I suspect) have a terribly narrow view of French organ tone? And is the Beauvais instrument typical of Danion-Gonzalez's work?

 

You make some interesting points.

 

I agree about Beauvais - S. Etienne, Caen (plus a few mutations) may be arguably closer in spirit; or, better still, just record them at La Trinité.

 

Incidentally, it is illuminating to hear recordings of Messiaen playing some of his own works. True, the recordings are comparatively old, now. Also, Messiaen was the first to admit that he was firstly a composer, with performing being quite subservient to this facet of his life. This said, they are quite inaccurate and surprisingly free (wayward?) in rhythm and tempi.

 

I have often wondered about composers apparently endorsing slightly unusual interpretations of their works - or being content with 'unsuitable' instruments. Did Messiaen actually express his approval - or did Ms. Bate merely say that he was happy? Whilst I do not wish to cast aspersions, if one wishes to believe a particular point of view, it is only a short step away from projecting that view - and thus making it a 'fact'.

 

There is also the case of speeds; for example, Cochereau's recording of Dupré's B major Prelude and Fugue, which is very fast. Yet Cochereau himself stated that he had spoken to Dupré, who professed himself to be happy with Cochereau's interpretation.

 

As far as the Beauvais organ is concerned - I am not over-familiar with the work of Danion-Gonzalez - but they do seem to favour bright mixtures and plenty of separate mutations. They also restored Rheims after war damage.

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Beauvais is the best Cathedral organ from Danion-Gonzalez, so the Gonzalez firm

leaded by Georges Danion, who passed very recently.

 

Victor Gonzalez died 1956, so the true Gonzalez organs end with the Soisson's Cathedral organ.

 

Beauvais is a neo-classical -not neo-baroque- job from the very last times, 1979.

It is clear and bright, but not a "classical" organ. You may see it as a post-symphonic organ built with classic stops.

I like very much Jennifer Bate's Messiaen recordings there.

There have been several styles in Messiaen's music. Pre-WW II would sound better

on a romantic organ, but the latest works I think are OK at Beauvais.

 

This organ should please you, it is very close to the wishes that are often expressed here.

 

http://infopuq.uquebec.ca/~uss1010/orgues/...eauvaiscsp.html

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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You make some interesting points.

 

I agree about Beauvais - S. Etienne, Caen (plus a few mutations) may be arguably closer in spirit; or, better still, just record them at La Trinité.

 

Incidentally, it is illuminating to hear recordings of Messiaen playing some of his own works. True, the recordings are comparatively old, now. Also, Messiaen was the first to admit that he was firstly a composer, with performing being quite subservient to this facet of his life. This said, they are quite inaccurate and surprisingly free (wayward?) in rhythm and tempi.

 

I have often wondered about composers apparently endorsing slightly unusual interpretations of their works - or being content with 'unsuitable' instruments. Did Messiaen actually express his approval - or did Ms. Bate merely say that he was happy? Whilst I do not wish to cast aspersions, if one wishes to believe a particular point of view, it is only a short step away from projecting that view - and thus making it a 'fact'.

 

There is also the case of speeds; for example,  Cochereau's recording of Dupré's B major Prelude and Fugue, which is very fast. Yet Cochereau himself stated that he had spoken to Dupré, who professed himself to be happy with Cochereau's interpretation.

 

As far as the Beauvais organ is concerned - I am not over-familiar with the work of Danion-Gonzalez - but they do seem to favour bright mixtures and plenty of separate mutations. They also restored Rheims after war damage.

 

Messiaen is quoted in the original Unicorn-Kanchana recording of La Nativité, recorded at Beauvais, as saying "La Nativité est magnifique, admirablement jouée, excellent technique, belles registrations, très bons tempi. C'est vraiment parfait". I can't imagine them printing that (with his signature underneath) without his permission. They would have to clear it for copyright purposes, if for no other reason.

 

Messiaen must have thought very highly of Jennifer Bate's interpretations. He had all the manuscripts of his organ works copied for her, and he went through them all with her, carefully annotating them. They are quite extraordinary to look at - enormous sheets, with each bar spread across the entire page width. In his later works, the chords are written in a most peculiar way; the accidentals (on every note, for the avoidance of doubt) are written diagonally bottom left to top right, then the stem (if any), then the dots diagonally top left to bottom right. Thus every chord looks like an inverted 'V'.

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You make some interesting points.

 

I agree about Beauvais - S. Etienne, Caen (plus a few mutations) may be arguably closer in spirit; or, better still, just record them at La Trinité.

 

Incidentally, it is illuminating to hear recordings of Messiaen playing some of his own works. True, the recordings are comparatively old, now. Also, Messiaen was the first to admit that he was firstly a composer, with performing being quite subservient to this facet of his life. This said, they are quite inaccurate and surprisingly free (wayward?) in rhythm and tempi.

 

I have often wondered about composers apparently endorsing slightly unusual interpretations of their works - or being content with 'unsuitable' instruments. Did Messiaen actually express his approval - or did Ms. Bate merely say that he was happy? Whilst I do not wish to cast aspersions, if one wishes to believe a particular point of view, it is only a short step away from projecting that view - and thus making it a 'fact'.

 

There is also the case of speeds; for example,  Cochereau's recording of Dupré's B major Prelude and Fugue, which is very fast. Yet Cochereau himself stated that he had spoken to Dupré, who professed himself to be happy with Cochereau's interpretation.

 

As far as the Beauvais organ is concerned - I am not over-familiar with the work of Danion-Gonzalez - but they do seem to favour bright mixtures and plenty of separate mutations. They also restored Rheims after war damage.

 

Messiaen is quoted in the original Unicorn-Kanchana recording of La Nativité, recorded at Beauvais, as saying "La Nativité est magnifique, admirablement jouée, excellent technique, belles registrations, très bons tempi. C'est vraiment parfait". I can't imagine them printing that (with his signature underneath) without his permission. They would have to clear it for copyright purposes, if for no other reason.

 

Messiaen must have thought very highly of Jennifer Bate's interpretations. He had all the manuscripts of his organ works copied for her, and he went through them all with her, carefully annotating them. They are quite extraordinary to look at - enormous sheets, with each bar spread across the entire page width. In his later works, the chords are written in a very unusual way; the accidentals (on every note, for the avoidance of doubt) are written diagonally bottom left to top right, then the stem (if any), then the dots diagonally top left to bottom right. Thus every chord looks like a flattened, inverted 'V'.

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Interesting post, Nick. Thanks.

 

There does seem to have been a definite friendship between the Messiaens and Ms Bate. He actually took the trouble to come to London (an event in itself) for what I think was the first British performance of the Livre du Saint Sacrement when Ms Bate played it at Westminster Cathedral. The whole thing was televised; I've got it on video somewhere.

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Yes - thank you for the insight.

 

It would be interesting to see the televised performance of the Livre du Saint Sacrement which you mentioned.

 

Does anyone know whether it was subsequently released on video (or any other medium), please?

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Yes - thank you for the insight.

 

It would be interesting to see the televised performance of the Livre du Saint Sacrement which you mentioned.

 

Does anyone know whether it was subsequently released on video (or any other medium), please?

I don't think it was.

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I was lucky enough to play this instrument a couple of times when I was a teenager. Apart from being very heavy to play with all manuals coupled (there is an 'assistance' stop which is meant to help) I think it is a fantastic instrument.

I can see how the mixtures seem strident to some, but I actually quite like the clarity and brightness.

I also particularly like the bombards on the pedal which sounds unlike any other I've heard. It's powerful but not 'muddy'.

The 'dermogloste' stop intrigued me too. I think it is unique to Beauvais. Some kind of free Reed I think. Wish I could remember what it sounded like. 

Jennifer Bate and Jane Parker-Smith's recordings there are still amongst my favourites. Although Olivier Latrine's Messiaen is perhaps pipping Jennifer to the post at the moment. 

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11 hours ago, Laurie Anderson said:

The 'dermogloste' stop intrigued me too. I think it is unique to Beauvais. Some kind of free Reed I think. Wish I could remember what it sounded like. 

I found this reference to that (unique) stop on this site: https://list.uiowa.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A2=piporg-L;8d4a4bec.9912A

The Pedale Dermogloste 8' in the Danion-Gonzales at Beauvais Cathedral
is one of many stops in that organ retained from the original 1827
organ by Cosyn.  It's an 8' reed stop of the Basson type, with
leathered shallots;  hence the name, derived from Greek, meaning
something like "skin/tongue".

Its original pitch was 12', as the Pedale went to low FF.  But in 1922
the Pedale was rebuilt to standard C compass and the low 7 notes
disappeared, making this an 8' stop.

Normally French nomenclature is pretty straightfoward and unfanciful,
but this organ was an exception:  it also had a fifth manual of three
free-reed stops expressive via variable wind-pressure:  Conoclyte,
Terpomele, and Euphone.

(Source:  Berna, Jacques,  Les grandes orgues de la cathedrale
Saint-Pierre de Beavais, 1530-1979, Cahiers et Memoires de l'Orgue,
no. 25, 1981/I)

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Did Laurie mean to refer to Olivier Latry, or is there another organist we have never heard of whose name is not helping his career?

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14 hours ago, Lausanne said:

Did Laurie mean to refer to Olivier Latry, or is there another organist we have never heard of whose name is not helping his career?

I’m hoping it was an unintentional auto-correct.

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Oh no! Apologies to Olivier Latry. My other half finds it amusing to refer to him with the alternative surname (revenge for having to sit in cold churches listening to organ music) and it's obviously lodged in my head. 

Really interesting to hear about the dermogloste John Robinson, thank you. 

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On 6.1.2006 at 01:35, pcnd5584 said:

Incidentally, it is illuminating to hear recordings of Messiaen playing some of his own works. True, the recordings are comparatively old, now. Also, Messiaen was the first to admit that he w) in rhythm and tempi.

In an interview in Orgel International, Olivier Latry repeatedly mentioned Messiaen using his own recordings as points of reference. Apparently, when discussing the music, he sometimes turned to his wife, asking her how again he had done it for HMV’s « Messiaen par lui-même ». So, peculiar as they appear to be when compared to the printed music, he considered them to be of prime importance.

On the other hand, he seems to have been very pleased when he witnessed dedicated performers such as Jennifer Bate or Almut Rössler playing his works. Rössler recorded them on three instruments that were quite far from anything he might have been familiar with in France: on the idiosyncratic Rieger of the Neanderkirche, Düsseldorf (everything up to the Mass), on the neo-Schnitger Beckerath of the Johanneskirche Düsseldorf (Trinity meditations), and on the well-known Passau cathedral Eisenbarth (Livre du Saint Sacrement). I believe to recall that all of these performances and recordings were meticulously prepared with Messiaen himself and validated by enthusiastic remarks written on the music and sometimes printed on the LP cover.

The only conclusion is that, to Messiaen, the style of the instrument was not as much of importance as the performance, more precisely the intensity and imagination the performers employed to make the music work. Now, this in no way matches his persistent referring to his own Trinité recordings. Apparently, that’s the way it is, and every performer must deal with this in his or her very own manner.

All best wishes,
Friedrich

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