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Mark Taylor

HMV (EMI) Great Cathedral Organ Series

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"The most notable item is perhaps the Reger (of which this is the only available recording). The work is really an enormously extended Fantasia and Fugue woven around not only the chorale melody but its harmonisation as well. The result is no more deft or ingratiating than is usually the case with Reger's music. But Germani is able to use carefully chosen registrations and his own wonderful command of rhythm to lend the work a shapely coherence that is truly remarkable."

Aha! I like this man! :D

 

I have no idea who JNM is or was, and frankly, I don't care if he was the personal organist to the Pope, but the man is/was a twit. :angry:

Twoo! :P

 

I wonder what JNM had to say about Eric Thiman's music?

 

I feel sure that he would be at home with it.

I rather doubt it. In those days organists believed in real music, so he probably looked down on that too.

 

Actually that last comment is half serious. It's a view that was very much the order of the day back then; you can sense it in Felix Aprahamian's writings too. It's rather out of fashion today though.

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I have no idea who JNM is or was, and frankly, I don't care if he was the personal organist to the Pope, but the man is/was a twit.

 

JNM: Jerrold Northrop Moore whose magnum opus is Elgar: A Creative Life, reckoned by many to be the definitive scholarly book on that composer. I seem to recall he and Felix Aprahamian were about the only people who regularly reviewed organ music on Radio3's Record Review in the 70s and 80s.

 

Oscar

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Oh, it is. Coventry is a bit more brash (though probably less so since the Solo reeds were revoiced) and feels spongier to play because you're not sitting virtually inside it like you are at Windsor. I've no recent experience of either though, but I don't suppose either has changed that much.

 

But they're splendid! I did think the Trumpet could do with being just a notch louder though. But then you'd run into the danger of it swamping full organ, so I don't know...

 

Oh all right then! But it could do with a tuba as well! :angry:

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But they're splendid! I did think the Trumpet could do with being just a notch louder though. But then you'd run into the danger of it swamping full organ, so I don't know...

 

Just a touch louder would be good as it doesn't quite cut the mustard when on top of the tutti. I remember an old LP of Dupré recorded in the early years of the organ and when the Trumpet (and Clarion?) were brought on at the end of the Variations on a Noel I nearly jumped out my skin. A "half-way house" return to the original stops' voicing would be about perfect. IMHO...

 

Boellman's Toccata is on R3 a this very moment performed at a nice, steady pace. Played on an organ too - not an orchestral transcription. What is the BBC coming to? The organ of Ratzenburg Cathedral with Peter Hurford.

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Just a touch louder would be good as it doesn't quite cut the mustard when on top of the tutti. I remember an old LP of Dupré recorded in the early years of the organ and when the Trumpet (and Clarion?) were brought on at the end of the Variations on a Noel I nearly jumped out my skin. A "half-way house" return to the original stops' voicing would be about perfect. IMHO...

I think this shows just how similar these two organs are. I was actually talking about Windsor! Apologies for not making that quite clear.

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I think this shows just how similar these two organs are. I was actually talking about Windsor! Apologies for not making that quite clear.

 

 

No, no - I was reading it first thing in the morning and not concentrating. Your meaning was perfectly clear now that my eyes are open!

 

P

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I treated myself to a new record-deck this week, and almost the first things I placed on it were Francis Jackson playing the Great Cathedral recording from York, followed by Roger Fisher playing the Reubke from Chester.

 

40+ years old, and with all the usual sound defects, I was STILL blown away by those performances.

 

I know what I'm getting myself as a Christmas present!

 

MM

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

 

 

I have no idea who JNM is or was, and frankly, I don't care if he was the personal organist to the Pope, but the man is/was a twit. :(

 

MM

 

 

Could it have been Jerrold Northrop Moore, author of Elgar - A Creative Life - the definitive tome on the composer's life?

 

Whatever JRM may have said, the Germani performance is still amazing, sixty years after it was recorded. Just listen to the clarity and drive of the pedal line throughout. He was, of course, organist to the Pope. (That said, I reckon he found the Selby Hill rather more exciting than the disappointing heap in St Peter's).

 

JS

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I treated myself to a new record-deck this week, and almost the first things I placed on it were Francis Jackson playing the Great Cathedral recording from York, followed by Roger Fisher playing the Reubke from Chester.

 

40+ years old, and with all the usual sound defects, I was STILL blown away by those performances.

 

I know what I'm getting myself as a Christmas present!

 

MM

 

I have listened to the whole lot now (some twice) and the FJ recording is simply stunning in every way! I have listened to his Willan IP&F about 8 times over the last 2 weeks and am also blown away.......I had never heard it before.........stunning!

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Could it have been Jerrold Northrop Moore, author of Elgar - A Creative Life - the definitive tome on the composer's life?

 

Whatever JRM may have said, the Germani performance is still amazing, sixty years after it was recorded. Just listen to the clarity and drive of the pedal line throughout. He was, of course, organist to the Pope. (That said, I reckon he found the Selby Hill rather more exciting than the disappointing heap in St Peter's).

 

JS

 

 

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

 

 

Never heard of him! :(

 

Oh well, perhaps he was just prejudiced, but to be honest, I don't fully understand his comments if he admired Elgar so much. After all, Elgar's music is lyrical, often contrapuntal, frequently extended and highly chromatic, so I fail to see why JRM could not have been impressed by the music, let alone the performance.

 

As I've oft repeated, to have heard Germani live was one of the greatest privileges of my youth, and yes, the way he combined the heroic with such contrapuntal clarity, in what is often quite dense and dark music, made Germani a giant of interpretation and flawless technique.

 

There were/are others of course......Kynaston, Preston and Melville Cook, with Heinz Wunderlich the natural successor to the title of "Reger maestro."

 

MM

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I have listened to the whole lot now (some twice) and the FJ recording is simply stunning in every way! I have listened to his Willan IP&F about 8 times over the last 2 weeks and am also blown away.......I had never heard it before.........stunning!

 

 

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

 

 

All I can say, is that whenever I used to go into Bank's music shop in York, the conversation with the staff would always eventually turn to "Francis." It would then invariably move swiftly to the Willan recording, where we would run out of superlatives very quickly. Eventually, it was just an exchange of nods and gestures, with everyone agreeing on the word definitive.

 

Unfortunately, I would then be quickly drawn to the matter of a certain conversation I had with "Francis" as a fifteen-year-old youth, when I quietly teased him about the start of the Bossi Scherzo on the Great Cathedral series.

 

Listen to this carefully, and you will detect a slight change in accents, as he starts ON the beat, when it should be OFF the beat, but then turns it almost undetected into the right rhythm.

 

So having teased the poor man, he grimaced and gave one of his "Oooooh's," then said, "How very kind of you to mention it, I hadn't noticed."

 

There are moments in life when one regrets having a sense of humour, and I've been living this one down for over 40 years, even if the staff at Bank's found it hilarious.

 

MM

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

 

 

All I can say, is that whenever I used to go into Bank's music shop in York, the conversation with the staff would always eventually turn to "Francis." It would then invariably move swiftly to the Willan recording, where we would run out of superlatives very quickly. Eventually, it was just an exchange of nods and gestures, with everyone agreeing on the word definitive.

 

Unfortunately, I would then be quickly drawn to the matter of a certain conversation I had with "Francis" as a fifteen-year-old youth, when I quietly teased him about the start of the Bossi Scherzo on the Great Cathedral series.

 

Listen to this carefully, and you will detect a slight change in accents, as he starts ON the beat, when it should be OFF the beat, but then turns it almost undetected into the right rhythm.

 

So having teased the poor man, he grimaced and gave one of his "Oooooh's," then said, "How very kind of you to mention it, I hadn't noticed."

 

There are moments in life when one regrets having a sense of humour, and I've been living this one down for over 40 years, even if the staff at Bank's found it hilarious.

 

MM

OK - KNOW I understand you. Everything is illuminated. It's a life long habit.

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

 

 

Never heard of him! :(

 

Oh well, perhaps he was just prejudiced, but to be honest, I don't fully understand his comments if he admired Elgar so much. After all, Elgar's music is lyrical, often contrapuntal, frequently extended and highly chromatic, so I fail to see why JRM could not have been impressed by the music, let alone the performance.

 

As I've oft repeated, to have heard Germani live was one of the greatest privileges of my youth, and yes, the way he combined the heroic with such contrapuntal clarity, in what is often quite dense and dark music, made Germani a giant of interpretation and flawless technique.

 

There were/are others of course......Kynaston, Preston and Melville Cook, with Heinz Wunderlich the natural successor to the title of "Reger maestro."

 

MM

Dear MM -

 

As usual, what you have written is so very, very perceptive. Your contributions keep us all coming back for second and third helpings.

 

I believe that Kynaston received this ability from Germani. Didn't know that Melville Cook played Reger but it would be easy for his particular combination of musicianship and technique. As for Preston, again I agree. His Reger is EXCELLENT but in ways that I'm not clever or perceptive enough to describe. It IS different from Germani. Lastly, when we listen to Heinz Wunderlich, it's apparent that we're very close to the horse's mouth. His Reger has a unique combination of ease, naturalness and exaltation that I assume was his legacy from Straube. It has AUTHORITY.

 

But, there remains something elusive about Germani and Reger. How can anything is this world be so close to perfect ? It's really so good, so totally right at all times. I think the secret is his huge technique, always relaxed. Of course, he sorts out the musical difficulties and makes them less daunting and oppressive. Aside from the visceral thrill of all that big, very English organ sound, at the end of the day it's always the astounding clarity that leaves me breathless.

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The recordings at Coventry by David M Patrick (complete Duruflé without the posthumous Meditation) and Iain Quinn (American Organ Music) are very impressive - 'sound wise' as well as 'playing wise'. In fact when I heard Duruflé played at S. Etienne du Mont in Paris a year or so ago it sounded very much like Coventry - one tends to forget about the 'neo' nature of the instrument D. was composing for.

 

A

 

Absolutely - the recording of Duruflé's Prélude, Adagio et Choral Varié sur le thème du 'Veni Creator' with this player and on this instrument is , for me, definitive - and sublime.

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Just a touch louder would be good as it doesn't quite cut the mustard when on top of the tutti. I remember an old LP of Dupré recorded in the early years of the organ and when the Trumpet (and Clarion?) were brought on at the end of the Variations on a Noel I nearly jumped out my skin. A "half-way house" return to the original stops' voicing would be about perfect. IMHO...

 

Absolutely - these reeds were originally designed to scorch on contact. They should never have been revoiced - by anyone (particularly not twice, in the case of the 8ft. Orchestral Trumpet).

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My copy of this set arrived last week and I have just started to explore. All credit to those who did the original recordings and the re-mastering - it really is a magnificent effort.

 

I wonder if anyone has any memories of the instruments that have gone for ever: Gloucester, Worcester (pre-72), Llandaff and St Giles? The last must be one of the shortest-lived Willis instruments and was presumably completed under very difficult circumstances in 1940. I'm intrigued by some wistful hankering for the Worcester instrument and surprised by the 1967 additions listed on the specification, which are about as far from the Classical Revival as one could imagine.

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Absolutely - the recording of Duruflé's Prélude, Adagio et Choral Varié sur le thème du 'Veni Creator' with this player and on this instrument is , for me, definitive - and sublime.

 

'Agree! Though - my next favourite version - I tend to alternate between the two - is John Scott at St Paul's - not necessarily an organ you would expect to do Duruflé justice but really atmospheric etc.

 

A

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OK - NOW I understand you. Everything is illuminated. It's a life long habit.

 

 

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

 

 

Sadly so.........I got it from my mother.

 

MM

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Dear MM -

 

As usual, what you have written is so very, very perceptive. Your contributions keep us all coming back for second and third helpings.

 

I believe that Kynaston received this ability from Germani. Didn't know that Melville Cook played Reger but it would be easy for his particular combination of musicianship and technique. As for Preston, again I agree. His Reger is EXCELLENT but in ways that I'm not clever or perceptive enough to describe. It IS different from Germani. Lastly, when we listen to Heinz Wunderlich, it's apparent that we're very close to the horse's mouth. His Reger has a unique combination of ease, naturalness and exaltation that I assume was his legacy from Straube. It has AUTHORITY.

 

But, there remains something elusive about Germani and Reger. How can anything is this world be so close to perfect ? It's really so good, so totally right at all times. I think the secret is his huge technique, always relaxed. Of course, he sorts out the musical difficulties and makes them less daunting and oppressive. Aside from the visceral thrill of all that big, very English organ sound, at the end of the day it's always the astounding clarity that leaves me breathless.

 

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

 

 

A very interesting observation, and I know that when I played the Reger "Hallelujah!" for my finals, it was the fulfilment of an ambition

I had nurtered for a long time. Furthermore, I wanted it to be like Germani....no compromises and no excuses.....but I'm not sure that I ever got close to that. However, I do know that I spent a long time listening and re-listening to what Germani did, and I think I may humbly be able to shed a little light on this.

 

I'm sure that much of the clarity derives from the most immaculate phrasing, in which there is considerable daylight. (Listen to the opening of the fugue from Selby....it dances onto centre stage like a ballerina). He picked his fingers up as well as he put them down, and without that, Reger's music can become very obscure and flat-line. More than this, Germani had that rare gift of symmetry, where each repetition of a theme or motif was played with great consistency of phrasing; again driving the music along and bringing great order to the often considerable development of those phrases. Even his feet seemed to have the gift of musical wings, dancing ever so lightly and with tremendous precision.

 

Another trick which Germani used, was to change the notes to advantage. In a quiet passage, there is a wonderful moment where he thumbs down to highlight, very subtley, the theme of the chorale, and then he changes back as the melody ascends to the treble line. It is a small but priceless detail, but not one which Reger cared to indicate.

 

My conclusion would be that Germani had a rare sense of musical architecture, combined with innate musicianship and a flawless technique. Any of these qualities is remarkable in itself, but as with Francis Jackson as well as Germani, when they combine, it elevates them to the very highest level of musical art.

 

Breathless is the perfect word.

 

MM

 

 

PS: I'm sure Nigel Allcoat can tell us more.

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

 

 

A very interesting observation, and I know that when I played the Reger "Hallelujah!" for my finals, it was the fulfilment of an ambition

I had nurtered for a long time. Furthermore, I wanted it to be like Germani....no compromises and no excuses.....but I'm not sure that I ever got close to that. However, I do know that I spent a long time listening and re-listening to what Germani did, and I think I may humbly be able to shed a little light on this.

 

I'm sure that much of the clarity derives from the most immaculate phrasing, in which there is considerable daylight. (Listen to the opening of the fugue from Selby....it dances onto centre stage like a ballerina). He picked his fingers up as well as he put them down, and without that, Reger's music can become very obscure and flat-line. More than this, Germani had that rare gift of symmetry, where each repetition of a theme or motif was played with great consistency of phrasing; again driving the music along and bringing great order to the often considerable development of those phrases. Even his feet seemed to have the gift of musical wings, dancing ever so lightly and with tremendous precision.

 

Another trick which Germani used, was to change the notes to advantage. In a quiet passage, there is a wonderful moment where he thumbs down to highlight, very subtley, the theme of the chorale, and then he changes back as the melody ascends to the treble line. It is a small but priceless detail, but not one which Reger cared to indicate.

 

My conclusion would be that Germani had a rare sense of musical architecture, combined with innate musicianship and a flawless technique. Any of these qualities is remarkable in itself, but as with Francis Jackson as well as Germani, when they combine, it elevates them to the very highest level of musical art.

 

Breathless is the perfect word.

 

MM

 

 

PS: I'm sure Nigel Allcoat can tell us more.

It's very impressive that you've learned and performed this very difficult work. Your observations gain enormous weight thereby. Your view, from the inside out, makes perfect sense. I love your description of the fugue subject coming out dancing - absolutely, absolutely - and that Germani keeps it so with every entry. Clever of you to pick out the thumbing down, a technique that is fortunately coming back into use. Over here, Farnam and his pupils used it extensively in the period 1920-50. Of course, any mention of it during the 60s and 70s was verboten. Thomas Murray is now perhaps its most eloquent exponent.

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Does anyone know why EMI took Germani up to distant Selby Abbey for his recordings in the early 1950s, rather than to a venue nearer to London. Was it his own idea? Did he even know the organ beforehand? Maybe the facility fee was cheaper.

 

One possible explanation is that the Selby organ, having been extensively rebuilt by HNB in 1950, would have been in first-class playing order, unlike many large (cathedral) instruments in the immediate post-war period. The groundbreaking new organ at the RFH did not arrive until 1954, of course, and recordings started to appear soon afterwards.

 

Any thoughts?

 

JS

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Does anyone know why EMI took Germani up to distant Selby Abbey for his recordings in the early 1950s, rather than to a venue nearer to London. Was it his own idea? Did he even know the organ beforehand? Maybe the facility fee was cheaper.

 

One possible explanation is that the Selby organ, having been extensively rebuilt by HNB in 1950, would have been in first-class playing order, unlike many large (cathedral) instruments in the immediate post-war period. The groundbreaking new organ at the RFH did not arrive until 1954, of course, and recordings started to appear soon afterwards.

 

Any thoughts?

 

JS

I may be mistaken, but I think the recordings were made at Selby in 1961. I am aware of some recordings FG made at the RFH and All Soul's, Langham Place in the 1950s.

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Does anyone know why EMI took Germani up to distant Selby Abbey for his recordings in the early 1950s, rather than to a venue nearer to London. Was it his own idea? Did he even know the organ beforehand? Maybe the facility fee was cheaper.

 

One possible explanation is that the Selby organ, having been extensively rebuilt by HNB in 1950, would have been in first-class playing order, unlike many large (cathedral) instruments in the immediate post-war period. The groundbreaking new organ at the RFH did not arrive until 1954, of course, and recordings started to appear soon afterwards.

 

Any thoughts?

 

JS

 

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

 

I think it was Frank Fowler who had something to say about this, because he was with H,N & B at the time. My understanding is that Germani was told that this was the organ they would be using for the recording.

 

I suspect that Selby was about as modern as English organs came at the time, and I can't really think of anything which was more up to date as a re-build.

 

What a tragedy, in some ways, that we couldn't have enjoyed the same performance on an organ like Coventry & Blackburn Cathedrals or the Colston Hall, Bristol, but they came much later. Another alternative might have been either of the two biggies in Liverpool, but alas, it was not to be.

 

MM

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It's very impressive that you've learned and performed this very difficult work. Your observations gain enormous weight thereby. Your view, from the inside out, makes perfect sense. I love your description of the fugue subject coming out dancing - absolutely, absolutely - and that Germani keeps it so with every entry. Clever of you to pick out the thumbing down, a technique that is fortunately coming back into use. Over here, Farnam and his pupils used it extensively in the period 1920-50. Of course, any mention of it during the 60s and 70s was verboten. Thomas Murray is now perhaps its most eloquent exponent.

 

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

 

 

Oh yes! The You Tube clip of Thomas Murray playing Schumann is just extrordinary, and you're right there at the console watching him.

 

 

Of course, another very good exponent of thumbing down is Jelani Eddington playing theatre organs, but for clever tricks, Cameron Carpenter not only thumbs down, he fingers up at the same time; using three manuals with one hand.

 

MM

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