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Mander Organs
David Drinkell

Non-Organist composers, especially Britten

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And Chopin and Schubert. Words fail me.

Oh, I liked this part best: "He hated Vaughan Williams and Elgar. Vaughan Williams wrote some gorgeous music." Reads like a find in a dusty corner of The Abandoned School's Music Department.

 

(Oh golly, now I am going to be sued, only I wouldn't know for what, and neither would any judge or jury in the universe.)

 

There can't be much fun in the life of the poor chap – except for all the cherished Puccini moments, and oh what a moral and sincere fellow he was!

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

P. S.

To make this a little more on-topic, wait till I tell you all my stories about Nowowiejski! Just to give you a foreshadowing: I simply know his music is all wrong, wrong, wrong!

 

P. P. S.

It is true: RVW did write some gorgeous music. Forget his left-wing attitudes.

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One of his favourite composers appears to be Bartók (another left-wing composer, perhaps), and in the article on him (which contains a number of errors, and displays deep ignorance of some of the works he discusses) he writes:

 

He adored children, and his interest in them would be frowned on today in our suspicious world.
Bartók was a real man. He was not effeminate.

Compare and contrast with his remarks on Britten and others...

 

Paul

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Interesting - my opinion is exactly the opposite.

 

Having played Rejoice in the Lamb and the Jubilate Deo, in C an a number of occasions, I regard both as being somewhat awkward on the organ *. For example: the middle part of the Jubilate, where both hands and feet are busy (playing chords which make little harmonic sense to me) - and then Britten asks for a crescendo. Whilst it could be argued that he wished to stretch the player's technique, I suspect that he simply did not realise that this was almost impossible to accomplish at that point.

 

Then there are his odd harmonies in the congregational hymns (for example) in his cantata Saint Nicholas. Again, I suspect that he did not understand the idea of sub-unison ranks on the claviers. His turgid, low, oddly-spaced layout I find most unsatisfactory. To be honest, the last time I played for a performance of this I re-arranged them, added one or two quiet-ish 16ft stops (on the G.O. and Swell) - and no-one was any the wiser.

 

In case it is not already obvious, I have no great liking for those works of Britten which I have heard or played - including the War Requiem (which I found anything but moving).

 

I completely agree, especially over War Requiem. I find the Wilfred Owen settings lightweight in the extreme considering the overwhelming pain of those poems. And I just don't understand the popularity of 'the' Jubilate. It's exceptionally awkward and fussily written.

 

Rejoice in the Lamb I do have a lot of time for - I find it strangely moving, and couldn't begin to tell you why. It has mostly to do with the choral writing in the Hallelujah though - and the chord which is reached under the word 'poetry' in the tenor solo, where Robert Tear does a massive pause (not in the score) on the high F#.

 

Other under-rated works are the Festival Te Deum with the repeated E major chords and the brimstone middle section, which does make terrific use of the instrument. And the New Year Carol is just glorious.

 

And there's no better National Anthem arrangement, you've got to admit...

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The biography at this link is very oddly written. And the second of the two earlier links to Wright's articles has no validity whatsoever without the names of the musicians who are claimed to have written it.

 

If I weren't concerned about the effect of a take-down notice on the owners of this forum I would say more.

 

Isn't it an amazing site. I've had a very enjoyable half-hour.

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The sort of invective displayed in the article about BB usually says more about the writer than the subject of the piece.

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I completely agree, especially over War Requiem. I find the Wilfred Owen settings lightweight in the extreme considering the overwhelming pain of those poems. And I just don't understand the popularity of 'the' Jubilate. It's exceptionally awkward and fussily written.

 

Rejoice in the Lamb I do have a lot of time for - I find it strangely moving, and couldn't begin to tell you why. It has mostly to do with the choral writing in the Hallelujah though - and the chord which is reached under the word 'poetry' in the tenor solo, where Robert Tear does a massive pause (not in the score) on the high F#.

 

Other under-rated works are the Festival Te Deum with the repeated E major chords and the brimstone middle section, which does make terrific use of the instrument. And the New Year Carol is just glorious.

 

And there's no better National Anthem arrangement, you've got to admit...

 

 

Each to his own. I find the War Requiem electrifying. And, as you've probably gathered, I think the Jubilate in C is a masterful piece. OK, it may be a sea shanty with words from the Psalms, but the way he gets such an effective piece out of two or three phrases is marvellous. Lesser composers would have turned out something three times as difficult and less than half as interesting. The vocal parts are easy unless the singers are lazy and the organ part, although it has its moments, is not nearly as difficult as Rubbra in A flat, the Tippett St. John's Service and many others.

 

The Festival Te Deum is indeed a fine piece, but much more difficult to bring off. A New Year Carol is lovely, too, and so is A Boy was born in Bethlehem - and, of course, A Hymn to the Virgin.

 

When it comes to God save the Queen, I would back the Gordon Jacob arrangement, but it would depend on the circumstances.

 

Not much has come up about the Prelude and Fugue, so perhaps I was right and it doesn't get played very much. I have been trying various things with it and I think I may have it worked out. I'm aiming to play it at a lunch-time concert on Wednesday week (not next week, because it's Healey Willan's birthday - not to mention Vaughan Williams' - and I'm trying to brush up the Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, a piece which always scares the Bejaysus out of me).

 

Does anyone manage to make sense of the Prelude and Fugue in C minor by Vaughan Williams??

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Does anyone manage to make sense of the Prelude and Fugue in C minor by Vaughan Williams??

Not really, but I wouldn't mind having a crack at conducting the orchestral version.

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Not really, but I wouldn't mind having a crack at conducting the orchestral version.

 

 

Yes, that would be impressive - Fourth Symphony in miniature.

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Fourth Symphony in miniature.

Imagine if he'd written some organ music at around the same time and inhabiting the same sound world as the 6th....

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I can't think why it didn't cross my mind at the time, but Britten's Missa Brevis is a great piece (possibly the finest boys' voice Mass ever), and has a very effective and playable organ part, typically remarkable for its effect in proportion to the economy of its means. It only gets frustrating if you have a stop-action of uncertain speed (remember the pistons at the RCO?), which makes the additions in the Sanctus difficult to do cleanly.

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The sort of invective displayed in the article about BB usually says more about the writer than the subject of the piece.

 

 

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

 

 

That was exactly what I thought the last time my attention was drawn to this character.

 

Do we recall his article about Cyril Scott and the witch-woman from Australia?

 

She was a fine artist if you like Gothic fantasy and Edgar Allen-Poe, but in most respects, she was just eccentric rather than evil.

 

In fairness to Dr Wright, the comments about Benjamin Britten contain more than a grain of truth, but as usual, the "truth" is rather more elusive than the reputation.

 

Half a century later, not many people understand or have experienced the "all male" institutions of yesteryear, and much that has been written about Benjamin Britten could easily apply to many of the people I knew as a boy. If not exactly endemic, it was certainly quite common, and somehow "accepted" as part of the course, perhaps in much the same way that it was accepted in ancient Greece.

 

Dr Wright may well be right, in that eroticism and sexuality are a part of art, but I find his judgements and conclusions absurd to the point of being laughable.

 

Should we paper over the cracks of the Sistine Chapel, or burn the erotically charged paintings of Caravaggio?

 

But going back to "handsoff" and his pert comment, I find it interesting that Dr Wright has a whole article devoted to "mental illness."

 

Perhaps the most positive thing that can be said of Benjamin Britten, is the fact that he wasn't politically correct, along with Baden-Powell, Delius and Auden, to name but three.

 

I suspect that they will be remembered long after Dr Wright has shuffled off this mortal coil.

 

MM

 

 

PS: Love the "Ceremony of Carols" and "Hymn to the Virgin".

 

PPS: Dr Wright's comments about L S Lowrey are wide of the mark. He DID draw, sketch and paint a young, naked girl, and my best friend ( a major collector of Lowrey's paintings) knows the girl who is now an ageing lady. She is the sole source of the so-called "evidence," yet she has never said anything bad about Lowrey.

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Some forumites may remember the name of Harry Croft Jackson. By one of those strange coincidences, Harry was organist of St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall during the last War, and afterwards moved to Colchester, where he was organist at St. Leonard-at-the-Hythe, and years later I was organist of St. Leonard-at-the-Hythe, Colchester and then of St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall. From Colchester, Harry commuted to London, where he had a senior position in the music department at the BBC. I only got to know him in his retirement, when he moved back to Orkney, but once you got him talking in the Queen's Hotel, he seemed to have known practically every composer and performer of the last fifty years.

 

One of his most memorable quotes (in braad Lancastrian):

 

'Ben Britten were a right sh***!'

 

I don't think Harry was the only person who found him awkward.

 

When it comes down to it, I wonder which other of the great composers could be similarly described.

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When it comes down to it, I wonder which other of the great composers could be similarly described.

By all accounts Wagner was rather odious.

 

Nearer to our sphere of interest S. S. Wesley was pretty notorious. A clerk at Exeter Cathedral described him on a bundle of his papers as "The most to be avoided man I ever met with". Then there was the episode related in the Exeter Cathedral minutes on 3 October 1840 when statements were taken from two choirboys:

Holmyard says

Last Saturday in the Singing School before the Morning Service … I was practising a glee with Kitt, singing it, without the organ. Dr Wesley came in – he asked if we had been practising with the Men – we said we had – Dr Wesley said who gave us orders to go – we said the Men had asked the Dean and had leave for us – Dr W said the Dean is not your Master – I am your Master – and he went over to the Window, and immediately turned round to us, and ran over, and said, 'you shan't go without
my
leave['], and struck me several times hard blows with his fist on my back – I was holding down my head to avoid the blows, when I received a blow on my chin by a
Kick
of the Foot from Dr Wesley[.] A hard kick, and there was a mark on my chin for many days from it…

 

Kitt says–

Directly as Dr Wesley quitted Holmyard he struck me a blow on the side of my face, and knocked me down with one blow and then when I was on the floor he kicked me on the floor.

On 20 October Wesley admitted to the Dean and Chapter that the substance of the boys' statements was true. He subsequently wrote to the Dean and Chapter apologising for his behaviour. Whether the boys received an apology is not known.

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Opus 71, "The Forsaken Brownie"???? After everything he's just said about Britten?

 

Perhaps he actually meant one of those chocolate square cake-things, with the hard crusty top.

 

On the other hand....

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