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Cameron Carpenter


Colin Harvey

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Just to add to the debate:

http://www.standard....up-8083996.html

 

PJW

Petroc Trelawny's writing in the London Evening Standard, about his meeting with CC, could possibly have influenced the 'paying public' to buy tickets for these Prom performances.

What I find to be distasteful, are the lines 'Now 31, and living in Berlin, he (CC) is an outspoken critic of the organ establishment, which he says is obsessed with the past. And he has little time for "the pedants who dream of 32-foot long pipes".

Strong words, to be sure, but is he in a position to make such profound comments about the organ establishment?

 

There is just one Comment to yesterday's Daily Telegraph online review of Prom 2012 - Prom 66, by Ivan Hewett.

 

This is well worth reading, if only to see the mention of the Willis/Mander Organ.

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I too listened to the CC concerts out of curiosity. CC can certainly play fast and loud but what beyond that? If you listened expecting a serious classical concert then you would have been disappointed. The concerts would be better described as an hour of popular entertainment based on interpretations of Bach. The Proms season features many world class performers performing fantastic music, it also features some lighter weight events such as the 'Wallace & Grommit' concert and it's in to this latter category that I would put the CC concerts.

 

The real winner from the concerts was undoubtably the organ. The RAH organ gets far too few opportunities to be heard and CC certainly gave it a good work-out. I doubt if there's any other performer who has used every register in a single concert, but CC gave us the chance to hear them all. (At least I think he did, it was difficult to tell at times - can anyone confirm or correct me on this?) It is a credit to our hosts that it sounded and performed as well as it did. I would love to hear more of this wonderful instrument, but played by one or more of the many top notch British and European organists, and I think it's sad that there are no further organ recitals scheduled for this year.

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I had decided not to post anymore on this board and, indeed, wrote to JPM to tell him as such and to give my reasoning but this thread, possibly more than any other I have read, has annoyed me beyond measure, hence this post.

 

I can't say that I particularly like Cameron Carpenter's style of dress but I'm certainly not offended by it. It isn't important - I might have dressed like that when I was in my 20's - but not now and we have all, at some time, made fashion 'faux-pas'!!! His playing doesn't particularly do an awful lot for me either, I admire his phenomenal technique but think that his musicianship is, perhaps sometimes, a little misplaced but we can all look with a certain horror at performances we gave when younger and not as wise as we are now. I could say that about a good many other musicians I know, some of whom post on here! - and we have all heard performances, in some cases by distinguished players, where we have wondered "why do it like that?"

 

My grandmother gave me my first keyboard lessons. She was an FRCO and a fine player in the days when women weren't encouraged to pursue academic careers. As well as imparting a lot of music she also sort to instill into me what you might call 'old fashioned' values. One of them was that it is better to say nothing about someone than to say something bad or to cause them upset or to malign them in public. Sadly, I have to say that, I think, some of the comments here have not reflected those values and, in my opinion, have been less than one would expect from professional, intelligent, articulate members of this community.

 

Consider this without cynicism. If Cameron Carpenter is so bad why have the BBC invited him to take part in the countries most prestigious music festival? A festival broadcast throughout the world and a festival running at a time when large numbers of people ( I will refrain from falling into 'commentator mode' and saying 'the whole world') are focusing on other events also being broadcast from this country. Why is it that he has been invited, next season, to residencies at two of Europe’s great concert halls, the Berlin Philharmonie and the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Perhaps what some can't cope with are that some of the comments made by Carpenter in the 'Evening Standard' article. comments that, perhaps, don't live up to my grandmothers high ideals, and posted by Philip J Wells are more true than some of us would really like to admit and point directly at some of us.

 

I could go on but, in short, I think that some of the comments on this thread are reprehensible and some of them are not worthy of intelligent, articulate musicians or of this board..

 

I fully expect to be shot down in flames but it is high time this thread was put to sleep!

 

 

 

The last time I saw anyone dressed in the male equivalent to a Vivian Westwood number, I was walking through a dark alleyway in Manchester at 3am, somewhere in the vicinity of “the village”. Initially, I thought it must be a young organist, but I was sadly mistaken. It turned out to be a plumber’s mate who knew the way to Oldham. I wasn’t offended by the ripped attire revealing an equally ripped physique, but I didn’t feel that extended fugal development would be of benefit to either of us and made my excuses.

Perhaps not all of us share your grandmother’s values, but in any event, anyone who dresses like one of the cast of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, does tend to attract critical attention. Indeed, all that was missing at the Albert Hall was a ghoulish narrative spoken by Vincent Price, and of course, that chilling laugh at the end.

 

I thought the Mohican white hair interesting: startling even, but my next thought immediately turned to Arsenic and old lead pipes. The plumber’s mate had white hair too, coming to think of it.

 

As for ‘why do it like that’, why not?

 

Clearly , Bach was a festering old fart who wrote grotesque and unbeautiful music, and anything which improves the original is to be applauded...wildly...indiscriminately...so as not to cause offence or distress to the sensitivities of a well intentioned performer.

 

On the other hand, even the pop mogul Simon Cowell is smart enough to know that anyone who gets up on a stage can expect to be criticised.

 

I have absolutely no idea why the ‘Beeb’, (once one of the most prestigious broadcasting organisations in the world), should have invited C-C to take part in what was once one of the more prestigious music festivals of the world. Sadly, long gone are the days of self-respect and broadcasting standards, which is what happens when you appoint marketing men at the top. The BBC is now about politics, game shows, news, sport and popular entertainment, so C-C was a natural choice, even if Xaver Varnus could have played far more musically and performed some of his very agreeable cross-over pieces for those of an unsure or undecided disposition.

 

Quiet why Berlin and Salzburg have made the decisions they have made, I can only speculate. Maybe they’re short of cash and something sensational with which to wow the press and punters, but considering that Berlin was the home of expressionist organ-playing almost a century ago, (when they did it with taste and good judgement), and Salzburg salutes the white-wigged and distinctly crazy “Amadeus”, perhaps they feel that they have found a musical soul-mate.

 

As for Cameron Carpenter saying things about us, I take the view that he should be interviewed regularly and constantly, because when he’s talking, at least he’s not playing.

 

I regret that you consider some of the comments about C-C reprehensible, and feel that you will be shot down in flames. (Thumbscrews are much more fun!) You may be right or you may be wrong, but you have to be aware of the fact that there are people who try to promote singing dogs, paintings by monkeys and little girls dressed as Shirley Temple.

 

Has C-C made “Pseud’s Corner’ in ‘Private Eye’ yet, I wonder?

 

It’s only a matter of time!

 

Still, it’s good to be shocked out of our staid habits and musical apathy from time to time, and this guy does it rather well....and....artistically. The plumber’s mate would have approved.

 

 

 

 

Best,

 

MM

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I am a non-playing organ nut, well near enough, I can play the odd hymn reasonably well if needed, but not much more.

 

I took my Sri Lankan friend (I think he is one of the very few, possibly only, Sri Lankan Tamil organ nuts around) to the Sunday afternoon concert, as part of a celebration for a new job he has obtained. We both enjoyed the concert, possibly helped by the atmosphere in the hall which was amazing during CC's concert. The dynamic range he produced from the organ, from full organ to the very softest stops, cannot have been broadcast fully, and the applause at the end of the concert was amazing. We were then treated to a jazzy encore which raised another round of applause.

 

I have sat through too many organ concerts and recitals longing for the end, but this was certainly not one of them. I have a theory that some recitals are for other players, and some for listeners. Sunday's concert was definitely a listeners' concert.

 

John

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I am a non-playing organ nut, well near enough, I can play the odd hymn reasonably well if needed, but not much more.

 

I took my Sri Lankan friend (I think he is one of the very few, possibly only, Sri Lankan Tamil organ nuts around) to the Sunday afternoon concert, as part of a celebration for a new job he has obtained. We both enjoyed the concert, possibly helped by the atmosphere in the hall which was amazing during CC's concert. The dynamic range he produced from the organ, from full organ to the very softest stops, cannot have been broadcast fully, and the applause at the end of the concert was amazing. We were then treated to a jazzy encore which raised another round of applause.

 

I have sat through too many organ concerts and recitals longing for the end, but this was certainly not one of them. I have a theory that some recitals are for other players, and some for listeners. Sunday's concert was definitely a listeners' concert.

 

John

 

 

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

 

 

I'm glad you enjoyed the concert. I enjoyed the encore, I must admit, and the organ certainly got a work out!

 

Enjoyment works at so many different levels, and we each find our own. I suspect that it is organists who have the greatest difficulty with performances of this type, and of course, no two musicians will ever agree over interpretation, which is why they sit down a play things their way.

 

Best,

 

MM

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I had decided not to post anymore on this board and, indeed, wrote to JPM to tell him as such and to give my reasoning but this thread, possibly more than any other I have read, has annoyed me beyond measure, hence this post.

 

Did JPM reply? When are you next deciding not to post again in this board? Smart arse I know but really...................

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As technically marvellous as Cam Car is supposed to be it is interesting that the straighter repertoire he played was as tad sloppy in places - there are many organists who could have given a more accurate and a more musical performance. Also any musician worth their salt would not have played out the wind as he did at one stage with the use of subs & supers and would have let HP reed pipes speak properly - no doubt this was his way of criticising the instrument which is obviously extremely unfair! Presumably he'll be pushing the BBC/Albert Hall to accommodate his new "electronic device" next time..........God help us!

I yearned for fuller sounds and quite frankly when 540 started with enclosed 32 reed and strings I just laughed at the sheer unmusical sound and unsuitability for the music. Any idiot could come up with that - its not in any way clever - in fact its just daft and immature. As an exercise in extremely fast playing and demonstrating many combinations of stops and lots of registration changes I would give 10/10. For musicianship and actually selling the music to the listener, nul points!

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As technically marvellous as Cam Car is supposed to be it is interesting that the straighter repertoire he played was as tad sloppy in places - there are many organists who could have given a more accurate and a more musical performance. Also any musician worth their salt would not have played out the wind as he did at one stage with the use of subs & supers and would have let HP reed pipes speak properly - no doubt this was his way of criticising the instrument which is obviously extremely unfair! Presumably he'll be pushing the BBC/Albert Hall to accommodate his new "electronic device" next time..........God help us!

I yearned for fuller sounds and quite frankly when 540 started with enclosed 32 reed and strings I just laughed at the sheer unmusical sound and unsuitability for the music. Any idiot could come up with that - its not in any way clever - in fact its just daft and immature. As an exercise in extremely fast playing and demonstrating many combinations of stops and lots of registration changes I would give 10/10. For musicianship and actually selling the music to the listener, nul points!

 

---------------------------------

 

My God! I'm going to have to defend Cam Car for once.

 

Even in America, opinions and reactions are sharply divided concerning two very distinctive playing styles; one of which is the extremely scholarly approach championed by E Power Biggs with the backing of the entire early-music academia and musical exponents of the historically informed school.

 

The second style derives from German romantic influences, with what I term the expressionist syle of performing, which is not unrelated to the orchestral transcriptions of the organist/arranger/conductor Leopold Stokowski. (Think BWV565 and the film 'Fantasia').

 

Divided opinion and reactions are not necessarily a bad thing; especially since both styles of playing have been around long enough for them to qualify for the title "historically informed".

 

Earlier in this thread, I posted alink to a video of Xaver Varnus playing the Passacaglia in C minor by Bach, in which the expressionist style is very much in evidence, with quite kalaedoscopic changes of registration and counterpoint melodies highlighted with solo registers. It harks back to the Berlin school of romantic playing, and was taken to America by such as Middelschulte, who in turn taught Virgil Fox, who in turn taught Carlo Curley etc etc.

 

To pull off an orchestrallly inspired organ-version of the music is no mean feat, and requires a great deal of careful study and meticulously planned execution. It also happens to work rather well on romantic German instruments and on American symphonic instruments, if the performer takes the trouble to get it right.

 

Somewhere, I came across some fascinating sound clips and videos, and if I can find them, I'll tag them to this post.

 

Poor Cam Car is the victim of this tradition, and sticking my neck out, I would suggest that he actually doesn't understand the music of Bach, and consequently misses any sense of simultaneously bringing expression to Bach's organ music while remaining faithful to the musical structure.

 

At its best, the expressive style is very musical and comelling, and although I would never want to emulate it, I can be deeply moved by those who do it well, just as we can all be moved hearing Bach's '48' played on a Steinway concert grand by a master.

 

So I don't think Cam Car is daft or immature in pursing the expressionist way, but he gets it very wrong much of the time.

 

Best,

 

MM

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---------------------------------

 

My God! I'm going to have to defend Cam Car for once.

 

Even in America, opinions and reactions are sharply divided concerning two very distinctive playing styles; one of which is the extremely scholarly approach championed by E Power Biggs with the backing of the entire early-music academia and musical exponents of the historically informed school.

 

The second style derives from German romantic influences, with what I term the expressionist syle of performing, which is not unrelated to the orchestral transcriptions of the organist/arranger/conductor Leopold Stokowski. (Think BWV565 and the film 'Fantasia').

 

Divided opinion and reactions are not necessarily a bad thing; especially since both styles of playing have been around long enough for them to qualify for the title "historically informed".

 

Earlier in this thread, I posted alink to a video of Xaver Varnus playing the Passacaglia in C minor by Bach, in which the expressionist style is very much in evidence, with quite kalaedoscopic changes of registration and counterpoint melodies highlighted with solo registers. It harks back to the Berlin school of romantic playing, and was taken to America by such as Middelschulte, who in turn taught Virgil Fox, who in turn taught Carlo Curley etc etc.

 

To pull off an orchestrallly inspired organ-version of the music is no mean feat, and requires a great deal of careful study and meticulously planned execution. It also happens to work rather well on romantic German instruments and on American symphonic instruments, if the performer takes the trouble to get it right.

 

Somewhere, I came across some fascinating sound clips and videos, and if I can find them, I'll tag them to this post.

 

Poor Cam Car is the victim of this tradition, and sticking my neck out, I would suggest that he actually doesn't understand the music of Bach, and consequently misses any sense of simultaneously bringing expression to Bach's organ music while remaining faithful to the musical structure.

 

At its best, the expressive style is very musical and comelling, and although I would never want to emulate it, I can be deeply moved by those who do it well, just as we can all be moved hearing Bach's '48' played on a Steinway concert grand by a master.

 

So I don't think Cam Car is daft or immature in pursing the expressionist way, but he gets it very wrong much of the time.

 

Best,

 

MM

 

MM

 

Believe it or not my preference is for the expressive Bach you talk about. Thats how I play it and I have no time for trying to make any organ sound like what I think Bach would have heard 300 years ago! The best performance of 543 I ever heard was by Carlo (even better than Virgil's!) and when it is played in the manner you describe it is wonderful. Most "historically informed" performances on neo baroque squeak boxes leave me cold.

 

I think we both agree that Cam Car did not achieve anything wonderful and the opening of 540 (and most of the rest of the 2 recitals) only proved to me that he hasn't a clue. I dont think he is daft or immature for pursuing this style (far from it!) but his execution is, for me, immature and betrays the fact that, at 31, he has been doing it long enough to do better at it!

 

Best

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... My grandmother gave me my first keyboard lessons. She was an FRCO and a fine player in the days when women weren't encouraged to pursue academic careers. As well as imparting a lot of music she also sort to instill into me what you might call 'old fashioned' values. One of them was that it is better to say nothing about someone than to say something bad or to cause them upset or to malign them in public. ...

 

I can think of another organ discussion board, which seems almost entirely to consist of this type of thing. Frankly, it does not make for particularly interesting reading. Virtually all of the posts are extremely polite, almost all of them rhapsodise over whatever the subject of each thread happens to be - and a number of them are simply sycophantic. To be honest, I do not find this type of thing either edifying or wholesome.

 

 

... I fully expect to be shot down in flames but it is high time this thread was put to sleep!

 

No flames - but I agree with your last statement wholeheartedly.

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it is high time this thread was put to sleep!

 

It is interesting to see that the subject 'Cameron Carpenter' was discussed in the category 'The Organ and its Music' as long ago as 28 July 2008.

There were many replies then, and the last posting was 5 May 2010.

 

No doubt he will come up yet again in the future, but there will probably be very little to add to what has already been said.

 

To quote one comment made elsewhere 'CC is like Marmite, you either like it, or hate it!

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