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When King’s doesn’t sound like King’s (?)


John Furse

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I wasn’t thinking so much of the Fugue, which does Regale more.

 

Also, the sole appearance of the 32’ reed, characteristically (for King’s; Ledger allowed this custom to continue) underpinning the last chord of the Wood, sounds as if it’s on G flat- rather than the key note of A flat ? ! Was it out of tune ?

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There were some minor tonal/voicing changes in the 1992 session of work, and remember reading about it at the time - possibly in that year's Christmas edition of the Radio Times of all places. I'm pretty sure the Great Mixture IV (which dominates the chorus in the BWV 547i you mentioned) has been revised.

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There were some minor tonal/voicing changes in the 1992 session of work, and remember reading about it at the time - possibly in that year's Christmas edition of the Radio Times of all places. I'm pretty sure the Great Mixture IV (which dominates the chorus in the BWV 547i you mentioned) has been revised.

 

Indeed - I too recall reading something to this effect.

 

With reference to Alastair's comment regarding the Choir Organ at King's: this was of course unique amongst instruments by Arthur Harrison. Whilst the Choir Organ at Westminster Abbey gained a Twelfth, Gemshorn Fifteenth*, a Tierce and a Dulciana Mixture (19-22) at the time of the 1937 rebuild, King's, with its Nazard, Dulcet (2ft.), Tierce, Larigot and Twenty Second had the most complete upper-work out of all of Arthur Harrison's Choir organs - even if he was unable to appreciate the value of the stops which he provided.

 

In so far as the 32ft. Double Ophicleide is concerned, personally, I am glad that its use appears to be limited to the last chord of a loud piece. Given that it is voiced to speak on a wind pressure greater than many cathedral organ Tuba ranks (approximately 450mm - the same as the G.O. reeds on this instrument), it is extremely powerful - and rather too fundamental, with little harmonic development. For versatility and musicality, in my view one would have to travel a great distance in order to better the superb Hill Contra Trombone at Chester Cathedral.

 

Incidentally, may I offer a plea to Tony Newnham: please could you consider undoing the latest software upgrade of the NPOR. My reasons for this request are two-fold. Firstly, it appears that it is no longer possible to use the 'back' button on either IE or Firefox, in order to return to the 'Search by address' box - it simply returns me to my homepage. (Neither is it possible to 'bookmark' this search page - only the NPOR home page; the search facility requires another step of the browser.) Secondly, having the successive surveys listed chronologically from bottom to top - which is the opposite of that which obtained formerly - is a little like trying to read one of Noel Mander's 'upside-down' stop-lists, as published in one of his old advertisements in back-issues of The Organ. In addition, personally, I preferred the former type-face. The present version (which gives the stop names in bold characters) appears unnecessary and 'clunky'.

 

 

 

* Although this rank may simply have been the former Harmonic Gemshorn (2ft.) revoiced.

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Indeed - I too recall reading something to this effect.

 

With reference to Alastair's comment regarding the Choir Organ at King's: this was of course unique amongst instruments by Arthur Harrison. Whilst the Choir Organ at Westminster Abbey gained a Twelfth, Gemshorn Fifteenth*, a Tierce and a Dulciana Mixture (19-22) at the time of the 1937 rebuild, King's, with its Nazard, Dulcet (2ft.), Tierce, Larigot and Twenty Second had the most complete upper-work out of all of Arthur Harrison's Choir organs - even if he was unable to appreciate the value of the stops which he provided.

 

In so far as the 32ft. Double Ophicleide is concerned, personally, I am glad that its use appears to be limited to the last chord of a loud piece. Given that it is voiced to speak on a wind pressure greater than many cathedral organ Tuba ranks (approximately 450mm - the same as the G.O. reeds on this instrument), it is extremely powerful - and rather too fundamental, with little harmonic development. For versatility and musicality, in my view one would have to travel a great distance in order to better the superb Hill Contra Trombone at Chester Cathedral.

 

Incidentally, may I offer a plea to Tony Newnham: please could you consider undoing the latest software upgrade of the NPOR. My reasons for this request are two-fold. Firstly, it appears that it is no longer possible to use the 'back' button on either IE or Firefox, in order to return to the 'Search by address' box - it simply returns me to my homepage. (Neither is it possible to 'bookmark' this search page - only the NPOR home page; the search facility requires another step of the browser.) Secondly, having the successive surveys listed chronologically from bottom to top - which is the opposite of that which obtained formerly - is a little like trying to read one of Noel Mander's 'upside-down' stop-lists, as published in one of his old advertisements in back-issues of The Organ. In addition, personally, I preferred the former type-face. The present version (which gives the stop names in bold characters) appears unnecessary and 'clunky'.

 

 

 

* Although this rank may simply have been the former Harmonic Gemshorn (2ft.) revoiced.

 

 

I can confirm the work of 1992 had an impact on the voicing of the fluework of the Great division. In particular, the IV rank quint mixture (19.22.26.29) was revised, in order to achieve a significant reduction in 'brightness'.

 

I attended the organ recital in 1992 to celebrate the work, and noticed in particular the lack of brightness in the Great and a general 'smoothing down' of the fluework. More recently I contacted Harrison & Harrison about this, and Mark Venning kindly confirmed the changes I have mentioned. When the pipework was cleaned the speech of the Great fluework was altered in order to reverse the changes made in the work of 1968, so that the more recent pipework would be fully integrated with the 1934 work.

 

No changes were made to the Choir division in 1992*. Apparently, Arthur Harrison voiced the stops for the Choir organ in 1934, and was accommodated in the Senior Common Room at King's College in order to do this. It appears he took a personal and active interest in the voicing of the fluework of the organ during the 1934 work. So I suspect he had a real interest in the character of the Choir organ in particular, perhaps partly because of, or due to, its 'uniqueness' at the time?

 

 

* I would add that the 8' Dulzian, added in 1968, was replaced by a 8' Corno di Bassetto in 1997.

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Why doesn’t the organ sound like King’s, at least in the Bach Prelude BWV 547 (to my ears, anyway), in this week’s Choral Evensong archive broadcast from 1981?

 

Is it something to do with the way the 20-year old John Butt registers the organ?

 

Please see my previous post.

 

The recording of the organ on the radio broadcast is excellent, and matches my recordings made of the organ prior to the alterations of 1992. So John Butt was registering the organ the way he could in 1981, including the bright and cheerful IV rank quint mixture of 1968.

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Priory’s Volume 1 from the Great European Organs series apparently was recorded in 1986. I always thought that the organ sounded quite spectacularly bright for sporting not more than two four-rank mixtures (20-sec. sample), and I was surprised how much heavier, overall more Edwardian, it sounded in the more recent Priory DVD (20-sec.sample). This exchange explains a lot of that impression. My thanks to all who contributed.

 

BTW, another comparison is interesting. If you listen to Stephen Cleobury’s Elgar CD of 1984 (15-sec. sample) and to the GEO CD, the difference in the technical approach of the recording is quite remarkable. You’d hardly think it was the same instrument.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Priory’s Volume 1 from the Great European Organs series apparently was recorded in 1986. I always thought that the organ sounded quite spectacularly bright for sporting not more than two four-rank mixtures (20-sec. sample), and I was surprised how much heavier, overall more Edwardian, it sounded in the more recent Priory DVD (20-sec.sample). This exchange explains a lot of that impression. My thanks to all who contributed.

 

BTW, another comparison is interesting. If you listen to Stephen Cleobury’s Elgar CD of 1984 (15-sec. sample) and to the GEO CD, the difference in the technical approach of the recording is quite remarkable. You’d hardly think it was the same instrument.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

I completely agree Friedrich.

 

One of my favourite recordings of King's on CD is 'Organ Music from King's' on the EMI label (1976), performed by Sir Philip Ledger. My favourites include BWV565 (there is a passage in the Fugue played on the Choir organ which is simply stunning) and Widor's 5th Toccata. The upperwork is very clear and bright, which I much prefer to the post-1992 sound.

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Remember what you could read in “Organbuilding” after the restoration of the H&H in Ely cathedral?

Sir Arthur Wills, when asked what he thought about the sound of the restored organ, replied: “Well, it sounds like a Harrison.”

 

<_<

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

P. S.

BTW, that’s another cherished Priory GEO volume, also pre-restoration.

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In an attempt to gain insight into these matters, I contacted Professor Butt, who was gracious and quick to respond. What he says I find fascinating- and I quote loosely from his communications. (It should be recalled that I was particularly enquiring about the Bach Prelude.)

 

Although 1981 is, of course, a long time ago (!) and he couldn’t remember much about the registration, he said it was likely that he used just Great and Choir choruses coupled, without the Swell. He used to keep that separate, in order to couple the 16' reed down to the Pedal. (That stop is now available independently on the Pedal.)

 

He also believed that the only way of making the Great chorus work well was to use the Sesquialtera, rather than the higher mixture.

 

[in addition, the organ scholars were always encouraged to have the Choir organ coupled through to the Great, which was believed to assist the Choir’s (sung) intonation.]

 

This is quite contrary to the ‘usual’ English organ disease of SwelltoGreatitis. Professor Butt’s academic and performing history, as a pioneering Baroque specialist, should be borne in mind. I recall many of us were doing this sort of thing in the 70s and 80s, in an attempt to achieve greater clarity and a quasi-idiomatic sound (then called ‘authentic’), through registrations and couplings sometimes tortuously altered from normal (British) practice.

 

As for the 32’ Double Ophicleide: H&H would, usually, have tuned in the morning. (The King's organ needs an inordinate amount of tuning, owing to the vast expanse of glass and constantly changing temperatures.) This does not alter my opinion that this stop was sounding a tone lower than it should, on that note.

 

Finally, Professor Butt says that he has written a history of the organ for a forthcoming book (which may have been published: http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/news/2013/new-chapel-book.html or, there might be an even larger tome on its way), celebrating the 2015 anniversary of the Chapel’s completion.

 

[The recording snippets in #8 are revelatory: indeed, sounding like different instruments.]

 

I await further comments and elucidation with great interest.

 

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In an attempt to gain insight into these matters, I contacted Professor Butt, who was gracious and quick to respond. What he says I find fascinating- and I quote loosely from his communications. (It should be recalled that I was particularly enquiring about the Bach Prelude.)

 

Although 1981 is, of course, a long time ago (!) and he couldn’t remember much about the registration, he said it was likely that he used just Great and Choir choruses coupled, without the Swell. He used to keep that separate, in order to couple the 16' reed down to the Pedal. (That stop is now available independently on the Pedal.)

 

He also believed that the only way of making the Great chorus work well was to use the Sesquialtera, rather than the higher mixture.

 

[in addition, the organ scholars were always encouraged to have the Choir organ coupled through to the Great, which was believed to assist the Choir’s (sung) intonation.]

 

This is quite contrary to the ‘usual’ English organ disease of SwelltoGreatitis. Professor Butt’s academic and performing history, as a pioneering Baroque specialist, should be borne in mind. I recall many of us were doing this sort of thing in the 70s and 80s, in an attempt to achieve greater clarity and a quasi-idiomatic sound (then called ‘authentic’), through registrations and couplings sometimes tortuously altered from normal (British) practice.

 

As for the 32’ Double Ophicleide: H&H would, usually, have tuned in the morning. (The King's organ needs an inordinate amount of tuning, owing to the vast expanse of glass and constantly changing temperatures.) This does not alter my opinion that this stop was sounding a tone lower than it should, on that note.

 

Finally, Professor Butt says that he has written a history of the organ for a forthcoming book (which may have been published: http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/news/2013/new-chapel-book.html or, there might be an even larger tome on its way), celebrating the 2015 anniversary of the Chapel’s completion.

 

[The recording snippets in #8 are revelatory: indeed, sounding like different instruments.]

 

I await further comments and elucidation with great interest.

 

 

 

It should be remembered that all of the fluework on the Great was revoiced in the 1992 work, including the Sesquialtera.

 

Either way the impact of the 1992 work was significant, as evidenced by recordings before and since 1992. Certainly for earlier music the 1968 work was useful - which I suspect was one of the intentions in the first place.

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I remember purchasing the Ledger LP and playing it to a friend without telling him what it was. We both went to the Saturday recitals most weeks so knew the sound of the instrument in the chapel pretty well.

 

He could not believe me when I told him it was King's. And I could see why. The instrument never sounded anywhere near that bright from the stalls. I think we both considered it to be a rather fraudulent recording!

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