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St George's Chapel, Windsor


Vox Humana
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Here's an organ you don't get to see very often. Does anyone know whether the Solo Orchestral Trumpet has been revoiced at some point? Compare the first clip with the following one of John Porter playing Sidney Campbell's Impromptu. John Porter's recordings were made on the organ in its original state. The Trumpet on Mr Pinel's recording, however, sounds somewhat louder and a lot smoother in tone - a little more like a Tuba. I believe something was also done at some point to the Great Mixture, though the information I was given was vague. Can anyone shed any light, please?



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It does sound more Tuba-ish than anything I can recall from a week I spent there with Belfast Cathedral Choir in 1998 (incidentally, Windsor is one of the most friendly, helpful and pleasant places for visiting choirs and they publish - or published - a really helpful list of how to go about a visit and what was expected). I thought the organ was quite outstandingly fine - apart from the sausage-frying Solo reeds!

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You pays your money and you takes your choice! Personally I thought the Solo reeds the crowning glory of the instrument. They were designed to be usable with full organ without swamping the flue chorus. The Orchestral Clarion (though not the 8') has (had?) French shallots (as, incidentally, do the Trombones and the Swell reeds except the Oboe). Thus full organ could speak with an English or French accent as you wished. I did wonder, though, whether the 8' Orchestral Trumpet could have been a decibel or two louder without spoiling the tutti. If anything needed replacing it was the rather naff Great Cornet, which was cobbled together from left-overs from the previous organ. The Solo 8' flute had previously been an Open Diapason, but just about gets away with it.

Actually, since I haven't played it for over 40 years, it's quite possible that my memory is on the blink. Here's another track from John Porter with the Orchestral Trumpet in the treble register and this time it doesn't nearly sound so different from what we hear in the Orb and Sceptre above, so maybe nothing has been touched.

 

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Each to his own - I thought the Solo reeds stood out from the rest of the organ like a pair of sore thumbs. But I agree entirely that the organ could speak with a French or English accent.

 

I hate to admit it, but I don't really know the Coventry Harrison. I've heard it once or twice accompanying Evensong, but that's it. I'd be interested to know people's opinions on how the two compare.

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I have played Coventry only once and, again, it was over 40 years ago. The specs of the two are very similar in terms of the general scheme (the stop names vary), except that at Coventry the mutations are on the Choir rather than the Swell and the Solo department has a good deal more fluework at the expense of Windsor's Orchestral Oboe (and at some point Coventry's Corno de Bassetto was transposed from 8' to 16' pitch) - and of course Coventry doesn't have a Chair division. Despite the obvious similarities the two didn't feel the same to play. At Windsor the sound at the console was so immediate and incisive that it was almost like playing mechanical action (the organ sounds a touch woolly in the nave by comparison). At Coventry the distance between the north and south cases is greater, the pipework is spread more vertically and the console is more remote, all of which gives the organ a more "spongy" feel. On the other hand, Coventry's pipework was all new whereas Windsor used the old Rothwell/Walker. Coventry certainly sounded somewhat different at the console. I can't really put it into words - more transparent perhaps? I felt that Coventry had more integrity tonally than Windsor, no doubt due to the all-new pipework, although I would happily trade in a Solo flue for an Orchestral Oboe or Cor Anglais. I still rate the consoles of these two instruments the most comfortable I have ever played (in my comparatively limited experience).

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There is a fantastic recording available of the complete Duruflé by David M Patrick from Coventry. It shows off the organ superbly and especially the stereo effect of the pipework in its placement. It reminds me of the sound of S. Etienne du Mont in Paris where Duruflé played.

 

Incidentally - I also tend to bracket St Albans with Coventry and Windsor soundwise. I've only actually played St Albans and that was years ago but it was a decidedly pleasureable experience. Moreover, in its most recent incartation it is sounding even better and generally more polished.

 

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Each to his own - I thought the Solo reeds stood out from the rest of the organ like a pair of sore thumbs. But I agree entirely that the organ could speak with a French or English accent.

 

I hate to admit it, but I don't really know the Coventry Harrison. I've heard it once or twice accompanying Evensong, but that's it. I'd be interested to know people's opinions on how the two compare.

 

 

I must agree with Vox regarding the Solo reeds - I have played both the Windsor and Coventry instruments on a number of occasions (including a couple of recitals and several services). I also had the great pleasure of being locked in Coventry Cathedral for thre late evening sessions several years ago (before the Solo Orchestral Trumpet was ruined by misguided revoicing). I though that both instuments were superb - although I favoured the Coventry organ.

 

As Vox says, the point about those two pairs of Orchestral Trumpets is that they could provide a thrilling climax to the full organ without the opaque wall of sound which often ensues when organists couple Tuba ranks to the full organ. (Salisbury is one exception, as is Exeter - which has one of the most musical Tuba stops I have ever heard).

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