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Mander Organs
Malcolm Farr

That Toccata ...

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Excuse me... your stereotpying is beginning to sound offensive.  :)

 

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

 

Elton John is just brilliant....and he can laugh at himself, all the way to the bank.

 

;)

 

MM

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Surely the correct speed is that which results in a musical performance, taking into account the instrument, its action and the building in which it is contained.

 

A good definition - unless, of course, one has been offered the incentive of a free steak dinner.

 

I once took nearly eight minutes to play it - but on that occasion, it was my round in the pub' after Evensong.

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Surely the correct speed is that which results in a musical performance, taking into account the instrument, its action and the building in which it is contained.
Er, yes... but, as a guide, what's wrong with Widor's own marking of crotchet = 100? I've never heard it myself, but a number of people have said to me, "Have you ever heard Widor's own recording? He takes it really slowly". What speed was that, I wonder, and does it bear any relationship to the marking in the score?

 

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Bernard Rose had a maxim: if you're performing a piece of bad music, take it slowly. Very wise words.

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A good definition - unless, of course, one has been offered the incentive of a free steak dinner.

 

I once took nearly eight minutes to play it - but on that occasion, it was my round in the pub' after Evensong.

 

That is almost exactly half the speed of the "steak dinner perormance". Guess the ideal lies somewhere in the middle. Is there a general tendency to play this piece too fast, though? Too fast and you might as well not bother going to the effort of playing all of the notes as written.

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Guest acc
Er, yes... but, as a guide, what's wrong with Widor's own marking of crotchet = 100? I've never heard it myself, but a number of people have said to me, "Have you ever heard Widor's own recording? He takes it really slowly". What speed was that, I wonder, and does it bear any relationship to the marking in the score?

 

Actually, Widor put crotchet=118 in the 1887 edition, changing it to crotchet=100 only in the last edition of the 1920s. The speed in his own 1932 recording is about crotchet=94.

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I've never heard it myself, but a number of people have said to me, "Have you ever heard Widor's own recording? He takes it really slowly". What speed was that, I wonder, and does it bear any relationship to the marking in the score?

 

 

I have a copy of this recording. It is not particularly edifying.

 

Having said that, he was rather old at the time. There is an extremely loud mistake on a pedal note somewhere around the recapitulation, if I remember correctly.

 

In the same box set of CDs, there are quite a few French organists playing repertoire (often their own works). The Messiaen is interesting - although admittedly he never claimed to be a good organist.

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The Messiaen is interesting - although admittedly he never claimed to be a good organist.
Hmm. Does this explain why he never ever wrote a difficult pedal part? I've always wondered why on earth not. A full-organ tirade on the pedals... doesn't it seem a missed opportunity? Or are/were the pedals at La Trinité naff?

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Hmm. Does this explain why he never ever wrote a difficult pedal part? I've always wondered why on earth not. A full-organ tirade on the pedals... doesn't it seem a missed opportunity? Or are/were the pedals at La Trinité naff?

 

Not as far as I know! I think that he just regarded himself as a composer first and a church organist second.

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Guest acc
I have a copy of this recording. It is not particularly edifying.

 

As far as tempo and technique is concerned, indeed not.

 

But it is highly revealing of how the piece should be articulated. Again, compare different editions: in the first edition, Widor indicates staccato throughout. In later editions, the first two notes of each group of eight are tied, but only for about two or three pages. Even among the better performers, most take this literally, i.e. reversing to a pure staccato after those two or three pages. Widor, on the other hand, accentuates each beat by tying the first two notes throughout the piece. The playing technique may not be top-notch, but the intention is clearly there.

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As far as tempo and technique is concerned, indeed not.

 

But it is highly revealing of how the piece should be articulated. Again, compare different editions: in the first edition, Widor indicates staccato throughout. In later editions, the first two notes of each group of eight are tied, but only for about two or three pages. Even among the better performers, most take this literally, i.e. reversing to a pure staccato after those two or three pages. Widor, on the other hand, accentuates each beat by tying the first two notes throughout the piece. The playing technique may not be top-notch, but the intention is clearly there.

 

 

Indeed- although I assume you mean 'slurred' - not 'tied'!

 

On the same idea - I have a review of a recital which Louis Vierne gave (I cannot now recall where) and the reviewer was deeply impressed by Vierne's playing, especially of his own works. Apparently, every mark of articulation and every dynamic marking was observed scrupulously. The crescendi and diminuendi in the final movement of Vierne's 3me Symphonie sounded like the slamming of a door.

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As far as tempo and technique is concerned, indeed not.

 

But it is highly revealing of how the piece should be articulated. Again, compare different editions: in the first edition, Widor indicates staccato throughout. In later editions, the first two notes of each group of eight are tied, but only for about two or three pages. Even among the better performers, most take this literally, i.e. reversing to a pure staccato after those two or three pages. Widor, on the other hand, accentuates each beat by tying the first two notes throughout the piece. The playing technique may not be top-notch, but the intention is clearly there.

 

At about 88 years of age it is hardly surprising his technique was not that of a young man. Did he not say himself that he was "nearer to God than the organ loft" or have I imagined that ? Still better than Mr Nobile I think and without the advantages of modern digital editing !

 

Brian Childs

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At about 88 years of age it is hardly surprising his technique was not that of a young man. Did he not say himself that he was "nearer to God than the organ loft" or have I imagined that ? Still better than Mr Nobile I think and without the advantages of modern digital editing !

 

Brian Childs

 

He said "nearer to the grave than the organ" (plus près du tombeau que de l'orgue)...

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Widor's little party piece has certainly been done a lot, but I don't think it has yet been done to death.
Nor, it seems, does Radio 4. They did a programme on it last Tuesday (repeated next Saturday) featuring, among others, Thomas Trotter and Daniel Roth.

 

It's available online here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/progs/listenagain.shtml#s

 

Go to "Soul Music" and click the "listen" link (and then skip the first minute). Don't expect to learn anything new though. I found the programme terribly inconsequential, but of course it wasn't aimed at organists.

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Guest Lee Blick
I found the programme terribly inconsequential

Well maybe for those organists who live in their high organ lofts but it is nice to hear the organ and organ music described in a little more depth than usual for the general public.

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'Have just listened to Widor V and VI complete played by Ben Van Oosten at St Ouen Rouen on a CD I had forgotten I had. He makes the Toccata sound like a proper piece of music and the rest is just amazing. I really must try and get there to hear the CC in the flesh!! (And maybe Toulouse too!)

 

AJJ

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'Have just listened to Widor V and VI complete played by Ben Van Oosten at St Ouen Rouen on a CD I had forgotten I had. He makes the Toccata sound like a proper piece of music and the rest is just amazing. I really must try and get there to hear the CC in the flesh!! (And maybe Toulouse too!)

 

AJJ

 

Yes - Toulouse would be something of a pilgrimage for me. I would dearly love to get my hands on that organ!

 

Perhaps a few like-minded contributors would be interesed in contacting me and arranging a joint visit, avoiding the summer festival, of course; otherwise we would not get within fifty feet of it. Hearing it is one thing - but to play it....

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Guest Barry Williams
I had just read this when I was disturbed by a loud droning noise. At first I thought I was hearing the return of the Luftwaffe for another go at Belfast but it turned out to be a squadron of flying pigs.

 

In 1974 Polydor issued an LP entitled Music from the Royal Weddings 1923-1973 played by Timmothy Farrell (whatever happened to him) at Westminster Abbey (2460 230 Select). Unfortunately the sleeve notes are all but non-existent and the music is from Weddings (and in the case of the Queen a Silver Wedding celebration service) celebrated in the Abbey but this does confirm the Bach F major for Princess Margaret and the Widor for the current Princess Royal's first marriage to Mark Phillips. Interestingly nobody selected the Wagner. The list reads

 

Duke of York and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (1923)

 

Wedding March (Mendelssohn)

Minuet from "Berenice" (Handel)

 

Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece (1934)

 

Bridal March (Parry)

Trumpet Tune and Air (Purcell)

 

Princess Elizabeth and Philip, Prince of Greece (1947)

 

Air from "The water Music" (Handel)

Fugue a la Gigue (J.S Bach)

 

Princess Margaret and Mr Anthony Armstrong-Jones (1960)

 

Toccata in F (J.S.Bach)

 

Princess Alexandra and The Honourable Angus Ogilvy (1963)

 

First Movement from Concerto in F (Handel)

 

HMQ and Prince Philip Silver Wedding (1972)

 

"Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring (J.S. Bach)

 

Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips (1973)

 

Radetsky March (J. Strauss)

Toccata from Symphony No 5 (Widor)

 

BAC

 

 

 

As far as I can find out, the first Royal wedding that Widor's Toccata was played at was on 3rd June 1937 in chateau de Cande, when Edward Windsor was married to Wallis Simpson by The Reverend Jardine. The occasion was not without muscial incident, for when asked to play the well-known hymn 'O Perfect Love', Marcel Dupre looked blank. Alexandra Metcalfe hummed it to him and he duly played it. The Bride entered to Dupre's own Cortege (from Cortege and Litany (Opus 19, I think). The other music played was Bach's Sinfonia from Cantata No 29, Schumann's Canon in B minor and Dupre's Fugue in G minor.

 

Most people play the Toccata far too fast. It is far more difficult to play at the correct tempo than fast.

 

Barry Williams

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Most people play the Toccata far too fast.

Sadly this goes for most other toccatas too. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for exciting performances, but there comes a point in any piece where speed actually begins to diminish the excitement.

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played by Timmothy Farrell (whatever happened to him)

 

In his 'Who's Who entry, Timothy Farrell, now 63, records that he has been Organist of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood since 1975.

 

Point is, I suppose, is that most Abbey Subs go on to enjoy illustrious Cathedral or recital careers.

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played by Timmothy Farrell (whatever happened to him)

 

In his 'Who's Who entry, Timothy Farrell, now 63, records that he has been Organist of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood since 1975.

 

Point is, I suppose, is that most Abbey Subs go on to enjoy illustrious Cathedral or recital careers.

 

Perhaps he changed religion?

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I have a copy of this recording. It is not particularly edifying.

 

I'm doing a Masters semina comparing performances of an organ work and would be very interested in getting hold of a copy of Widor playing the symphony to include in the presentation. I've been to my local CD shop (an excellent place - not your HMV or similar!) and they couldn't help me - there was nothing in their catalogue, nor have I come up with anything through Google. Can anyone point me in the direction of the recording with a CD number or even, as it is for educational purposes, an mp3 that I will promise to delete afterwards!

 

I'd also be interested to hear other recordings that people recommend and why? I've picked up a copy of Virgil Fox playing it rather fast (whole thing over in 4:23... I know I've been keen to get to coffee after a service but...!) as tempo is going to be one of my key points, along with the overal sounds of French/American/English organs.

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Steve

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Steve,

 

There's a 5-CD box set called "Orgues et organistes francais du XXe siecle" on French EMI number -

7243 5 74866 2 0. All of Widor's recordings are on there, as indeed are Vierne's and Tournemire's. The set has a date of 2002 on it so not that old, it was available in the UK but I can't guarantee it is now. I'm afraid I haven't mastered mp3 technology yet but if you don't get any other response, write again with your postal address (is that allowed?) and I'll send a CD copy (probably not allowed either!!)

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