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Organ Recitals on TV


Vox Humana

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Last month Mrs Humana and I spent a few days in Catalonia. Our primary aim was to see the inside of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, which was just a mass of scaffolding when we were there in 2008 - but that's by the way. One evening Mrs H was zapping through the TV channels and happened upon Televisió El Vendrell which was in the process of broadcasting this complete organ recital, very musically played by Ana Aguado. Since we missed the first couple of pieces, I never saw a mention of the church. I don't remember her playing Reger and she ended with three delightful pieces by Martin y Coll, but the date seems right, so I think this must have been it. It was a real treat. No fussy announcements, just a screen title at the start of each piece and uninterrupted music. I was prompted to wonder how many other countries do such things. I can't see the BBC broadcasting an hour-long organ recital nowadays, either with or without absence of commentary. John Scott Whiteley's Bach series didn't really fall into this category and I suppose the last nearly comparable thing would have been Dame Gillian's "King of Instruments" series of 1989 - or possibly one of Jennifer Bate's Messiaen broadcasts (neither of which I can find on BBC Genome).

I've not been able to find out anything much about the organ at El Vendrell, other than it seems to date from 1777 and that Pau (aka Pablo) Casals had lessons on it when he was young (so I imagine it's where his father was organist). Tonally it was very pleasant. I thought the pleno sounded rather "broken glass", but that might well have been the fault of the small TV on which we were listening.

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According to your link there is a 'Friends of the organ' who invite 'organistes més importants del país' to give recitals on the instrument. Pablo Casals did have lessons on the organ and his father was the church organist and Casals in now buried in El Vendrell, where he was born, having been originally buried in Puerto Rico and interred in El Vendrell in 1979.

 

There is a pamphlet (dossier) on the organ - but I can't find a copy of it.

 

I am reminded of some of those excellent programmes, years ago, put out by the BBC. There was a wonderful analysis of Pierre Boulez's work 'Le Marteau sans Maitre' and a couple of prgrammes showing du Pre, Barenboim and Pearlman, who else I forget, rehearsing 'The Trout'. Progammes like that seem to have disappeared - or is it that I just hardly ever watch British TV! Yes, it would be wonderful if the BBC, or any UK station for that matter, would consider broadcasting recitals, just like the one that VH experienced in Catalonia, on any instrument - even the organ!! - but we will end up 'BBC bashing', with a certain amount of justification, if we're not careful!!

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Like those who have posted above, I too am sometimes less than impressed by the BBC (in more ways than one), but also like them, I agree we should perhaps not go there. Trying to be positive, I did think Howard Goodall's 'Organ Works' series in the 1990s was eminently watchable and I know for a fact that it attracted interest from beyond the organ world, but If I recall correctly, I think that was broadcast on channel 4. I believe it was also made available on DVD but for some perverse reason the disc set was not available in the UK, at least at the time.

 

(How do I know "for a fact" that it attracted wider interest? Simply from my wanderings through life at the time, including a visit to an organ builder in Dorset where there happened to be a couple who had seen the programme and had asked the organ builder if they could come and look round his workshop).

 

CEP

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I did think Howard Goodall's 'Organ Works' series in the 1990s was eminently watchable and I know for a fact that it attracted interest from beyond the organ world, but If I recall correctly, I think that was broadcast on channel 4. I believe it was also made available on DVD but for some perverse reason the disc set was not available in the UK, at least at the time.

 

Yes, I would love to have a copy of this series, especially since I missed some of the episodes, but, as you say, it has only ever been available in NTSC format. A great shame. I wonder whether Priory Records have ever looked into the possibility of issuing a PAL version. There might be copyright issues, of course.

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I am reminded of some of those excellent programmes, years ago, put out by the BBC. There was a wonderful analysis of Pierre Boulez's work 'Le Marteau sans Maitre' and a couple of prgrammes showing du Pre, Barenboim and Pearlman, who else I forget, rehearsing 'The Trout'. Progammes like that seem to have disappeared - or is it that I just hardly ever watch British TV!

 

Yes, they have disappeared. Anthony Hopkins's "Talking About Music" programmes were good as well. He was just as entertaining at the RCM when I was studying there -- his lectures were always packed out.

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Yes, I would love to have a copy of this series, especially since I missed some of the episodes, but, as you say, it has only ever been available in NTSC format. A great shame. I wonder whether Priory Records have ever looked into the possibility of issuing a PAL version. There might be copyright issues, of course.

Vox,

 

I bought a copy a few years ago and although it is in NTSC format the disc is playable on most DVD machines which presumably have a PAL/NTSC convertor buit in. My machine is fairly elderly but played it without any additional set-up work. I forget from where I bought the disc...

 

If you have any difficulty obtaining one it I'd be more than happy to lend mine.

 

P

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That's very kind, Handsoff. I'll bear your offer in mind, although I see they are still available through Amazon. Sadly our DVD player died the day before yesterday and Mrs Humana replaced it with a very basic model. We have just discovered that it won't play the DVDs we recorded on our previous machine, so whether it could cope with NTSC DVDs I am uncertain. I think I need to pick up a cheap one to try from a bring-and-buy/car boot sale first.

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.............................................. Anthony Hopkins .............................. He was just as entertaining at the RCM when I was studying there -- his lectures were always packed out.

 

Yes I remember him at the RCM. too! We didn't get on and I always regarded him as being a little light weight! We met, years after, in Hull, where he greeted me with "Oh, it's you!!". In the talk that followed he gave a remarkably entertaining account of his life. He was a born communicator and I had got him very wrong.

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Yes I remember him at the RCM. too! We didn't get on and I always regarded him as being a little light weight! We met, years after, in Hull, where he greeted me with "Oh, it's you!!". In the talk that followed he gave a remarkably entertaining account of his life. I realised that he was a very solid musician, a born communicator and I had got him very wrong.

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Yes, I would love to have a copy of this series, especially since I missed some of the episodes, but, as you say, it has only ever been available in NTSC format. A great shame. I wonder whether Priory Records have ever looked into the possibility of issuing a PAL version. There might be copyright issues, of course.

I have a copy of this DVD. Whilst being in NTSC format (but region code 2,3,4,5), it plays perfectly on my Panasonic BD/DVD player, so if you can get hold of a copy it may be worthwhile enquiring whether your player can handle NTSC.

NVC Arts. Reference: 50-51865-5132-2-3

Hope this helps.

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As far as I know, most modern DVD players and televisions cope easily with NTSC disks. The problem may be elsewhere, in the region code.

 

The idea of that code was to ensure that disks sold in America could not be played in Europe, as the release dates for films were often staggered, and DVDs that were "pre-release" in the UK could damage cinema attendance.

 

Of course that consideration is totally irrelevant to performances of classical music, but the producers being in the habit of slapping regional codes on everything didn't see that this would actually harm their market.

 

Region codes are 1 for North America, 2 for Europe, and 0 for DVDs playable everywhere.

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