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He He! My Jewish friends would have loved that typo! Genteel it should have been. :P

 

Now...about this list of composers which Brian quotes.

 

At the "quality end" of the organ market, there were a number of good composers at work; especially during the Victorian period. However, it is important to understand something about English music of that particular period, which was largely inspired by the music of Brahms, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Bach (thanks to Mendelssohn) and increasingly, the music of Richard Wagner. The French phenomeonon was a little later, but Guilmant was certainly well known and popular. Guilmant himself is often regarded as the founding-father of the early music movement in France, and although self-taught to a large extent, he obviously had a formidable intellect and a certain ability as a historian and musicologist. Guilmant was very much "the establishment" in France, and rooted in the historical, contrapuntal organ-tradition. (Wasn't he taught by Boely, or was that Saint-Seans?)

 

I think it is important to be very exact about dates and specific influences Brian, because things happened so quickly in Europe between, say, 1880 and 1920. (I'm plucking those dates from mid-air).

 

I think we could include Widor in the general sphere, because he too was rooted in the traditions of the wider European musical language; the testament to which is his use of extensive contrapuntal writing in some of the organ symphonies. The same is true of Arthur Sullivan, who on a good day, could write music approaching the quality of Mozart.

 

The era of French Impressionism belongs to a slightly later period, and came like an enormous breath of fresh air in a world of Wagner, Schubert, Schumann,Brahms and the German tradition. Indeed, the growth of nationalism is very marked towards, and beyond, the turn of the century.

 

We must not forget the organ-music of Rheinberger, which for many, was the staple diet of proper organ-tuition. Also, the Bohemian influence was very powerful, with the gorgeous melodies of Anton Dvorak.

 

Of the composers which Brian mentions, perhaps the two or three most significant so far as the organ is concerned were Sir Edward Bairstow (a great Brahms enthusiast), Wolstenholme and Howells.

 

I never quite know how to categorise the organ-music of Howells, which I once famously described as amounting to, "the polite Anglican response to the atheistic harmonic ramblings of Delius."

 

An interesting feature of much English music written immediately after 1900, was the use of extreme chromaticism, which is also true of Reger. However, whereas Reger kept his riotous imagination under control by the dictates of counterpoint and Lutheran hymnody, (in spite of his catholic faith), English composers just seemed to ramble on regardless; changing key in an eternal cycle of secondary-dominants.

 

It is exactly this style which personally, I would regard as the most destructive element in English music of the period.

 

My mention of Caleb Simper was a considered one, because "The village organist" series, published by Novello, was the staple-diet of lesser organists in the majority of small or country parishes. This was pleasant, melodic music of little or no substance, which also included straightforward transcriptions of "the classics." I have copies of this rubbish somewhere, but the typical thing might be a Dvorak string-melody, a bit of Tchaikovsky or a snippet of Beethoven....always nice tunes!

 

Now consider how far the performance of "proper" organ-music had sunk about the time that Lt.Col.George-Dixon and Arthur Harrison were doing their thing around the turn of the century.

 

Here is a quote from an article by Wolstenholme himself:-

 

"The old Henry Willis scaling effecting crescendo from bass upwards makes for clearness in treble". The Pedal division is sufficiently independent "to solve many problems of Bach and others, where the Manual unison is required along with a sustained pedal." A 32ft. pedal reed is not necessary. Mixture stops are not necessary; if they are provided, no rank should be higher than the fifteenth in order to avoid mixture breaks, "a thing which I detest". Octave couplers are uneccesary because in an organ of this size "the 16ft. and 4ft. represent the sub-octave and octave to the unison". The Vox Humana need not always be used with the tremulant; it can be combined with the Oboe to produce an Orchestral Oboe, for example.

 

"(Play)...the Bach Fantasia in G-minor on the following combination: Great Open Diapasons II and III and Principal 4ft.; Pedal Violone, Violoncello and Octave 4ft.

 

This combination he considered "brilliant" registration!

 

Lemare went even further when he wrote (in 'The Musical Educator', London c1910) that "...a Principal must be put into the same category as the Mixtures; it ought rarely to be used unless capped by an 8ft. reed."

 

Oddly enough, this re-raises an interesting point which "Lee Blick" raised a few weeks ago, when he questioned the roll-player rendition of the Gigue Fugue played by Lemare, and which I suggested was probably the fault of the registrand. In that player-roll rendition, a heavy-pressure Tromba or Tuba is drawn throughout. Given the foregoing evidence, it tends to suggest that Lemare may well have regarded this as the ideal registration!!

 

The following would therefore have been the absolute apogee of the Edwardian understanding of "Baroque"......

 

GREAT

8 Open Diapason

8 Hohl Flute

8 Dulciana

 

SWELL

8 Violin Diapason

8 Stop Diapason sic

4 Salicet

Tremulant

 

PEDAL

16 Bourdon

8 Bass Flute

 

 

This is the specification of an organ completed around 1910.

 

With this sort of thing in mind, OF COURSE the Arthur Harrison sound was absolutely sparkling by way of comparison!

 

But doesn't all the above demonstrate the paucity of knowledge, the sheer insularity of British music, the vain-glorious nationalism and the utter perversion of everything that the organ ought to be?

 

The divorce from German music thus had little to do with the First World War.

 

I'm not sure when Healey-Willan wrote his Passacglia, but the story goes that he set out to show that an Englishman could match Reger. I'm not sure that he did, but it is almost certainly the finest of all English organ-works. However, there is evident a certain anti-German sentiment which really has nothing to do with the Arthur Harrison/George-Dixon creative phase.

 

The fact is, if we lift one or two very fine composers such as Bairstow....OMG....let's include Howells as well (though I prefer the less rambling Whitlock)....out of the equation, what exactly, of real substance, was ever written for the organ in England between, say, 1910 and 1950? (With reference to Healey-Willan as above)

 

The organ didn't exactly inspire, did it?

 

All this, a mere generation beyond an era which had such promising stars within its' ranks, who had really done their homework and KNEW about the great tradition of European music. They form the majority of the list which Brian provided.

 

Oh! You forgot Elgar, Brian!! (Go stand in the corner!) :)

 

MM

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"the Bach Fantasia in G-minor on the following combination: Great Open Diapasons II and III and Principal 4ft.; Pedal Violone, Violoncello and Octave 4ft."

 

(Quote)

 

This works quite well.

On a Van Bever organ for instance:

 

-Bourdon 8', Flûte harmonique 8', Gambe 8', Flûte 4'

 

Pedal Contrebasse 16' Violoncelle 8'

 

Or the same plus Montre 8' Prestant 4' and I to Pedal

 

In such organs the 4' Octave is quite present, voiced with a strong

octave (2').

 

Such registrations must not be compared with baroque or neo

equivalents.

 

Here is an example of these quite special romantic registration mysteries:

 

http://www.aeoline.de/Mp3/Physharmonica/Physharmonika03.mp3

 

Would you believe there is nothing above 4' there?

Only 16-8-4+ Physharmonika.

I linked to it on a german forum, the guys refused to believe it.

(Recorded at Hoffenheim, only intact E-F Walcker organ)

Little romantic organs like that we have aplenty here.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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

He He!  My Jewish friends would have loved that typo!  Genteel it should have been.    :P

 

Now...about this list of composers which Brian quotes.

 

 

I think it is important to be very exact about dates and specific influences Brian, because things happened so quickly in Europe between, say, 1880 and 1920. (I'm plucking those dates from mid-air).

 

I am quite happy to be specific about dates. Indeed I was defining a period that began with the accession of Victoria and finished with the death of Edward VII. But it seems we have now moved on to the reigns of George V, Edward VIII and most of George VI's. That's OK. Whitlock's output dates from this period, as does the Alcock Passacaglia and some of Howells. Also the Cocker Tuba Tune ! And Benjamin Britten's Prelude and Fugue ! I am quite happy to accept your basic premise that little first rate British organ music was written in that period, but the prior question is why should  there be any expectation that it would be ? The conventional picture has it , I believe, that we produced no front rank native composer between Purcell and Elgar. If that be true, and I think it probably is, then why should the picture in organ music be any different ? It's true that in the period you specify Vaughan Williams, Delius, Walton and Britten were all active reflecting what most would regard as a quantum leap forward in terms of musical attainment, which one might expect to be reflected in the organ world but by then we had left behind the era when it could be pretty much taken for granted that any front rank composer could at least play the organ even if, as in the case of Mozart and Beethoven, they wrote comparatively little for it. So an automatic upgrade in standards of organ composition was not to be expected by then.

 

IOf the composers which Brian mentions, perhaps the two or three most significant so far as the organ is concerned were Sir Edward Bairstow (a great Brahms enthusiast), Wolstenholme and Howells.

 

I never quite know how to categorise the organ-music of Howells, which I once famously described as amounting to, "the polite Anglican response to the atheistic harmonic ramblings of Delius."

 

An interesting feature of much English music written immediately after 1900, was the use of extreme chromaticism, which is also true of Reger. However, whereas Reger kept his riotous imagination under control by the dictates of counterpoint and Lutheran hymnody, (in spite of his catholic faith), English composers just seemed to ramble on regardless; changing key in an eternal cycle of secondary-dominants.

 

It is exactly this style which personally, I would regard as the most destructive element in English music of the period.

 

My mention of Caleb Simper was a considered one, because "The village organist" series, published by Novello, was the staple-diet of lesser organists in the majority of small or country parishes. This was pleasant, melodic music of little or no substance, which also included straightforward transcriptions of "the classics." I have copies of this rubbish somewhere, but the typical thing might be a Dvorak string-melody, a bit of Tchaikovsky or a snippet of Beethoven....always nice tunes!

 

Although the Gramophone has been around since the last quarter of the the nineteenth century you cannot trace its availability to ordinary folks back much earlier than the 1930's and even then you are talking about the middle classes predominantly. The means by which ordinary people encountered , if they did, the great orchestral classics was far more likely to be via an arrangement for Brass band or a transcription for organ. I do not know whether or not it is true but it would certainly not surprise me to learn that as many people first encountered the music of Wagner via organ transcriptions (bearing in mind the remark of George Bernard Shaw that Bach and Wagner were the only things worth hearing at organ recitals) as encountered it in its original guise. So perhaps the organ transcription had its uses in a pre-Walkman, pre-I-pod era.

 

Now consider how far the performance of "proper" organ-music had sunk about the time that Lt.Col.George-Dixon and Arthur Harrison were doing their thing around the turn of the century.

 

Here is a quote from an article by Wolstenholme himself:-

 

"The old Henry Willis scaling effecting crescendo from bass upwards makes for clearness in treble". The Pedal division is sufficiently independent "to solve many problems of Bach and others, where the Manual unison is required along with a sustained pedal." A 32ft. pedal reed is not necessary. Mixture stops are not necessary; if they are provided, no rank should be higher than the fifteenth in order to avoid mixture breaks, "a thing which I detest". Octave couplers are uneccesary because in an organ of this size "the 16ft. and 4ft. represent the sub-octave and octave to the unison". The Vox Humana need not always be used with the tremulant; it can be combined with the Oboe to produce an Orchestral Oboe, for example.

 

"(Play)...the Bach Fantasia in G-minor on the following combination: Great Open Diapasons II and III and Principal 4ft.; Pedal Violone, Violoncello and Octave 4ft.

 

This combination he considered "brilliant" registration!

 

Lemare went even further when he wrote (in 'The Musical Educator', London c1910) that "...a Principal must be put into the same category as the Mixtures; it ought rarely to be used unless capped by an 8ft. reed."

 

Oddly enough, this re-raises an interesting point which "Lee Blick" raised a few weeks ago, when he questioned the roll-player rendition of the Gigue Fugue played by Lemare, and which I suggested was probably the fault of the registrand. In that player-roll rendition, a heavy-pressure Tromba or Tuba is drawn throughout.  Given the foregoing evidence, it tends to suggest that Lemare may well have regarded this as the ideal registration!!

 

The following would therefore have been the absolute apogee of the Edwardian understanding of "Baroque"......

 

GREAT

    8      Open Diapason

    8      Hohl Flute

    8      Dulciana

 

SWELL

    8      Violin Diapason

    8      Stop Diapason                sic

    4      Salicet

            Tremulant

 

PEDAL

    16      Bourdon

    8      Bass Flute

This is the specification of an organ completed around 1910.

 

With this sort of thing in mind, OF COURSE the Arthur Harrison sound was absolutely sparkling by way of comparison!

 

But doesn't all the above demonstrate the paucity of knowledge, the sheer insularity of British music, the vain-glorious nationalism and the utter perversion of everything that the organ ought to be?

 

The divorce from German music thus had little to do with the First World War.

 

I'm not sure when Healey-Willan wrote his Passacglia,CIRCA 1916 but the story goes that he set out to show that an Englishman could match Reger. I'm not sure that he did, but it is almost certainly the finest of all English organ-works. However, there is evident a certain anti-German sentiment which really has nothing to do with the Arthur Harrison/George-Dixon creative phase.

 

The fact is, if we lift one or two very fine composers such as Bairstow....OMG....let's include Howells as well (though I prefer the less rambling Whitlock)....out of the equation, what exactly, of real substance, was ever written for the organ in England between, say, 1910 and 1950? (With reference to Healey-Willan as above)

 

The organ didn't exactly inspire, did it? 

 

All this, a mere generation beyond an era which had such promising stars within its' ranks, who had really done their homework and KNEW about the great tradition of European music. They form the majority of the list which Brian provided.

 

Oh!  You forgot Elgar, Brian!!  (Go stand in the corner!)  :)

 

I did not forget Elgar : I thought it tactful not to mention him by name because of his very strong association with a place beginning with W which we are not allowed to mention, which extended to writing a fairly substantial organ sonata to be performed by the organist of the cathedral at W. I did not see how I could mention him without bringing up these facts, which would necessitate a reference to that place whose name may not be mentioned here...

 

MM

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"I did not forget Elgar : I thought it tactful not to mention him by name because of his very strong association with a place beginning with W which we are not allowed to mention, which extended to writing a fairly substantial organ sonata to be performed by the organist of the cathedral at W. I did not see how I could mention him without bringing up these facts, which would necessitate a reference to that place whose name may not be mentioned here... "

 

(Quote)

 

This famous Sonata was certainly written for W......orms or Westkapelle!

Pierre :):P:P

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I've just acquired a fairly recent (recorded 2012, issued 2013) CD of S S Wesley's choral works which I hadn't seen reviewed. That probably means I've missed it, as I'd be surprised if it hadn't evoked a mention somewhere in the organ literature. Anyway, it's CHAN 10751 and it is still readily available e.g. from Amazon. Its full title is "Ascribe unto the Lord - sacred choral works by Samuel Sebastian Wesley", performed by Andrew Nethsingha and the St John's Cambridge choir with John Challenger at the organ.

 

Many of the usual SSW goodies are included which you can find below:

 

https://www.chandos.net/Details06.asp?CNumber=CHAN%2010751

 

Note that the contents includes two Psalms sung to Samuel (not S S) Wesley's chants (the web page above is in error here), S S's 'Larghetto in F# minor' for organ and the hymn 'O Thou who camest from above' sung to his 'Hereford' (words by Charles Wesley). All told, a highly satisfactory immersion in the extended Wesley family's output if you like that sort of thing.

 

The singers seem rather close-mic'd to be natural at times because one would seldom be sitting that close to them in practice, but the advantage is that you can hear what they are singing in terms of the words, which do not get lost in the acoustic. The organ comes over splendidly - just perfect - and it's a pity there's no mention of it in the sleeve notes.

 

Chandos used 24-bit/96 kHz recording, not that unusual, in fact it would have been surprising if they had not, but they include a rather facile and therefore amusing summary of the technical reasons for it in the sleeve notes which I won't go into here. I guess they include this with all their CDs. Rather surprising as a sales pitch though I thought, considering virtually any bog-standard digital recorder retailing at under £100 offers this. In common with most audio pundits, they also fail to say what happened to the sound when it was degraded to the CD standard of 16-bit/44.1 kHz! It's even worse when mp3 format is used, a download option which they offer on their website.

 

I'm glad to have this CD and thought it might be of interest to others.

 

CEP

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Sometimes I have a root through my CD collection and find one I'd forgotten about, and this happened today. It's 'The Organ of Chichester Cathedral' played by Sarah Baldock (HAVPCD 364). It was issued around 2012 and as of just now it's still available on Amazon and ebay new, with used copies around also.

 

For what it's worth, I derived much pleasure in renewing acquaintance with it. The instrument courtesy of our hosts comes over spendidly - this is not sycophancy, as anyone who knows me will confirm I'm not much given to that! As I live within half an hour of the cathedral I can visit easily, and I would judge the mics were placed somewhere opposite the instrument which is where I prefer to sit at a recital if given the choice. Every pipe can be heard there without being drowned in the acoustic. Also one of the advantages of a mechanical action is that the action thump of a large instrument at close-ish range is much reduced compared with an electric or pneumatic one, because a capable player can coax the pallets to open and close at her/his rate rather than that decided once and for all by the organ builder. And so it is on this recording.

 

The programme takes in Purcell, JSB, Rheinberger, Howells, RVW and all of Whitlock's Five Short Pieces. I particularly enjoyed these, partly because Whitlock's stamping ground in Bournemouth is also not far away. They almost seem to me to be written for a chamber instrument rather than a cathedral organ (well, maybe apart from the last (Paean) which demands a tuba or similar loud reed of course). The contrast between the first four quiet pieces and Rheinberger's Sonata in E minor illustrates well the breadth of capability both of the organ and the performer.

 

CEP

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