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Martin Cooke

Franck - quick registration queries

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I'm just getting my fingers round the E major Chorale and I am using the Durand edition which I have had since 1973 but only tackled the A minor in any serious way up to now.

 

So, after the opening alternating passages on Great and Swell, one finds the instruction "Gamba, Oboe in - draw Vox Humana, tremulant." Up to this point one is playing on the Swell using 'fonds' with the Oboe. Is this next section meant to be with Vox Humana alone or should fonds other than the Gamba still be drawn - so, I have a diapason, a lieblich available.

 

Second question... amongst 'fonds', is it appropriate to include a celestes on the swell?

 

I know that really it comes down to what sounds right in the end but any thoughts welcome.

 

Many thaks;

 

Martin.

 

 

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I'm just getting my fingers round the E major Chorale and I am using the Durand edition which I have had since 1973 but only tackled the A minor in any serious way up to now.

 

So, after the opening alternating passages on Great and Swell, one finds the instruction "Gamba, Oboe in - draw Vox Humana, tremulant." Up to this point one is playing on the Swell using 'fonds' with the Oboe. Is this next section meant to be with Vox Humana alone or should fonds other than the Gamba still be drawn - so, I have a diapason, a lieblich available.

 

Second question... amongst 'fonds', is it appropriate to include a celestes on the swell?

 

First question: In Franck’s own organ at Saint-Clotilde, there were a Flûte traversière, a Bourdon, a Gambe and a céleste. I'd expect that the classical Voix humaine registration would be Bourdon, Vh, tremulant. In this case, the Flûte would still be out – perhaps because Franck’s Récit was comparably small and on the lyrical side. I would start with the classical solution (in your case, Lieblich, Vh, tremulant). The Diapason wouldn’t really fit in, as in a Voix humaine registration, one is supposed to hear a reed sound without much else.

 

Second question: No, it never is, except when explicitly called for.

 

All best wishes

Friedrich

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First question: In Franck’s own organ at Saint-Clotilde, there were a Flûte traversière, a Bourdon, a Gambe and a céleste. I'd expect that the classical Voix humaine registration would be Bourdon, Vh, tremulant. In this case, the Flûte would still be out – perhaps because Franck’s Récit was comparably small and on the lyrical side. I would start with the classical solution (in your case, Lieblich, Vh, tremulant). The Diapason wouldn’t really fit in, as in a Voix humaine registration, one is supposed to hear a reed sound without much else.

 

Second question: No, it never is, except when explicitly called for.

 

All best wishes

Friedrich

 

Hello Friedrich - very helpful indeed - thank you so much!

All the best;

Martin.

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I've often wondered about this myself. However, as Martin said, it must depend largely on the instrument. Normally I would use a flute with the Vox, but I once played it on a well-maintained WurliTzer theatre organ (!) and it sounded best using just the reed alone, even though there was a flute rank available besides the Tibia. Both of these added too much mud, notwithstanding the fact that Vox's are supposed to be voiced with the Tibia strongly in mind, for light music at any rate. The Wurli tremulant, applied only to the Vox, was also just right in this case. It was fairly fast and fluttery, not unlike that on the Cavaille-Coll organ at St Sernin.

 

CEP

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I was taught exactly what Friedrich has written. However, the written registration is really only half the solution and never something to be followed blindly. Just as important - probably more so, in fact - is to get the authentic sound into your head by listening to the registration as played on a French organ. If you want to follow the composer's wishes, that's the sound that you want to be aiming to reproduce, not simply an arrangement of stop knobs. And similarly with any other sort of music. You probably won't get very near on most English organs, but it can still be worth trying. It's all about ears really.

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In addition to the useful and correct comments above, I'd like to add that the registrations of Franck's "Chorals" are probably not by the composer himself. Nevertheless, they are very appropriate, but with this knowledge, the performer can afford some more liberties...

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In addition to the useful and correct comments above, I'd like to add that the registrations of Franck's "Chorals" are probably not by the composer himself. Nevertheless, they are very appropriate, but with this knowledge, the performer can afford some more liberties...

This is an interesting point. The series of manuscripts stored in the Bibliothèque Nationale (MS 8707) give many schemes by Franck, for various types of registration - a fair proportion of which are clearly identifiable as referring to his own instrument in Ste. Clothilde, and others, that in the Trocadéro. The manuscript for the Premièr Choral is, I believe, the property of The Pierpoint Morgan Library, NYC. The description given is thus: 'Autograph manuscript, unsigned, dated 7 August 1890. Thirteen pages of music. Dedicated to Mlle Clotilde Bréal. No registration indications. (The manuscript was acquired by Alfred Cortot, sold after his death in 1962 to Robert Owen Lehman, and given to The Pierpoint Morgan Library in 1972.)' 1 However, the engraver's plates for the Premièr Choral and the Troisième Choral are missing, apparently - as are early drafts of these compositions.

 

Notwithstanding, the registration directions (and it is always better to read these in French and ignore any English 'translations') are appropriate in style (with the caveat supplied by Vox Humana) - and to the best of my knowledge, in the case of the Trois Chorals, are entirely possible to realise on the original instrument in Ste. Clothilde. However, as Vox says, this is really only half of the story. Some years ago, I was with a colleague at the organ of his church, where he was demonstrating the (large Romantic) instrument's capabilities. At one point, he said "And this is my French channel" - and then proceeded to draw all of the 8ft. foundation stops, including the huge (and probably leathered) Open Diapason I, the fat Hohl Flute, and a number of other unsuitable ranks. Unfortunately, he had attempted to follow the letter of the 'law' (as it were) - rather than the spirit.

 

When playing either the First or Third Choral at the Minster (J.W. Walker, neo-Classical with eclectic elements, 1965), I tend to eschew virtually all of the compound stops, except the G.O. four-rank quint Mixture, which I set to draw with the reeds. Otherwise, I rarely draw anything above 4ft. pitch - other than the Swell Fifteenth, which helps to brighten the rather 'English' 16ft. and 8ft. chorus reeds. Fortunately, the Swell Clarion is rather brighter, and thus is tremendously useful when playing much French Romantic music.

 

As Sprondel states, the Céleste should never be used unless specifically requested. In the whole of Franck's œuvre, I do not think that he called for this stop more than twice. It is worth remembering that the Hautbois (or Basson-Hautbois) was considered to be part of the 'Fonds'. In larger instruments by Cavaillé-Coll (i.e.: those with divided layes, or 'chests'), this stop was almost invariably sited with the Jeux de Fonds, as opposed to the Jeux de Combinaisons (reeds and upper-work).

 

 

 

1 p. 145; French Organ Music from the Revolution to Franck and Widor; Edited by Lawrence Archibold and William J. Peterson. University of Rochester Press (1995).

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As I recall it (from Archibold & Peterson), the manuscript of the Choral no.1 used to prepare the engraver's plates is lost (it definitely wasn't the NYC manuscript which contains some different readings) and so we can't definitely say that the printed registration directions aren't Franck's (or that they are, of course).

 

I remember once hearing Neil Taylor practising the E major choral at Ely Cathedral prior to a recital. My goodness, did he make the fonds sounds French. I did see his piston setting, but can't remember the details, except that I think it involved coupling down some of the Solo Organ including a string or two.

 

A friend of mine played some Franck on the Foghorn not so long ago. Despite being the largest organ south of Bristol (until the Buckfast Ruffatti arrives) it lacks a Vox Humana, dear old Harry Moreton having at last exasperated the PCC's patience when he asked for one. Nevertheless my fiend managed to engineer a quite effective one using the Solo Orchestral Oboe and 4' flute. I once heard Andrew Nethsinga produce an even better one using those two stops plus a couple of others, although the result was a bit louder than ideal. I hate hearing celestes used in place of the Vox Humana when the organ doesn't have, or can't fake, one - the atmosphere produced just seems mismatched - but the Swell Oboe is hardly ever a satisfactory substitute either. Yet what other options are there in the absence of a Solo Organ? That's a tricky one, I think.

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As I recall it (from Archibold & Peterson), the manuscript of the Choral no.1 used to prepare the engraver's plates is lost (it definitely wasn't the NYC manuscript which contains some different readings) and so we can't definitely say that the printed registration directions aren't Franck's (or that they are, of course).

 

I remember once hearing Neil Taylor practising the E major choral at Ely Cathedral prior to a recital. My goodness, did he make the fonds sounds French. I did see his piston setting, but can't remember the details, except that I think it involved coupling down some of the Solo Organ including a string or two.

 

A friend of mine played some Franck on the Foghorn not so long ago. Despite being the largest organ south of Bristol (until the Buckfast Ruffatti arrives) it lacks a Vox Humana, dear old Harry Moreton having at last exasperated the PCC's patience when he asked for one. Nevertheless my fiend managed to engineer a quite effective one using the Solo Orchestral Oboe and 4' flute. I once heard Andrew Nethsinga produce an even better one using those two stops plus a couple of others, although the result was a bit louder than ideal. I hate hearing celestes used in place of the Vox Humana when the organ doesn't have, or can't fake, one - the atmosphere produced just seems mismatched - but the Swell Oboe is hardly ever a satisfactory substitute either. Yet what other options are there in the absence of a Solo Organ? That's a tricky one, I think.

 

With reference to the registration directions on the Trois Chorals, as you write, it is virtually impossible to state with certainty either one way or the other. However, the fact that they are both idiomatic to the style and nuance of the music, and that they are perfectly possible to realise on Franck's original instrument (although this would be a comparatively easy task for a pupil of Franck to replicate), suggests to me that they are, if not his own directions, then certainly sympathetic to his wishes.

 

At the Minster, I can render a passable Voix Humaine with the Swell Hautbois, 4ft. Flute, Vox Angelica and the (fan) Tremulant. On larger instruments, I too have resorted to using the Solo Organ. It is also possible to give a quite Gallic flavour to the opening of the Premièr Choral, on the Minster organ. The Fonds on the G.O. (with the Open Diapason I providing the fullness of a Flûte Harmonique, and the Viole de Gambe as a fair representation of a Gambe) and Swell Organ (including the Hautbois). Only the slightly chiffy Gedeckt on the Positive Organ betrays the instrument's English origins. (Ironically, as far as I am aware, this stop was intended to sound similar to a Baroque German or Dutch Gedeckt.)

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With reference to the registration directions on the Trois Chorals, as you write, it is virtually impossible to state with certainty either one way or the other. However, the fact that they are both idiomatic to the style and nuance of the music, and that they are perfectly possible to realise on Franck's original instrument (although this would be a comparatively easy task for a pupil of Franck to replicate), suggests to me that they are, if not his own directions, then certainly sympathetic to his wishes.

 

Yes, I think that's a fair summary.

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