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40 Stop, 3 Manual Organ


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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
I know the Cromorne shouldn't be in the same division as the Cornet séparé but tough!

 

Just a pedantic post again, sorry. Cornet séparé (Cornet de Récit) is nothing to do with the Positive division or even the Great. It is to be found on the Récit as a separate Cornet V played from its own keyboard and drawing breath from its own chest (most often). When on a Positive made up of the 5 stops (as stated by innate), this is a Jeu de Tierce or sometimes referred to as a Cornet composé because it is a made up cornet. By the way - I think that he gives a misprint when the Cromorne is at 16ft pitch on his Positive.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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Just a pedantic post again, sorry. Cornet séparé (Cornet de Récit) is nothing to do with the Positive division or even the Great. It is to be found on the Récit as a separate Cornet V played from its own keyboard and drawing breath from its own chest (most often). When on a Positive made up of the 5 stops (as stated by innate), this is a Jeu de Tierce or sometimes referred to as a Cornet composé because it is a made up cornet. By the way - I think that he gives a misprint when the Cromorne is at 16ft pitch on his Positive.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

Nigel, thank you for this. I, too, had assumed that this was the literal meaning of a 'Cornet séparé'. I had presumably mis-read Dom Bédos (or just mis-understood). Now that you mention it, this makes perfect - and logical - sense.

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Nigel, thank you for this. I, too, had assumed that this was the literal meaning of a 'Cornet séparé'. I had presumably mis-read Dom Bédos (or just mis-understood). Now that you mention it, this makes perfect - and logical - sense.

 

Kind of you to say so. It immediately shows how simple it is to play those Trio sections within a Grand Jeu movement - Right Hand on the Récit - (3rd Keyboard) and the Left Hand on the Positive Cromorne, plus the 8ft Flûte (Pédale). This registration being prepared before commencing to play.

 

Perhaps to be ultra-pedantic (I'm just in that sort of mood - sorry), it is somewhat interesting to see the transformation of this Classical Récit on the 3rd Keyboard still being treated as such in the Romantic times. The difference being that this Solo department became 'boxed' and of full compass. Take the central section of Franck's 3rd Choral for instance.

In 1780 for the new organ by Fr-H Clicquot in that enormous architectural case in St Sulpice we still see there, the Récit (not full compass) was Flûte 8, Cornet V, Trompette, Hautbois only. In 1833 Cavaillé-Coll in N-D de Lorette, builds a Récit still with short compass of 37 notes but which marries German overblowing Baroque stops (Harmonic Flutes) with his Classical indigenous organ: Bourdon 8, Flûte traversière 8, Flûte 4, Flûte octaviante 4, Flageolet 2, Cornet 3 ranks, Cor anglais, Trompette 8, Hautbois, Voix humaine. The last two only were Jeux expressifs. Also left over from the previous century was his providing for this organ a Pedal department (16,8,4,16,8,4) of 20 notes that possessed a ravalement for A (thus providing one 32ft note for those Premier Ton Cadences).

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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I would suggest that you go and hear (and play) the Crediton organ, Goldsmith. I doubt that you will advocate such stops as these once you have. That is, unless you like a very loud wall of sound, utterly devoid of harmonic development, with a mixture whose sole function is to attempt to alleviate the basically flawed design of the GO reeds. These stops are the fattest, most uncouth sound which I have ever heard on a British organ.

 

I've been scratching my head for other chamades, but I agree with Vox regarding New College - it's very exciting. On the recordings I have of Brian Runnett accompanying Britten from John's Cambridge, that would presumably go in the melting pot too.

 

Crediton - couldn't agree more.

 

Service - will ask.

 

Just tried to phone but no answer.

 

Scheme - one too many keyboards and 9 too many stops, but IMHO the Aubertin/Gaillard instrument at Thann (which Google, stedfast in the faith) takes some beating. I thought it absolutely bloody incredible, actually, in every way imaginable.

 

Here's the stoplist, just in case Google no good:

 

I Grand Orgue

Montre 16

Bourdon 16

Montre 8 (2 ranks in treble)

Bourdon 8

Flute majeure 8

Gamba 8

Prestant 4 (2 ranks in treble)

Flute a cheminee 4

Quinte 3

Doublette 2

Tierce 1 3/5

Progression III-IX

Cornet VI

Trompette 8

Clairon 4

 

II Positif

Montre 8

Flute traversiere 8

Bourdon 8

Prestant 4

Flute traversiere 4

Nazard 2 2/3

Flageolet 2

Carillon I-III

Plein Jeu III-IV

Clarinette 8

Tremblant

 

III Grand choeur expressif

Quintation 16

Principal 8

Cor de nuit 8

Flute ouverte 4

Octavin 2

Mixture IV

Bombarde 16

Trompette 8

Clairon 4

Tremblant

 

IV Recit expressif

Flute harmonique 8

Gambe 8

Voix Celeste 8

Flute Octaviante 4

Basson-Hautbois 8

Voix Humaine 8 (swell within a swell)

Tremblant

 

Pedale

Flute 16

Violon 16

Flute 8

Quinte 12

Prestant 4

Rinckenbasse 32

Ophicleide 16

Trombone 8

Clairon 4

 

All - pedal

I-II, III-I, IV-I, III-II, IV-II, IV-III

 

Now the ingenious bit - four mechanical (barker lever) memories, instantly settable at the console - each side settable individually. There are some photos of the church, console and innards here.

 

Action to all is barker lever, except IV which is tracker. Couplers come before barker machine in the order of things, so all manuals have been set to fire exactly simultaneously, which they do.

 

At the moment, there are several prepared for ranks (I forget exactly which) so it probably is 40 stops at the moment. In any case, you could quite easily shave nine stops and possibly a manual off the organ to suit.

 

The voicing is utterly convincing in a French romantic style, without any reservations at all.

 

Those concerned about the technology need not be concerned - the build quality is first rate in every regard. I went round the innards and have seldom been so impressed, particularly at the mechanical combinations system - ingenious, solid and doubtless long-lasting. The Barkers and stop action etc are fired from their own pressurised air system on an entirely independent and industrial compressor-fed system - you can regulate individual components with absolute precision.

 

Anyway, enough waffle. If St John's college is 10% this good, it will be the finest instrument in Oxford (with the possible exception of Jesus College!)

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Also left over from the previous century was his providing for this organ a Pedal department (16,8,4,16,8,4) of 20 notes that possessed a ravalement for A (thus providing one 32ft note for those Premier Ton Cadences).

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

Oh, and something else which should be compulsory for all instruments is the providing of a ravallement for A and B natural, operated by some brass pedals somewhere, perhaps just for reeds, mixtures and 16' flutes etc. Perhaps with this kind of "backing", bottom C of the 32' flue (where it exists) would not be too disruptive if attached also to these pedals. Even on a smaller organ with no 32's (or even no reeds), having bottom B and A of just a Bourdon and Flute would make it possible to "get away" with all sorts.

 

I suppose an even better solution is the Grosvenor one - GG manuals, and four brass pedals operating those keys - then just include a manual double in the scheme, perhaps also with four extra Bourdon and Trombone pipes.

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IMHO the Aubertin/Gaillard instrument at Thann (which Google, stedfast in the faith) takes some beating. I thought it absolutely bloody incredible, actually, in every way imaginable.
Interesting that the 1955 Récit has been split into a Récit and a Grand choeur expressif. I doubt most British organists would think of a Swell Organ as a Grand choeur. It had me puzzled for a while anyway.
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However, try the Ulster Hall, Belfast, Dunster Parish Church* (Somerset), The Bute Hall (University of Glasgow), Usk Parish Church (Monmouthshire), Cirencester Parish Church, Saint John's College Chapel (Cambridge), Ripon Cathedral (Solo Orchestral Trumpet, H&H, 1996)....

I only have first-hand experience of two of these and I'm not sure that I would class either as good examples.

 

I accompanied an organ-only performance of Elgar's "Kingdom" in Usk perhaps some 20 years ago. I remember being underwhelmed by the instrument and do not recall the horizontal trumpet of being a stop of any excitement at all. However, it is a long time ago and my memory could be faulty. Perhaps the whole organ has been well restored in the interim.

 

Cirencester Parish Church, by comparison, I know extremely well having played many times and recently. I must say that (with the possible exception of the choir cremona you-know-where) I consider the fanfare trumpet to be probably the most unmusical and least useful stop on any organ that I know of. Its far louder than the rest of full-organ put together and fails to blend in the most spectacular fashion. Spending vast sums of money in extending this (in part FW) organ to 4-manuals, seems to me misguided. Its a dreadful instrument and a fresh start would be the best option IMO.

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Interesting that the 1955 Récit has been split into a Récit and a Grand choeur expressif. I doubt most British organists would think of a Swell Organ as a Grand choeur. It had me puzzled for a while anyway.

 

As far as I know it's almost entirely a new organ - what pipework has been kept has been altered very significantly, cutups lowered, lengthened to enable cone tuning, etc. All action is new and soundboards very extensively renewed.

 

I thought of the Grand Choeur as a combined Swell/Choir or possibly secondary Great, and the Recit as a solo or echo division. It does make very good sense to play.

 

Actually, I have thought of something to criticise. The expression pedals are arrayed thus - GC, Voix Humaine, Recit. Personally, I would have switched the VH one with the Recit one - you're almost always going to use GC and Recit together, and Recit and VH together, and there were moments when the present arrangement was inconvenient.

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As far as I know it's almost entirely a new organ - what pipework has been kept has been altered very significantly, cutups lowered, lengthened to enable cone tuning, etc. All action is new and soundboards very extensively renewed.
Fair enough. I was just going on the specification which on paper looks little changed from 1955.
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I've been scratching my head for other chamades, but I agree with Vox regarding New College - it's very exciting. On the recordings I have of Brian Runnett accompanying Britten from John's Cambridge, that would presumably go in the melting pot too.

 

Crediton - couldn't agree more.

 

Service - will ask.

 

Just tried to phone but no answer.

 

Scheme - one too many keyboards and 9 too many stops, but IMHO the Aubertin/Gaillard instrument at Thann (which Google, stedfast in the faith) takes some beating. I thought it absolutely bloody incredible, actually, in every way imaginable.

 

Here's the stoplist, just in case Google no good:

 

I Grand Orgue

Montre 16

Bourdon 16

Montre 8 (2 ranks in treble)

Bourdon 8

Flute majeure 8

Gamba 8

Prestant 4 (2 ranks in treble)

Flute a cheminee 4

Quinte 3

Doublette 2

Tierce 1 3/5

Progression III-IX

Cornet VI

Trompette 8

Clairon 4

 

II Positif

Montre 8

Flute traversiere 8

Bourdon 8

Prestant 4

Flute traversiere 4

Nazard 2 2/3

Flageolet 2

Carillon I-III

Plein Jeu III-IV

Clarinette 8

Tremblant

 

III Grand choeur expressif

Quintation 16

Principal 8

Cor de nuit 8

Flute ouverte 4

Octavin 2

Mixture IV

Bombarde 16

Trompette 8

Clairon 4

Tremblant

 

IV Recit expressif

Flute harmonique 8

Gambe 8

Voix Celeste 8

Flute Octaviante 4

Basson-Hautbois 8

Voix Humaine 8 (swell within a swell)

Tremblant

 

Pedale

Flute 16

Violon 16

Flute 8

Quinte 12

Prestant 4

Rinckenbasse 32

Ophicleide 16

Trombone 8

Clairon 4

 

All - pedal

I-II, III-I, IV-I, III-II, IV-II, IV-III

 

Now the ingenious bit - four mechanical (barker lever) memories, instantly settable at the console - each side settable individually. There are some photos of the church, console and innards here.

 

Action to all is barker lever, except IV which is tracker. Couplers come before barker machine in the order of things, so all manuals have been set to fire exactly simultaneously, which they do.

 

At the moment, there are several prepared for ranks (I forget exactly which) so it probably is 40 stops at the moment. In any case, you could quite easily shave nine stops and possibly a manual off the organ to suit.

 

The voicing is utterly convincing in a French romantic style, without any reservations at all.

 

Those concerned about the technology need not be concerned - the build quality is first rate in every regard. I went round the innards and have seldom been so impressed, particularly at the mechanical combinations system - ingenious, solid and doubtless long-lasting. The Barkers and stop action etc are fired from their own pressurised air system on an entirely independent and industrial compressor-fed system - you can regulate individual components with absolute precision.

 

Anyway, enough waffle. If St John's college is 10% this good, it will be the finest instrument in Oxford (with the possible exception of Jesus College!)

 

I realise that you have played this organ - and I have not; however, I think that I would still prefer the Positif to be enclosed and the Grand Choeur unenclosed. For that matter, the Récit-Expressif needs a Trompette and, ideally, a Bourdon (8p). On paper, it looks as if it was designed with the music of César Franck in mind - except that, crucially, it does not possess a Trompette.

 

I must confess that I cannot see the point of enclosing the G-C. Yes, it does add a degree of flexibility. However, it will also attenuate the power and timbre of the three chorus reeds. I further wonder whether, in fact, the Mixture IV (sitting, as it does, on top of a flute chorus) is about as useful as the former Plein Jeu which was added to the organ of S. Etienne, Caen. This stop was subsequently removed, since there was insufficient chorus material to provide a worthwhile blend.

 

Surely, a less complicated (and less expensive) scheme would to have put the 16p Bombarde on the GO, increased the size of the Récit-Expressif and then dispensed with the fourth clavier.

 

And, no - I have not forgotten that you have played this organ and I have not....

:D

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I realise that you have played this organ - and I have not; however, I think that I would still prefer the Positif to be encloed and the Grand Choeur unenclosed. For that matter, the Récit-Expressif needs a Trompette and, ideally, a Bourdon (8p). On paper, it looks as if it was designed with the music of César Franck in mind - except that, crucially, it does not possess a Trompette.

 

I must confess that I cannot see the point of enclosing the G-C. Yes, it does add a degree of flexibility. However, it will also attenuate the power and timbre of the three chorus reeds. I further wonder whether, in fact, the Mixture IV (sitting, as it does, on top of a flute chorus) is about as useful as the former Plein Jeu which was added to the organ of S. Etieene, Caen. This stop was subsequently removed, since there was insufficient chorus material to provide a worthwhile blend.

 

Surely, a less complicated (and less expensive) scheme would to have put the 16p Bombarde on the GO, increased the size of the Récit-Expressif and then dispensed with the fourth clavier.

 

And, no - I have not forgotten that you have played this organ and I have not....

:D

 

Well, I would have thought all that too. Then I watched M. Gaillard play Cochereau transcriptions for an hour, and suddenly it all became clear.

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For that matter, the Récit-Expressif needs a Trompette and, ideally, a Bourdon (8p). On paper, it looks as if it was designed with the music of César Franck in mind - except that, crucially, it does not possess a Trompette.
Despite David's comments I'm really having some difficulty persuading myself that it doesn't.

 

Where does the Grand choeur now sit volumewise relative to the other manuals? Is it louder than the Positif?

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Despite David's comments I'm really having some difficulty persuading myself that it doesn't.

 

Where does the Grand choeur now sit volumewise relative to the other manuals? Is it louder than the Positif?

 

We were all pretty much using everything coupled all the time - I didn't make any particular department-by-department comparison. Nigel A is doing a concert on it in a week or so - let's ask him when he gets back!

 

From a position of comparative ignorance with organs of this type, I made the assumption that the GC and Recit were to be treated as one manual, with two keyboards; certain effects (strings, flutes, hautbois) which are commonly used have a seperate keyboard, to enable the rest of the Recit (i.e. the GC) to be used seperately.

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We were all pretty much using everything coupled all the time - I didn't make any particular department-by-department comparison. Nigel A is doing a concert on it in a week or so - let's ask him when he gets back!

 

From a position of comparative ignorance with organs of this type, I made the assumption that the GC and Recit were to be treated as one manual, with two keyboards; certain effects (strings, flutes, hautbois) which are commonly used have a seperate keyboard, to enable the rest of the Recit (i.e. the GC) to be used seperately.

 

Well, fair enough - but this still seems to be an unnecessary complication. I am not sure that splitting a conventional large Récit on to two separate claviers would justify the expense. From the paper specification (and I realise that one cannot necessarily judge accurately from this standpoint) I cannot immediately identify a solo stop on one of the enclosed departments which could not be accompanied effectively by a stop on an open soundboard. Or, for that matter, vice versa.

 

That's certainly how it looks, comparing the new specification with the old one: http://perso.orange.fr/eisenberg/orgues/thannthi.htm

 

On paper, the old specification is actually not bad - apart, perhaps, from the lack of a GO reed chorus.

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Well, fair enough - but this still seems to be an unnecessary complication. I am not sure that splitting a conventional large Récit on to two separate claviers would justify the expense. From the paper specification (and I realise that one cannot necessarily judge accurately from this standpoint) I cannot immediately identify a solo stop on one of the enclosed departments which could not be accompanied effectively by a stop on an open soundboard. Or, for that matter, vice versa.

On paper, the old specification is actually not bad - apart, perhaps, from a GO reed chorus.

 

The old swell boxes are in use, as are (I think) some of the old soundboards, albeit fundamentally rebuilt. There is some old pipework, but lengthened (for cone tuning) and revoiced greatly. I won't seek to justify it any further but it would be interesting to see how Nigel gets on with it on the 29th.

 

Aubertin is not a conventional person, and all his instruments throw up interesting opportunities, musical rather than technical - the two-way coupler at Aberdeen and elsewhere, for instance.

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The old swell boxes are in use, as are (I think) some of the old soundboards, albeit fundamentally rebuilt. There is some old pipework, but lengthened (for cone tuning) and revoiced greatly. I won't seek to justify it any further but it would be interesting to see how Nigel gets on with it on the 29th.

 

Well, indeed. And, for the record, I would very much like to play it!

 

(Next time you are going over, let me know....)

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Nigel A is doing a concert on it in a week or so - let's ask him when he gets back!

 

 

Indeed, N is going to play (for the first time). I have heard so much about this organ from people all around the globe. I am most happy to be added to illustrious list of performers going there - but the paper specification means very little to me. I know that I shall be welcomed by 4 manuals and an array of stops. There it ends. I am not much bothered about combination systems either, nor by what is or isn't enclosed. But it is the sound that intrigues and inspires me to play. When on the 'circuits' in the world, you become hardened to stereotypes and particular idiosyncratic designs and extras. However, I do enjoy the challenge of playing not only repertoire but also improvising on instruments whose sound excites me to play.

Whilst I appreciate some of the heart-felt comments on this Power Board are totally sincere, I am often thinking that every instrument beyond our shores has to be evaluated by some, only alongside beloved British instruments:

1. that firstly are drearily positioned in the building so that we never hear their true worth because they were conceived in the first instance to accompany and thus be a constant subservient musical instrument to The Choir;

2. and secondly, landlocked to particular designs that were forged from blue prints in a different age without the scholarship and knowledge that so freely flows from shore to shore in this present time.

 

However, as far as this instrument is concerned (and yes - a most intriguing and thought-provoking paper specification, I must concede), I rely on the fact that the builder would not create a monster. If he does or has, he will tarnish any future reputation and at a stroke, diminish his order book. With M. Gaillard & Dr Aubertin, we are dealing with free spirits - I have known them now for 17 years. Nothing is ever done by them to be 'quirky'- except perhaps their driving! There is always a reason why they do what they do. For instance, the St John's Organ in Oxford has provided a goodly number of challenges - most notably the design of the roof which must cut through the casework and thus demand from the designer an ingenious solution to height and position of pipes and departments.

 

Therefore, I have faith in what they have created and eagerly look forward to my time in Thann for so many reasons. They firmly believe in integrity and the sound is all-important. If this instrument's raison d'être is purely for music, then my bags are already packed. My only concern is that when I have locked myself in, somebody else on the outside will unfortunately possess another key.

 

Best wishes for a good musical weekend.

Nigel

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2. and secondly, landlocked to particular designs that were forged from blue prints in a different age without the scholarship and knowledge that so freely flows from shore to shore in this present time.

 

I'd like to take that to task slightly; where does this scholarship and knowledge come from if it's not from exposure to instruments of a "different age", exploration and discussion of techniques of construction, design and voicing, and therefore performance? Is it really the case that these different ages had less scholarship and knowledge freely flowing than we do? Did innovation really begin in 1978?

 

I'm guessing that I've misread this, and hopefully you'll elaborate on this point some more; were you referring to any specific age?

 

However pointless it may seem to bandy around hypothetical specifications, it is even more pointless trying to stop it or sneer at it. At least someone may learn something or find something to think about.

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... Whilst I appreciate some of the heart-felt comments on this Power Board are totally sincere, I am often thinking that every instrument beyond our shores has to be evaluated by some, only alongside beloved British instruments ...

 

Not as far as I am concerned, Nigel. Although I like a number of British instruments, I have a clearly-stated preference for French instruments, particularly those by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. I have also been fortunate in having occasional opportunites to play instruments in other countries - both in cathedrals and a variety of churches - including Norway, Holland, Germany, France and Belgium. I like to think that I am therefore not entirely unaware of instruments from different cultures and of a different ethos. I would not expect them primarily to be suitable to accompany Stanford's Evening Canticles, in A - or Blessed City, for example. Neither would I be so gauche (or naïve) as to judge an instrument by Aubertin alongside the Walker organ of Bristol Cathedral, for that matter. In various posts, I have named a number of instruments which I admire greatly; consideration of the diversity in design and their tonal qualities will surely illustrate that primarily I require instruments to be musical - as opposed to simply being idealised objects on which I am able to accompany Anglican choral music, or play Howells or Vierne. In fact, I do not have a 'favourite' organ - just many on which I find it a great joy to make music.

 

However, I am not convinced that paper specifications are quite the waste of time which you have implied on at least one occasion. Surely every organ, be it a rebuild of an existing instrument or brand-new began its life on paper.

 

I am currently involved in a reasonably large-scale project on an instrument which is very close to my heart. I know the instrument extremely well - probably better than anyone else, in fact. However, I have spent much time, not only assessing the contribution made by each stop, but also working with paper schemes. Not simply the physical aspects, such as whether or not certain new ranks can be fitted into the organ case, but also whether or not a new stop would be better on the Positive or the GO, for example. Personally, I find this much easier to do on paper. At some point, of course it will be necessary to realise a physical incarnation of planned new stops; but until this point is reached, I can see no harm in my pieces of paper....

 

In any case, on a practical level, it is no different to me carefully working-out (and writing in) fingering on each and every new piece which my pupils learn - as opposed to simply suggesting they get the sounds right and just botch the fingering.

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In any case, on a practical level, it is no different to me carefully working-out (and writing in) fingering on each and every new piece which my pupils learn - as opposed to simply suggesting they get the sounds right and just botch the fingering.

 

Do you really write in fingering for your pupils? That seems a trifle didactic - shouldn't they be working it out for themselves, or at least with you? It's a good habit to get into, and once you're not there to do it for them, botching it is exactly what will happen, surely.

 

With regard to the comparisons - I think I sort of go along with Nigel's comments. It reminds me, if I may say so, of your assertion yesterday that Paul D would like the Minster organ because it's not in tune. There's much more to it than that, obviously, and I suppose everyone is inclined to compare what they're hearing with what they're used to hearing and finding similarities. I frequently play good organs, and then sigh and say I still prefer Romsey, which on one level is a subjective preference and on another level is an absolute nonsense because organ A is probably a totally different instrument, born of different ideals and created for different music, a different building, and a different age.

 

There's an old adage that you can't state factually that one painting or poem is better than another, because no two things set out to do the same; the only fair judgement that can be made is whether something achieves what it sets out to do. On the France trip I played lots of good organs, and one which I'd dearly love to say was close to being my favourite was ruined because it was supposed (according to its maker) to be a replica of a Silbermann, with which it had nothing whatsoever in common, tonally or physically (Silbermann didn't use Pozidrive screws or set plastic blower switches into his consoles as far as I know). It's a shame, because viewed as an organ suitable for playing North German music it was fantastic.

 

All I can say is that one day in a voicing shop will change your life - the ears become a hundred times more critical.

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one which I'd dearly love to say was close to being my favourite was ruined because it was supposed (according to its maker) to be a replica of a Silbermann, with which it had nothing whatsoever in common, tonally or physically. ... It's a shame, because viewed as an organ suitable for playing North German music it was fantastic.
In theory it should have been better for playing central German music!

 

Sorry - now sitting in pedant's corner with my dunce's hat on! :D

 

(Or maybe that was your point.)

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Do you really write in fingering for your pupils? That seems a trifle didactic - shouldn't they be working it out for themselves, or at least with you? It's a good habit to get into, and once you're not there to do it for them, botching it is exactly what will happen, surely.

 

God - yes! Have you taught a pupil and watched what happens when there is no logical fingering to act as a guide? This is particularly true of children. They have not experienced enough music, or encountered (much less overcome) sufficient technical problems that they have a fund of knowledge and experience on which they can draw. Another problem is that the pupil will use different fingering every time a particular passage is played. This is clearly inadvisable. Whilst one needs to have a sufficiently fluent and secure technique to be able to extricate oneself from a hole it is better, where possible, not to fall into the hole in the first place.

 

Naturally, I will get each pupil to try out the fingering (often two or three versions) and then select that which best suits the size of the pupils' hands, their mode of playing and simple practicality. It is only after some time of this spoon-feeding (for want of a better phrase) that I then begin to encourage the pupil to work-out their own fingering, whilst keeping certain practical guidelines firmly in mind.

 

It is a little like teaching A' level students to write four-part chorales in the style of J.S. Bach. In the first instance (except in very rare cases) experience has taught me that there is little point in suggesting that the student attempts to do this without me first carefully explaining not only the basic rules (and what to avoid) but actually completing one in front of them first - carefully explaning what I am doing and why. Of course, listening to a number of examples of Bach's own work is also helpful in developing a reasonable 'feel' for the style. However, if one were simply to give the average student a chorale-style harmonisation in which there were sections to complete (usually for the bar prior to a cadence) the result will almost certainly be clunky, awkward, with a number of consecutive fifths and octaves (or doubled major thirds*) which they did not notice. There is also likely to be little grasp of the style or 'feel' of the way Bach made the various parts move and relate to each other.

 

With regard to the comparisons - I think I sort of go along with Nigel's comments. It reminds me, if I may say so, of your assertion yesterday that Paul D would like the Minster organ because it's not in tune. There's much more to it than that, obviously, and I suppose everyone is inclined to compare what they're hearing with what they're used to hearing and finding similarities. I frequently play good organs, and then sigh and say I still prefer Romsey, which on one level is a subjective preference and on another level is an absolute nonsense because organ A is probably a totally different instrument, born of different ideals and created for different music, a different building, and a different age.

 

There's an old adage that you can't state factually that one painting or poem is better than another, because no two things set out to do the same; the only fair judgement that can be made is whether something achieves what it sets out to do. On the France trip I played lots of good organs, and one which I'd dearly love to say was close to being my favourite was ruined because it was supposed (according to its maker) to be a replica of a Silbermann, with which it had nothing whatsoever in common, tonally or physically (Silbermann didn't use Pozidrive screws or set plastic blower switches into his consoles as far as I know). It's a shame, because viewed as an organ suitable for playing North German music it was fantastic.

 

All I can say is that one day in a voicing shop will change your life - the ears become a hundred times more critical.

 

Well, I have, on occasion, visited the odd voicing shop. I am fairly fussy as it is, with regard to the tonal quality of an organ, the blend and balance, the timbre of ranks, the individual voicing of a pipe, etc.

 

My comment to Paul was partly in jest.

 

 

 

* I am aware that there are many cases in which JSB doubled major thirds, for example - although this was often at the point of an unaccented passing-note, or only briefly, on a quaver movement.

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* I am aware that there are many cases in which JSB doubled major thirds, for example - although this was often at the point of an unaccented passing-note, or only briefly, on a quaver movement.

Not to mention V - VI chordal progressions where doubled thirds on the VI are good practice. But why make excuses for JSB? He clearly didn't recognise any prohibition about doubled thirds except insofar as he used his ears to avoid the ugliest examples. Many of the doubled thirds in his chorales are blatantly weak to any objectively critical ear.

 

Who was the first theorist to advise against doubled thirds, I wonder? I'll bet it was post JSB.

 

One of the first things I learnt from Howells was how Brahms uses doubled thirds to obtain richness in his chords. Different aesthetic, I know.

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Not to mention V - VI chordal progressions where doubled thirds on the VI are good practice. But why make excuses for JSB?

 

This was not my intention, Vox. I simply wished to state that I was aware that there were occasions where this was not only unavoidable - but desirable!

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