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Peter Allison

"THE" Toccata

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I just wanted some thoughts on this please

. My father passed away the other day, up in Durham City. He was a simple village organist ( A psalms and hymn man, he called himself) for many years, since the early 50's. I got the order of service from my sister the other day, and always knew, as he had said more or less every time he heard it," I want THAT piece when they carry me out of church."  Imagine my dismay, when I read the music chosen was Bach, Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring, a great standard for such occasions, BUT he is having his "Requiem Mass" in the lovely setting of Durham Cathedral. So, with blessings from my sister, I have changed it to Widors Toccata from Symphony 5, as I believed that having a mighty instrument there, and  wanted to send him out triumphantly was a greater thing, than a solemn slow quiet walk out.

I was just wanting to know if I had done the right thing. The service is being played my a very good organist friend, of many years and he has played at the cathedral many times. 

Music for the Funeral of Derrick Allison

Durham Cathedral

Thursday December 20th 10.am

Music before;

Sonata No.2 op.65 Mendelssohn Bartholdy 1809-47

1.Grave, Adagio

2 Allegro Maestoso

3 Allegro Moderato

 

Adagio from Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Bwv 564 J. S. Bach 1685-1750

Musc after;

Toccata from 5th Symphony No. 5 op.42/1 Charles M

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My condolences to you and your family.

If that is what he wanted, then of course you have done the right thing. The musical choices you have are all very fine, and I’m sure a fitting way to remember your father. 

Incidentally I remember reading somewhere that the Toccata was originally written for a funeral, before Widor included it in his Symphony, but can find no source for it now, and have no idea if it is apocryphal. 

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My condolences also! 

My own father died just three years ago. He was an atheist and a certain amount of pressure was put on the family to have hymns and prayers, led by a 'visiting clergyman', who wouldn't have known him, at the Crematorium. In the end I put my foot down and insisted that we had no hymns and no prayers and no visiting clergyman!! Instead I and my brother-in-law talked, briefly, about Dad, his remarkable achievements in a long life, his successes and his failures! He would have wanted us to laugh and we did and we ended, because Dad played the trumpet, by listening to the last movement of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto during which I invited the assembled company to remember him, in their own way, while we listened to the recording. My second son did the committal, without mentioning God! He had done it hundreds of times but said that it was difficult. Several over-pious relatives were a little shocked and twittered (not twittered - but twittered - if you follow my meaning!) - but it was what Dad would have wanted and that's why we did it like that!

As David says above, if it is what your father would have wanted then, of course, you have done the right thing!  May he rest in peace.

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Given enough notice, most people want their own funerals to commemorate things they loved in life, and to send the attendees off with a bit of a smile if possible. All the more reason to respect their wishes. The music for the Durham funeral will be a joy for all who hear it.

My wife's aunt died recently, and the church funeral was followed by a short service at, as it happens, Durham Crematorium which, as an aside, has a striking and to my taste very attractive chapel. She went out to Sinatra, "New York, New York". As my thoughtful wife said, "Well, she wants to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep." Amen to that.

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2 hours ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

 

My wife's aunt died recently, and the church funeral was followed by a short service at, as it happens, Durham Crematorium which, as an aside, has a striking and to my taste very attractive chapel. She went out to Sinatra, "New York, New York". As my thoughtful wife said, "Well, she wants to wake up in a city that doesn't sleep." Amen to that.

You mention, Durham Crem, my dad was on the rota of organists there, and was there, all told for over 26 years, until last year 

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I know  a lot of people say the Widor is passe, it might be, but my dad was unable to ever play it, so every time I was with him, and it was played, he always said "thats what I want" etc, this is  why it   HAD to have it played, and on a nice organ to boot. When I first mentioned it to my sister, her reply was "whatever"

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I add my condolences to those already expressed. If your father liked and wanted the Widor, it is irrelevant whether it is passé or not. Also, given a choice of having it played on Durham Cathedral organ or an ordinary church organ I think I can probably guess which he would have preferred.  I am sure you have done the right thing.

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Of the 3 funerals I have attended this year, two of them finished with "the Widor" (the 3rd was secular).  Like David Surtees, I recall somewhere that it was originally written with a funeral in mind.  Some might find it inappropriate but I think it uplifting, life must go on, we have said our farewells and most people retire to a hotel afterwards for a meal and a friendly chat.

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I think I have commented along these lines before but at our church, we go firmly along with the hope in the Resurrection, and therefore, the closing music is always a 'confident' sounding piece - think Bach Great E minor or B minor. So, 'confident' rather than 'happy' - I have been asked to play the Widor but I think that is just a little too much, but all these things are a matter of personal taste and preference. 'Jesu joy', though pleasant enough, wouldn't fit the mould for me. I hope the service goes well.

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May I also add my condolences to those expressed above.

There is nothing wrong with a loved one being played out to his choice of music at all so I would say that it is better to respect the wishes of the deceased and therefore that you have done the right thing.

Dave

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Peter, I think you were absolutely right (and inspired) in your choice of music.

I tend to go for things like the St. Anne or the Passacaglia of Bach, sometimes Karg-Elert's "Nun danket" - in other words, something with a degree of dignity but triumphant rather than mournful.

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Listening to Widor’s own performance of the Toccata at St Sulpice (1932) at the age of 88, recorded by HMV and playable on YouTube is a revelation - the performance time 6 minutes 59 seconds!   All kinds of reasons are advanced for this lengthy time: his age, tracker action, ‘primitive’ recording equipment, etc., etc.   The result has tremendous dignity and grandeur.

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6 hours ago, David Drinkell said:

Peter, I think you were absolutely right (and inspired) in your choice of music.

I tend to go for things like the St. Anne or the Passacaglia of Bach, sometimes Karg-Elert's "Nun danket" - in other words, something with a degree of dignity but triumphant rather than mournful.

David, you are absolutely right in mentioning "triumphant rather than mournful", I think a funeral, whatever the music, is a great and final opportunity for many, to connect with what the deceased loved in life, plus nearly everyone who will be attending knew him as an organist and lover of organ music (apart from some), and will smile with appreciation,, whist they remember 

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My mother left the church to Widor when she was married and was most insistent that she should leave the same church to the Widor when she died. A professional concert organist very kindly played for the funeral, thus taking my mind off the thought of having to play such a challenging piece myself on such an occasion, though on second thoughts had I played it at the pace Widor was recorded as playing it (and what a magnificent recording it is too) I could have probably managed it note perfect.

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I’m one of those who whilst I like most of Widor’s output, have become averse to his famous Toccata. Unfortunately it has been flogged to death and become a hackneyed classic. Yesterday I attended the Requiem mass of a dear friend, a former Benedictine nun, in the Pugin chapel of Oulton Abbey near the town of Stone. Its modest two-manual organ has not an array of reeds (thankfully) to do the said Widor Toccata any form of justice. Instead, the most talented young George Gillow played a selection of Trio Preludes based on Sarum chant hymn melodies by Josef Henriksen and R V-W’s “Rhosymedre” at the start and finished the occasion with Howells’ “Master Tallis Testament.” Today, George heads back to Toulouse to enjoy the delights of the cathedral’s Cavaille-Coll where he is doing a further stint as an organ scholar.

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I tried to provide a link to Widor’s 1932 recording, with the question “Does this change your view?”, but I’m afraid I am not up to the technology.  

Although most people attribute Widor’s slow tempo to his advanced age (and other reasons) someone has perceptively commented that he recorded other works at around this same period with ‘conventional’ speeds, suggesting that, even allowing for such other factors as the acoustic at St Sulpice, the almost seven minutes was intentional.  

I seem to recall that Fernando Germani once said that movements from the organ symphonies shouldn’t be played out of their context.  Is it, perhaps, possible that this movement, so often played in isolation, has come to be a kind of ‘show-piece’ - and isn’t played with the respect due to its composer - or as he intended it to be played?  

I haven’t checked it, but there is a modern recording on YouTube which claims a performance time of four minutes 58 seconds, two minutes and one second less than Widor’s!  

I don’t know whether the service in Durham Cathedral has yet taken place, but I am sure we all send best wishes to Peter Allison, and for the fitting tribute to his father in that wonderful place.

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2 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

I seem to recall that Fernando Germani once said that movements from the organ symphonies shouldn’t be played out of their context.  Is it, perhaps, possible that this movement, so often played in isolation, has come to be a kind of ‘show-piece’ - and isn’t played with the respect due to its composer - or as he intended it to be played?  

Very wise words by Germani, I think and, with respect to your second sentence, I'm sure of it. There was an anecdote posted here once (over which, probably fortunately, Google has drawn a discreet veil) about a well-known organist commenting on the speed of another organist's performance and adding, "But I bet he can't play it as fast as me." Forum members will be sick of me perpetually complaining how speeds are generally increasing these days, but it's surely true (and nowhere more so than in the currently fashionable treatment of Baroque music). It's not just organists who no longer seem confident in communicating readings that are broad and noble. I'm sure it is due to competition and everyone's awareness of it through recordings. I believe that modern trends are set by modern recordings, but when you're recording a piece that has been recorded a hundred times before, how are you going to find something new and purchase-worthy to say?

Here is Widor's performance. Some comments to the video are ill-informed. In fact Widor ends at the speed he begins and maintains for the most part; he does slows down somewhat for the section on the Récit, but picks up again for the recap. That speed is cr = 96, except for just the last few bars when he increases to 99. The makring in both editions on IMSLP is cr = 118.

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Regarding Germani's comment on the context of a piece, I have only once heard one of Widor's symphonies played live as a whole, no 6 here in Voorburg (http://www.oudekerkvoorburg.nl/historie/het-marianne-orgel.html) as un-Widor an organ as you could hope to find given its age, but a with a well thought out performance adapted to the organ, necessary when you need two page-turners/registrants. This showed me two things, at least: listening to how the performer has adapted a piece to an instrument of a very different style makes you listen quite attentively, and hearing the whole work reveals the ebb and flow of ideas through the movements, setting them in their context. It's very enjoyable, although quite demanding, especially for a general audience. Recently I've been travelling a lot, so with my new noise-cancelling headphones I've been profiting from the enforced idleness by listening, inter alia, to some complete de Grigny masses and Clérambault suites, without any distractions. I have few analytical abilities musically, but my appreciation of this music, which I'm a great fan of anyway, is increasing for understanding the context better.

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On 19/12/2018 at 18:20, Rowland Wateridge said:

I tried to provide a link to Widor’s 1932 recording, with the question “Does this change your view?”, but I’m afraid I am not up to the technology.  

Although most people attribute Widor’s slow tempo to his advanced age (and other reasons) someone has perceptively commented that he recorded other works at around this same period with ‘conventional’ speeds, suggesting that, even allowing for such other factors as the acoustic at St Sulpice, the almost seven minutes was intentional.  

I seem to recall that Fernando Germani once said that movements from the organ symphonies shouldn’t be played out of their context.  Is it, perhaps, possible that this movement, so often played in isolation, has come to be a kind of ‘show-piece’ - and isn’t played with the respect due to its composer - or as he intended it to be played?  

I haven’t checked it, but there is a modern recording on YouTube which claims a performance time of four minutes 58 seconds, two minutes and one second less than Widor’s!  

I don’t know whether the service in Durham Cathedral has yet taken place, but I am sure we all send best wishes to Peter Allison, and for the fitting tribute to his father in that wonderful place.

he had his requiem mass at Durham cathedral, this morning. and it was played quite well, A video of it is on my Face book page some where. As to how long it was, am not sure, as was walking behind the coffin at the time, but stayed near the crossing just to hear the full resources of the H & H :-)

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16 hours ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

Regarding Germani's comment on the context of a piece, I have only once heard one of Widor's symphonies played live as a whole...

Not specifically about Widor, but following the same argument: 
Some years ago I heard Jeremy Filsell play all six *Vierne* Symphonies in one day at St George's Windsor (1 & 2 in the morning, 3 & 4 after lunch, and 5 & 6 after Evensong (for which he sang as a Lay Clerk). And this was all *free of charge*. A very worthwhile day out.

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Daniel Moult is playing the complete Widor Symphonie V in this recital programme at St Andrew’s Church, Surbiton on Saturday 19th March at 7.30 pm.  Admission is £10; free to under 16s and full-time students.  The church is about a half-mile from Surbiton railway station.

J S Bach: Toccata in F  BWV 540 (i) 
W A Mozart:  Three pieces from the ‘Londoner Skizzenbuch’ 
W A Mozart:  Fantasia in F minor/major  K594
Franz Liszt:  “Resignazione” 
Camille Saint-Saëns:  Prelude and Fugue in B Major  
Harvey Grace:  “Resurgam” (Fantasy-Prelude
J S Bach (arr. Liszt):  Introduction to Cantata 21  [BWV 21]
Charles-Marie Widor:  Symphonie V:
  (1)  Allegro vivace  (2)  Allegro cantabile  (3)  Andantino quasi allegretto           (4)  Adagio  (5)  Toccata

Daniel Moult is also leading a workshop for young student organists at the church the following day, Sunday 20th.  For all details of both events, see the entry on organrecitals.com under 19th March.

 

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