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Music To Avoid Treading In

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There are organ works we all share a great love or affenction for, which I think we could safely assume would include the works of J S Bach.

 

However, as recent discussions have demonstrated, it is often the case that one man's meat may be another man's poison. For instance, I am currently working on the Petr Eben "Sunday Music," which one board member dislikes enormously. For my own part, I wouldn't even cross a chancel to play anything by Howells, when others would engage in a rugby scrum if offered the chance to play it at somewhere like Liverpool Cathedral after Evensong.

 

Is it simply "horses for courses," personal preferences or simply that we are all wired differently?

 

Of course, there are degrees of not liking things. There can be a sense of mild irritation, a sense of distaste or even go to the extremes, with allergic reactions, apoplexy and feelings of nausea. I would regard my feelings towards Howells' organ-music as hovering somewhere between distaste and allergic reaction.. In the event, I usually find an excuse to leave the building for a while.

 

There are two organ works (one of which may well be a transcription) which I detest above all others; even more than I dislike Howells. The first is that ridiculous set of variations on "America" by Charles Ives, which pales into insignificance alongside "Volumina" by Ligetti.

 

Which organ-music would board-members least like to tread in?

 

MM

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Anything by Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (1892-1988).

 

Apparently, at a recital in Sloane Square some years ago, Thomas Trotter was playing a piece by Sorabji and, due to pressure of time, he had not learned two of the pages of the Sonata (?) - so he got his page-turner to turn two pages at once, at the appropriate moment. No-one noticed - which is hardly surprising; it would be difficult enough if one were looking at the music, never mind merely listening to it. Whilst I am deeply impressed at the technical virtuosity and mental acuity required in order to perform these works, I cannot help wondering if it is not a little like attempting to fit wheels to a tomato.

 

Actually, MM's thread title is distinctly apposite for music by this composer. Generally all the pages look as if they had been produced by a spider which trod in a puddle of black ink, walked onto a clean piece of manuscript paper - and promptly suffered a series of grand mal seizures.

 

The other possibility is that the compositional technique employed by Mr. Sorabji involved holding a dead cat (still in the stages of rigor mortis) in each hand, sitting at a piano, plonking the cats up and down on the keys in a random pattern - and then writing down the result.

 

I am sorry if this sounds harsh, but I happen to think that there is a naked head of state walking around in front of his subjects.

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Guest Lee Blick
The first is that ridiculous set of variations on "America" by Charles Ives

 

I dunno, it might be useful if you wanted to make a point at the end of a Remembrance Sunday service or something.... :blink:

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I would have to agree that nothing comes to mind that is quite as bad as the IVES Variations. Foul. Absolutely FOUL.

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I would have to agree that nothing comes to mind that is quite as bad as the IVES Variations.  Foul.  Absolutely FOUL.

 

Oh, I don't know. It's good for practising twinkly toes and limp wrists. I heard Simon Preston play it in Ireland (Dun Laoghaire). He was practising his raconteurial skills bewteen pieces, and happened to mention that "it's the tune we know as "God save the Queen"." To which came the very audible response, "No queens in Ireland, dear."

 

In the event, the groundlings loved it.

 

:blink:

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I would have to agree that nothing comes to mind that is quite as bad as the IVES Variations.  Foul.  Absolutely FOUL.

I'm with you there. Controversial, but one of my great allergies is Dupre - the early Preludes and Fugues are good, Choral and Fugue, Second Symphony and Tombeau de Titelouze - but things like Evocation and the Symphonie Passion (that Nativite movement especially), the Op 36 Ps and Fs and just about all the rest seem to me an utter waste of time. I am probably alone in this...

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Detest ... Well, this is a strong word. Detest I found myself, now and then, pop music when it is really, really stupid. That includes much of the stuff that is played in churches by praze bands.

 

When it comes to to organ music, there is some I could live without. "Volumina", however, is definitely not among them.

 

Many pieces from Franck's "L'organiste" are way below the composer's actual ability, and are dreadful to listen to.

 

Some Rheinberger movements I find profoundly harmless.

 

I tend to react annoyed to some of the "processional"-type pieces of American offspring, and could never bring myself to like Rorem, Rawsthorne or Yon a lot. Just too much simplistic stuff there. Rots the brain.

 

And there are the "chamber" pieces by Dupré, for strings and organ (Trio, Quartet, Cello Sonata), in which I can't find a single note of good, or even tolerable, string writing. In this respect, Rheinberger was miles ahead of Dupré.

 

All in all, I tend to be annoyed by rather than detest certain music. Wherever I sense stupidity in music, my patience melts away like, right now, the icicles outside my window under the sun of March.

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I'm with you there. Controversial, but one of my great allergies is Dupre - the early Preludes and Fugues are good, Choral and Fugue, Second Symphony and Tombeau de Titelouze - but things like Evocation and the Symphonie Passion (that Nativite movement especially), the Op 36 Ps and Fs and just about all the rest seem to me an utter waste of time. I am probably alone in this...

 

Nope, I'm with you on this. To be honest, I'm not particularly fond of much of that period in French organ music - I'm sure that others on here are now sucking their teeth in scorn at me :blink:

 

On a related note, I've recently been watching a DVD about Cochereau's life, which is very good, but the most interesting thing for me is the opening, which shows a number of newspaper headlines and TV bulletins about PC's death.

 

To my mind, here in the UK, the only way an organist would get on the TV news would be to do with charges of paedophilia. I appreciate that there's 20+ years between PC's death and the present day, but I don't recall ever seeing TV reports of famous organists dying. Is the culture that different in France with regards to the organ, or was PC just *so* famous?

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Oh, I don't know. It's good for practising twinkly toes and limp wrists. I heard Simon Preston play it in Ireland (Dun Laoghaire). He was practising his raconteurial skills bewteen pieces, and happened to mention that "it's the tune we know as "God save the Queen"." To which came the very audible response, "No queens in Ireland, dear."

 

In the event, the groundlings loved it.

 

:)

 

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

 

 

That's wonderful! :lol:

 

There was a famous incident during a performance of "Messiah" in my home town, in the days when the large organ at the Methodist Church was blown by hand by young lads earning pocket money.

 

In the middle of the "Hallelujah Chorus," a fight broke out between the two lads, the lead weight at the console moved ominously towards empty (like a Jaguar does on the motorway) and the organ started to wheeze badly.

 

Just as the chorus reached that moment of silence before the final cadence, the organist was heard to shout, very audibly, "Pump ya buggers....PUMP!"

 

 

:blink:

 

MM

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To my mind, here in the UK, the only way an organist would get on the TV news would be to do with charges of paedophilia. I appreciate that there's 20+ years between PC's death and the present day, but I don't recall ever seeing TV reports of famous organists dying. Is the culture that different in France with regards to the organ, or was PC just *so* famous?

 

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

 

Well, that's England to-day, isn't it?

 

I don't recall that there was a single mention in the local press or on TV when the Yorshireman, Sir Fred Hoyle died....arguably the finest mind after Einstein when it came to cosmology.

 

Still, they erected a statue.....in Cambridge!

 

This was the man who bounced me on his knee when I was four years-of-age, and I would read "The Times" newspaper to him, much to his delight. (I was very forward in those days!)

 

When I asked if he believed in God, he replied, "I can't see him in my telescope, but I'll tell you who I DO believe in."

 

"Who?" I asked.

 

"Flash Gordon," he replied.

 

Perhaps ALL English organists should be buried at Westminster Abbey in an unmarked mass grave.

 

MM

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I heard Simon Preston play it in Ireland (Dun Laoghaire).

:blink:

 

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

 

There's another wonderful story about Simon Preston, when he was arguing with some lady or other, whom he knew well.

 

Their conversation became quite heated and the lady started to stumble over her words as she became more and more agitated.

 

Eventually unable to bear more, she grabbed her handbag, rose dramatically and screeched, "Oh, press off Piston!"

 

MM

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I'm with you there. Controversial, but one of my great allergies is Dupre - the early Preludes and Fugues are good, Choral and Fugue, Second Symphony and Tombeau de Titelouze - but things like Evocation and the Symphonie Passion (that Nativite movement especially), the Op 36 Ps and Fs and just about all the rest seem to me an utter waste of time. I am probably alone in this...

I find some disorientation in Dupré's later writing. Of the op. 36 Preludes and Fugues, the A-flat major piece is wonderful, all the more when you hear it played by Dupré himself (he recorded the op. 36 set at Saint-Sulpice). The C-Major piece remains a bit silly.

 

There is much simplistic stuff in later Dupré I don't like so very much. There seems to lurk some "hand-crafted" ideology to lurk from behind those pieces that gets in the way of the music.

 

With the "Symphonie-Passion" and the "Evocation", I believe it depends strongly on how they are played. The "Nativité" movement is, admittedly, quite naïve, and Messiaens "Bergers" are way above it (btw, Dupré recorded that Messiaen movement at Saint-Sulpice as well). The first movement of the "S-P", on the other hand, I find very well written and exciting.

 

The end of the "Evocation" I never found satisfactory, until I heard Nicolas Kynaston's recording at Westminster Cathedral. He made it sound entirely plausible.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I remember a time in the mid 80's, I was unemployed for a few weeks, so to fill time in I used to go to the library in Durham City and get out the organ lp's. All sounded ok until I played one by a french chappy called Messien, I am so sorry, but I could not get by head round it at all, and even now I find it very difficult to "get into". Am I alone?? :blink:

Peter

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

 

There's another wonderful story about Simon Preston, when he was arguing with some lady or other, whom he knew well.

 

Their conversation became quite heated and the lady started to stumble over her words as she became more and more agitated.

 

Eventually unable to bear more, she grabbed her handbag, rose dramatically and screeched, "Oh, press off Piston!"

 

MM

 

 

Jane Watts, I believe.

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I remember a time in the mid 80's, I was unemployed for a few weeks, so to fill time in I used to go to the library in Durham City and get out the organ lp's. All sounded ok until I played one by a french chappy called Messien, I am so sorry, but I could not get by head round it at all, and even now I find it very difficult to "get into". Am I alone?? :lol:

Peter

 

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

 

Well, this is the French for you!

 

They take harmony to such extremes of dissonance because they can't be bothered to write fugues, and in the unlikely event that they start one, it usually degenerates into a toccata after about the third entry of the subject.

 

Messaien claimed to use "chordal counterpoint," which sounds like an excuse for one who was linearly-challenged IMHO.

 

Talk about "Mule(t) over Titulaire!"

 

:blink:

 

MM

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Apart from the B minor and G minor Preludes and Fugues, Dupré leaves me stone cold, but I wouldn't put him anywhere near the bottom of my heap.

 

Now the Ives variations: yes, certainly. But if that's the organ equivalent of eating a Macdonald's, surely Lefébure-Wely is the equivalent of what heaves onto the pavement an hour or so later. Whenever I hear anyone playing him I get the feeling that the lot has fallen unto me in a fairground.

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Apart from the B minor and G minor Preludes and Fugues, Dupré leaves me stone cold, but I wouldn't put him anywhere near the bottom of my heap.

 

Now the Ives variations: yes, certainly. But if that's the organ equivalent of eating a Macdonald's, surely Lefébure-Wely is the equivalent of what heaves onto the pavement an hour or so later. Whenever I hear anyone playing him I get the feeling that the lot has fallen unto me in a fairground.

My antipathy stems from being compelled to learn the Dupre Variations in a fortnight when I was an Organ Scholar - no choice. Never got over it!

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Anything by Mendelssohn leaves me feeling short-changed, apart from the C minor Prelude and Fugue which seems to be far better than any of the other organ works.

 

As a fan of Louis Vierne, I have to admit that Symphonie No.5 seems to ramble along aimlessly to my ears. Especially the 4th movement.

 

Sorry......... :blink:

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Anything by Mendelssohn leaves me feeling short-changed, apart from the C minor Prelude and Fugue which seems to be far better than any of the other organ works.

 

As a fan of Louis Vierne, I have to admit that Symphonie No.5 seems to ramble along aimlessly to my ears. Especially the 4th movement.

 

Sorry......... :blink:

Thanks for the reminder Graham - I'm with you on Mendelssohn too. I find it terribly sanctimonious.

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Hmmm, I wonder. I first heard this story some 26 years ago, and in the version I heard, the Jane concerned was JPS.

 

I think you may be on the right lines in that I doubt very much that it was Jane W.

 

I heard this story about the same time as you - I remember exactly where, when (well the year anyway) and who told me and it predates Jane W's time at the Abbey. This makes it very unlikely, if not impossible, to be she who said it. (Also we are great friends from our time together at college, and I would be very surprised if a) she ever stumbled over her words and B) lost her cool enough to say that!)

 

I seem to remember that the person who was alleged to have said it was not an organist, but my memory may be faulty or even my informant may have exagerated her part in all this.

 

Doesn't stop it being a good line to have used though!

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For my money, the Schumann 4 Sketches (which seem to be popular recital fare in London these days) deserve a place near the top of the list. In fact, I can think of a few other examples of work by 'mainstream' composers dredged up by organists (often student pieces or simple exercises), perhaps in an effort to attract broader audiences? Misguided, I think.

 

Oh, and I've just remembered that dreadful Kenneth Leighton Passacaglia-type effort. Yawn.

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All sounded ok until I played one by a french chappy called Messien
I like early Messiaen a lot, but I part company with him around the Messe de la Pentecôte. After the Livre d'orgue it all sounds exactly the same. I can't see the musical point at all.

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For my money, the Schumann 4 Sketches (which seem to be popular recital fare in London these days) deserve a place near the top of the list.

 

Oh, and I've just remembered that dreadful Kenneth Leighton Passacaglia-type effort. Yawn.

 

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

 

WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

My beloved "Four Sketches?"

 

You can hear me playing the F-minor one on "Organs & Organists online" at Halifax PC.....sorry about the pregnant moment as I tried to get a pneumatic piston to spring into life at the time of the recital.

 

Schumann was a GREAT COMPOSER you know.

 

:angry:

 

MM

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