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Jonathan Thorne

The "mounted" Cornet

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I would be interested to know what type of pipe work various organ builders would use for constructing a 5 rank cornet. This has always intrigued me, because every builder does his own thing. Having read about and visited a Cavaillé-Coll organ in Paris, I have noticed that Cavaillé-Coll used a ‘Chimney Flute’ or rather ‘Bourdon à cheminée’ for the 8ft basis’s of his Cornet’s, but for the Grande Orgue at St. Etienne in Caen for example he uses a canister flute instead for the whole rank. I would like to know what type of pipes would be used for the rest of the Cornet. I have seen one new organ with a canister flute for the 8ft and then open metal flutes for the rest of the pitches.

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Most organ builders use a stopped flute for the 8ft rank, although some do use chimney flutes which one occasionally sees here in the UK. The rest of the ranks are usually open pipes of wide scale. There is some conjecture as to why such stops are “mounted”. In England one occasionally sees the stop mounted on the casework and in other instances mounted on a block above the soundboard. Such placing does of course assist in getting the sound out of the organ, but it also has practical uses in that by mounting the stop ion either of these ways, it takes up less space on the soundboard itself. This sort of cornet is not to me confused with the mixture stop, usually with a Sesquialtera bass which is described elsewhere in this discussion board.

 

John Pike Mander

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I've always been under the impression that, the 4ft rank in the composition of a Cornet was usually a principal and everything else was flute, although I can't say I've ever looked at one closely enough to observe this. Is it a case where there are no hard and fast rules, as such?

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The 4ft rank can be a principle and indeed there are no hard and fast rules. Sometimes the ranks other than the 8ft one are made from tapered pipes as well, although this is largely (if not exclusively) found on some neo-classical organs.

 

John Pike Mander

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Just to add a couple of thoughts on the rationale behind "mounted" cornets, at least in French classical organs. In addition to the space saved on the soundboard and improved projection, it also made the cornet more melodic. Since the soundboards were generally laid out diatonically (C and C sharp sides) or with the notes grouped so that adjacent pipes were a third apart, mounting the cornet was a way to re-arrange the pipes chromatically and allow them to "draw", i.e. influence each other. However undesirable in other stops, this makes a mounted cornet more vocal in sound. Also, the pipes stand on their own mini-soundboard, with the five pipes for each note standing on a groove fed by a single conveyance from the main chest. This probably also improves blend.

 

I'm not sure how much (if any) of this holds true for English organs, or indeed if any mounted cornets (as opposed to the "sesquialtera in the bass to meet a cornet in the treble" variety) have survived.

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Is it not the case that the chromatic layout was a consequence of the Cornet being in the Récit which, being of short compass in the classical French organ, tended to be chromatic anyway? In my experience, chromatically planted pipework is always a disadvantage for the tuning and I am not sure it does much for the blend to be honest.

 

John Pike Mander

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One theory, which does seem plausible at least, is that French classical builders, who, as we know, had terrible taste in some things (like the "tremblant fort") liked the unsteadiness of the winding which comes from the long conveyances they often used. It does seem possible; that slight gurgling is not unpleasant, I find.

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The french baroque organ is something extremely codified.

Each Cornet had its role:

 

1)- The "Cornet décomposé" or "Jeu de tierce" with one slide for each rank, in "big" organs even sometimes in 16' on the Great (5 1/3'-3 1/5', or 3 1/5' alone, very often with 2 2/3' and 1 3/5' as well), ever 2 2/3' 1 3/5' on the Positif de dos plus very often Larigot 1 1/3', is intended for detail use, pitted against a reed on another clavier in polyphonic music. The Great's jeu de Tierce was on the left hand, the Positif's played with the right hand. (It is to be remembered the french flue chorus with mixtures is *not* intended for polyphony).

 

According to french standards, these "jeux de Tierce", tough of course flutey, are of relatively small scale, the 4' and 2' ranks being often principals (Prestant and Doublette). The large-scale "Quarte de Nazard" 2' is rarely provided.

 

2)-The solo Cornet, on one slide but normally not mounted ("Posté",fr) is the one on the Echo division (or sometimes already "Récit" or "Récit-Echo", but we are already towards the end of the 18th century there with builders like Isnard or François-Henri Clicquot).

 

3) -The mounted Cornet itself, actually a "Grand Cornet", is the one to be find on the Great -where there is already a "Jeu de Tierce"-. Its purpose is to sustain the reeds in the treble in the "Grand-jeu". The "Grand-jeu" is: anything but the principal chorus (Montre 8' Bourdon 8' Prestant 4' Doublette 2' Fourniture Cymbale) which may never be mixed with the Tierces. According to its purpose, the mounted Cornet covers only the upper part of the compass. French reeds being of the "free" type, and the baroque Trompettes even more, are extremely rich in upper partials. These are of course less audible in the treble by far, hence the classic balance problem between bass and treble to be even more difficult to solve with this kind of chorus reeds. So the Cornet was the solution, and its place just beneath the "Montre" (case pipes) gave it a commanding position to help for that purpose.

 

Who actually invented the Cornet we do not know. The french organ derived from the flemish one (hé hé hé, let's blow our own Trumpet!) which was introduced in France by Titelouze. The flemish organ used the Cornet more the english way, as a detail/solo stop in music the kind of voluntaries. Interestingly, the flemish organ, up to the ninetheenth century (Van Peteghem, for instance, built classic flemish organs up to about 1850) did still know the Sesquialtera (2 2/3'- 1 3/5'), which was scaled as principals. This never existed within french organs. So the mounted Cornet may have been a creative solution found by french builders confronted to the problem of balancing bigger organs than before. Later, in the romantic organ, the Grand Cornet and the mixtures were fusionned (under wathever name on the stop-knob) to allow for the tutti.

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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Yes -- my point entirely. Since the Récit and Écho divisions were treble only, the pipes were already close together, often on a simple chromatic chest. The mounted corned was found on the Grand Orgue, and sometimes in very large organs on the Positif. Perhaps to produce the same kind of melodic lift, the tubing solution allowed pipes that would otherwise have been dotted about the treble ends of the chests to be brought closer together. Unlike the Jeu de Tierce, the ranks could not be used separately and could therefore be voiced for a single purpose -- to produce a gorgeous cornet sound.

 

Apparently the Jeu de Tierce and the Cornet were considered as two entirely different beasts, even though nominally made up of the same pitches, since they are sometimes specified as contrasting solo voices in the repertory.

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