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The Greatest Organ-work That Isn't By Bach?

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All things considered....style, harmony, counterpoint and effectiveness, which is the greatest non-Bach organ-work ever written.

 

This surely isn't a difficult question...is it?

 

:o

 

MM

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All things considered....style, harmony, counterpoint and effectiveness, which is the greatest non-Bach organ-work ever written.

 

This surely isn't a difficult question...is it?

 

:o

 

MM

Dead heat - Martin Passecaille; Nielsen Commotio; Alain Trois Danses; Messiaen Messe de la Pentecote. For my money, anyway....

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Dead heat - Martin Passecaille; Nielsen Commotio; Alain Trois Danses; Messiaen Messe de la Pentecote.  For my money, anyway....

 

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

 

Crumbs!

 

I've never heard the first two. :o

 

MM

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What about Elgar Sonata in G or reubke sonata?

 

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

 

 

This is interesting, in so much as they're both "one trick ponies" when it comes to major organ-works.

 

I always feel that the Elgar is not terribly organistic in parts, and whilst I know that Elgar was an organist, I wonder if he ever really had a "feel" for the instrument?

 

His orchestral writing was absolutely magnificent, and for someone who was largely self-taught, the harmony & counterpoint is quite stunning, but I just wonder if a little less orchestral-style organ-writing might have reaped greater rewards.

 

The Reubke is, of course, something quite extraordinary, IMHO, completely eclipsing anything his tutor, Feranc Liszt, wrote for the instrument. I always think that if only Reubke had inserted a bit of 3-time somewhere, it might have improved the slightly four-square flow of the work, but that's only a tiny criticism of a quite extraordinary work.

 

I must like it, because I went to all the trouble of learning it, but I think it would "take a while" to get it back into my repertoire; largely beacuse I just don't play on an organ suitable for it.

 

I think this would be a major entry in my top-ten.

 

MM

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For me, it still is Reger's op. 73 variations. Never fell out of love with it.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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For me, it still is Reger's op. 73 variations. Never fell out of love with it.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

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

 

That's what I like to see.....a bit of German substance and depth.

 

:)

 

MM

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

 

That's what I like to see.....a bit of German substance and depth.

 

:)

 

MM

Nielsen and Martin will provide you with plenty of those, MM (even though one's Finnish and the other Swiss )...they really are great works. If we we're allowed ten I'd certainly go with Durufle Veni Creator - fantastic stuff. Will go away and have a little think about the other five I'm allowed...the Elgar is wonderful to listen to but I'm not sure I like playing it much. Reubke's a strong contender too.

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

 

That's what I like to see.....a bit of German substance and depth.

 

:)

 

MM

Always at your service, MM. That's what I am here for ;)

 

sjf1967: Nielsen, I believe, was a Dane. I too am fond of that piece of ultra-Buxtehude. A while ago, I kept looking for a recording of Commotio on a romantic organ; to no avail. My favourites among the recordings on modern instruments are Kevin Bowyer's (Odense cathedral, Marcussen) and Christopher Herrick's (Turku cathedral -- very bright though the organ may sound, the playing is just superb).

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Always at your service, MM. That's what I am here for :)

 

sjf1967: Nielsen, I believe, was a Dane. I too am fond of that piece of ultra-Buxtehude. A while ago, I kept looking for a recording of Commotio on a romantic organ; to no avail. My favourites among the recordings on modern instruments are Kevin Bowyer's (Odense cathedral, Marcussen) and Christopher Herrick's (Turku cathedral -- very bright though the organ may sound, the playing is just superb).

 

Best,

Friedrich

sprondel - you're quite right of course, Nielsen's Danish. Was associating the piece in my mind with Sibelius, which is no excuse - thank you.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
All things considered....style, harmony, counterpoint and effectiveness, which is the greatest non-Bach organ-work ever written.

 

This surely isn't a difficult question...is it?

 

:)

 

MM

 

 

 

Sorry - it's an exceedingly hard question! To qualify, your proposed work would have to survive constant repetition, virtually ad nauseam and a barrow-load of poor performances. It should be playable in several different styles (some of them outrageous - think of Jean Guillou's Bach!) and still survive as enjoyable.

 

I reckon that is a tall order.

 

Most idiomatic organ music composer after Bach, for my money - Franck.

However, I don't think there is any Franck work I could bear to listen to quite as often as any of the best 40-50 pieces of Bach.

 

Mozart's F minor Fantasia seems to survive almost everything. Mind you, this might not qualify since it was not really written for the organ!

 

Couperin takes some beating, but it has to be on a sympathetic organ. Bach seems to survive almost any instrument.

 

Sweelink is a lot of fun - mind you, there is no piece longer than about ten minutes in his entire oeuvre.

 

My wife recommends the Te Deum by Jeanne Demessieux. I might have to plump for L'Ascension..... or Hallelujah, Gott zu loben....? Guy Weitz's second symphony? or...Langlais' Fete.... Ronde Francais by Boellmann.... Praeludium in F sharp minor - Buxtehude.... Prelude on the name 'Albert Schweitzer' by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco... Prelude in A minor on a chorale by Bach - Repighi....... Litanies?

Perhaps a bit sad, but not much by way of a British contender comes to mind. Thinking on.....Howells' Master Tallis is awfully good, also Sarabande for the 12th day of any October (from his Partita). Mind you, hear these often enough on a bad organ and they wouldn't remain lasting favourites, would they? Some Whitlock is really very good indeed, but top position?

 

Face it, Bach was a supremely hard worker and a genius. You're setting such an impossible challenge!

 

I've got it!!!

Brahms' Fugue in A flat minor.

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Sorry - it's an exceedingly hard question!

 

Most idiomatic organ music composer after Bach, for my money - Franck.

However, I don't think there is any Franck work I could bear to listen to quite as often as any of the best 40-50 pieces of Bach.

 

Mozart's F minor Fantasia seems to survive almost everything. Mind you, this might not qualify since it was not really written for the organ!

 

 

My wife recommends the Te Deum by Jeanne Demessieux.  I might have to plump for L'Ascension..... or Hallelujah, Gott zu loben....? Guy Weitz's second symphony? or...Langlais' Fete.... Ronde Francais by Boellmann.... Praeludium in F sharp minor - Buxtehude.... Prelude on the name 'Albert Schweitzer' by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco... Prelude in A minor on a chorale by Bach - Repighi....... Litanies?

Perhaps a bit sad, but not much by way of a British contender comes to mind.  Thinking on.....Howells' Master Tallis is awfully good, also Sarabande for the 12th day of any October (from his Partita). Mind you, hear these often enough on a bad organ and they wouldn't remain lasting favourites, would they?  Some Whitlock is really very good indeed, but top position?

 

Face it, Bach was a supremely hard worker and a genius. You're setting such an impossible challenge!

 

I've got it!!! 

Brahms' Fugue in A flat minor.

 

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

 

A lot more there I've never heard, in spite of the fact that I have twelve large drawers-full of organ music....I'm beginning to feel that I don't really know much about organ-repertoire at all!

 

The Mozart K608 (one of my favourite warhorses) may not have been written for the church-organ, but only a little while after being written, it was made available as a four-hand piano edition, I understand. In fact, wasn't it written by commission, for the purposes of providing a musical backdrop to an illuminated shrine to some deceased military man (he may have been a nobleman).? I even know that the man who made one of the organ-clocks was a certain Fr.Primitivus Niamiche, who may have been Polish or Hungarian or somesuch.

 

It is a wonderful work, and really so very organistic as to qualify as part of "our" repertoire, I think.

 

The mention of Respighi fascinates me....I've never even heard of the work, let alone listened to it, but as I like Respighi's orchestral-works, I shall have to investigate further.

 

I LIKE your wife's exceedingly good taste for suggesting the Reger "Hallelujah! Gott zu loben!".....not over-long and brilliantly written, I think.

 

Of all the Howell's works, I least like hating the "Master Tallis' Testament," which has a certain "something" indefineable.

 

However, as with Vaughan-Williams, if he was given a decent tune, he could almost make music out of it!

 

 

:)

 

 

MM

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My desert Island piece would be Percy Whitlocks C Minor Sonata, its been one of my favourites ever since a polish friend played it in a concert at Durham Cathedral a few years ago and I managed to do a recording of it

Peter

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Bach apart, how much organ music would honestly qualify as being really up there with the greatest music ever written? I'm struggling already.

 

Commotio which seems to me just to ramble on and on and on. And on...

 

Likewise Duruflé. It's fine if you have the scores in front of you. Otherwise his music sounds distinctly shapeless. The suite is an exception and is exceedingly fine indeed. But is it up there with the greatest? I can't quite see it.

 

The Elgar Sonata is certainly great, but it doesn't really make good organ music. To all intents and purposes it's an orchestral piece that bypassed the full score version and went straight to the organ arrangement.

 

Franck? Very, very nearly, especially in the three chorales, but he doesn't quite cut the mustard.

 

The Schumann BACH fugues. Some very good stuff in there.

 

The Brahms A flat fugue. Got to be another contender.

 

Alain's Trois Danses. A definite maybe.

 

Buxtehude's Praeludium in G minor BuxWV 149 (the one that begins in 12/8 time). A supremely satisfying piece - though I've never quite worked out how to make the last couple of bars convincing.

 

You know, I reckon it's got to be Thomas Tomkins's fantasias and verses.

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Guest Lee Blick
Bach apart, how much organ music would honestly qualify as being really up there with the greatest music ever written? I'm struggling already.

 

Quite. Organ music generally compares badly to the solo greats of other instruments. Bach aside, organ composition doesn't really cut the mustard. Probably part of the reason why the art of organ playing is disappearing in this country.

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Bach apart, how much organ music would honestly qualify as being really up there with the greatest music ever written? I'm struggling already.

 

Commotio which seems to me just to ramble on and on and on. And on...

 

Likewise Duruflé. It's fine if you have the scores in front of you. Otherwise his music sounds distinctly shapeless. The suite is an exception and is exceedingly fine indeed. But is it up there with the greatest? I can't quite see it.

 

The Elgar Sonata is certainly great, but it doesn't really make good organ music. To all intents and purposes it's an orchestral piece that bypassed the full score version and went straight to the organ arrangement.

 

Franck? Very, very nearly, especially in the three chorales, but he doesn't quite cut the mustard.

 

The Schumann BACH fugues. Some very good stuff in there.

 

The Brahms A flat fugue. Got to be another contender.

 

Alain's Trois Danses. A definite maybe.

 

Buxtehude's Praeludium in G minor BuxWV 149 (the one that begins in 12/8 time). A supremely satisfying piece - though I've never quite worked out how to make the last couple of bars convincing.

 

You know, I reckon it's got to be Thomas Tomkins's fantasias and verses.

 

I do disagree about both Commotio and Durufle's works.

 

It's only quite recently that I have acquired any Durufle scores but I have loved his music for decades without seeing a dot of it. The Prelude and Fugue on the Name of Alain would be up there with the best for me. It was a test piece at the semi-finals at St Albans in 2003. I didn't tire of it even after hearing it played five or six times in two two days.

 

Commotio is structured like a massive Buxtehude praeludium, complete with two fugues; I find it a fastinating work with enormous drive. I will grant you that Nielsen's harmonic language takes some getting used to, and his works can seem rather directionless until you get used to the idiom; but once the penny has dropped - wow!

 

I agree with you, however, about the Elgar sonata: the middle movement has some lovely moments. but the piece as a whole doesn't make sense on the organ. I also agree in putting Buxtehude well up the list - perhaps the C major BuxWV 147.

 

Messiaen's L'Ascension would get a vote from me as well, especially all that purple in the third movement :)

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I'm going to plump for Guilmant's 8th Sonata/2nd Symphony -- that opening movement is so sublime in the right hands, the scherzo is a delight and the finale with the double fugue is superb....

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MM this is an almost impossible question to answer! (As you no doubt are aware.)

 

It depends on what day it is, for a start - and what I am currently learning.

 

Are we allowed to include transcriptions of recorded improvisations (which have been subequently published)?

 

If not, I do like the Reubke - Reger, too. Personally, I find the fugue from his fantasy on Wachet Auf! hard to beat - however often I play it - the chords on the last line are simply wonderful.

 

Then there are symponies by Vierne and Widor. The Choral from Vierne 2 takes some beating as an individual movement. Then there are the Finales from Nos. 6 (Vierne and Widor!).

 

The Duruflé Veni Creator - mmmm, yes! We shall probably do what we have done occasionally at Pentecost; that is, to have a motet, final hymn and sortie all rolled into one. I play the first of the variations, then the Gentlemen (and the congregation, of course!) sing the first verse of the hymn. We proceed like so in an orderly fashion, until the end when, after the last verse and Amen have been sung, I play the final variation as the sortie at the end of Mass.

 

Of course, the 'Worship Committe' hate it - but after the drivel to which they subjected us on Laetere Sunday, I do not personally give a rats' ass....

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Nicolas de Grigny

Franz Liszt

Julius Reubke

Max Reger

Some pieces from Sigfrid Karg-Elert

César Franck

Johannes Brahms

Charles Tournemire

Olivier Messiaen

Sir Edward Elgar

Herbert Howells

Jean-Louis Florentz

 

All share a place near to Bach

(And all save the first could be played on the same kind of modern organ...Still

to be made, yes, but possible.)

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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

The Mozart K608 ... In fact, wasn't it written by commission, for the purposes of providing a musical backdrop to an illuminated shrine to some deceased military man (he may have been a nobleman).? I even know that the man who made one of the organ-clocks was a certain Fr.Primitivus Niamiche, who may have been Polish or Hungarian or somesuch.

I think that would rather be K 594 which was written in 1790 immediately before K 608. The "other" F-Minor Fantasia starts out and ends with a lamento-bass figure, and has some fanfares in the middle section that were meant to point to the deceased's successes. I am not sure if K 608 was a mourning piece as well.

 

I think K 608 boasts the most exciting counterpoint next to Bach's own. It is as dramatic as it is moving.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Then there are symponies by Vierne and Widor. The Choral from Vierne 2 takes some beating as an individual movement. Then there are the Finales from Nos. 6 (Vierne and Widor!).

 

 

hmmmm.... at first I thought it seems wrong to put Widor up there - may be so, but I reckon the last two symphonies are highly inspired. The Gothique I have listened to repeatedly for years and it does not pall. I'm told the Romane is even better, so I must get around to it!

 

Both these works were composed with particular organs in mind (Rouen and Toulouse), and I am sure they work best on those instruments. This seems to be a rather unique feature of organ, as opposed to other instrumental music.

 

JJK

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Quite.  Organ music generally compares badly to the solo greats of other instruments.  Bach aside, organ composition doesn't really cut the mustard ...

This is just too true. Organists and organ geeks tend to cherish in Widor's or Vierne's symphonies, but there are but a few movements in these that are, to my ears, in fact great music, able to hold up to contemporary instrumental music.

 

Maybe there is a misconception in that some people think organ music answers to different criteria than other music. There in fact is nothing in Widor's op. 13 that lifts its head above mediocricy, even though some pieces are fun to listen to. Guilmant's sonatas -- no, there are no symphonies there, and just putting it into an orchestral score doesn't make a sonata that -- are mostly well written, some even elegantly; but there is more music in any of Schumann's piano pieces than in Guilmant (to whom Schumann was an idol).

 

In the Reubke sonata, I find greatness in that he understood writing for the organ as well as improving on the Lisztian sonata model. There are few organ pieces that can claim to be equally cutting-edge. Brahms' A-flat minor fugue is definitely among them, the Elgar as well, and the Franck Chorals (but only few of the other organ works). Almost all of Reger's organ music is, of course. Someone said that, had Jehan Alain lived to write more music, Messiaen would have been an easy contender for him to pass.

 

With cutting-edge you get a problem as soon as Duruflé is brought into play. Some call his music impressionist; but he was born ten years after Debussy had completed the Prélude pour l'après-midi d'un faune, and spoke his first words when La mer was created. So I admit that cutting-edge is not the only criterium for great music (which, to my ears, much of Duruflé's is); but many great pieces definitely are cutting-edge.

 

But then -- were Bach's?*

 

Who started this? MM? This is one question to get depressed over!

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

* I think they were, but many think they weren't.

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Guest acc
All things considered....style, harmony, counterpoint and effectiveness, which is the greatest non-Bach organ-work ever written.

 

This surely isn't a difficult question...is it?

 

Not to me: my vote goes straight to Widor's Symphonie Romane.

 

Widor's overall production is not that great (compared to that of some other organ composers), but that one symphony is in a category light-years away from some of his earlier stuff.

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