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

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Even the british could have herited the Swellbox from Spain or Portugal, where it

existed probably before 1712 (St-Magnus London).

 

As I wrote some months ago, as far as I know the first swellbox was built in 1659. Specifically, by Fr. Joesph de Echevarría for the organ in San Diego de Alcalá Church in Eibar (Guipuzcoa)... again the Basque country.

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As I wrote some months ago, as far as I know the first swellbox was built in 1659. Specifically, by Fr. Joesph de Echevarría for the organ in San Diego de Alcalá Church in Eibar (Guipuzcoa)... again the Basque country.

 

Could we know a little more about this organ

and its builder?

Pierre

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

I don't think I would like to define "greatness," but I know what it is when I hear it.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps we are closer still to some sort of definition........that of depth and breadth, in addition to re-defining the boundaries and points of reference.

 

.

 

I don't suppose that is by any means a definition of greatness, but then, I am the sort of person who listens to an old recording of Sidney Torch playing the "Teddy Bear's Picnic," on a Wurlitzer, and then refers to it as "a great performance."

MM

 

 

I rather think that this tends to support the point I was making that the concept of "greatness in music" is not the same sort of purely objective measurement as applies to how much milk goes into a pint bottle, but combines elements of both subjectivity and objectivity. I do not have a problem with that, and I would certainly apply the adjective great to performances by Torch and Quentin Maclean, so we certainly have some commonality of approach.

 

I wonder whether Music is not too large a category to make the question meaningful, though I seem to remember you restricted your original question to organ music. To take an analogy from sport it seems to me entirely pointless to ask whether Stanley Matthews or Len Hutton was a great, or the greater, sportsman : on the other hand it is meaningful to compare Hutton, Bradman and Michael Vaughan as batsmen. Just as I think sport is too big a category to allow of sensible comparisons, so I think music is too big a category and that attempts to compare a Chopin nocturne with a Beethoven Symphony are not capable of producing any result that is worth the effort required to generate it. On the other hand, comparing Debussey and Chaminade might just be capable of shedding light on the question because there are enough points of comparison to make objective evaluation a possibility. But it is only a possibility. FR Leavis could not find a place for Dickens in his "Great Tradition" which suggests to me that in literature also the concept of greatness has a certain fluidity which scientists would find quite unacceptable.

 

BAC

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The greatest organ work that isn't by Bach? What an impossible question to ask. Before even beginning to come up with an answer that constitutes a single work, I would want to know what the questioner thinks is the greatest organ work that is by Bach. This would make coming up with a comparable response that much easier.

 

There, grumble out of the way and now for the fun part. Without having spent a huge amount of time considering what I think are the greatest non-JSB works, for my money possible contenders could include:

 

FRANCK - CHORAL III

I can still recall the sense of awe I felt when I first heard this work, and in particular the feeling of inevitability that Franck brings to the end of the Choral, and indeed his compositional output. It's as good a way as any to say 'That's all, folks!'. I do get annoyed when players rush the concluding bars - they need to give it time to pack its emotional punch.

 

DURUFLE - PRELUDE & FUGUE ON THE NAME 'ALAIN'

This was 'the' piece at the Oundle Summer School in 1986. Over the course of the week it was put under the microscope, taken apart bar by bar and put back together again, and yet we never tired of it. But then, I think the same would be the case with any of Durufle's organ works.

 

REUBKE - SONATA ON THE 94TH PSALM

The daddy. Nuff said.

 

Some people have mentioned here the Healey Willan Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue as a possible contender. On a sufficiently heroic organ, it can be a glorious wallow. But great music? :lol: Don't make me larf!

 

JJ

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The greatest organ work that isn't by Bach? What an impossible question to ask. Before even beginning to come up with an answer that constitutes a single work, I would want to know what the questioner thinks is the greatest organ work that is by Bach. This would make coming up with a comparable response that much easier.

 

There, grumble out of the way and now for the fun part. Without having spent a huge amount of time considering what I think are the greatest non-JSB works, for my money possible contenders could include:

 

FRANCK - CHORAL III

I can still recall the sense of awe I felt when I first heard this work, and in particular the feeling of inevitability that Franck brings to the end of the Choral, and indeed his compositional output. It's as good a way as any to say 'That's all, folks!'. I do get annoyed when players rush the concluding bars - they need to give it time to pack its emotional punch.

 

DURUFLE - PRELUDE & FUGUE ON THE NAME 'ALAIN'

This was 'the' piece at the Oundle Summer School in 1986. Over the course of the week it was put under the microscope, taken apart bar by bar and put back together again, and yet we never tired of it. But then, I think the same would be the case with any of Durufle's organ works.

 

REUBKE - SONATA ON THE 94TH PSALM

The daddy. Nuff said.

 

Some people have mentioned here the Healey Willan Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue as a possible contender. On a sufficiently heroic organ, it can be a glorious wallow. But great music?  :lol:  Don't make me larf!

 

JJ

 

 

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

 

 

Well, that's it then....the answer is all Garlic and Accordians (or perhaps Physharmonicas)!

 

Working on the assumption that Bach's genius was at its greatest when he was almost nakedly exposed, I would suggest that almost ANY of the organ trio-sonatas are his finest organ-works.

 

You can pull Durufle apart and place his music under the spotlight of course, and what you come up with is Tournemire, plainsong and a French tradition of seldom quite finishing fugues you started-out on.

 

It isn't that I dont regard Durufle's music as "great," it's just that I don't think it is great enough to qualify for the ultimate accolade.

 

The Reubke Sonata is certainly well up there somewhere, and I know how much I enjoyed learning it, even though I probably couldn't play it anymore; due to other pressures which keep me away from a strict musical regime.

 

However, my reason for asking the initial question, was not really to find out what is the greatest organ-work, but to gauge to predominent proclivities of British organists. I think, from the outset, I knew what the answers would be, and I haven't been proved wrong, even though I now know that I must listen to the Nielsen "Commotio" as a matter of some urgency.

 

It seems to me, that there is a certain divide between France/England, and the rest of mainland Europe, with only Bach holding it all together. Perhaps it says much about the UK to-day, that we are consumed by harmonic impressionism and fairly light-weight toccatas. Yet, if we go back a generation, there were great organists who wrestled with Reger and performed it regularly to an admiring, enthusiastic, music-loving public.

 

I have, in my collection of old BBC recordings, just TWO performances which totally blow me away; one by Simon Preston from the RFH (which is in the BBC archives), and another by Anton Heiller; both of whom happened to be playing Reger.

 

It's an economic thing really, because it gets a bit expensive hopping backwards and forwards across that stretch of water we impertinently call the English Channel.

 

I was just hoping that someone may be playing Reger these days in England, but obviously not.

 

I must ring "Easy Jet" again! :(

 

MM

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Just a silly question:

Is it permitted to prefer to hear a Physharmonika

than a Bach's Trio Sonata?

(Maybe it's a crime, I do not know...)

 

 

About this:

"It seems to me, that there is a certain divide between France/England, and the rest of mainland Europe, with only Bach holding it all together. Perhaps it says much about the UK to-day, that we are consumed by harmonic impressionism and fairly light-weight toccatas."

(Quote)

 

As an administrator of the biggest french Forum, all I can say is "harmonic impressionism" meets with some interest in french-speaking countries (including

thus Belgium and Switzerland). Debussy's transcriptions by Loïc Mallié for example,

while a certain "Lost cause" (H...... H.....s) begins to receive attention as well.

I think the division may just be a question of some years in advance for some

matters, and (of course) reversely for others.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Just a silly question:

Is it permitted to prefer to hear a Physharmonika

than a Bach's Trio Sonata?

(Maybe it's a crime, I do not know...)

 

About this:

"It seems to me, that there is a certain divide between France/England, and the rest of mainland Europe, with only Bach holding it all together. Perhaps it says much about the UK to-day, that we are consumed by harmonic impressionism and fairly light-weight toccatas."

(Quote)

 

As an administrator of the biggest french Forum, all I can say is "harmonic impressionism" meets with some interest in french-speaking countries

Best wishes,

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

Point 1) It will only be a crime to hear such things after July 1st in the UK, but as we don't have any, you should not get arrested.

 

Pont 2) (Re; Harmonic impressionism) Well, it WOULD be interesting to the French, wouldn't it?

 

:lol:

 

MM

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Just a silly question:

Is it permitted to prefer to hear a Physharmonika

than a Bach's Trio Sonata?

(Maybe it's a crime, I do not know...)

 

No, but it's impossible. You cannot prefer a stop to a piece of music. :lol:

 

Best,

Friedrich

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No, but it's impossible. You cannot prefer a stop to a piece of music. :lol:

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

This is quite correct!

I actually prefer to hear anything on a Physharmonika

because I do not like the Trio Sonatas.

Pierre

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Yes!

I do not like them :lol:

Pierre

 

Well, VH, there are people who even don't like cheese. I mean proper cheese, not the near-to-neutral Gouda-type kind. I even know one cheese-hater. A nice and intelligent chap otherwise. It is just one of those deep puzzlements of creation, like the flying ability of the bumblebee, I guess.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I suspect we all have a tendency to think that, to be a great work, an organ work would have to:

 

1. Be quite long

 

2. Get quite loud at some point, preferably the end

 

3. Be highly emotionally charged.

 

But why can't the Fantasy for Double Organ by Gibbons count as a great organ work, or, say, In Nomine XI by John Bull (the one with the time signature that makes it look like something from Mikrokosmos book 6)?

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I suspect we all have a tendency to think that, to be a great work, an organ work would have to:

 

1. Be quite long

 

2. Get quite loud at some point, preferably the end

 

3. Be highly emotionally charged.

 

But why can't the Fantasy for Double Organ by Gibbons count as a great organ work, or, say, In Nomine XI by John Bull (the one with the time signature that makes it look like something from Mikrokosmos book 6)?

 

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

 

This is possibly quite true Nick, which is one of the reasons I chose the Trio Sonatas by Bach.

 

Of course, John Bull was absolutely "cutting edge" during his own time, and inspired, among others, the great Sweelinck, who in turn inspired a whole school of North Eurpean organ-music.

 

The English keyboard players were enormously important to music history.

 

MM

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But why can't the Fantasy for Double Organ by Gibbons count as a great organ work, or, say, In Nomine XI by John Bull (the one with the time signature that makes it look like something from Mikrokosmos book 6)?
Quite. In my first reply my top choice was the fantasies and voluntaries of Thomas Tomkins. I'd certainly rank Gibbons is an equal contender. Neither was "cutting edge", but, then, neither was Bach.

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" Be highly emotionally charged."

(Quote)

 

That is indeed the big point!

Are we so sure the ancient music, for example

the -deservedly!- praised ancient english keybord music,

was emotionless like we believe it must be interpreted

today?

Is the "articulation" craze entirely genuine, or partly a

twentieth-century fancy?

I have attended so many organ recitals in the 70's that were

"Ti tuu ta pom-pom-tagadigada, period", entirely devoided of

any emotion, any gravity; we had chiffs and high-pitched,

over-loud mixtures instead. And the public vanished.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest acc
Is it permitted to prefer to hear a Physharmonika

than a Bach's Trio Sonata?

(Maybe it's a crime, I do not know...)

 

How about a Physharmonica in a Bach trio sonata?

 

(ducking to get out of line of fire)

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Worth a try before judging.

Pierre (hiding in a nuclear shelter)

 

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

 

Look here chaps, if the great Carlo Curley can record the G-major Trio Sonata on a Wurlitzer, using a Chrysaglot percussion for the RH, a 4ft Flute and Kinura for the LH and an 8ft pedal Cello, even a Physharmonika is more authentic "Baroke" than that.

 

:lol:

 

MM

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

 

This is possibly quite true Nick, which is one of the reasons I chose the Trio Sonatas by Bach.

 

Of course, John Bull was absolutely "cutting edge" during his own time, and inspired, among others, the great Sweelinck, who in turn inspired a whole school of North Eurpean organ-music.

 

The English keyboard players were enormously important to music history.

 

MM

 

 

John Bull spent the latter part of his life in the Low Countries, and apparently made the acquaintance of Sweelinck. Now - is it possible that any of his music was composed with pedals in mind? There are quite a few of his works with the cantus firmus in the bass, and with the parts spaced so as to be very difficult to manage with two hands only. They work quite well played as if they were Sweelinck, with a penetrating 8' stop on the pedal. But could this by any stretch of the imagination be considered authentic?

 

I would certainly be interested to hear what Nigel Allcoat has to say on this.

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John Bull spent the latter part of his life in the Low Countries, and apparently made the acquaintance of Sweelinck.   Now - is it possible that any of his music was composed with pedals in mind?  There are quite a few of his works with the cantus firmus in the bass, and with the parts spaced so as to be very difficult to manage with two hands only.  They work quite well played as if they were Sweelinck, with a penetrating 8' stop on the pedal.  But could this by any stretch of the imagination be considered authentic?

 

I would certainly be interested to hear what Nigel Allcoat has to say on this.

Well, I'm not Nigel, but...

 

Basically, who knows?

 

I don't know the pieces you have in mind, but a cursory study of Tudor pieces with contemporary fingering leads to the inevitable conclusion that notes (particularly those of cantus firmi) were not necessarily always held for the whole of their written value. This - and, of course, considerations of the short octave - may dispose of some apparent problems of stretch.

 

Two things are worth bearing in mind:

 

(1) There are pieces by Bull's English elders where a cantus firmus in the tenor or the treble seems to cry out for solo treatment, yet they cannot have been so treated since the organs of the time had but a single manual and no pedals.

 

(2) However exquisite Bull may have been with his fingers on the keyboard and in less mentionable places (the contemporary explanation for his flight is really quite lurid), he was nevertheless around 50 years old when he fled England. One could imagine that the (to him) novel use of two manuals simultaneously would have presented no particular problems, but how easy would he have found it at that age to acquire the independence between hands and feet necessary to cope with the wholly unfamiliar technique of pedalling? We can only guess, of course, but I doubt it would have come all that easily.

 

(3) - Oh, three things (this could get Pythonesque) - how do we know what, if any - of his music was written for the organ? As far as I can recall without going to look it up, even the Salve regina can't actually be proved to be organ music.

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.... if we go back a generation, there were great organists who wrestled with Reger and performed it regularly to an admiring, enthusiastic, music-loving public.

Are you sure? This suggests to me some Roman gladiatorial arena with a bloody-thirsty public who came to see a gladiatorial fight to the death between the organist and Max Reger's music, not caring whether the organist would get the better of Reger or vice versa.

 

No, in my view much of Reger's output for the organ is second-rate, turgid organ music that even most organists steer well clear of. But to say the UK is a Reger free zone is wide of the mark. David Goode seems to be something of a champion and has recently recorded a 3CD set of Reger's organ music on the Klais organ at Bath Abbey. I'm just not sure there's a market for it, though?

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Are you sure? This suggests to me some Roman gladiatorial arena with a bloody-thirsty public who came to see a gladiatorial fight to the death between the organist and Max Reger's music, not caring whether the organist would get the better of Reger or vice versa.

 

No, in my view much of Reger's output for the organ is second-rate, turgid organ music that even most organists steer well clear of. But to say the UK is a Reger free zone is wide of the mark. David Goode seems to be something of a champion and has recently recorded a 3CD set of Reger's organ music on the Klais organ at Bath Abbey. I'm just not sure there's a market for it, though?

 

 

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

 

Part the first:

 

There may be a grain of truth in this, but this WAS Yorkshire, where folks like to fight a good fight. Even now, Yorkshiremen tend to dominate the boardrooms of London-based companies, "Aye, an' we won't 'av any women on t'board lad."

 

As for Reger being second-rate and turgid, I'm just awfully glad that those second-rate organists such as Fernando Germani, Simon Preston, Anton Heiller, David Goode, Jos van der Kooy and Melville Cook (plus most of the organ-playing/loving population of Holland) didn't or don't agree with you.

 

As for the market for second-rate, turgid music, there shouldn't be a problem.

 

God knows, people have been playing and buying recordings of Guilmant and Vierne for donkey's years.

 

:lol:

 

MM

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

 

As for Reger being second-rate and turgid, I'm just awfully glad that those second-rate organists such as Fernando Germani, Simon Preston, Anton Heiller, David Goode, Jos van der Kooy and Melville Cook (plus most of the organ-playing/loving population of Holland) didn't or don't agree with you.

 

 

As also Brian Runnett, Virgil Fox, Carlo Curley, Rosalind Haas, Martin Haselbock and Germans too numerous to mention but then they would would n't they

 

As for the market for second-rate, turgid music, there shouldn't be a problem.

 

God knows, people have been playing and buying recordings of Guilmant and Vierne for donkey's years.

 

Now this is definitely out of order. Vierne possibly but Guilmant never!! You will be slanging off the Blessed Boellman next!!

 

:P

 

MM

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