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Great European Organs


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Hi all,

I seem to remember that the "Great European Organs" series (Priory Records?) was discontinued a few years back. But an idle few minutes at work today lead to me thinking up this question.

If Priory Records decided to record one final disc in the "Great European Organs" series and gave you the chance to record the disc in a venue of your choice:
a) Where would you choose to record it?
b) What would be the one piece you would have to include as part of your line up?

For me the answers would be:
a) Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Cologne (Germany)
b) Toccata-Prelude on "Von Himmel Hoch" (Garth Edmunson) for which I would use the transept and nave organs simultaneously.

Two organs both by Klais (Transept: IV+P/102; 1949/2002; Nave : III+P/53; 1998) both of which can be played from the transept console.

I will be interested to see what other people would do.

HTIOI,
Dave

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Just for the fun of it:

1.  Regensburg Cathedral (Rieger 2009)

2.  Introduction, Passacaglia & Fugue - Healey Willan

The above would sound great at Cologne, but I prefer the tone of the Regensburg Organ, which also has a 'Tuba Episcopalis' as well as full chamade battery.  In case anyone wonders - no, I can't play the Willan - I'm learning it, but it will probably take the rest of my life to crack it!  In the meantime, if I could persuade Rachel Mahon or David Briggs (who both play it extremely well IMHO) to stand in for me at Regensburg, I would be a very happy man!!

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I am tempted to say either Canterbury or York Minster - (but failing either of those for some reason or another) - St Paul's Cathedral... and Widor Symphony 6 or Dupré Prelude and Fugue in B major. 

And if Priory were to do one more DVD... I'd like a new one for Canterbury or York.

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Until Martin Cooke’s choices, it was noticeable that all the organs were in Germany.  Like Martin, I propose nominating a very grand instrument closer to home:

1.   St George’s Hall, Liverpool, Henry Willis 1855 and grandson HW III 1931

2.   ‘Lied Symphonie’, Flor Peeters or Choral No 3 in A minor, César Franck played by Ian Tracey

Admittedly the organ needs to be restored to its former glory, although on the day it still sounds magnificent - a truly heroic instrument.  As a third repertoire option, Vierne Symphonie 3, but actually the choices are limitless.

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1 hour ago, Martin Cooke said:

I am tempted to say either Canterbury or York Minster - (but failing either of those for some reason or another) - St Paul's Cathedral... and Widor Symphony 6 or Dupré Prelude and Fugue in B major. 

And if Priory were to do one more DVD... I'd like a new one for Canterbury or York.

I agree about York or Canterbury.
Yes, Priory have done both before (I have both), but of course since then both organs have been rebuilt/'done up', so they are likely to sound quite different.

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14 minutes ago, John Robinson said:

I agree about York or Canterbury.

Yes, John, but what about repertoire?  I’m a bit doubtful about an organ already in the series being repeated, but don’t want to be contentious.  Undoubtedly two very fine instruments and I would like to be able to hear both again in the flesh.  Now rapidly approaching the age of 80, that could be difficult.  I first heard York about 68 years ago, played by Francis Jackson, and still an unforgettable experience!

Of course, I would have been shot down in flames if I had nominated Winchester!   

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SGH has already been included in GEO, in 1990. Perhaps it was at its worst at this time; certainly sounds it, spluttering and wheezing its way through Dupre no.1 and a Cochereau transcription at the hands and feet of David Briggs. The evidence on the new Fugue State set suggests that it's in much better shape now. 

There's a couple of Hyperion discs which offer plenty of Dupre st St Paul's, including the P&Fs, and they're amply good. They're also, tragically, not repeatable, given who was sitting at the console.

There's a couple of Motette discs, one of transcriptions, of Winfried Boenig throwing the Cologne organs around which I think are largely benchmark in terms of playing and recording quality. There is lots of simultaneous use of everything, to massive effect. However for me the Cologne point is somewhat moot as that type of overall effect is far exceeded at Ingolstadt, already in GEO but not the best recording quality.

I have doubts as to whether the Edmundson as played by Andrew Lucas at St Paul's or the Willan as played by FJ at York will ever be beaten, either in terms of playing or recording quality. 

For me, the glaring absences in GEO are Holbrook and the Groningen Martinikerk. In the flesh both are staggering, but in very different ways. However, Groningen is very well served by another Fugue State set, amongst other recordings.

On the Lied Symphony, it seems a pity - given how superbly he plays it - that IT hasn't recorded the whole thing; just movements 3 and 5 on the Priory DVD. On that recording the conclusion of the toccata suffers from a badly-timed recording level reduction, presumably to create some headroom for the final tutti. 

 

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2 hours ago, swalmsley said:

SGH has already been included in GEO, in 1990. Perhaps it was at its worst at this time; certainly sounds it, spluttering and wheezing its way through Dupre no.1 and a Cochereau transcription at the hands and feet of David Briggs.

Apologies, hoist on my own petard!  I wasn’t aware of David Briggs’ CD at SGH and have never encountered one.  The organ has benefited from the loving ministrations and care of David Wells in recent years and, as I said, on its day can sound magnificent.  It really ought to be a matter of national pride for this historic instrument to be fully restored.  The old LP recorded by Caleb Jarvis demonstrates how we should be hearing it, and a fine varied programme highlighting its versatility in a variety of repertoire as well.  

I have a recollection of listening on radio, long ago, to a re-opening recital at SGH by Margaret Cobb (then organist of St Lawrence Jury, City of London).  Can anyone else confirm this?

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I have a copy of the SGH disc which I bought from Priory using the service by which they produce a CD to order for a customer. It took a couple of weeks, cost a bit more than usual and the insert and sleeve notes are photocopies but the sound quality is excellent as is always the case with Priory. The organ sounds magnificent if a little short of breath at times and the CD is a welcome addition to my collection.

it might be worth checking to find out if Priory still offer this service - I didn't know that they did but contacted them to ask if they perhaps had any copies of the disc in a drawer somewhere. Their response was very kind and helpful.

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Ok... if I had to choose a 'new' organ for a GEO I think I'd like to hear St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, post the recent Nicholson work and I'd be happy to hear some William Harris or Sidney Campbell which ought to sound 'at home' there. 

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"A little short of breath at times" is a rather kind interpretation of that recording, I feel!

For fans of SGH, quite a lot of the aforementioned Fugue State DVD/CD set is based around it; with a reasonable part of the documentary as well as the expected stop tour and performances. Even for that alone it would be worth the outlay, but there is much more to enjoy.

I've never heard the organ sounding so good, either in person or on recordings, as it does on that set. One can only imagine the splendour that a sensitive and full restoration could produce.

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On 28/03/2021 at 12:20, Martin Cooke said:

Ok... if I had to choose a 'new' organ for a GEO I think I'd like to hear St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, post the recent Nicholson work and I'd be happy to hear some William Harris or Sidney Campbell which ought to sound 'at home' there. 

Were he still alive, I would be interested to hear what Campbell would say about what has been done to the organ he loved so much—from a safe distance. If you want to hear his music sounding absolutely 'at home', search out the late John Porter's CD of music by Campbell, Harris and others. In the Campbell pieces, Porter's playing captures the composer's style perfectly. When I first heard it I could really imagine the old man himself playing. Nevertheless, quite a bit of Campbell's organ music was conceived to be played on traditional Cathedral organs, especially the (old) organ of Canterbury Cathedral—although the exact style of voicing he had in mind is perhaps a moot point. His 'Variations on Vexilla Regis' (of which there's a fine performance on YouTube by John Pryer) seems, from the registration instructions and publication date, to have been conceived with Coventry Cathedral in mind. 

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