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Registering Buxtehude/bach On An English Organ


mrbouffant
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Learned friends. I'm currently working on the Buxtehude F# minor Praeludium and a couple of Bach chorale preludes.

 

My instrument in the shires is very English: lots of open diapasons, a soft but colourful choir division etc.

 

I would like to effectively register these pieces but I'm not sure where to start from first principles. Do you know of any treatises/articles/general advice on translating what might be the "correct" German Baroque approach into an English context?

 

Thanks in advance for your help.

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Learned friends. I'm currently working on the Buxtehude F# minor Praeludium and a couple of Bach chorale preludes.

 

My instrument in the shires is very English: lots of open diapasons, a soft but colourful choir division etc.

 

I would like to effectively register these pieces but I'm not sure where to start from first principles. Do you know of any treatises/articles/general advice on translating what might be the "correct" German Baroque approach into an English context?

 

Thanks in advance for your help.

 

It is almost impossible to give any hard and fast rules - ultimately you have to be the judge of what does and doesn't "work" in terms of registration.

 

One thing you have to realise is that you *don't* have a 17th or 18th century German organ at your disposal and trying to make it sound like one probably isn't going to be very successful.

 

As a general rule (and there are, of course, exceptions) you won't want the sound to be too "thick" or "heavy" so that probably means being economical in the number of stops that you draw. Frequently "less is more" - you could quite effectively practice (and even perform) the Buxtehude F# minor on 8' + 4' on the manuals coupled through to the most appropriate 16' that you have on the pedals - start with something like that and work from there.

 

You can also experiment with playing stops either up or down an octave from their normal picth either by judicious use of octave and unison off couplers or by just playing up an octave on the keyboards. Listen to the sound critically and see if it works. Sometimes drawing the manual doubles and playing up an octave can be very effective (but sometimes it can sound really awful)

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
It is almost impossible to give any hard and fast rules - ultimately you have to be the judge of what does and doesn't "work" in terms of registration.

 

One thing you have to realise is that you *don't* have a 17th or 18th century German organ at your disposal and trying to make it sound like one probably isn't going to be very successful.

 

As a general rule (and there are, of course, exceptions) you won't want the sound to be too "thick" or "heavy" so that probably means being economical in the number of stops that you draw. Frequently "less is more" - you  could quite effectively practice (and even perform) the Buxtehude F# minor on  8' + 4' on the manuals coupled through to the most appropriate 16' that you have on the pedals - start with something like that and work from there.

 

You can also experiment with playing stops either up or down an octave from their normal picth either by judicious use of octave and unison off couplers or by just playing up an octave on the keyboards. Listen to the sound critically and see if it works. Sometimes drawing the manual doubles and playing up an octave can be very effective (but sometimes it can sound really awful)

 

 

I would endorse this advice 100%

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Learned friends. I'm currently working on the Buxtehude F# minor Praeludium and a couple of Bach chorale preludes. ... I would like to effectively register these pieces but I'm not sure where to start from first principles. Do you know of any treatises/articles/general advice on translating what might be the "correct" German Baroque approach into an English context?

Maybe a glance at our "stylus phantasticus" thread would be useful. The F#-Minor is a very typical example for a piece in that manner. Variety is wanted, as well as sudden changes of mood, colour, dynamics, and pace. Do not hesitate to use drastical means to make Buxtehude's point -- which is, to move the soul of the listener. Any North-German praeludium that does not make your listeners' jaws drop, at least at some point in the piece, did miss that point.

 

The beginning of the F#-Minor sounds good, e. g., if played on a big Rohr Flute; from there, you could change to Diapasons 8 + 4 for the pedal point passage, with an edgy pedal sound. Fugal passages often sound good on flutes, toccata sections with some brighter sounds. Sometimes using a mixture without an 8-foot diapason, based on just a Gamba or Stopped Diapason plus Principal, can be a good effect, at least for a short while. The concluding toccata sounds quite attractive if played as a rush-and-sparkle of mixture sound over a dark reed; texture not being of much importance here any more. Of course I do not know if this would work with the kind of instrument you play.

 

Maybe some contributors know Jean Guillou's recording of Bach's D-Minor toccata in Saint-Eustache. The Van den Heuvel organ is as far from a Buxtehude organ as any, but Guillou really got the knack of the "stylus phantasticus". Be it in good or bad: Your jaw just drops.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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This is very interesting, tough I would be carefull with the upperwork with

a romantic organ.

Often they are too strong by far to allow 8-4-2, 8- Mixture and the like.

But of course we should need to know that particular organ.

The 8' Strings may be more interesting to add to Diapasons and/or Flutes

than a 4', which is often voiced to go with several 8' (Flute) or all the 8'

plus at least a 16' (Octave, Oktav, Principal or Prestant 4')

With a british organ if you have say three Open Diapasons on the great

try the third first.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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It is almost impossible to give any hard and fast rules - ultimately you have to be the judge of what does and doesn't "work" in terms of registration.

 

One thing you have to realise is that you *don't* have a 17th or 18th century German organ at your disposal and trying to make it sound like one probably isn't going to be very successful.

Spot on.

 

Paradoxically, recreating the Baroque spirit on an English organ is quite likely to necessitate breaking "the rules" and abandoning dogma.

 

A few years ago I played Buxtehude's Toccata in F on a modernish three-decker in a German cathedral. I blithely started off on the middle manual and never noticed anything amiss until my page turner whispered in my ear, "Ze Hauptwerk is ze bottom clavier!" I put things right at bar 12 and no one else was any the wiser. A recording of the performance proved that the effect was more than convincing: it was really rather good! Given that sort of organ I wouldn't hesitate to do the same again.

 

But I'd be far more wary of doing that on a typical British organ, where it's rare to have a secondary chorus with sufficient body. It took me a stupidly long time to realise that drawing "baroque" registrations does not necessarily get you anywhere near the sounds the composers had in mind. If you draw a combination such as 8 ft flute + Fifteenth all you get is a Romantic flute and 2ft. I once heard Peter Barley concoct a surprisingly Krummhorn-ish left-hand solo when playing one of "The Eighteen" on the Willis/Harrison at Exeter Cathedral. Afterwards I asked him how he had done it. He said he had combined the Solo Corno di Bassetto and Orchestral Oboe. A case of the spirit being captured by rather unconventional means.

 

Conversely, way back when (in the days when I could play a bit) I did the Bach F major Toccata in Canterbury Cathedral (on the old organ with the Willis infinite gradation swell pedals). In those days I used to be pretty dogmatic, so I went for a diap chorus that wasn't too bottom heavy. I can't remember, but I think I probably used the Gt Open Diap no.2 rather than the no.3; it certainly wasn't no.1. In a write-up in the local rag the next day, the critic found the sound "too lightweight for such a building" and I think he was probably right.

 

Similarly, a certain large organ I know (it's been mentioned on this board a few times) is so uncompromisingly Romantic that it's really quite incapable of producing any effects that sound even remotely Baroque. Many eminent performers have come and played big Bach Preludes and Fugues on it, but the only really effective performance I have yet heard was one that built up a climax using Full Swell and the swell box.

 

All of which is a rather long-winded way of saying that, given the right sort of organ, you can be both authentic and musical, but on many (most?) British ones you can be one or the other, but not both.

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There seems some excellent advice here from people far better qualified than I to offer it but a couple of points do occur to me which I think might be relevant to how you might wish to proceed.

 

(1) Who are you playing for - simply your own pleasure or with an audience in mind ? If the latter is the case, particularly if it is a payingaudience then an additional consideration ought to be to find the approach which best conveys to them the essence and spirit of the piece and provides them with the most pleasurable listening experience.

 

(2) I have sometimes found it helpful to apply to the performance of music conceived for a quite different style of organ exactly the same considerations as would apply to transcribing a piece not written for organ at all but say for orchestra or string quartet. At least that approach gears you up to thinking outside the box and is (IMHO) more likely to produce results which satisfy both you (and any listeners) than you could ever obtain by downloading the specification of Buxtehude's organ and then simply working with a table of stop equivalents.

 

BAC

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Similarly, a certain large organ I know (it's been mentioned on this board a few times) is so uncompromisingly Romantic that it's really quite incapable of producing any effects that sound even remotely Baroque.

 

 

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

 

For years, I've played the splendid vintage H & H at Halifax PC when I've gone over to see friends after evensong, but a couple of weeks back, I tried a new "stylus fantasmagorical" registration for Bach.

 

Tired of those old Open Woods, I pushed them in. The 16ft Geigen was slow to respond, so I pushed that in. I couldn't hear the Dulciana 16ft and pushed that in. I turned my attention the the 16ft Sub-Bass and pushed that in after careful consideration.

 

I was left with Full Swell flues + octave + Sw-Gt.....my sort of "Mixture Eclecticus" which adds not a jot to the clarity, but adds brightness where it's needed. Then I drew Full Gt.flues without the big Open, and also the Walker (1970's) Mixture, plus Sw-Gt.

 

Obviously, Sw-Ped and Gt -Ped are rather important, but I didn't have any pedal stops drawn.

 

Instead, I used the Great 16ft and 8ft Trombas with the "Gt.reeds to Choir" and the Choir to Pedal coupler.

 

I then launched into a slightly rusty Bach "Allabreve" (I hadn't played it for a couple of years).

 

Apart from the bum notes, the sonic effect was absolutely magnificent, and more importantly, everything was reaching my ears at the same time.

 

What struck me was the clarity of the lines and type of sound which was really almost continental.

 

I've never tried that combination before, but I shall certainly be using it again.

 

MM

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Amazing, MM - I would have assumed that the GO reeds would have been far too opaque for such a function. I suppose that there is no chance of you recording a snippet of this registration (with some Bach) and posting it here, please?

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Amazing, MM - I would have assumed that the GO reeds would have been far too opaque for such a function. I suppose that there is no chance of you recording a snippet of this registration (with some Bach) and posting it here, please?

 

Oh, yes, please!

 

I never found any Tuba, Tromba, Viole d'orchestre (etc) sound file ont

the Web...

Pierre

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