Jump to content
Mander Organs
Sign in to follow this  
David Sutherland

The French 'bourdon'

Recommended Posts

I was taking a look at the specification of several french organs the other day, and was reminded that the usual combinations in the French 'flue' build up (on the Grand Orgue at least) is something like:

 

Montre 16

Bourdon 16

Montre 8

Bourdon 8

Gambe 8

 

etc etc (sometimes in a Cavaille Coll instrument, particularly the later ones, a 'Diapason 8' gets a look in as well).

 

Can anybody confirm to me that the french 'Bourdon' is really not like the English Bourdon at all, but rather a somewhat softer version than the clearer singing Montre? What I'm really trying to say is that the combination of Montre8/Bourdon 8 equates roughly to the Diapason I/Diapason II combinations found in England etc. Am I roughly right, or is there something more subtle going on in the French build-up to the flue chorus? Thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not actually sure what kooiker wanted to tell us (since removed to save space), since I could see only a quote from David Sutherland's query, but no, I don't think you're right. The french bourdon can be many things, but mostly it is a stopped or half-stopped flute, perhaps most closely similar to the English stopped diapason.

 

At St. Ouen, for example, it is (on the GO, at 8' pitch) of wood, stopped, in the bass octave, thereafter metal, stopped, up to middle g, thereafter a chimney flute. The Positiv Bourdon is constructed the same way. But at Sacre-Coeur it is entirely stopped.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes,

 

In English the french Bourdon would be called a "Chimney flute", rather than a stopped Diapason.

 

The true Diapason tone does not exist in french organ, or maybe something more close to it in really ancient organ whose pipes weren't slotted. The "churchy roll" you get from three open Diapasons has a french equivalent,

that is:

Montre 8

Flûte harmonique 8'

Gambe 8'

Bourdon 8'

 

that always go together. This "ensemble" you will find in any romantic organ in France and Belgium, with very few variations , sometimes a Salicional rather than the gambe in little churches. The gambe is actually the leader (mezzo-forte, not intended for solo use), while the Montre is slotted in order to blend with the other 8' flues. The gambe acts as a "fitness" means, avoiding the tone to be muddy.

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ok that's very interesting, thanks for the info. But I think one of the points I was trying to make (or discover) is that the English Bourdon is different in respect to the French Bourdon. You would not find a preponderance in English specifications of Bourdon 16' and 8'. I take the point that the French Bourdon is a stopped flute, just in the same way that the English Bourdon is a stopped flute, but the characters of the two (whether they be scale, voicing etc) must be different.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The French Bourdon 8 to which you refer is a stopped flute stop, but somewhat different in character from an English stopped diapason or a German Gedact. Montre 8 and Bourdon 8 do not equate to the large and small Open Diapason found on and English romantic Great division.

 

I believe Cavaillé-Coll often used metal pipes for the 8ft Bourdon on the Grande-Orgue division. They were voiced to work and blend with Montre 8, an 8ft string stop and the 8ft Flûte Harmonique, which is how you broaden the sound of the 8ft foundation, drawn in various combinations. When done properly, the four stops can be drawn and, provided they are all in tune, sound like a single pipe producing this well-rounded and broad tone. The 8ft string played an important part in this, but the 8ft Flûte Harmonique actually provided a lot of the harmonics and frequencies to make this work.

 

I think I am right in saying that the addition of a Diapason at 8ft pitch on a Grande Orgue division by Cavaillé-Coll was confined to his larger and later instruments. Two that come to mind, which have the 8ft Diapason as part of the 8ft line up on the Grande Orgue division are St Sulpice in Paris and his last instrument in Rouen (1898).

 

By having a single principal rank at 8ft pitch, it removed any conundrum as to what to voice, scale and balance the rest of the principal chorus with. I think this has been discussed elsewhere on the message board under the title Diapasons vs Principals, or something along those lines.

 

I think a Bourdon 16 was not that common on a Cavaillé–Coll Grande Orgue division, and was again more a feature of his larger and later instruments. A more typical stop line up at 16 and 8ft pitches would have been:

 

Montre 16

Montre 8

Bourdon 8

Viole da Gambe 8 (or some sort of string)

Flûte Harmonique 8

 

That said, I don't know whether the additional Diapason 8ft on some Cavaille-Coll Grande Orgue divisions euates to an English Great small Open Diapason. I think it takes the name Diapason because it is not one of the display pipes in the case, whereas the Montre which, I think, translates into display would have been part of the display pipes on the casework.

 

Now I know there are more informed people who participate on the message board who can probably give a better explantion than me. And Stephen Bicknell writes about the foundation stops of French romantic organs and Cavaillé-Coll very eloquently on his website.

 

Try the following link:

 

http://www.users.dircon.co.uk/~oneskull/3.6.03.htm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well thanks to Anthony Poole for providing a very interesting explanation to my original question. The Bourdon 8' as you say is the chief issue here perhaps (certainly on the G.O./Positif divisions) and your information answers a lot of questions for me.

 

I think there is a special attraction for me for the blend of tone produced when these various stops on the French organ are drawn. The string stop isa particular case in point, and never really occurred to me that such a stop would blend so well and contribute to the overall effect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another thing to consider is the use of the Grande Oruge 8ft foundations without the Montre 8. Messiean calls for it in one of the variations in the second movement of L'Ascension Suite, starting with just the Gambe, then he asks for the Bourdon to be added and then the Flûte Harmonique. The effect is very interesting when played on an organ with these foundations that are voiced along the lines I described.

 

I think a more accurate composition of a not untypical Cavaillé-Coll G.O. Bourdon 8ft stop is the one described by Barry Jordan, with wooden stopped basses in the bottom octave, a tenor octave of metal stopped pipes and then metal chimney flutes from the middle octave upwards. I saw a photograph of one over the weekend on the web somewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...