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How Many Manuals Would You Specify?


Guest Cynic
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How many manuals (given only 25 stops)  

19 members have voted

  1. 1. How many manuals (given only 25 stops)

    • I'd choose a well-developed two manual
      3
    • I'd go for three (smaller) divisions
      16


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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Looking at today's posting of the specification of the new Kuhn organ being built for Jesus College, Cambridge, (a substantial two-manual) I can't help thinking that future scholars are going to be somewhat stuck when they attempt to learn a lot of major repertoire. In my experience, much material - not just 19th and 20th century - requires three manuals.

 

I accept that you can't have everything where funds or space are limited.

If the decision is to go with two manuals, why not provide a coupler manual (as at Magdalen Oxford and others) which would give three manual practice and additional flexibility?

 

What do others think?

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Looking at today's posting of the specification of the new Kuhn organ being built for Jesus College, Cambridge, (a substantial two-manual) I can't help thinking that future scholars are going to be somewhat stuck when they attempt to learn a lot of major repertoire. In my experience, much material - not just 19th and 20th century - requires three manuals. 

 

I accept that you can't have everything where funds or space are limited.

If the decision is to go with two manuals, why not provide a coupler manual (as at Magdalen Oxford and others) which would give three manual practice and additional flexibility?

 

What do others think?

 

Hi

 

I agree with you - 3 manuals are pretty much essential for some repertoire (ranging from Stanley onwards). 2, even with good pistons, isn't always enough!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Looking at today's posting of the specification of the new Kuhn organ being built for Jesus College, Cambridge, (a substantial two-manual) I can't help thinking that future scholars are going to be somewhat stuck when they attempt to learn a lot of major repertoire. In my experience, much material - not just 19th and 20th century - requires three manuals.

I accept that you can't have everything where funds or space are limited.

If the decision is to go with two manuals, why not provide a coupler manual (as at Magdalen Oxford and others) which would give three manual practice and additional flexibility?

What do others think?

Another possibility is the duplexing of one entire division mechanically in the "either-or" manner (in German "Wechselschleife", "alternating slider"). This might work especially well if the secondary division is a substantial Swell with three or four unison flues, an independent chorus, and at least two reeds. With thoughtful registration and well-considered use of the couplers, possibilities abound.

 

In this concept, the "either-ored" division has two channels per note, each of which is fed by its own pallet box; the pallets are controlled from manuals II and III, respectively. By pulling the slider this way or that, each stop of the division is available on either manual II or manual III. This concept requires some experience concerning the technical layout as well as the voicing. Smaller stops, mixtures, and reeds are very sensitive to shortage or instability of wind.

 

Some possibilities (I = Great, II & III = Swell, either-ored)

• II: Oboe 8', III: String + Flute 8'.

• II: Flute 8', III: String + Céleste 8', coupler III/II.

• II: Principal chorus + Trumpet, III: Basson 16', Ped.: flues 16' + 8' + coupler II/P, III/P.

• I (unenclosed): fonds 16' + 8'+ 4', II: mixture, reeds 16' + 8' + 4', III: fonds 8' + Oboe 8', couplers II/I, III/I, along with their respective pedal coupler.

 

A couple of years ago, I came up with this idea on PIPORG-L, and the comments ranged from contempt to utter excitement. Meanwhile, I found the concept in some organs that have been built since. I do not claim this idea to be my own, though. The "either-or" concept has been around for quite a while, and having been used at first only in single-division organs, it just waited to be incorporated with a two-division concept.

 

To be honest, it is a space-saving rather than a funds-saving concept, since the technical layout of the "either-ored" chest apparently is quite intricate, and the building requires considerably more time than that of a normal slider chest. If space, however, is a consideration, then why not? And the stoplist of the unenclosed divisions might be skeletal in a Cavaillé-Coll "orgue-de-chœur" manner or in another way (e. g. Great : Chorus 8 4 3 2, Bourdon 16, Flute 8, Cromorne; Pedal: Opens 16 8 4, Posaune).

 

The most substantial instrument I know of that incorporates this concept can be found at

http://www.abtei-st-hildegard.de/spenden/orgel/neuOrg.htm

In the right-hand menu, click on "Die Disposition der Orgel der Abtei St. Hildegard (pdf)" to see a stoplist of the organ. The old-fashioned orthography, of course, is utter kitsch, and faulty at that.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Looking at today's posting of the specification of the new Kuhn organ being built for Jesus College, Cambridge, (a substantial two-manual) I can't help thinking that future scholars are going to be somewhat stuck when they attempt to learn a lot of major repertoire. In my experience, much material - not just 19th and 20th century - requires three manuals. 

 

I accept that you can't have everything where funds or space are limited.

If the decision is to go with two manuals, why not provide a coupler manual (as at Magdalen Oxford and others) which would give three manual practice and additional flexibility?

 

What do others think?

One needs to take care - there are some cases where there are 4 manuals all of a rather skeletal nature or with just one or two stops on IV. I have even encountered a 3 manual with just a Trumpet on III. I wonder sometimes whether this is going too far although the only organ I have played with a coupler manual (Long Melford) worked well.

Schoenstein, however have come up with an ingenious design for a teaching instrument at the Juilliard School in the US. 3 manuals, 6 voices and 6 ranks but with an 'all singing all dancing' console complete with 15 octave and unison couplers between manuals as well as octave/unison off etc., multiple pistons, crescendo and expression pedals, record/replay etc. At first it might seem a little far fetched but on the other hand if students are to be playing some of the larger machines in the US regularly then perhaps not so. Jack Bethards is certainly very skilled in his designs and their execution - this one ('early version of the stoplist below) I would like to try!

 

GREAT Bdn 16(Ch.LGed), OD8, Claribel8(Sw), Salicional8 (Ch), Pr4, LGed4(Ch), Flugel Horn8 (Sw).

SWELL Claribel8, Echo Gamba8, Bass Horn16(Ex), Flugel Horn8.

CHOIR(Enc.) Salic.8, LGed8, LGed4(Ex), Salicet4(Ex), Nazard2-2/3(LGed), 15th2.

PEDAL Bdn16, Salic8, Claribel8, LGed.8, 15th4, Claribel4, Horn16, Horn8, Horn4.

 

AJJ

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Most pieces can be fudged on a two-manual, but it's often a very unsatisfactory experience and can occasionally create problems if you've learnt a piece that way and then come to play it on a three-manual.

 

Given a "straight" organ of 25 stops I'd prefer three keyboards, but would put most of the resource into the Gt and Sw. Maybe something like the following:

 

Gt: 8 8 4 4 2 Mix 8

Sw: 8 8 8 8 4 2 Mix 16 8 8

Pos: 8 8 4 8 (Chromorne)

Ped: 16 16 8 16

 

It should be perfectly possible to play Baroque music on such an intrument, except for much of the French stuff - though you could trade in the Sw diap 8 and louder Sw reed for a Gt Nazard & Tierce. However I very much regret the trend of omitting the Sw diap. I know French organs manage without, but it's highly desirable for choir accompaniment.

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Most pieces can be fudged on a two-manual, but it's often a very unsatisfactory experience and can occasionally create problems if you've learnt a piece that way and then come to play it on a three-manual.

It might be interesting to know that, of all major organ works, Reger's Opus 73 variations were premiered, on 3 March, 1905, on a rather unusual two-manual Sauer in Berlin. It was -- and fragments of it still are -- in the Neue Garnisonkirche, now Kirche am Südstern. The organist was Walter Fischer. The organ was built in 1897.

 

I. 16' 16' 8' 8' 8' 8' 8' 8' 4' 4' 4' II Rpf. / III-IV Cornet / III Mix – 16' 8'

II. (enc) 16' 16' 8' 8' 8' 8' 8' 8' 4' 4' 4' 2' IV – 8' Trompete

P. 32' 16' 16' 16' 16' 8' 8' 8' – 16' 8'

II/I, II/I 4' (?), I/P, P 4', 2 freie Kombinationen etc.

WP 120 mm flues, 180 mm reeds

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Another possibility is the duplexing of one entire division mechanically in the "either-or" manner (in German "Wechselschleife", "alternating slider"). This might work especially well if the secondary division is a substantial Swell with three or four unison flues, an independent chorus, and at least two reeds. With thoughtful registration and well-considered use of the couplers, possibilities abound.

 

Friedrich

 

 

I agree. One firm specialising in the "Wechselschleife" concept is Freiburger Orgelbau (Hartwig Späth) of March-Hugstetten on the edge of the Black Forest.

Their instrument in the neighbouring village of Holzhausen struck me as particularly successful when I played it last year. The specification is very cleverly worked out.

 

Holzhausen

 

JS

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I agree.  One firm specialising in the "Wechselschleife" concept is Freiburger Orgelbau (Hartwig Späth) of March-Hugstetten on the edge of the Black Forest.

Their instrument in the neighbouring village of Holzhausen struck me as particularly successful when I played it last year.  The specification is very cleverly worked out.

 

Holzhausen

 

JS

 

Oh dear, sorry, that link doesn't seem to work - try

 

 

http://www.orgelbau-spaeth.de/holzhausen.php?neue=1

 

JS

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One needs to take care - there are some cases where there are 4 manuals all of a rather skeletal nature or with just one or two stops on IV. I have even encountered a 3 manual with just a Trumpet on III. I wonder sometimes whether this is going too far although the only organ I have played with a coupler manual (Long Melford) worked well.

 

 

Then of course there was dear old Brasenose, with just a Regal on III before Richard Bower got to it. I think I would rather have a good 2 manual than waste all that money for extra keyboards and action just for a poxy Regal. Same goes for coupler manuals - I have yet to be convinced there is any benefit whatsoever in spending extra money for a keyboard that does nothing the others don't already. Surely spending the money on a simpler and cheaper system of ventils or sliding mechanisms would be of more musical use?

 

One instrument with a tiny 3rd manual that I do see the point in is the Metzler at St Mary-the-Virgin, Oxford, which has a Cornet decompose on an Echo manual, and very aetherial it is too against the positive flutes. Also, Amesbury Abbey, with a fairly motley collection of gambas and flutes and no manual couplers doesn't appear to be much use until you realise that it makes excellent pedal upperwork (there is a choir to pedal), far better than the electric action stuff that's been bolted on afterwards. I often find myself using the Choir at Romsey as the source of pedal 8' stops though that has latterly been provided with choir manual coupling. I wonder if this use was intended by earlier builders?

 

If Bill Drake can retain tracker action and still borrow manual flute pipes to make pedal stops (as I have seen him do in practice organs, sometimes even quinting the bottom 5 of a 16' to save space - where there is a GG manual compass, therefore no additional pipes are needed to have a 16'), then I'm sure this idea could be developed - a strong two manual scheme with a third manual, most of whose stops were taken from the pedal with the upper octaves continued and perhaps a mixture, cornet or small reed independently. On the assumption that when you're using fairly full pedal, you're more likely to be playing on the Gt, then you save money and space by doing this without adverse musical effect.

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... a strong two manual scheme with a third manual, most of whose stops were taken from the pedal with the upper octaves continued and perhaps a mixture, cornet or small reed independently.  On the assumption that when you're using fairly full pedal, you're more likely to be playing on the Gt, then you save money and space by doing this without adverse musical effect.

It has been done, e. g. by Johannes Rohlf in Stuttgart-Feuerbach in 1983.

 

Stoplist:

 

I - Principal 8, Rohrflöte 8, Oktave 4, Waldflöte 2, Cornett III (TA), Mixtur IV 2, Trompete 8

II (enc) - Gedackt 8, Rohrflöte 4, Principal 2, Quinte 1 1/3, Sifflöte 1, Krummhorn 8

III and P - Subbass 16, Oktavbass 8, Tenorflöte 4, Hohlflöte 2, Fagott 16

I/P, II/P, II/I, III/I, trems for I and II

Manuals 56 notes, pedal 30 notes

 

The 4- and 2-foot ranks in the pedal are variants of principal tone.

 

Doesn't this mean to reintroduce the notorious Pedal on Great coupler by the back door? ;)

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Students are allowed to practice on the instruments in other colleges too!

 

And at least two eminent organists (Andrew Millington and Martin Baker) were organ scholars at Downing, which has a very small instrument indeed. The present organ scholar there, David Pipe, doesn't seem to have any problems when it comes to playing large instruments - far from it, in fact.

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Students are allowed to practice on the instruments in other colleges too!

 

And at least two eminent organists (Andrew Millington and Martin Baker) were organ scholars at Downing, which has a very small instrument indeed.  The present organ scholar there, David Pipe, doesn't seem to have any problems when it comes to playing large instruments - far from it, in fact.

 

 

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

 

I may be out of touch, but the last time I looked at the rather depressing list of college organs in Cambridge, I couldn't help but think that they were all rather a waste of money.

 

Oxford fares rather better, I think, with Christ Church, New College and that simply gorgeous Jaques Frobenius at Queens'.

 

If Cambridge has a problem, it is simply that most of the college chapels are pokey little things; possibly with worse acoustics than a corporation toilet block. Only St.John's and Kings ever seem to inspire.

 

In fact, coming to think of it, do ANY university chapels have decent organs apart from a very few at the bespoke end of the market?

 

Most seem to simply follow the fads and fashions of the day.

 

MM

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

 

I may be out of touch, but the last time I looked at the rather depressing list of college organs in Cambridge, I couldn't help but think that they were all rather a waste of money.

 

Oxford fares rather better, I think, with Christ Church, New College and that simply gorgeous Jaques Frobenius at Queens'.

 

If Cambridge has a problem, it is simply that most of the college chapels are pokey little things; possibly with worse acoustics than a corporation toilet block. Only St.John's and Kings ever seem to inspire.

 

In fact, coming to think of it, do ANY university chapels have decent organs apart from a very few at the bespoke end of the market?

 

Most seem to simply follow the fads and fashions of the day.

 

MM

I'm going to stick up for the Beckerath at Clare and in its recent incarnation the Johnson at Catz.....but in general I think you're right that Oxford does rather better on theorgan front.

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I'm going to stick up for the Beckerath at Clare and in its recent incarnation the Johnson at Catz.....but in general I think you're right that Oxford does rather better on theorgan front.

 

No apologists for Robinson here? I quite enjoyed accompanying a recital by a soprano on it a few years ago; obviously I couldn't use many of the louder stops but apart from being so close to the pipes and therefore very aware of slips the sound and the action were lovely.

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

 

I may be out of touch, but the last time I looked at the rather depressing list of college organs in Cambridge, I couldn't help but think that they were all rather a waste of money.

 

 

Clare, Catz (which I always liked, even before Flentrops got to it); I also quite enjoyed Emmanuel, Pembroke has its good points, Robinson has quite a passable Frobie; don't remember much about Caius, but I certainly didn't hate it; and the funny little Bishop thing at Christ's I really enjoyed playing. It made some very musical sounds. Then there's the new Swiss thing at Selwyn and the French one at Girton (or is it the other way round?) If you want quite a good practice organ and you're hard of hearing, go to Fitzwilliam. The university church organs are quite good, too.

 

I'm not sure there's that much to argue between the two, really - Oxford has its share of ratbags, but seems to have a broader spectrum of taste (extremely conservative to extremely controversial) which may account for a perception that it's better off in general. But if you were playing works by, say, Buxtehude, Reger, Whitlock and Cocherau, I suspect you may find life easier in Cambridge, whereas Oxford would be the better place to specialise.

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No apologists for Robinson here? I quite enjoyed accompanying a recital by a soprano on it a few years ago; obviously I couldn't use many of the louder stops but apart from being so close to the pipes and therefore very aware of slips the sound and the action were lovely.

yes - lovely organ, practised on it for two years as a postgrad. THe chapel is pretty cool too - fantastic Piper glass.
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No apologists for Robinson here? I quite enjoyed accompanying a recital by a soprano on it a few years ago; obviously I couldn't use many of the louder stops but apart from being so close to the pipes and therefore very aware of slips the sound and the action were lovely.

No, I would agree. As an Oundle student I was able to spend an hour or two at both Robinson and the pre-Flentrop Catz and them both to be delightful instruments. I must say I also preferred the pre-Mander St John's organ, nasty square pistons notwithstanding. No one seems to have mentioned the small Binns in Queens, which although I have only heard on CD, sounds like a lovely instrument.

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The Girton instrument is Swiss (Orgues St Martin) and that at Selwyn by Letourneau of Canada.

 

Nobody has mentioned the wonderful Metzler at Trinity.

 

There's a superb romantic organ in OLEM, of course. Take your ear plugs if you are intending to go above piston VIII though.

 

If the students can't find something decent to practice on it's because they can't be arsed.

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No one seems to have mentioned the small Binns in Queens, which although I have only heard on CD, sounds like a lovely instrument.

 

It is indeed.

 

Thanks in no small part to lack of money and years of benign neglect Queens' is fortunate enough to still have the original instrument that was built for the new chapel in 1893. The action was electrified by Johnson's in the 1960's and the whole instrument was refurbished by Harrisons a few years ago but on both occasions the college resisted the temptation to tinker with the specification in any way.

 

The specification is here

 

It fits the chapel perfectly, and is ideal for it's primary purpose of accompanying Anglican church services, but you can play absolutely anything on it.

 

The thing that astonished me most when I first played it was that it was just so damn good! Nothing at all like any of the other Binns instruments that I had encountered, most of which, unfortunately, were in very poor condition. It has that wonderful characteristic that I have heard John Mander refer to as "blend" - all of the stops have their own character and are individually beautiful but none of them is voiced in an extreme way and you can combine any stops that make sense (and quite a lot that don't) and come up with wonderful results.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Good size two manual, or small three? My personal preference is for three, but I suspect that's as much as anything based on my range of experiences - and, possibly, prejudices. Even on a small three decker with less developed choruses, I think planning registrations over much of the literature - at least, that part of it with which I'm familiar - is a whole lot easier than on a two manual job.

 

Interestingly, this subject has been touched on from the organ builder's perspective in Manders' porfolio page devoted to St Peter's, St Louis, Missouri. The organ there is half as large again as that we are considering here, but clearly Manders took a rather different view. Undoubtedly a valid point of view, and certainly gave me pause when I re-read it.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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