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The Finest Five Organs In The World?


MusingMuso

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Well, it's summer and the weather has turned bad, so what better way to bring a little sunshine into our lives, than to contemplate the finest five organs in the world?

 

This was inspired by the claim that St.George's Hall, Liverpool, should be included in that category.

 

I have my own ideas, but perhaps I should hold these in reserve until the final tally.

 

However, for the title "best romantic organ in the world" I think I would have to go for the huge Skinner organ at Yale, which I think is the most expressive and beautiful instrument in America.

 

For the best "hybrid" organ, then I think St.Moritz, Olomouc in the Czech Republic must be up there somewhere; containing as it does an original baroque instrument, by Michael Engler; remaining largely unaltered, and to which the addition of 20th century pipework by Rieger-Kloss has produced a musical masterpiece.

 

Alkmaar or Haarlem would surely still hold their own in any sort of comparison?

 

The organ of St.George's Hall, Liverpool, would certainly have a major rival with the Hill organ at Sidney TH.

 

Could one, or should one include a smaller organ such as the Frobenius at Queen's College, Oxford?

 

After all, the less the number of stops, the more exposed are the tonal shortcomings of any instrument, and to achieve the sort of organ perfection which Frobenius achieved at Oxford, takes a very special skill indeed.

 

Oh dear! I've already mentioned 7 organs.

 

This really is quite difficult.

 

MM

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The five finest organs in the world? What a question!!

 

Okay, here are my choices:

 

The Hill at the Sydney Town Hall - no doubt about it, it's got to be right up there. Incredible choruses, perfect blend. No more need be said.

 

The Cavaillé-Coll at St-Sulpice. Pretty much the same really.

 

The FC Schnitger at the Laurenskerk, Alkmaar. Same again. (Funny, that.)

 

The Harrison at St Mary Redcliffe. Perfection in late British romanticism.

 

And now one, as the Americans would say, right out of left field:

 

The Andreas Silbermann at Ebersmünster. An incredible fusion of French and South German style that creates its own tradition. A truly beautiful instrument.

 

Rgs,

MJF

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Well, it's summer and the weather has turned bad, so what better way to bring a little sunshine into our lives, than to contemplate the finest five organs in the world?

 

This was inspired by the claim that St.George's Hall, Liverpool, should be included in that category.

 

I have my own ideas, but perhaps I should hold these in reserve until the final tally.

 

However, for the title "best romantic organ in the world" I think I would have to go for the huge Skinner organ at Yale, which I think is the most expressive and beautiful instrument in America.

 

For the best "hybrid" organ, then I think St.Moritz, Olomouc in the Czech Republic must be up there somewhere; containing as it does an original baroque instrument, by Michael Engler; remaining largely unaltered, and to which the addition of 20th century pipework by Rieger-Kloss has produced a musical masterpiece.

 

Alkmaar or Haarlem would surely still hold their own in any sort of comparison?

 

The organ of St.George's Hall, Liverpool, would certainly have a major rival with the Hill organ at Sidney TH.

 

Could one, or should one include a smaller organ such as the Frobenius at Queen's College, Oxford? 

 

After all, the less the number of stops, the more exposed are the tonal shortcomings of any instrument, and to achieve the sort of organ perfection which Frobenius achieved at Oxford, takes a very special skill indeed.

 

Oh dear!  I've already mentioned 7 organs.

 

This really is quite difficult.

 

MM

 

By asking for the 'finest', are you suggesting we attempt a bit of serious objectivity? B) I'm not sure the five 'finest' would necessarily include my five favourite instruments, which are probably characterized by features which might be considered peculiar, eccentric, or even downright vulgar... And should we limit ourselves to instruments we have heard in the flesh? :P

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I don't know nearly enough organs to begin to be able to judge, but of the ones I've heard (only on disc unfortunately) I'd vote in no particular order for:

 

Naumburg

Laurenskerk, Alkmaar

St-Sulpice

Sydney Town Hall

and - on the small organ front - Our Lady of Sorrows, Toronto

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Can't agree with St. Mary Redcliffe I'm afraid. Its the only organ I've ever played that has struck me as being unpleasantly loud, and the choir and echo are too soft by far compared to the rest of the instrument.

 

These things are, of course entirely subjective, and few of us ordinary punters have had the opportunity to travel the world and hear or play its greatest organ. For me, the finest organ I've heard (but sadly not played) in this country is Westminster Cathedral, a view reputedly shared by Carlo Curley, although I'm prepared to accept that we may not all think him the best arbiter of taste.

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Can't agree with St. Mary Redcliffe I'm afraid. Its the only organ I've ever played that has struck me as being unpleasantly loud, and the choir and echo are too soft by far compared to the rest of the instrument.

 

These things are, of course entirely subjective, and few of us ordinary punters have had the opportunity to travel the world and hear or play its greatest organ. For me, the finest organ I've heard (but sadly not played) in this country is Westminster Cathedral, a view reputedly shared by Carlo Curley, although I'm prepared to accept that we may not all think him the best arbiter of taste.

One is loathe to second Mr. Curley in anything from the time of day to the local weather, but I agree that Westminster Cathedral is No.1 in GB. I find it interesting that Lynnwood Farnam considered Liverpool Cathedral to be tops, and that was before the nave was completed. It is so very much the thing to thumbs-down HWIII. But the fact remains that one has a better chance at playing the repertoire on one of his (HWIII) jobs than on an Arthur Harrison, as sublime as his organs are for playing Stanford in B-flat.

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I think we might have to register Carlo Curley as a protected species given the low opinion of him. As well as Westminster Cathedral, I suspect CC would also vote for Redcliffe. He made quite a decent Disc at SMR including a powerful account of the Elgar Sonata. Another decent disc that he recorded was Bach at a Frobenius somewhere in the Netherlands.

 

What is no joy whatsoever is reading the articles on CC's website. His prose style is tortuous in the extreme. Like wading through treacle with chronic constipation !!

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I think we might have to register Carlo Curley as a protected species given the low opinion of him. As well as Westminster Cathedral, I suspect CC would also vote for Redcliffe. He made quite a decent Disc at SMR including a powerful account of the Elgar Sonata. Another decent disc that he recorded was Bach at a Frobenius somewhere in the Netherlands.

 

What is no joy whatsoever is reading the articles on CC's website. His prose style is tortuous in the extreme. Like wading through treacle with chronic constipation !!

Westminster Cathedral is stunning, but I'd put also in a vote for St Paul's in GB - a really vast range of colour, that amazing Willis Chancel Division, and the spatial element adds an extra dimension. West End and Dome additions are also splendid.
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It is often said that you should never judge the merits or otherwise of an organ based solely on recordings. On this basis, instruments such as St Sulpice, St Ouen, St Sernin, Yale, St Baavo or Sydney Town Hall have to regrettably be put to one side in favour of:

 

Westminster Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

King's College, Cambridge

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Liverpool Cathedral

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I think we might have to register Carlo Curley as a protected species given the low opinion of him. As well as Westminster Cathedral, I suspect CC would also vote for Redcliffe. He made quite a decent Disc at SMR including a powerful account of the Elgar Sonata. Another decent disc that he recorded was Bach at a Frobenius somewhere in the Netherlands.

 

What is no joy whatsoever is reading the articles on CC's website. His prose style is tortuous in the extreme. Like wading through treacle with chronic constipation !!

 

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

 

 

I don't have a low opinion of CC; far from it in fact.

 

The Bach recording on the Frobenius is magnificent by any standards, and I recall discussing it with CC and suggesting that he had made an important gesture to the critics.

 

I also cherish a "blow your socks off" account of Pierne, played with astounding panache and accuracy.

 

It's so easy to be critical of his style, but as someone who steers a careful path between the world of popular entertainment and organ-art, he deserves respect as the one person who can draw a crowd and send most people away happy.

 

Now who can we criticise next.......Richard Hills perhaps?

 

MM

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It is often said that you should never judge the merits or otherwise of an organ based solely on recordings. On this basis, instruments such as St Sulpice, St Ouen, St Sernin, Yale, St Baavo or Sydney Town Hall have to regrettably be put to one side in favour of:

 

Westminster Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

King's College, Cambridge

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol

Liverpool Cathedral

All of which goes to show how subjective these things must be. Westminster Cathedral seems to figure prominently in the thoughts of everyone else in this thread. However, I'm in the UK only once every now and again, and have never heard it. In fact, I don't even have a recording of it. Clearly my education has been sadly lacking ... Like everyone else, I suppose, I'm limited by my experience.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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I don't know nearly enough organs to begin to be able to judge, but of the ones I've heard (only on disc unfortunately) I'd vote in no particular order for:

 

Naumburg

Laurenskerk, Alkmaar

St-Sulpice

Sydney Town Hall

and - on the small organ front - Our Lady of Sorrows, Toronto

 

 

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

 

 

It's interesting to see how this has panned out, as time and time again, certain organs appear in the list from a number of commentators.

 

So my personal top-five would, I think, have to be the following:-

 

1. Bavo

2. Alkmaar (probably equal 1st)

3. Sydney TH

 

As you all know, I don't DO much in the way of French music, so I never feel compelled to include anything by Cavaille-Coll, when I know that I perhaps should.

 

So as a compromise:-

 

4. Blackburn Cathedral

 

For the final choice, it would have to be a sound very close to my heart, and which I feel sure would draw me back time and time again:-

 

5. Castro Theatre, San Francisco (Wurlitzer/Ed Stauf)

 

Were this a top 10, I would certainly include perhaps Tolouse, St George's Hall Liverpool, Queen's College Oxford, Yale University and, simply out of childlike delight, almost any dance-hall organ by Mortier.

 

Sadly, although I lived in London for 16 years....I NEVER HEARD WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL!!

 

Shame on me!

 

MM

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

4.  Blackburn Cathedral

 

Were this a top 10, I would certainly include perhaps Tolouse, St George's Hall Liverpool, Queen's College Oxford, Yale University and, simply out of

Sadly, although I lived in London for 16 years....I NEVER HEARD WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL!!

 

Shame on me!

 

MM

 

I've enjoyed recordings of the pre-rebuild Blackburn organ very much, but if my conscience allowed me to chose an instrument with digital enhancements (WHY at Blackburn? Or Southwell for that matter?), I'd go for the Skinner at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology, with its 64' Bombarde de Ravallement...

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My 5 (not ranked), but only including organs I've actually played:

 

1. Naumburg

2. Tangermünde (Scherer, 1624)

3. Norden

4. Pacific Lutheran University (Fritts)

5. St Johannis, Lüneburg

 

How about that? Now 5 runners-up:

 

6. Cape Town Cathedral

7. Freiberg cathedral

8. Merseburg

9. St. Ouen

10. Zeerijp

 

When one comes to think of it, the world is full of gorgeous instruments....

 

Cheers

Barry

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I've enjoyed recordings of the pre-rebuild Blackburn organ very much, but if my conscience allowed me to chose an instrument with digital enhancements (WHY at Blackburn? Or Southwell for that matter?), I'd go for the Skinner at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology, with its 64' Bombarde de Ravallement...

 

 

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

 

They can be turned off, you know!

 

The only reason for the digital enhancements was simply that of available space, and although the original organ was a superlative solo instrument, it did have shortcomings as an accompaniment instrument.

 

Now, with a little help from the digital "enhancements" and the provision of a new Solo Organ in a box, most of those shortcomings have been overcome.

 

The basic organ, as it was, remains as splendid as before, and David Wood went to great pains in ensuring that it did.

 

Future generations would not have the slightest problem restoring this organ to its' original condition.

 

Four cuts with a saw through the Solo building frame......"bang"

 

Throw the digital stuff onto the chancel floor....."crash"

 

Organ restored!

 

B)

 

MM

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I think we might have to register Carlo Curley as a protected species given the low opinion of him. As well as Westminster Cathedral, I suspect CC would also vote for Redcliffe. He made quite a decent Disc at SMR including a powerful account of the Elgar Sonata. Another decent disc that he recorded was Bach at a Frobenius somewhere in the Netherlands.

 

What is no joy whatsoever is reading the articles on CC's website. His prose style is tortuous in the extreme. Like wading through treacle with chronic constipation !!

 

Golly gee!!! What has Carlo been up to lately to deserve his name so taken in vain on this forum....??? :huh:

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Sadly, although I lived in London for 16 years....I NEVER HEARD WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL!!

 

Shame on me!

MM bow your head in shame no longer!

 

I have lived in London for over 30 years and yet have only heard St Paul's once, Southwark twice, and as for the Temple Church or Alexandra Palace - not a sausage. And yet in recent years I have travelled hundreds of miles to hear instruments in Edinburgh, Liverpool, York, Lincoln, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester and St Davids. Funny old world when you ignore what's on your own doorstep!

 

As for Westminster Cathedral, only one recording has ever come close to representing what the instrument is like to hear live. That was by Nicolas Kynaston playing works by Durufle and Dupre which can be found at http://www.mitra-classics.de

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MM bow your head in shame no longer!

 

I have lived in London for over 30 years and yet have only heard St Paul's once, Southwark twice, and as for the Temple Church or Alexandra Palace - not a sausage. And yet in recent years I have travelled hundreds of miles to hear instruments in Edinburgh, Liverpool, York, Lincoln, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester and St Davids. Funny old world when you ignore what's on your own doorstep!

 

As for Westminster Cathedral, only one recording has ever come close to representing what the instrument is like to hear live. That was by Nicolas Kynaston playing works by Durufle and Dupre which can be found at http://www.mitra-classics.de

 

A disc featuring Robert Quinney at Westminster Cathedral is due to be released on Signum later this year. Judging by their success in capturing the RAH sound for Simon Preston, this should be pretty fine.

 

http://www.signumrecords.com/forthcoming_releases/index.htm

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