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Mander Organs

The Finest Five Organs In The World?


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Paul, about Mendelssohn, what about a Schulze?

(So a "Northern german romantic organ").

 

For Reger, a Southern german romantic organ might be

more interesting. Sauer, yes (Berlin, Bremen) or a Walcker, a Steinmeyer...

 

(Nor"Southern" nor "Northern" are geocraphically strictly accurate

in 19th century Germany, but the two traditions are still there, and

recognizable. Compare a Schulze, a Jehmlich or a Ladegast with

a Steinmeyer, Walcker, Weigle or Sauer).

 

Pierre

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The problem about this topic is that we haven't all heard the same instruments. Even if we had, there are more being added, some of them very fine indeed. I don't think I could ever get it down to five by any method.....I could cheat of course.

 

I could tell you my two favourite for Bach - Martinikerk Groningen and The Westerkerk, Amsterdam.

 

I'm still looking for the right organ for Franck.

 

Mendelssohn - I have yet to hear a performance on the sort of organ he actually wrote for - a typical Hill/Gauntlett job of the 1840s/50s. Great Goerge Street Liverpool might have done, but it's gone now. maybe St/Mary at Hill? People will tell you that he wrote with Silbermann organs in mind, but the comission was from London publishers and his own written intentions are 'for his London organist friends'.  I like St.Alkmund's Whitchurch, Shropshire very much in this repertoire, but 1. I'm biased and 2. few of you will know it.

 

Messiaen - almost any 1970-90 multi-purpose organ provided that its in a whacking great acoustic. I really enjoy the early Preston recordings which were (in theory) on the worng organ altogether.

 

Buxtehude - Alkmaar?

 

Widor and Vierne (both) - Ste Sulpice.

 

Problem with some wonderful organs is the question what actual music ought one play on them? Some of the South German organs (Riepp etc.) are stunning in French repertoire. Only ten days ago, I found the best organ for this stuff without any question at all. It is the 1997 restoration by Pascal Qouirin of the Dom Bedos organ at Abbatiale Sainte-Croix, Bordeaux.

 

Reger - a big Sauer or Schulze, perhaps. For me, it's got to be big enough to have a 32' reed and not so big an acoustic that you can still hear the notes. Not an easy task sur le continent. Plenty of big English organs do Reger well IMHO.

 

 

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

 

This is ever such an interesting reply from Paul, because he goes from the music rather than from the perspective of the organ historian. Of course, he is quite right, there never can be "5 finest organs" in reality, if the MUSIC is what really matters.

 

However, it interests me that certain organs pop-up from out of the woodwork on a regular basis, and three or four in particular.

 

St.Ouen is one, Haarlem is another, then Alkmaar and, possibly the most respected of all on this board, Sydney TH.

 

Strangely enough, I could almost go along with that short-list, but I think I would have to include Woolsey Hall, Yale on the grounds of sheer "class" romanticism American-style.

 

I'm glad that the Martinikerk, Groningen, gets a look in, for although this is not remotely an authentic Schnitger, it sounds absolutely stunning in the building, in spite of the fact that it was "restored" from a virtaul pile of scrap. In fact, it is probably more perfect than the original, and yet sounds absolutely right for it to be the unaltered Schnitger it isn't. Never have I heard chorus-work which takes one right to the edge of teeth-grating harmonic richness, but JUST stays on the side of perfect good taste, while at the same time thrilling the aural senses like no other organ I have ever heard.

 

The easier description is "stunning."

 

Of course, for the South German experience, I would personally opt not only for Riepp, but also for Holzhay at Rot-en-der-Rot abbey; an organ much admired by Geraint Jones.

 

I don't quite agree with Paul about Reger and Edmund Schulze, which belong in different traditions; the Schulze sound possibly more suited to Mendelssohn than Reger.

 

Cesar Frank organ? Well, I wonder if Pierre Lauwers might know the best organ for this composer's music, somehwere in Belgium. If Pierre doesn't agree, I think Paul would find the right sound with the Adema organ at St Bavo RC, Haarlem.

 

If Paul wants to play a good Mendelssohn "English" organ, he need look no further than a more or less restored instrument in Cambridge, at the Methodist Church. This organ was an 1840's William Hill, formerly in Eastbrook Hall, Bradford, and a near contemporary to Great George Street, Liverpool. Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite was the man who saved this important instrument, and it probably now sounds much better than it did in its original home.

 

The perfect Reger organ has to be the Dom orgel in Riga, Latvia, but the air-fare is expensive.I reckon a fine alternative would be the organ of St.Moritz, Olomouc, CZ, WHICH I HOPE TO HEAR SOON!! (18TH Century Michael Engler organ + a LOT of new stuff by Rieger-Kloss. 5 manuals and a rollschweller!)

 

Why is life so complicated?

 

There are times when I actually wish I could feel fulfilled by a week or two in a Butlin's Holiday Camp drinking "Nukie" Brown.

 

:D

 

MM

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The true Franck organ?

 

You can answer that after two manners:

 

1)-Franck wrote for St-Clotilde, Cavaillé-Coll. That's it.

 

2)-Franck was expoited by Cavaillé-Coll as a sales Representative.

His music has somethin "german"in it.....Like a belgian he was.

 

So one could try:

 

-A german romantic organ with refined Gambas as Hautbois subtitute (NEVER a german Oboe!) and some Trompetes

 

-St-Boniface, Ixelles/Brussels, Schyven, very Merklin-like with free reeds, somewhere between Walcker and Cavaillé-Coll. Organ from about 1875.

 

-And why not a Dalstein & Haerpfer in Lorraine (late 19th century), another, very good representative of german-french mixed organ building. Good preserved organs in Metz, Hayange....(etc)

 

Pierre

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Only ten days ago, I found the best organ for this stuff without any question at all. It is the 1997 restoration by Pascal Qouirin of the Dom Bedos organ at Abbatiale Sainte-Croix, Bordeaux.

 

Sorry I didn't get to your Bordeaux recital after all Paul - transport problems in the form of a blocked motorway! The Qouirin/Dom Bedos organ should be on every one's list of 'greats' for the French repertoire of Couperin, De Grigny etc. I managed to get hold of a CD down there of a live recording of Marie Claire Alain playing the Couperin Parish Mass plus plainsong - fantastic sound!!!

 

AJJ

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The true Franck organ?

 

You can answer that after two manners:

 

1)-Franck wrote for St-Clotilde, Cavaillé-Coll. That's it.

 

Pierre

 

Franck knew the other organs in Paris like St.Sulpice and the Trocadero well. Are you sure that he wouldn't want one of them (possibly he wrote his organmusic with those instruments in mind)?

And he wa s dutch (just kidding ...)

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Franck knew the other organs in Paris like St.Sulpice and the Trocadero well. Are you sure that he wouldn't want one of them (possibly he wrote his organmusic with those instruments in mind)?

And he wa s dutch (just kidding ...)

 

This is quite possible; even the Merklin of Saint-Eustache is cited...Not so far

away from our Schyvens!

Dutch? Let's agree about a compromise: he was from the Voeren, just south of De Planck. Language: Maas-frankisch -nor dutch, nor german, nor french there-, the same as in Oche (Aachen). :D

 

Pierre

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St-Maximin Thionville is something really special: this is a 1969 "Reform" organ, but this says nothing about the sound it yields. If all these "Neo" organs were that good!

 

Website:

 

http://r.gdel.free.fr/

 

Direct Link to the soundfiles:

 

http://r.gdel.free.fr/orgue.html#sons

 

The MP3s are not of excellent quality, but even so, you'll soon understand

Kern signed a masterpiece there.

Should anyone go in that area (about 15 Miles South from the city of Luxembourg, near the border), let me know, I can give some contacts there.

 

Pierre

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No, we do not. Originally built by Lété, this organ was rebuilt by Merklin in the 1880's. Kern restored it 1979, giving it its "Positif de dos" back.

 

Thionville was designed as a german-french synthesis, which is typical for that area. Hence you have both french choruses, that is, a Plein-jeu without tierce rank, made to be played in chords, and German, more polyphonic and with or without tierce.

There is even a Gamba, a stop that was often banned from any organ at that time.

Hence a rare flexibility. Maybe one of the secrets there is the synthesis has been made with contemporary styles, baroque german and french, not different periods.

 

Pierre

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I played this some years ago now but still remember the sounds vividly - I could live with it week in week out. There is superb workmanship and above all a French/German synthesis that really worked with Bach etc. and the Couperin school. The Clicquot style reeds on the Recit are amazingly 'energised' and the rest has the typical Danish style one associates with the smaller companies that were building instruments there during the 80s - perhaps more individuality and ingenuity in design than the bigger firms.

 

http://www.saeddenkirke.dk/a.php?i=215

 

AJJ

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The true Franck organ?

 

You can answer that after two manners:

 

1)-Franck wrote for St-Clotilde, Cavaillé-Coll. That's it.

Trouble is, as I understand it Franck's organ doesn't exist any more, at least, not in the form he knew it. It's been hacked around something rotten since his day.
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Interestingly, in 4 1/2 pages or so of "the finest five organs in the world" (and a few diversions about Carlo Curley), no one has mentioned Girard College in Philadelphia, USA.

 

Now I've never heard Girard live, and most likely never will - I gather access is quite limited - but certainly on recordings it comes across as the "real deal". (Come to think of it, didn't CC record it?)

 

Has anyone in Discussion Board Land experienced it live, either playing or listening?

 

Rgds,

MJF

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I would struggle to include any American Organ in a Top Ten, let alone a Top Five. Continental Europe has it sewn up. Even a couple of English Organs come into the reckoning.

 

It's not just the Organ itself, or even the music: it's also the building. The ambience, the smell, the depth of time. Money can buy some things, but time isn't one of them.

Anyone who has heard the big organ at Yale would never say that.

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As long as it goes like now, it won't be long before Japan, Korea,

Singapore etc will "beat" us europeans. The big contracts go

there nowadays.

And let us not forget Australia!!!

 

Back to the United States for a moment now. A question:

 

-Out of ten (10) organ-builders worldwide, how many are established

in the U.S.?

 

Subsidiary, and even more disturbing question:

 

-Out of 100 organ contracts (new organs & rebuilds) worldwide today,

how many in the U.S.?

 

Pierre

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Strange, this idea that american organ-building equals noise. Strange for a country

that must have build 70% of the total amount of celestes stops worldwide, and

where Audsley wrote (yes, he was against the Celestes!).

My two pennies: would there exist some slight preconceptions sometimes somewhere?

(just a tought)

 

Pierre

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Sure there's no question about quantity, but what about the quality?

 

I'm sure Yale has a very good Organ. I am sure there I are some very good Organs in the United States. No doubt about it, I've listened to a number of them. But we are talking here about a possible 'Top Five', for fun of course, but even when it's fun these things are always difficult to define. The Organ/The Music/The Building/If you're feeling good that day. It's always a fun but difficult one to call.

 

What is not difficult to call is the sheer beauty, or majestic presence, or a combination of all sorts of strange variables that make a superb Organ stand out. My first Top Five for instance included a number of indisputable gems that I am sure no one would argue with. Listening to the exquisite Choir Organ of King's Cambridge whilst sitting in the Choir Stalls is an unforgettable experience. Listening to the superb Cavaille Coll at St Ouen, Rouen is another. All are defining experiences, which go along with the medieval stonework, the ambience, the smell, the music (Continental European of course), all of these things gel together for an unforgettable experience.

 

Neither does a Top Five Organ in my book need to be big, either. None of my Top Five choices are particualrly large Organs, all infact are in the range of up to 65-75 stops or so, the biggest being St Paul's Cathedral (now at 108 stops, but for my money I would concentrate on the Chancel Organ with Pedal, which comes to 75 stops). Again, I'm driving at quality here, rather than quantity.  I am sure that Yale has a fine Organ, and I am sure it can blast your head off with chamades on 50' wind pressure. But does that make an Organ great?

 

I think not. Unless of course you like 32' en chamade eclairs, but I'd better stop there, in case that certain of our American cousins may rear there ugly heads again.

Who ever said ANTHING about enormous volume and the big Skinner at Yale? It is an instrument of infinite nuance and color, mostly in the range from ppp to f. Yes, it does have a truly earth shaking fff potential, but that is NOT what makes it truly great. There are no stops and pressures as you describe. As for quality, if there was ever a European builder that approached the quality of the Roosevelt, Treat, Skinner, AEolian and Kimbal firms, it was Cavaille-Coll and only Cavaille-Coll. If you were to view the interior of the Yale organ, it would take your breath away. EVERYTHING about that instrument defines the Art of Organbuilding.

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Who ever said ANTHING about enormous volume and the big Skinner at Yale?  It is an instrument of infinite nuance and color, mostly in the range from ppp to f.  Yes, it does have a truly earth shaking fff potential, but that is NOT what makes it truly great. There are no stops and pressures as you describe.  As for quality, if there was ever a European builder that approached the quality of the Roosevelt, Treat, Skinner, AEolian and Kimbal firms, it was Cavaille-Coll and only Cavaille-Coll. If you were to view the interior of the Yale organ, it would take your breath away.  EVERYTHING about that instrument defines the Art of Organbuilding.

 

Try the JAV 2 CD set with Tom Murray narrating and playing if you want proof of this - he goes through everything including the sound of the blowers!

 

http://www.pipeorgancds.com/thommurplayw1.html

 

AJJ

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Strange, this idea that american organ-building equals noise. Strange for a country

that must have build 70% of the total amount of celestes stops worldwide, and

where Audsley wrote (yes, he was against the Celestes!).

My two pennies: would there exist some slight preconceptions sometimes somewhere?

(just a tought)

 

Pierre

 

I think Pierre is absolutely right: the USA has some of the finest organs in the world - but certainly also some of the worst.

 

Not only are there lots of very gifted builders active in the USA - for example Taylor and Boody, Richards Fowkes, Paul Fritts, and also Manuel Rosales, a man with a very strong tonal vision all his own - and not forgetting the older generation, including the incomparable John Brombaugh , but the Americans also import organs in style and thus end up with some of the best products of European manufacture as well.

 

It is always difficult to include new or newish organs in such lists, just as new compositions are likely to be felt to have not yet met the "test of time". But I am convinced that the organ of St Ignatius Loyola New York will also make this list some day.

 

Cheers

B

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Of course, Mr Jordan; if a country builds many organs more than others,it is likely you will find the best and the worst there. Pure statistic!

 

What a shame the workforce is not worth a Pence any more today, because that was the source of our wealth in Belgium. But let us say should we find oil between Brussels and Liège -THAT is worth something in 2006- tomorrow, you would soon find here, among Manders, Kuhn, Klais, Eules, Aubertins etc, some Rosales, Fisks

and Schoensteins. Right in the middle of Europe, between the Grand Place of Brussels and the belgian chocolates shops.

 

Pierre

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Who ever said ANTHING about enormous volume and the big Skinner at Yale?  It is an instrument of infinite nuance and color, mostly in the range from ppp to f.  Yes, it does have a truly earth shaking fff potential, but that is NOT what makes it truly great. There are no stops and pressures as you describe.  As for quality, if there was ever a European builder that approached the quality of the Roosevelt, Treat, Skinner, AEolian and Kimbal firms, it was Cavaille-Coll and only Cavaille-Coll. If you were to view the interior of the Yale organ, it would take your breath away.  EVERYTHING about that instrument defines the Art of Organbuilding.

 

 

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

 

Exactly the reason why I included this organ in my top-5 list originally!

 

I wouldn't, however, limit European greatness merely to Cavaille-Coll!

 

MM

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