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Cornet Frenzy


Tubular_pneumatic
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Greetings,

 

When examining the specifications for new instruments here in the U.S. it seems as if more often than not, there are component ranks for the Cornet voice on even the smallest of organs (such as 9 ranks), or even multiple Cornet voices on 2 and 3 manual instruments.

 

I admit right now that I am not in the least bit attracted to the Cornet sound, but I still would like to know why these stops are so important that they appear in the vast majority of American instruments built within the last 40-50 years?

 

I can't tell you how many small 19th century trackers in Connecticut have had their Strings, Flutes, and Dulcianas removed, or even cut down for the want of a snarling (and to my mind useless - particularly if there's an Hautbois available) Cornet!

 

Isn't there anything better that can be done with those toe boards, or the money? <_<

 

Best,

 

Nathan

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Greetings,

 

    When examining the specifications for new instruments here in the U.S. it seems as if more often than not, there are component ranks for the Cornet voice on even the smallest of organs (such as 9 ranks), or even multiple Cornet voices on 2 and 3 manual instruments.

 

    I admit right now that I am not in the least bit attracted to the Cornet sound, but I still would like to know why these stops are so important that they appear in the vast majority of American instruments built within the last 40-50 years?

 

    I can't tell you how many small 19th century trackers in Connecticut have had their Strings, Flutes, and Dulcianas removed, or even cut down for the want of a snarling (and to my mind useless - particularly if there's an Hautbois available) Cornet!

 

    Isn't there anything better that can be done with those toe boards, or the money?  <_<

    Best,

 

          Nathan

 

I agree with you Nathan that a Cornet can seem out of place in an otherwise romantic scheme, and I agree that making Cornets out of carefully voiced strings etc. by simply cutting the pipes down and opening up the footholes is a type of vandalism. This has (of course) happened here too! Even though the Cornet repertoire is mostly 17/18th century, these stops have been used by Romantic Builders (see below). I'm organist of a massive romantic job (104 stops) and a proper Cornet is virtually the only stop I don't have and I miss it terribly! I'd back up any builder who attempted to include Cornets in a standard scheme because there are plentiful uses for Cornet stops and even more for the individual ranks that make up a Cornet Separe.

 

In order to convince you of their possible uses, of course I should warn that Cornets themselves vary markedly from organ-builder to organ-builder, but the best ones blend well and make a very bright quasi-reed tone that stays in tune! In late 17th and 18th century music (from more-or-less anywhere in Europe) the Cornet is an invaluable solo stop - there are so many splendid works that I couldn't list even the composers for you, best known might be D'Aquin Noels, Stanley or Walond Voluntaries, Couperin etc.

 

In 18th century music from more or less anywhere in Europe, the Cornet is used for as many solos as a Trumpet - frankly, in virtually every set of pieces it features at least twice. North German organs depend more on the Sesquialtera than the Cornet, but Cornet Separe ingredients can tolerably substitute for these too.

 

As a chorus enricher (terrible word) the Cornet is invaluable. Before Cavaille-Coll (and his practice of increased pressures in the treble), organ builders tended to struggle to make their reed trebles strong enough to match the basses. A cornet drawn with the reeds solved this problem. It became an essential in the Grand Jeu and is still drawn in the same way and for the same reason in romantic German organ music too.

 

Cornets take up relatively little room and even poorly made ones can be very striking to listen to. One cannot build them from extended (tempered) ranks, because the quints will be too flat and the Tierces too sharp to produce a proper blend. This means that you will find that even poor builders get somewhere near if they try producing one! Some recently produced Cornets have been very striking. There is room for further development as illustrated by the Cornet stops that have been made for Jean Guillou by various builders. Detlef Kleuker has made them of harmonic flute pipes (very big, very bold and almost silky), and a cornet in 16' pitch is an amazing sound. I think they're a genuine organ effect, a sound we haven't pinched from the orchestra and one to keep including in organs.

 

Over here (U.K.) one commonly meets a Cornet Separe on the Choir or Positive organ. If drawing up a stoplist, I would probably do the same. You get useful flute ranks at 8.4.2 and the mutations at 2.2/3 and 1.3/5 enable various traditional organ colours to be built up for solos in Chorale Preludes, or contrasting parts in Trio playing. My only caveat is that organ builders do not always bother to include Principals in this division, and these are invaluable for making a secondary chorus to the Great.

 

A Cornet Separe on the Great is fine provided that there is also a proper 2' principal. Once again, in smaller schemes builders have often tried to get away with a 2' flute and to my ears these never work in building a proper chorus. 8.4.2 in principals (if half decent) is a vastly superior tone and usefulness than 8.4.Flute 2! More often, one finds builders making a III Cornet which becomes complete when drawn with 8.4 Flutes. This saves space and work. I'm all in favour, not least because one can compound the III with Flute 8 and Principal 4' and get a slightly less rounded sound - more English?

 

You mention that builders seem to give you more than one Cornet - this is correct from the point of view of any organist who wishes to play the classical French repertoire. This allows for Echo pieces, Duos with various stops and for Grand Jeu effects. I personally love the 3.1/5 Tierce which together with 5.1/3 and some basic flue ranks makes a fabulously rich and seductive sound in the right repertoire (of course). You might ask who would want to play this stuff? Answer is, it's not everyone's cup of tea but it's not that difficult to play (assuming that one has already heard a little of the style which is not fully notated on the scores). It's entertaining to listen to and gives real variety to an organist's repertoire.

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In a french baroque organ, each Cornet is different from the others:

 

-GO Grand Cornet: to build a "Grand-jeu" with the reeds, as Paul said;

 

-Positif Cornet: smaller scale, soloist as well as for a little Grand jeu with the

Positif's Trompette;

 

-Echo and Récit Cornet: softer, often somewhat "buried" in the basement.

 

And then you have the Tierce. When you say "Tierce", you imply:

 

Bourdon 8'

Flûte 4'

Nasard 2 2/3'

Quarte de Nasard 2' (often omitted so you use the Doublette 2')

Tierce 1 3/5'

(Larigot 1 1/3') Only on the Positif

 

An then you can have in a big organ with a 16' Montre, on the GO:

 

Gros Nasard 5 1/3'

Grosse Tierce 3 1/5'

 

These ranks, while still belonging -strictly!- to the Flute family (you will never find

a mutation rank from the Diapason-Principal family in a french classical organ), are smaller in scale and softer voiced than the Cornet. They are intended for Trios, or, played in the middle of the compass (the Tierce is full-compass, while the Cornets are not save in later, romantic organs), for splendid, meditative pieces known as "Tierce en taille", often inspired by operatic airs.

 

The romantic organ did NOT dispose of the Cornet, but its form changed and became widely varied. In another thread I compared that with the Leitmotivs in Wagner:

 

-The Strings yield strong 17ths;

-Many reeds too, for example Clarinette, Physharmonika

-The 17th was quite often present in the Mixtures (France excepted)

-Dolce, Dulciana Cornet (often seen in US specifications)

-Harmonia aetherea (2 2/3'-2'-1 3/5' or more, soft Gamba tone)

 

So to get rid of a Gamba in order to make room for a Tierce or a Cornet (often exactly the same thing in neo-baroque jobs, by the way...!) is somewhere to replace

a steak with a beef piece!

Besides vandalism, this is not very clever also. But these times are already over, or

nearly so. One hears from time to time of a romantic or late-romantic organ that has

been -or will be!- destroyed, but nothing to compare to the massive losses in the 50's,60's and 70's.

 

Pierre

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Greetings,

 

    When examining the specifications for new instruments here in the U.S. it seems as if more often than not, there are component ranks for the Cornet voice on even the smallest of organs (such as 9 ranks), or even multiple Cornet voices on 2 and 3 manual instruments.

 

    I admit right now that I am not in the least bit attracted to the Cornet sound, but I still would like to know why these stops are so important that they appear in the vast majority of American instruments built within the last 40-50 years?

 

    I can't tell you how many small 19th century trackers in Connecticut have had their Strings, Flutes, and Dulcianas removed, or even cut down for the want of a snarling (and to my mind useless - particularly if there's an Hautbois available) Cornet!

 

    Isn't there anything better that can be done with those toe boards, or the money?  <_<

 

    Best,

 

          Nathan

As one who has regrettably never heard this instrument, is there any reader out there who has played Southwark Cathedral and can describe the tonality and effect of the Cornet III-V on the Great there? Is it a solo and/or chorus register?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
As one who has regrettably never heard this instrument, is there any reader out there who has played Southwark Cathedral and can describe the tonality and effect of the Cornet III-V on the Great there? Is it a solo and/or chorus register?

 

 

It's a good stop and yes, it serves in both capacities.

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To my ears, a Cornet of truly grand scale, like they were built in French organs of the 17th and 18th century, is a very bold and exciting sound. In French classical music, they were often used as a partner for the Cromorne, which is of comparable weight and colour in the bass and tenor range; for fugues, for example, the left hand sometimes played on the Cromorne, the right hand on the Cornet.

 

Some examples are built from pipes that are best described as super-diapasons: very, very large scale, wide mouths, low cut-ups. Such a Cornet, to the French classical organ, is comparable to the Tuba in a victorian English one. The most commanding sound by far, and exclusively for solo purposes.

 

In fact, a friend of mine used it as such after having heard Roger Fisher's recording of the Elgar sonata (on Motette). Mr Fisher pulls the Chester Tuba in the end of the final movement, but just for the up-down arpeggio. My friend, when playing the sonata on a moderate two-manual along French-Alsatian lines, chose the Grand Cornet -- just as exciting, and the feeling of lightning hitting the sound. (The interpretation, by the way, works very well, and a recording was issued on the Telos label [LC02966], no. TLS 019.)

 

Cornets like that one were not built to blend with the chorus. When narrower scaled or toned down, the Cornet will blend better, but lose some of its bold colour. In choruses, I like better Sesquialtera-type 17ths, or the narrow conical 17ths as they were built by Walcker and some of his pupils.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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