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Cavaillé-coll Manual Layout


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With regard to the order of manuals in Cavaillé-Coll's instruments, does the Positif play from the bottom manual only when there is a seperate Positif de Dos case such as St Ouen, Rouen?

The three-manual instrument at St Sernin, Toulouse has the Grand Orgue first and the Positif second. Is the Positif case empty as at St Sulpice or does the P. action cross around or through the G.O. action?

 

Thanks

 

James Goldrick

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I have asked around about this and this is what I came up with. The Positif case on the St. Sulpice organ was indeed emptied in 1857 by C-C. Mutin changed the order of the manuals in 1903 (but I don't know exactly how or whether till then the Positif was still on the lowest manual). As of today, the lowest is Grand Choeur, second Grande Orgue, third Positif, fourth Recit and fifth Solo.

 

As far as I am aware, C-C never built a Positif de Dos case on any of his own instruments, but there are some (such as St. Omer) where he retained the P d D case when he rebuilt the organ. In most if not all such instances, the Positif retained the tradition of being on the lowest keyboard, although in his own instruments the G.O. was always on the lowest row of keys.

 

I hope others may have even more information to impart.

 

John Pike Mander

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No, as far as I know, the Positif case at St. Sernin contains the Positif Orgue - the console is en fenetre. A similar layout exists at St. Etienne, Caen (which I have played on occasion). The order of the manuals here is also:

I - GO

II - Positif

III- Recit Expressif

 

Hope this helps

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  • 2 weeks later...

The manual layout of Cavaillé-Coll's grande orgue at St Sulpice could still be the subject of some debate. On the organ's website, there are some detailed drawings of vertical elevations of the organ and a detailed layout drawing of the disposition stops on the console, dated 29th April, 1862, but the resolution is not good enough to determine which manual connects with what. Moreover, the location of soundboards for a particular manual is not clear or labelled. One can take a guess as to what they are. The only things that are obvious are the 16ft and 32ft Pedal reed pipes, the fake 'en chemade' and the position of the console.

 

However, a clue may be found in a biography of Widor: The Life and Times of Charles Marie Widor (I can't remember tha author's name), it's out of print and I lent it to somebody a few months ago. It refers to two stops (Principal 16 ft and Principal 8ft) being added to the pedal department, late in Widor's career. If I remember rightly from the book, it was to celebrate his 60th anniversary at St Sulpice in 1930. There was already a 32ft Principal Base but, surprisingly, nothing in the way of a principal chorus in the pedals from Cavaillé-Coll's scheme. Cavaillé´-Coll's pedal deparment at St Sulpice was surprisingly minimalist for an organ of this size.

 

What is interesting from the drawings on the website is the original layout and disposition of the stops on the console in Cavaillé-Coll's drawing of 29th April 1862, which is very different from the disposition of today, also shown on the website. Incidentally, on Cavaillé-Coll's drawing, what we now know as the 'Solo' division, was referred to as the 'Bombarde' division.

 

Another clue from the biography maybe seen from a photograph of Widor improvising at St Sulpice, where he looks like a relatively young man, certainly a lot younger than in photographs we often see of him that were taken much later in his life. The resolution on this photograph is not good, but it maybe possible to determine whether it was taken before the stop layout on the console was changed, simply by counting the stops on different levels and comparing it with the original and the existing.

 

Of course, the staff at St Sulpice are adamant that nothing as radical as changing the order of the manual keyboards has ever occurred since Cavaillé-Coll's day. Somehow, I think the biography of Widor might have made reference to it had a change been instigated by Widor.

 

And another clue may also have come from Notre Dame (another five manual CC), had the Cavaillé-Coll console and action not been brutally ripped out.

 

So whether Mutin did change the manual keyboard layouts in 1903 is, to my mind, still open to debate. It is possible that the 1903 work was limited to cleaning, overhauling and the change in stop layouts only.

 

As always, I am sure there are more eminently-qualified people out there who can cast more light on this than me.

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I found this in Veerkamp's "L'orgue à tuyaux", page 166:

 

"...In modern french instruments, (the order) it is, from bottom to top: Grand-orgue, Positif, Récit. The only exception are the organs having a seperate Positive case (Positif de dos), in order to avoid that the trackers have to cross."

 

So when ACC maintained a Positif de dos, its clavier was the first (bottom), the next Grand-orgue, then Récit. Veerkamp (former manager by Cavaillé-Coll) says nothing about 4 and 5 manuals consoles, they being too seldom. It seems no definitive rule was fixed.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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The manual layout of Cavaillé-Coll's grande orgue at St Sulpice could still be the subject of some debate.

 

 

It was always my understanding that the manual order at St Sulpice had been changed early last century, and I recently purchased a copy of Jesse Eschbach's "Aristide Cavaille-Coll : A Compendium of Known Stoplists" which seems to confirm it. Eschbach lists the top three manuals as III - Bombarde (now called Solo), IV - Positif and V - Recit Expressif.

 

This order makes a lot of sense when one considers the disposition of the Bombarde and Positif, built up around 16' and 8' series respectively: they act as tone-building factories centred upon different pitches. On the other hand, while the current order of the first four manual - Grand-Choeur, Grand-Orgue, Positif and Recit Expressif seems natural, the disposition of the (now-) Solo, sitting up on the 5th manual, makes it seem somewhat out of place.

 

Mind you, I'd love to hear what Daniel Roth or Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin would make of that!

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I would just like to add that CC's 1875 proposal for St Peter's Basilica, Rome - as is fairly well documented, most most recently by Eschbach and also in the later Julian Rhodes' "Dream Organs" website (www.ondamar.demon.co.uk/organs.htm) - included 6 manual divisions playable from 5 claviers. These were to have been: I - Grand-Orgue (22 stops) and Grand Choeur (16); II Bombarde (16); III - Positif (16); IV - Recit Expressif (16); and V - Solo Expressif (16). Like the Bombarde at St Sulpice, that proposed for St Peters was to have included an almost complete 16' flue chorus (see below). Interestingly, the full complement of 8' mutations would no longer be found in the Positif on III, but rather in the Solo Expressif on V. (The chorus in the Positif was to be quite abbreviated.) Although this is somewhat at odds with my earlier comment that the Bombarde (Solo) at St Sulpice seems out of place on the 5th manual, I do wonder if in fact it had more to do with CC's apparent fixation - I hope that is not too strong a word - with having the right number of stops in each department. I mentioned above that each department at St Peter's, other than the Grand-Orgue, was to have 16 stops, while the Grand-Orgue was to have 22. So too was the Pedale to have 22. The "fixation" with number is also evident in the Bombarde, which was to include mutations at 3 1/5', 2 2/3' and 2 2/7' pitches, although none at 5 1/3' pitch (although one was to be included on the Grand-Orgue, which was also to include a Quinte at 2 2/3' pitch) - seemingly so as to ensure that the "principle" of having a common number of 16 stops in all departments other than the Pedale and Grand-Orgue was not violated.

 

MJF

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The more I think about this, the less I'm able to get my brain around it. Looking again at Cavaillé-Coll's original drawing, I can see some logic to the layout you describe. I thought his drawing was merely referring to the disposition of the stops and not just the manual keyboards. Although if you look at what the drawing is called, it does say clearly that it shows the disposition of the manual keyboards and stops. I must have mis-read what CC described in his drawing. But having the Récit such a long way from the Grande Orgue and the Grande Choeur must have presented a challenge.

 

So if the lateration was made in 1903, it must have been at the instigation of Widor. Maybe that is when the two pedal stops were added as well. I will have to recheck his biography.

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But having the Récit such a long way from the Grande Orgue and the Grande Choeur must have presented a challenge.

 

While I agree that reaching up to the Recit Expressif would have been awkward, I wonder if we are looking at the matter in quite the correct context. In particular, we are very used to the manual system - Grand-Orgue - I, Positif - II and Recit Expressif - III - as indicated in French composers' works from the late 19th century onwards, and I think that we have come to regard their registration indications as representing, not just their own thinking with regard to their instruments, but perhaps also what CC had in mind from St Denis at the very beginning. In any case, with the notable exceptions of Widor, Vierne and Dupre, I think it is reasonable to say that most of the composers during this period presided over three manual instruments with exactly the above disposition. Personally, I think that they found more in CC's organs - that is, in the way that their resources might best be utilised, and the possibilities they contained - than he had foreseen.

 

CC clearly could not have had such eventual use of the Recit Expressif in mind when he rebuilt the organ at St Sulpice. Rather, his original conception of that division was one that developed and changed during his long career. It grows from a small 8 stop division of solo registers on manual IV in his 1834 revision of the St Denis proposal, accounting for less than 14% of the total number of stops, to a huge 20 stop division, of more than 31% of the total number of stops, in the St Ouen organ of 1890. The latter organ is, I think, particularly significant in the context of our discussion (apart from its obvious intrinsic merits) since the Recit Expressif has now moved to manual III, while the Bombarde - which is equivalent in its structure to the Grand-Choeur at St Sulpice - has now been relegated to manual IV. By this time, CC seems to think in terms of coupling the Bombarde to the Grand-Orgue in order to complete the latter's chorus, rather than shifting the hands down to the lowest manual. (The only "abnormal" feature at St Ouen, which was fully explained in earlier comments above, is that the Positif is played from manual I: here it is in the Positif de Dos position rather than within the case.)

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  • 4 weeks later...

In reply to Anthony Poole's comment earlier, I don't think the old C-C console at Notre-Dame would have helped much, because Vierne had the order of the manuals changed there, too. Prior to that, I think the Recit-Expressif was played from the top (fifth) manual, and I think the GC was played from the bottom, but I cannot remember for sure.

 

Actually the old console is still accessible, in the Musee de N-D, across the street (north side). I took some pictures of it, whilst my girlfriend distracted the security guard (please don't ask how....). It was not in a good state of repair, it has to be said. (The console, not the security guard.) :D

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OK, I have found what I was looking for:

 

At Notre-Dame, Paris, in 1868 the order of the claviers was as follows (bottom: I, top: V):

 

I. Grand-Choeur

II. Grand-Orgue

III. Bombarde

IV. Positif

V. Recit-Expressif

 

Subsequent to 1932 (when work was carried out by the succesors to C-C, who later became the firm of Beuchet-Debierre*), the order of the manuals was as follows:

 

I. Grand-Orgue

II. Positif

III. Recit-Expressif

IV. Solo (formerly 'Bombarde')

V. Grand-Choeur

 

This arrangement is that which currently exists on the new console, post-1992.

 

It is interesting to note that at the time of the 1868 re-build by C-C, only two tirasses were provided: Tirasse Grand-Choeur and Tirasse Grand-Orgue. In 1932, at third, Tirasse Recit was fitted.

 

I read once, somewhere, that originally at Ste. Clothilde, C-C did not provide a Tirasse Recit (apparently specifications listing one are supposedly inaccurate). This would certainly explain the redundant doubling of the pedal part on the lower part of the left-hand stave in, for example, Franck's 1re Choral.

 

* The firm of Debierre originally traded from Nantes.

 

Hope this helps.

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On a further point, which Anthony Poole makes: the work undertaken by Ch. Mutin at N-D, in 1903, was as follows: on the Recit, the former Bourdon 8p was replaced by a large-scale Diapason 8p and a clarinette with a four-rank Fourniture (composition at CC being 15, 22, 26, 29*). In addition, the Flutes (8p and 4p) were transferred from the anches (jeux de combinaisons) chest to the flue chest. Vierne also wished to add a three-rank Cymbale, but this was precluded, due, I think, to financial reasons.

 

* The mixture composition and breaks were supplied by M. Alexandre Guilmant, who also stipulated the voicing of these pipes.

 

Incidentally, to talk of the old N-D console being 'brutally ripped out' is not entirely fair. The organ at N-D suffered a rather less kind fate than that of its larger brother at S. Sulpice. For a time, during the Great War, the organ and the tribune at Notre-Dame were open to the elements, since the glass had been removed from the great west window, for safe-keeping. By the time Pierre Cochereau inherited the instrument from Leonce de Saint-Martin, the console (and largely the organ itself) was in a very sorry state. Whilst it probably could have been restored, an instrument of this size is not easy to control with the type of console C-C originally supplied. I understand that even Daniel Roth has two Registrants present when he plays at S. Sulpice, in order to assist with stop-changes. This is all very well, but it is not exactly convenient or practical. In any case, from August 1983, the combination system at Notre-Dame had been disconnected, due to serious malfunction, so Cochereau and later, his four successors, had to rely on assistants here, too. It did of course mean that, when they were improvising, the assistants had to possess some psychic ability, in order correctly to prepare the next registration....

 

Food for thought.

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I agree on the Cochereau console: the organ was 'restored' in way that fits the era (electricity, neo-classical elements etc.) ánd (vision of) the titulaire (I personally like the organ in early 1970's Cochereau recordings).

 

I'm not sure if the computerizing of '92 adds up much, but I think that in our time the instrument may fit the use we need from it wíth respect ot its history and identity. So, I would have liked to see the instrument returned to is pre-war composition, with a copy of the old console (respect for the monument) where electronics for registration/replay etc. for practical use in a very busy schedule could well be provided (convenience).

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Yes, I like the sound of the organ from the 1970s, too!

 

I am less sure about the present transmission; I think that the technology was in advance of the practical ability to apply it, and consequently, there were several teething problems. I remember David Briggs telling me that he was playing the recital to mark the tenth anniversary of Cochereau's death (the twenty-first anniversary is tonight/tomorrow morning, incidentally) and the organ died in a complex loud section of a piece. Apparently the digital key scanning system, or the computer itself (by Synaptel) overloaded!

On reflection, a good electro-pneumatic transmission may have been safer. That being said, I think that the organ is pretty well-behaved, these days.

 

I must confess that I cannot now see the point of re-instating the old console - apart from the fact that quite a few stops would have to be omitted (from the Pedale Orgue, in particular), because there is simply no room on the terraces, I doubt if pistons could be fitted in the key-slips, due to action and height restrictions. They would, in any case, look distinctly odd. I further suspect that even if pistons could be fitted, it would be hard to locate them during a piece, due to the greater overhang of the old keyboards. Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford had a similar problem when the Rieger was first installed; although I think that different piston-heads have since been fitted. Certainly, they cause me but few problems when I play there.

 

I presume you have some of the Cochereau improvisation CDs - or do you have him only playing repertoire? I expexct you are aware of the Solstice site, administered by Francois and Yvette Carbou, but if not, I can easily provide the address for it online. :D

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Yes, I like the sound of the organ from the 1970s, too!

 

I must confess that I cannot now see the point of re-instating the old console - apart from the fact that quite a few stops would have to be omitted (from the Pedale Orgue, in particular), because there is simply no room on the terraces, I doubt if pistons could be fitted in the key-slips, due to action and height restrictions.

 

I presume you have some of the Cochereau improvisation CDs - or do you have him only playing repertoire? I expexct you are aware of the Solstice site, administered by Francois and Yvette Carbou, but if not, I can easily provide the address for it online. :D

 

I didn't quite mean a re-instate of the old console, but more having built a new console based on the looks of the old one but for the 'setup' of the current instrument - must be possible (hmm, maybe a kind of 'VW new beetle' thing ....).

 

Thanks for the Solstice mentioning (got 'm all ...), do you have the Philips recordings?

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I didn't quite mean a re-instate of the old console, but more having built a new console based on the looks of the old one but for the 'setup' of the current instrument - must be possible (hmm, maybe a kind of 'VW new beetle' thing ....).

 

Thanks for the Solstice mentioning (got 'm all ...), do you have the Philips recordings?

 

 

Oh yes - but thanks, though!

 

(You have got the DVD, I assume?) There are also a few obscure ones, not sold by Solstice - I can let you have details, if you wish. In addition, there is a good improvisation CD by the late Yves Devernay (one of the four original Titulaires who succeeded Cochereau in 1985). He sounds more like Cochereau than anyone else (apart from David Briggs!), yet with his own musical language. Worth getting, if you have not already got it. :D

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