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The Most Perfect Organ Ever Made


David Coram
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It doesn't have to be big, flashy, loud, have the first or biggest or weirdest anything, it just has to be THE FINEST musical instrument ever, one you could never conceivably get bored with. It might have two stops, it might have 200. Lists please!

 

I suggest this because I have just renewed my acquantaince after a long pause with the Metzler at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford. It is just sumptously good. Check it out on NPOR at once. The construction of it is as perfect as I have ever seen; lovely keyboards, excellent wind, reeds very solidly stayed (unmoveable actually - probably why it never goes out of tune). So good, in fact, that lateron I'll post some sound clips of it.

 

Any other contestants?

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We're going back over recent ground here.

 

Horses for courses, but only a handful of organs get the consistent vote across the years.

 

I think I would still come down on the side of the Bavo Organ, Haarlem.

 

An instrument with which I would never get bored would be the Newberry Organ, Yale University, by Skinner.

 

On the other hand, the small baroque job I play has held me captive for nigh on 30 years, and I still love it. It's like a mini Bavo-orgel, but with a bit less variety. Perfect acoustic!

 

:lol:

 

MM

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It doesn't have to be big, flashy, loud, have the first or biggest or weirdest anything, it just has to be THE FINEST musical instrument ever, one you could never conceivably get bored with.  It might have two stops, it might have 200.  Lists please!

 

I suggest this because I have just renewed my acquantaince after a long pause with the Metzler at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford.  It is just sumptously good.  Check it out on NPOR at once.  The construction of it is as perfect as I have ever seen; lovely keyboards, excellent wind, reeds very solidly stayed (unmoveable actually - probably why it never goes out of tune).  So good, in fact, that lateron I'll post some sound clips of it.

 

Any other contestants?

 

 

Yes - but you know which....

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Old ground maybe. But lists are no good! Just one, only one, which really makes you sit up and think - blimey!

 

Case: http://www.university-church.ox.ac.uk/chur...ges/organ02.jpg

 

sounds: (ignore all notes - lots of sight reading going on)

 

Flutes - 8 on Gt, 4 on Pos down oct, ped 16 & 8

 

Principals - 8 on Gt, 4 on Pos down oct, ped 8 - switch it off when you get to a 3rd of the way through - never learnt this properly

 

Mutations - various options of Pos mutations

 

Dulcian - with Gt Cornet - wonderful stop

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Old ground maybe. But lists are no good! Just one, only one, which really makes you sit up and think - blimey!

 

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

 

Well here's one that makes the whole world sit and think, "Blimey!"

 

http://orgelconcerten.ncrv.nl/ncrv?nav=cpqbuCsHtGAiBzBGFwBdC

 

Hans van Nieuwkoop in recital.

 

Marvel at this instrument, and make sure to listen to the Alain and the final Bach work.

 

Organs don't come any better than this.....anywhere.

 

:lol:

 

MM

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It doesn't have to be big, flashy, loud, have the first or biggest or weirdest anything, it just has to be THE FINEST musical instrument ever, one you could never conceivably get bored with.  It might have two stops, it might have 200.  Lists please!

 

I suggest this because I have just renewed my acquantaince after a long pause with the Metzler at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford.  It is just sumptously good.  Check it out on NPOR at once.  The construction of it is as perfect as I have ever seen; lovely keyboards, excellent wind, reeds very solidly stayed (unmoveable actually - probably why it never goes out of tune).  So good, in fact, that lateron I'll post some sound clips of it.

 

Any other contestants?

 

The FINEST musical instrument would be (for me) the one that inspires the most to create music with.

 

For me that would be NotreDame de Paris in the hands of Pierre Cochereau first half 1970's.

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Well here's one that makes the whole world sit and think, "Blimey!"

 

http://orgelconcerten.ncrv.nl/ncrv?nav=cpqbuCsHtGAiBzBGFwBdC

 

Hans van Nieuwkoop in recital.

 

Marvel at this instrument, and make sure to listen to the Alain and the final Bach work.

 

Organs don't come any better than this.....anywhere.

 

:lol:

 

MM

 

Well, who would have thought it. Alain at Alkmaar. Brought tears to my eyes.

 

Blimey!

 

JC

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David's question is not an easy one to answer. If we are to take the question at face value, then instruments that have been rebuilt, restored etc are ineligible. The criteria must also be that it is an instrument one has either heard or played live. When you think about it, this narrows down the field considerably.

 

For example, the Father Willis organs at Truro and St Dominic's Priory, Belisze Park, London could be included as they are essentially as heard in their original state. The same could not apply to Salisbury, Hereford or Lincoln which have all had tonal alterations. The Harrison at St Mary Redcliffe would also be ruled out as the Swell Organ was destroyed in the Second World War and a new one installed in 1947, together with a second 32ft reed.

 

So where do we go from here? The Frobenius at Queens' College, Oxford is often talked about as being a superlative instrument, but then I've never heard it.

 

Oh dear, I've tied myself in knots here. :lol:

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

 

Hang about!  If you liked that, I'll try and find you Guilmant from St.Bavo!

 

:lol:

 

MM

 

 

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

 

 

Actually, try this for a Reger crescendo without thumb-pistons, a swell box or a rollschweller pedal.

 

http://www.josvanderkooy.com/cd/cd03.htm

 

:)

 

MM

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
======================

Actually, try this for a Reger crescendo without thumb-pistons, a swell box or a rollschweller pedal.

 

http://www.josvanderkooy.com/cd/cd03.htm

 

:D

 

MM

 

 

Yes, maybe... but with two expert console assistants, both working hard with both hands and frantically busy deciphering a heavily marked score! Of course, I'm impressed by the organ - almost sounds modern, doesn't it? There's a reason for that!

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More recordings of the Metzler in Oxford University Church, here being used for accompaniment, not necessarily of the repertoire you'd choose it for. Excuse notes - the organist was pulled in at four hours notice after the booked player had an accident :D .

 

Handel - Zadok the Priest

Vaughan Williams - Old Hundredth

 

Paul

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Yes, maybe... but with two expert console assistants, both working hard with both hands and frantically busy deciphering a heavily marked score!  Of course, I'm impressed by the organ - almost sounds modern, doesn't it?  There's a reason for that!

 

Indeed - it sounds not unlike a large turn-of-the-century* Hill organ.

 

(Including nine replacement ranks and eighteen additional ranks of pipes added by Marcussen in the 1959 - 61 rebuild.)

 

I like the sound, too. But I would hate to have two people beside me pulling and pushing stops whilst I played. Besides, what does Jos van der Kooy do if one (or both) of his registrants are sick, or stuck in traffic?

 

* 19th - 20th century.

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Old ground maybe.  But lists are no good!  Just one, only one, which really makes you sit up and think - blimey!

 

Case:  http://www.university-church.ox.ac.uk/chur...ges/organ02.jpg

 

sounds:  (ignore all notes - lots of sight reading going on)

 

Flutes - 8 on Gt, 4 on Pos down oct, ped 16 & 8

 

Principals - 8 on Gt, 4 on Pos down oct, ped 8 - switch it off when you get to a 3rd of the way through - never learnt this properly

 

Mutations - various options of Pos mutations

 

Dulcian - with Gt Cornet - wonderful stop

 

Liked the sound of this organ, particularly the dulcian. Would need to hear it in the flesh (or at least a well recorded cd, e.g. Priory) before passing final judgement. :D

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Yes, maybe... but with two expert console assistants, both working hard with both hands and frantically busy deciphering a heavily marked score!  Of course, I'm impressed by the organ - almost sounds modern, doesn't it?  There's a reason for that!

 

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

 

Yes indeed there is a good reason for the Bavo-orgel sounding "almost" modern, and this possibly accounts for the reason why Marcussen have never done another "restoration" of any significance in the Netherlands; their other great glory being the huge 4-manual (by number of pipes) at St.Laurens' Rotterdam.

 

There was a bit of a hue and a cry when it was finished, because the action was replaced, the winding was "improved" and many ranks were added or totally revoiced. Even the wind-pressure was lowered; making the organ much less robust in tone. The nicking was also rubbed out, due to the fact that someone thought it not original, when it probably was.

 

All that stated, the end result is a perfect organ, capable of so much in the right hands, so we should be grateful for the musical result, if not the historical aspects of the restoration.

 

I've mentioned this before, but if one organ reminds me very much of Haarlem, it is Sydney Town Hall, and yet the only possible historical link would be Snetzler, who cannot possibly have influenced Thomas Hill, when he built the Sydney instrument.

 

For an old baroque instrument seriously modified by a Danish organ-builder, Haarlem can produce the most wonderfully English sounds!

 

Nowadays, no organ-builder would DARE to restore in this fashion, and the extraordinary story of the Martinikerk, Groningen, which was almost a wreck, is worth reading. It sounds for all the world like the best of Arp Schnitger, and yet it is really a very recent creation of the restorer's art and craft.

 

With so many superb organs in Holland, one is rather spoiled for choice, and with so many fine NEW instruments, it is almost impossible to pick a winner in the "best organ stakes."

 

For reasons which we once dsicussed before under the heading of acoustics, that wonderful Netherlands sound doesn't seem to travel too well, except perhaps in ideal buildings closely related to the average Netherlands church.

 

That said, I suspect that if you are looking for the best organ in the world, it would almost certainly be in that lovely, organ-loving country.

 

MM

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Indeed - it sounds not unlike a large turn-of-the-century* Hill organ.

 

(Including nine replacement ranks and eighteen additional ranks of pipes added by Marcussen in the 1959 - 61 rebuild.)

 

I like the sound, too. But I would hate to have two people beside me pulling and pushing stops whilst I played. Besides, what does Jos van der Kooy do if one (or both) of his registrants are sick, or stuck in traffic?

 

* 19th - 20th century.

 

If a member of your string trio is sick or get's stuck in traffic, you just have to use your initiative and work your way round it. Working with registrants is a team effort in just the same way. However I was once asked, by an organist I was assisting, not to sigh so deeply every time he played a bum note! I hadn't realised I was doing so.

 

JC

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If a member of your string trio is sick or get's stuck in traffic, you just have to use your initiative and work your way round it.   Working with registrants is a team effort in just the same way.   However I was once asked, by an organist I was assisting, not to sigh so deeply every time he played a bum note!  I hadn't realised I was doing so.

 

JC

 

This would be acceptable if it were not for the fact that it is simply not physically possible effectively to register whilst playing at Haarlem. This is largely due to the fact that many stops cannot be reached, save by climbing off the stool.

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Well, who would have thought it.  Alain at Alkmaar.  Brought tears to my eyes. 

 

Blimey!

 

JC

I had the extraordinary pleasure, some 5 weeks ago, of hearing this great instrument used as a vehicle for an improvised accompaniment to the silent film Nosferatu.

 

It might seem logical that a theatre or concert organ with double touch, traps, swells, electric stop assistance and so on, would be more appropriate for this kind of usage. Having seen and heard a number of such performances, as is the current vogue, I retained a healthy sceptisicm about calling upon a baroque organ - even such a comprehensively-specified and romantically-nodding one - to play a role so apparently out of keeping to that intended by its makers.

 

I'm afraid that the reverse was true; many other silent film accompaniments pale at what can only be described as the creation of high /art/ that the transfixed masses (standing room only) bore witness to in that candlelit gothic barn that evening. The film some three hundred years the junior, the music contemporary by an artist (and, undoubtedly, registrants) whose sensitivity and brilliance was as moving as his name is unfamiliar to me, the almost unwordly beauty and unmistakable authority of the sounds emanating from the west wall were captivating. There was an audible gasp as the artist used two mutations partially drawn to paint a tonal portrait of a ticking grandfather clock. I know only a little Nederlands, but not much is needed to translate their amazement that it was actually the organist accompanying at that point.

 

The soundtrack merged so seamlessly with the film that whilst at the same time as marvelling at it I had constantly to remind myself that it was not integral.

 

In that evening I like to think I learned something about the baroque organ. In terms of suitability for the purpose of accompanying a silent film, Alkmaar's choruses have to be regarded as abstract in the sense that there are no "effects" providing the concrete sounds that one might wish for. But the abstract sounds, born from an entirely different need, are of such quality that they easily bridge the apparent gulf in the listener's mind to produce an overwhelming effect.

 

The recordings to which this thread links, whilst of fine quality and good enough to remind me of that evening, serve to demonstrate that the gap between recording and reality is bigger for this instrument than for many others. However, when one thinks how we are lucky enough to be able to hop on a ferry or a eurostar and experience such gobsmacking greatness, "Blimey" is pretty appropriate, really.

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I had the extraordinary pleasure, some 5 weeks ago, of hearing this great instrument used as a vehicle for an improvised accompaniment to the silent film Nosferatu. (etc)..........

 

However, when one thinks how we are lucky enough to be able to hop on a ferry or a eurostar and experience such gobsmacking greatness,  "Blimey" is pretty appropriate, really.

 

 

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

 

I am quite stunned by that! I just cannot imagine how it must have sounded, because the best I have ever heard was the late (and lovely) Ena Baga accompanying a silent film superbly, on a Wurlitzer. (Not that she used much in the way of special effects!)

 

As for the last quote above, when I heard the Alkmaar organ after the latest restoration, I couldn't even say, "Blimey." I was just speechless!

 

When I played it sometime later, the tears just rolled down my face!

 

The trouble is, when you've recovered from one piece of emotional scarring, you then have to face it all again at Haarlem, Groningen and Zwolle.

 

 

MM

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Guest Barry Williams
It doesn't have to be big, flashy, loud, have the first or biggest or weirdest anything, it just has to be THE FINEST musical instrument ever, one you could never conceivably get bored with.  It might have two stops, it might have 200.  Lists please!

 

I suggest this because I have just renewed my acquantaince after a long pause with the Metzler at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford.  It is just sumptously good.  Check it out on NPOR at once.  The construction of it is as perfect as I have ever seen; lovely keyboards, excellent wind, reeds very solidly stayed (unmoveable actually - probably why it never goes out of tune).  So good, in fact, that lateron I'll post some sound clips of it.

 

Any other contestants?

 

 

For its size, the superb Harrison at Saint Philip's Cosham in Hampshire takes some beating.

 

Barry Williams

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For its size, the superb Harrison at Saint Philip's Cosham in Hampshire takes some beating.

 

Barry Williams

 

Hmmm.... this one looks too small to be really good....

 

It is true that some small organs can be absolute gems, but the thread is, after all, about 'the finest musical instrument ever'.

 

I think that I would want a little more to play with....

 

B)

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