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Romantic Diapasons


Pierre Lauwers

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Well, we had an interesting discussion on another thread about the (Open) Diapason

in baroque organs, from which we can summarize:

 

-There is no known "standard" for the british Diapason

 

-Harrises could have been actually french Montres, for example,

as explained by Paul

 

-What we call "the typical british Diapason" is probably reffering only

to the romantic type.

 

When a foreigner tours England, it is this kind of stop he will find -maybe was it

more the case in the 70's as it is now!-, and it holds attention because it is something

*rather special*

I even met -somewhere in a remote corner of Western England- a leathered Open Diapason that did not confirm at all what I had read about this treatment (i.e., "unartistic", etc), quite to the contrary, so interesting it was.

 

Maybe Noel Bonavia-Hunt did not help much to secure a long-lasting recognition and care for this kind of stops, as they may now be associated with his writings, which, interesting as they obviously are for the historian, may sometimes be questionned as one-sided (There is nothing save my own vision of Schulze's work...).

 

I will summarize my vision, that is, how a belgian busy with papers and periods, see these stops:

 

-Heavy, tick pipes with relatively low tin content;

 

-Never slotted (at least the ones I could see the pipes!)

 

-Foundational tone with few harmonic devellopment

 

-....Compensated by the presence of several O.D. on the first manual,

with decreasing scales and "weight of tone".

 

-Contrarily to (romantic!) continental stops, they are the basis of a true Diapason chorus (16-8-4-2 2/3-2-Mixture)....

 

-BUT this chorus is not a "classical" one, we would err trying to crown it with

a Dom-Bédos Mixture.

(See Mr Bicknell's very interesting comments about Mixtures).

 

So far, so good.

It would be interesting now to gather comments here from you all who have a

hands-on knowledge of these stops.

 

Pierre

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Not so very long ago I heard a well known organist at a well known parish church in northern middle England claim that on a traditional English Romantic organ the Open Diapasons I, II and III were not voiced to be drawn together, but were meant to be substituted one by one. This flies in the face of all the contemporary habits I have been told about, from which I am given understand that people in those days built up a crescendo by adding stops without ever bothering to subtract any. Past generations, we should remember, had less registration aids than we do. So I find this notion of substitution very dubious. Any views?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Not so very long ago I heard a well known organist at a well known parish church in northern middle England claim that on a traditional English Romantic organ the Open Diapasons I, II and III were not voiced to be drawn together, but were meant to be substituted one by one. This flies in the face of all the contemporary habits I have been told about, from which I am given understand that people in those days built up a crescendo by adding stops without ever bothering to subtract any. Past generations, we should remember, had less registration aids than we do. So I find this notion of substitution very dubious. Any views?

 

 

I agree with you, VH. Tastes have changed, but I'm quite sure that multiple Open Diapasons were intended to be drawn together/cumulatively and this idea died out not so very long ago. I remember an article in The Organ where the reviewer was forced to comment when a large new organ had only one Open Diapason on the Great, but also had a Gemshorn and a Viola all at 8' (from memory, I think it could have been the organ at Ampleforth) and he explained to us that these could still be used like III II and finally I - 8's being added together. This was in the 60s.

 

There are a good clutch of Open Diapasons all massed on the Great at Downside Abbey. Much commented upon by more than one writer at the time (1926) was this 'Diapason Chorus' (NB all at 8' as was made clear by the context). This, after all, is not so very different idea as French Fonds 8. Nobody has ever suggested that in this sort of music you take off the lesser powered stops as you add the bigger ones. In fact, the warmth, and even the slight irregularities of tuning between the various stops adds to the resonance and character of the sound.

 

Now, of course, when playing 17th/18th century music one should consciously choose which 8's to draw - no organist of the period would have used more unison than necessary because of the large demands that these make on the wind supply and his poor (human) blower.

 

There is a rider to this: viz the use of 'Old English' Open and Stopped Diapasons. Our open diapasons were not powerful and were often slow. The traditional drawing of both Open and Stopped together as the basis for a chorus is for practical as well as musical reasons.

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I agree with you, VH.  Tastes have changed, but I'm quite sure that multiple Open Diapasons were intended to be drawn together/cumulatively and this idea died out not so very long ago. I remember an article in The Organ where the reviewer was forced to comment when a large new organ had only one Open Diapason on the Great, but also had a Gemshorn and a Viola all at 8' (from memory, I think it could have been the organ at Ampleforth) and he explained to us that these could still be used like III II and finally I - 8's being added together.  This was in the 60s.

 

There are a good clutch of Open Diapasons all massed on the Great at Downside Abbey.  Much commented upon by more than one writer at the time (1926) was this 'Diapason Chorus' (NB all at 8' as was made clear by the context).  This, after all, is not so very different idea as French Fonds 8. Nobody has ever suggested that in this sort of music you take off the lesser powered stops as you add the bigger ones.  In fact, the warmth, and even the slight irregularities of tuning between the various stops adds to the resonance and character of the sound.

 

Now, of course, when playing 17th/18th century music one should consciously choose which 8's to draw - no organist of the period would have used more unison than necessary because of the large demands that these make on the wind supply and his poor (human) blower.

 

There is a rider to this: viz the use of 'Old English' Open and Stopped Diapasons. Our open diapasons were not powerful and were often slow. The traditional drawing of both Open and Stopped together as the basis for a chorus is for practical as well as musical reasons.

 

Years ago I remember standing by for a broadcast by Arnold Richardson at St James the Greater Leicester. The first thing he did was to pull out all the 8' stops (except the Celeste) on the Swell and Great. I was far more a purist in those days, (when Peter Hurford was at his zenith) and said "Youv'e mixed up all the 8's". He beamed at me and said "Warms it up my boy!"

 

FF

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"This, after all, is not so very different idea as French Fonds 8. Nobody has ever suggested that in this sort of music you take off the lesser powered stops as you add the bigger ones. In fact, the warmth, and even the slight irregularities of tuning between the various stops adds to the resonance and character of the sound."

(Quote)

 

This is the way I have understand it.

As a means to add depth, like the 4 Cavaillé's "fonds", but with

"organ tone" only.

The use of two Principals -I mean open ones- dates back to the italian Renaissance -again-. In England it seems the duplicated 8' and 4' were dropped only after the Restoration, following continental models.

So this was somewhere a come-back.

 

Pierre

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I remember an article in The Organ where the reviewer was forced to comment when a large new organ had only one Open Diapason on the Great, but also had a Gemshorn and a Viola all at 8' (from memory, I think it could have been the organ at Ampleforth) and he explained to us that these could still be used like III II and finally I - 8's being added together.  This was in the 60s.

 

 

You are correct, Paul. It was the Walker organ at Ampleforth Abbey. The reviewer was, I believe, Norman Sterrett.

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