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Trinity College, Cambridge

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In an idle moment today I explored the Trinity entry on NPOR.

 

The Metzler is widely held to be a superb instrument (whatever one's opinion of its accompanimental utility).

 

But I'm fascinated by the Hill it replaced. The spec seems to contain lots of vain repetition, and seems huge for the size of the chapel. I wonder if anyone heard/played this instrument, and has any thoughts on it? Are there any recordings available?

 

Cheers!

 

Matthew

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In an idle moment today I explored the Trinity entry on NPOR.

 

The Metzler is widely held to be a superb instrument (whatever one's opinion of its accompanimental utility).

 

But I'm fascinated by the Hill it replaced. The spec seems to contain lots of vain repetition, and seems huge for the size of the chapel. I wonder if anyone heard/played this instrument, and has any thoughts on it? Are there any recordings available?

 

Cheers!

 

Matthew

 

Do you mean the 1911 Harrison incarnation? - I heard that once but it was very much on it's last legs - it sounded a lot like other 1911 Harrisons - but I am biased as that is not a sound I like very much!

 

AJJ

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It's a monster!

 

Presumably, given the size of the chapel, a veritable smorgasbord of tone colours was the aim, rather than sheer volume of sound. Even so, full organ with three 32ft stops on the instrument and a full battery of Trombas on the Great, must have been quite a foundation shaking experience. The only mention of it I could find on Google concerned the Swell 4ft flute which went to St George's Cathedral, Cape Town:

 

"Yet another interesting addition took place in 1975 when the swell 4 flute was bought from Trinity College, Cambridge, when the Harrison and Harrison organ was replaced by the present Metzler. Strangely enough, the 1909 Cape Town Hill organ lacked such a stop on the swell and, as the Trinity organ contained much original Hill pipework (it had been rebuilt by Harrisons), the flute blends perfectly with its fellows. It also adds to the distinguished history of the Cape Town instrument as it was a stop regularly used by Stanford, Alan Gray, Vaughan Williams, and no doubt by Saint-Saëns when he gave a memorable organ recital in the Trinity College Chapel on the occasion of his visit to Cambridge to receive an honorary D.Mus. in 1893."

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In an idle moment today I explored the Trinity entry on NPOR.

 

The Metzler is widely held to be a superb instrument (whatever one's opinion of its accompanimental utility).

 

But I'm fascinated by the Hill it replaced. The spec seems to contain lots of vain repetition, and seems huge for the size of the chapel. I wonder if anyone heard/played this instrument, and has any thoughts on it? Are there any recordings available?

 

Cheers!

 

Matthew

 

 

I heard it shortly before it was replaced. It was a very fine sound for the romantic repertoire, not particularly suitable for Bach and his predecessors, but it had become rather dilapidated and there was a lot of action and wind noise.

 

My recollection is that is was very loud, and the Tuba was ear-splitting and not at all to my taste. It was certainly too big physically: it was virtually the full width of the building, and the 32' open woods stood against the north wall of the ante-chapel, disfiguring it somewhat.

 

The final recording of it is "Organ Music from Cambridge No. 3" from Grosvenor Records, GRS 1007. It was recorded by Richard Marlow shortly before the organ was taken down. The Franck B minor chorale and Howells's D flat Rhapsody come off very well in this recording; the Bach "Jig" fugue is played very "fluty" and the music is accompanied by an awful lot of clattering from the pneumatic motors.

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IThe final recording of it is "Organ Music from Cambridge No. 3" from Grosvenor Records, GRS 1007.  It was recorded by Richard Marlow shortly before the organ was taken down.  The Franck B minor chorale and Howells's D flat Rhapsody come off very well in this recording; the Bach "Jig" fugue is played very "fluty" and the music is accompanied by an awful lot of clattering from the pneumatic motors.

 

 

However the pedal reed in the Whitlock Fanfare is quite loud enough to mask most of it !!

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I always thought that this organ sounded its best when I was staying in St John's College.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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I always thought that this organ sounded its best when I was staying in St John's College.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

 

... or possibly Downing, or even Girton! I wouldn't have though it was your sort of instrument, Nigel.

 

I'd forgotten the pedal reed on that recording - I haven't listened to it for decades. (Makes mental note to get turntable back into working order). As I remember, it's similar to the Ophicleide at Halifax - rather honky and obliterates anything less than full great coupled to full swell. What on earth would it have been like if they had installed the 32' Bombardon that was prepared for (presumably a downward extension of the 16' reed).

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... or possibly Downing, or even Girton!  I wouldn't have though it was your sort of instrument, Nigel.

 

I'd forgotten the pedal reed on that recording - I haven't listened to it for decades.  (Makes mental note to get turntable back into working order).  As I remember, it's similar to the Ophicleide at Halifax - rather honky and obliterates anything less than full great coupled to full swell.  What on earth would it have been like if they had installed the 32' Bombardon that was prepared for (presumably a downward extension of the 16' reed).

 

Thanks for all these anecdotes... now to find a copy of that Grosvenor LP.

 

In the meantime, I'd recommend the following as the most outstanding organ recording I've heard for a long, long time. And certainly the finest recording of this instrument:

 

http://www.signumrecords.com/catalogue/sigcd089/index.htm

 

And I'm not on commission.

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In the meantime, I'd recommend the following as the most outstanding organ recording I've heard for a long, long time. And certainly the finest recording of this instrument:

 

http://www.signumrecords.com/catalogue/sigcd089/index.htm

 

And I'm not on commission.

Amen to that! The 32ft reed still doesn't roar like it does 'in the flesh' but it's a good representation of that organs individual sound world.

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Just wondering if anyone can relate what recent work has been carried out on the Metzler. I happened to see a very enthusiastic tweet from David Hill who was clearly much impressed with some recent improvements.

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Cleaning of pipe work, action maintenance and improvement, combination system with sequencer (no divisionals) and new labels for stop knobs. No tonal alterations or revoicing.

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I’m in two minds about that. As a liturgical church musician I understand the desire for all “mod cons” in terms of registration aids, but to see such a fine “pure” instrument turned into something it was never intended by its designers and makers to be makes me feel regret. How long before they extend the manual compass? And add a tuba?

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I think 'no tonal alterations or revoicing' covers it. And unless it was meant to be a historic copy, it's an organ of the 20th century, and 20th century organs have registration aids because the music they are required to play (accompaniments and repertoire) requires them.

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4 hours ago, Paul Walton said:

I think 'no tonal alterations or revoicing' covers it. And unless it was meant to be a historic copy, it's an organ of the 20th century, and 20th century organs have registration aids because the music they are required to play (accompaniments and repertoire) requires them.

Some 20th century organs have registration aids; many do not, including some of the best, most musical instruments.

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I can only now dimly recall the 18th century, but practice had to be arranged in advance and necessitated some expenditure, with a child manning (boying ?) the bellows. There were H&S issues (even though this hadn’t been invented): the stench in the streets was unimaginable; war was a constant menace; I had to remember to heft my sword out of the way (to avoid injury) and beware of those dangerous candles, threatening to burn the curly manuscripts on which I’d painstakingly copied the music.

On Sundays, I then had to pay for the assistance of several students to manipulate the stops for my brilliant concluding toccata - since my arms were, sadly, not six feet long.

There is a limit to ‘authenticity’/historically informed performance. (Some of these might lead to hysterically- . . . !)

We now use standardised pitch; the wind is electrically supplied . . . I see no problem in replacing extra arms with pistons, etc. A Rollschweller might, however, be going too far.

We here, of all people, should know that organs change complexion: they evolve and even have facial and other transplants. And have been for hundreds of years.

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2 hours ago, innate said:

Some 20th century organs have registration aids; many do not, including some of the best, most musical instruments.

Most 20th century organs have registration aids. If the ones that don't are either historic copies from which we can learn how things were done in a certain period, or can be reasonably expected to only perform music pre-c.1850 that doesn't require registration aids, then no problem. If neither of these is the case, then whatever the sound of and however musical the instrument, failure to provide registration aids of some description (hardly a new fangled idea) is at best misguided and at worst sheer dogma, particularly on consoles of different design to the English Romantic console.

If for example (from experience) you build a 2-manual organ for a church that has an annual festival that includes such things as Dyson in D and Britten Missa Brevis and Festival Te Deum then you should include playing aids. Bangs and crashes from stops going in and out by hand (and the contortions of the player in order to get to them) may be amusing for the choir, but are hardly conducive to high level corporate music making.

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27 minutes ago, Paul Walton said:

Bangs and crashes from stops going in and out by hand (and the contortions of the player in order to get to them) may be amusing for the choir, but are hardly conducive to high level corporate music making.

I’m wondering how mechanical slider-action stops being pulled out or pushed in could make more noise than the same stops operated by solenoids. Contortions of the organist seated at consoles behind a Rückpositiv or traditionally-placed English choir organ are normally unseen by choir, congregation and clergy. I accompanied the Britten Missa Brevis on the small 2 manual Father Willis at Christ Church with no human registrands and very rare use of the composition pedals. There’s a section of The Festival Te Deum which would benefit from the kind of registration aids that had yet to be invented when Britten composed it.

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A small contribution. I teach the organ scholars at Trinity so have got to know the situation there quite well. It takes two registrants to manage most big works, and preparing the scores and rehearsing the choreography of eg the Durufle Requiem takes very extensive rehearsal time. Finding competent people with time on their hands (and the inclination) to do that regularly during full term is increasingly unviable. The Trinity choir expects - and is expected - to cover the full range of repertoire, and while I loved the instrument in its ‘pure’ form (and, like many others, recorded Bach on it) it’s very easy to have idealistic views about these things when you’re just dropping in to play chorale preludes for a few hours. And a point of ergonomics, which those who haven’t played the instrument might not realise  - the stops for each division (which are large, with long wooden shanks, and only possible to draw one at a time) are divided right and left, and those on the extremes are at a full-stretched arm’s distance. One person can’t manage dynamic changes without sliding around on the bench - it’s not a question of invisible contortion but physical impossibility.  It’s a very different animal from a two manual organ with the stops of individual divisions placed close together. Adding a sequencer is really just a pragmatic acknowledgment of the realities of the daily use of the instrument (which is a 1975 Metzler with a bit of much-amended old pipe work, not a Silbermann in untouched form). PS all the changes have been designed to be fully reversible if/when that seems desirable in the future. 

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Thank you for that inside info, sjf. As I originally said, I am in two minds about this. I wonder, where funds and space allow, if, for establishments where the full range of repertoire is expected, the solution sometimes found in the USA where a modern, eclectic instrument is complemented by a historically informed instrument much more suitable for Baroque music eg St Thomas, Fifth Avenue, should be followed. Neither instrument has to be enormous. It would seem to be a retrograde step to consider the hugely significant artistic vision of Susi Jeans, James Dalton, David Lumsden, David Butterworth, Richard Marlowe, Peter WIlliams and many others as somehow deficient, particularly in such centres of musical study and learning as our ancient universities.

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Funds and space are the crux of it. Trinity is of course very rich, but isn't about to spend £££ on a second organ and there’s nowhere for it to go - so the Metzler has to do everything. In any case the Metzler is already on the road to eclecticism, with a Ruckpositiv in its tonal scheme alongside an enclosed division with a Celeste and the makings of an English full swell. It’s a curious sort of hybrid already in tonal design terms (albeit a very beautiful one), and not one that eg Peter Williams would have thought of as in any way historically informed or rigorous. It was never as pure as the Nottingham Marcussen or the Queens Frobenius. And of course New College is also an eclectic instrument in tonal terms, although in many aspects a visionary one for its time. 

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The Nottingham Marcussen is an interesting comparison; it has also been used for a wide range of choral repertoire sung by an excellent mixed adult choir.  Like the Metzler, it has no playing aids. It also (don't forget) has a 8' string stop on the 4' Brustwerk, which has folding doors and a 16' reed (albeit a fractional length one); that Brustwerk is as close to a Swell as you can get in that style and format.

In recent years most choral services in Nottingham PC have been accompanied on a big 4-manual toaster (bristling with pistons I presume), not on the Marcussen.  The Oundle Frobenius was also being supplemented by an electronic for accompanimental use when I was last there about 10 years ago.  Are there others?

Thank goodness for the new pistons at Trinity!

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Clifton Cathedral in Bristol also has an electronic in use alongside the 1973 Rieger Orgelbau instrument.

A

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2 hours ago, SomeChap said:

In recent years most choral services in Nottingham PC have been accompanied on a big 4-manual toaster (bristling with pistons I presume), not on the Marcussen.  The Oundle Frobenius was also being supplemented by an electronic for accompanimental use when I was last there about 10 years ago.  Are there others?

 

2 hours ago, AJJ said:

Clifton Cathedral in Bristol also has an electronic in use alongside the 1973 Rieger Orgelbau instrument.

I think this is truly shocking. Why would anyone install a pipe organ of this type ever again if they knew that within a few years they would also need a digital instrument to perform the basic functions for which a church possesses an organ?  

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3 hours ago, SomeChap said:

The Nottingham Marcussen is an interesting comparison; it has also been used for a wide range of choral repertoire sung by an excellent mixed adult choir.  Like the Metzler, it has no playing aids. It also (don't forget) has a 8' string stop on the 4' Brustwerk, which has folding doors and a 16' reed (albeit a fractional length one); that Brustwerk is as close to a Swell as you can get in that style and format.

In recent years most choral services in Nottingham PC have been accompanied on a big 4-manual toaster (bristling with pistons I presume), not on the Marcussen.  The Oundle Frobenius was also being supplemented by an electronic for accompanimental use when I was last there about 10 years ago.  Are there others?

As a regular accompanist at St Mary's, Nottingham, I started writing a post about the Marcussen yesterday and thought better of it, fearing it would stray into pipe vs digital territory. However, since we've already gone there...

I don't think the choir at St Mary's was of the same standing as now at the time David Butterworth procured the Marcussen, as it pre-dates John Keys' tenure. It is a fine instrument but within the building scarcely ideal for anything - located in a side aisle so struggling to project down the Nave but round a corner when accompanying in the chancel (where it is perhaps perversely drowned out when the choir is at full pelt). It is perhaps a philosophical question as to whether an organ with only three 16' stops (manual and pedal!) would ever be suitable as the only instrument in a church whose nave holds 800 people.

Tonally you can just about do most things but with heavy compromise - the combination of 16' reed and the (obscenely bright) Scharf mixture just about gets you a full Swell. The Scharf is deafening at the console with the box open (shutters directly above the player) and is more piercing since the nave floor was replaced, enhancing the acoustic (of which I'm not complaining!). Some items (Durufle Requiem being one) could not be done without a registrant. The same characteristics (lack of playing aids, awkward draw stops) apply as at Trinity, although I'm now familiar with the layout which makes things easier (the three couplers are foot levers, which I suppose count as a form of registration aid!).

The toaster is a product of the work which included the floor replacement - after a period where the church was closed we were back in the chancel only, with the Marcussen not usable, so a digital had to be procured to cover. As everyone realised the practical and tonal benefits a campaign was launched and now it is a permanent fixture. It is a three manual Viscount, not as bristling with registration aids as it might be (only 16 memory levels, but divisionals and generals) and has about everything tonally you would want. Yes, it is no substitute for a pipe organ, but it makes the choral repertoire (and solo organ stuff too!) a heck of a lot easier.

Interestingly, the issue of projecting down the Nave isn't entirely solved, only a west end organ (or set of digital speakers there) will really do that. There is a set of Nave-facing speakers which can be switched off for chancel services, but even still you need to give it some to get the sound down there if there is a big congregation.

To allay fears, the Marcussen isn't going anywhere. It now has a historic organ certificate attached to it and is awaiting some necessary work which should enable its more regular use, even if on a minority basis.

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