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Jeremy Jones

What Is The Right Repertoire For Recitals?

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Sometimes I wonder whether some organists ever stop and consider for a moment the tolerance levels of their audience. Two pieces of evidence support my case for the prosecution:

 

If you take a peek at organrecitals.com you will find that our hallowed cathedrals and abbeys are being as original as ever this Christmas in wheeling out the default Christmas repertoire, i.e. Messiaen's La Nativite du Seigneur. Sitting through the whole of this work is not my idea of fun, and I like organ music! Only Hereford, it would seem, has chosen instead to put on a mixed recital of Advent and Christmas music played by the ever reliable Peter Dyke.

 

If I had to choose one work that really sums up Christmas and the celebration of Christ's birth, it would have to be Pierre Cochereau's Sortie sur Adeste Fideles. A wonderful piece to end a Christmas recital, one that is likely to have the audience walking on air as they file out.

 

Kevin Bowyer's appointment as the University of Glasgow organist was quite a coup for that house of learning. When you couple in Harrisons recent rebuild of the Willis organ in the Memorial Chapel to produce, by all accounts, a fantastic instrument, and they would seem to be onto a winner. The problem is, however, that Bowyer's repertoire comes mainly from the extremist wing of contemporary music

 

A cursory glance at the works he has programmed for the series of recitals in the Chapel proves to be a real turn-off, and you wonder just who, apart from his chums, is expected to come along and sit through this stuff. The only respite from this stuff comes next February when the Organ Scholar, Peter Yardley-Jones, is given a slot, and the people of Glasgow get the chance to hear the organ in a balanced and audience friendly programme featuring works by Bach, Widor, Eben, Howells and Leighton.

 

If organists keep on programming works that are going to frighten the horses, why should we be surprised at the dwindling numbers attending recitals?

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If I had to choose one work that really sums up Christmas and the celebration of Christ's birth, it would have to be Pierre Cochereau's Sortie sur Adeste Fideles. A wonderful piece to end a Christmas recital, one that is likely to have the audience walking on air as they file out.

 

 

Oh yes!! Totally!

 

I hope (D.V.) to play it myself again this year, at the conclusion of our Messe de Minuit. I presume that you have a note of the corrections not included in an erratum slip?

 

Shortly after the first time I heard the recording of the original improvisation, I had an organ lesson with David Briggs, who made me play as much as I could remember of the piece, which was a little scary, since the transcription was a few years away from existing at the time.

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Oh yes!! Totally!

 

I hope (D.V.) to play it myself again this year, at the conclusion of our Messe de Minuit. I presume that you have a note of the corrections not included in an erratum slip?

I've only heard it on a recording played by Alex Mason at Lichfield. Fabulous!

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I've only heard it on a recording played by Alex Mason at Lichfield. Fabulous!

 

OK - but you absolutely HAVE to hear the Cochereau original. However good Alex Mason is, the original will blow you away (as it were....).

 

In addition, with the greatest respect to the Holdich/Hill/HN&B/H&H at Lichfield, it will also sound far better on the organ of Nôtre-Dame.

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Not familiar with this piece - is cochereau's original avalible commercially? or do you have an MP3 you'd like to share?

 

On your main point - i wholly agree that there is too much playing of 'La Nativite'

 

It's partially due i suppose to the lack of high quality Christmas organ music that is well known.- so much seems to be either very short (Too short for recital use) transcriptions (bach christmas sonata, corelli christmas concerto) or written by Kevin Mayhew in house composers

 

I play a 40 minute-ish 'recital' before midnight mass (more extended pre-service music of limited devotional value) which has gone down well for the past 4 years. I have already been asked if i will do the same again this year by people in the town, who have enjoyed previous years?

 

So what Christmas Music do i know, that would be appropriate?

 

 

Garth Edmundson - Toccata on Von Himmel Hoch (this really should be well known)

Correlli - Christmas Concerto

Petr Eben - Variations on Good King Wenceslas

Bach - In Dulci Jubilo, Wachet Auf (ok its advent but nm) any of the orgel buchelin 'christmas' preludes.

Buxtehude - Christmas Choral Preludes esp 'How Brightly Shines the Morning Star'

Reger - Weihnachter

Langlais - La Nativite

Dupre - Variations on Adeste Fideles

Flor Peeters - Choral Preludes

 

Also room for music like Vierne - Carillon De Westminster and Finale From no.1 which seems to be getting more associated with christmas

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I have to learn the Edmundson for a concert in a couple of weeks - can't get into it at all at the moment. Any good recordings you know of, Mr B?

 

DavidC

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Not familiar with this piece - is cochereau's original avalible commercially? or do you have an MP3 you'd like to share?

 

 

Herewith are the details which you requested:

 

Pierre Cochereau improvise sur des Noëls - SOCD 152.

 

http://www.solstice-music.com/caddie/detai....php?id_art=16&

 

However, the highlight of the disc is the Prelude & Variations sur "Venez Divin Messie".

 

I thoroughly recommend it.

 

If, of course, you wish to perform it yourself, then I recommend this site:

 

http://www.ohscatalog.org/cochereau.html

 

Be aware that there are a few errors - one or two of them surprising when one considers the accuracy of the rest of the transcriptions made by François Lombard of improvisations by Pierre Cochereau.

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I have to learn the Edmundson for a concert in a couple of weeks - can't get into it at all at the moment.  Any good recordings you know of, Mr B?

 

DavidC

 

Graham Barber done one on a CD called ' Christmas at Armley' - its on presto classical (where i got it from) and they do next day delivery on it i seem to remember (got it last christmas time.)

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Not familiar with this piece - is cochereau's original avalible commercially? or do you have an MP3 you'd like to share?

 

On your main point - i wholly agree that there is too much playing of 'La Nativite'

 

It's partially due i suppose to the lack of high quality Christmas organ music that is well known.- so much seems to be either very short (Too short for recital use) transcriptions (bach christmas sonata, corelli christmas concerto) or written by Kevin Mayhew in house composers

 

I play a 40 minute-ish 'recital' before midnight mass (more extended pre-service music of limited devotional value) which has gone down well for the past 4 years. I have already been asked if i will do the same again this year by people in the town, who have enjoyed previous years?

 

So what Christmas Music do i know, that would be appropriate?

Garth Edmundson - Toccata on Von Himmel Hoch (this really should be well known)

Correlli - Christmas Concerto

Petr Eben - Variations on Good King Wenceslas

Bach - In Dulci Jubilo, Wachet Auf (ok its advent but nm) any of the orgel buchelin 'christmas' preludes.

Buxtehude - Christmas Choral Preludes esp 'How Brightly Shines the Morning Star'

Reger - Weihnachter

Langlais - La Nativite

Dupre - Variations on Adeste Fideles

Flor Peeters - Choral Preludes

 

Also room for music like Vierne - Carillon De Westminster and Finale From no.1 which seems to be getting more associated with christmas

 

Not forgetting the Noëls by Louis-Claude d'Aquin, either.

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I have to learn the Edmundson for a concert in a couple of weeks - can't get into it at all at the moment.  Any good recordings you know of, Mr B?

 

DavidC

 

 

There is also a recording (which I ended-up producing), made on the temporary toaster at Salisbury Cathedral some years ago. Martin Schellenberg is the performer.

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Not forgetting the Noëls by  Louis-Claude d'Aquin, either.

 

Quite right

 

Theres also a book called 'the Oxford book of Christmas Music' - most of it by the edwardian english composers such as Sumsion, on various tunes, but also some bach/buxtehude. Bit of everythign in other words. A cracking piece by Andrew Carter on Veni Emannuel in there.

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Jeremy, are you saying that there is nowhere in this country where it is appropriate to play works that "frighten the horses"? I can see why you wouldn't play tough programmes in the average parish church, but surely a university has quite a different remit.

 

Music that people consider difficult won't get any easier for them if they never hear it. There was a time when the Rite of Spring was considered very difficult to listen to as well as almost impossible to play. But these days it is virtually a pot-boiler. Likewise the Turangalila Symphony. Would this have happened if they had been dropped from the repertoire after a few performances?

 

In any case, I am not at all sure your implicit judgement that nobody is going to go and listen to La Nativite is correct. I seem to remember St Paul's being about half full the other year for a performance of that work.

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Jeremy, are you saying that there is nowhere in this country where it is appropriate to play works that "frighten the horses"? I can see why you wouldn't play tough programmes in the average parish church, but surely a university has quite a different remit.

 

Sure, but the point is that the pill needs to be sugared. I haven't listened to Messiaen in concert for quite a while, but when I did I found it tough listening, but worth it. But I wouldn't want to sit through an hour and a half of it - it's just too much. Something to lighten the load, to refresh to pallette, is IMHO required. That may be contemporary - there is no need to assume that because the composer is alive, or at least, not dead long, that his/her music is 'tough' or unapproachable, is there?

 

Regards to all.

 

John

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If memory serves, Robert Sharpe played La Nativité at Truro Cathedral last year and he's doing it again next month, so presumably he must be confident of getting some sort of an audience for it. I'd go myself if it wasn't such a long drive.

 

It's something I always wanted to do in a recital, but never had a venue where I felt it was fair to inflict it on the audience. Alas, I fear the moment has passed - I'm not at all sure I'm up to getting the whole thing back into my repertoire these days.

 

Undoubtedly it is a work that is only going to appeal to organists and the intelligentsia.* It all depends who your market is, doesn't it?

 

* I am not suggesting these two categories are mutually exclusive!

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I have to learn the Edmundson for a concert in a couple of weeks - can't get into it at all at the moment.  Any good recordings you know of, Mr B?

 

DavidC

 

 

Dear David,

Any organ piece you want to hear, a good bet is to type the word Organlive into your search engine. Better still, click here:

 

http://www.organlive.com/index.php

 

This will produce a free American radio station which allows requests.

I should declare an interest - they play mine! You do need to have broadband.

 

You will find more than one recording of the Edmundson there. There's a fantastic selection of stuff, most of it backed up with sites to visit - record companies, organ-builders, national websites for organs etc. There is a good search facility and plenty of information on what has been played already that day.

 

The site should be pretty self-explanatory, but essentially you get a little screen.

Choose Tune in and when offered a premium service (i.e. one that cuts out the adverts) don't bother. The adverts only come for 20 seconds when you first tune in, the station will play so long as you're on line from then on.

 

Requests usually get played within the half hour. To stop people like me requesting all their own tracks repeatedly, they have a blocker which allows only two requests per hour. There are some fascinating things and also some pretty alarming versions. I heard an attempt at the Elgar Sonata a day or two ago, thought it was so dreadfully registered - 8 4 2 choruses instead of 884 warmth, 8 2 combinations etc. that I had to look up afterwards to see who/what it was. It turned out to be someone famous from 'over here' playing a famous romantic organ we all know.

 

Warning: you'll lose track of time.

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I heard an attempt at the Elgar Sonata a day or two ago, thought it was so dreadfully  registered - 8 4 2 choruses instead of 884 warmth, 8 2 combinations etc. that I had to look up afterwards to see who/what it was. It turned out to be someone famous from 'over here' playing a famous romantic organ we all know.

 

 

 

 

Was this, by any chance, the recording made - (should I say 'the Best attempt'?) - at a certain cathedral in the Midlands, about twenty years ago? (The one with a number of errors and mis-readings, including a moment in the last movement wherein is the most inaccurate playing I have ever heard committed to vinyl - excluding recordings of performances by The Californian Nuns' Orchestra*.)

 

 

 

* These enterprising, but arguably misguided ladies made the Portsmouth Sinfonietta sound relatively competent.

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Jeremy, are you saying that there is nowhere in this country where it is appropriate to play works that "frighten the horses"? I can see why you wouldn't play tough programmes in the average parish church, but surely a university has quite a different remit.

 

Sure, but the point is that the pill needs to be sugared. I haven't listened to Messiaen in concert for quite a while, but when I did I found it tough listening, but worth it. But I wouldn't want to sit through an hour and a half of it - it's just too much. Something to lighten the load, to refresh to pallette, is IMHO required. That may be contemporary - there is no need to assume that because the composer is alive, or at least, not dead long, that his/her music is 'tough' or unapproachable, is there?

 

Regards to all.

 

John

 

 

But John, the fact that you wouldn't want to sit through an hour and a half of Messiaen doesn't mean that nobody should be given the opportunity to do so if that's what they like, which is what Jeremy seems to be suggesting. Those people who would turn up for a recital at which (say) the Livre du Saint Sacrement was to be played in its entirety wouldn't thank you for "sugaring" it. That sugar would probably destroy the artistic integrity of the recital, too.

 

By way of comparison, I know lots people who like music but who would consider five hours of Wagner in an evening to be purgatory. But you try getting a ticket for the Ring operas at Bayreuth - or indeed Covent Garden if you aren't quick off the mark when bookings open. Nor would anyone in their right mind suggest that Die Walkure would be improved by the addition of some sort of "sugar" - the last Act of Iolanthe, perhaps, to send everyone away with a spring in their step?

 

You say Messiaen is tough listening but worth it. I agree. If you keep listening, though, it gets less and less tough and more and more worth while. That's one reason why it's worth persevering with La Nativite, so that people become familiar with it. Jeremy seems to be saying that if a work is tough listening, it isn't worth it, almost by definition. That's where I profoundly disagree with him.

 

VH is right in saying it depends who your market is. My feeling is that the right performer in the right venue at the right time with the right publicity could perform the Livre du Saint Sacrement complete and make a profit on the venture, but putting it on at noon on a Saturday in Halifax without telling anybody in advance what's going to be played, and you deserve what you get (no audience).

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By way of comparison, I know lots people who like music but who would consider five hours of Wagner in an evening to be purgatory.  But you try getting a ticket for the Ring operas at Bayreuth - or indeed Covent Garden if you aren't quick off the mark when bookings open.  Nor would anyone in their right mind suggest that Die Walkure would be improved by the addition of some sort of "sugar" - the last Act of Iolanthe, perhaps, to send everyone away with a spring in their step?

 

You say Messiaen is tough listening but worth it.  I agree.  If you keep listening, though, it gets less and less tough and more and more worth while.  That's one reason why it's worth persevering with La Nativite, so that people become familiar with it.  Jeremy seems to be saying that if a work is tough listening, it isn't worth it, almost by definition.  That's where I profoundly disagree with him.

 

VH is right in saying it depends who your market is.  My feeling is that the right performer in the right venue at the right time with the right publicity could perform the Livre du Saint Sacrement complete and make a profit on the venture, but putting it on at noon on a Saturday in Halifax without telling anybody in advance what's going to be played, and you deserve what you get (no audience).

 

 

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

 

 

Actually Nick, five minutes of Wagner is more than enough for me!

 

I once went to a "Ring Cycle" performance in Leeds. I even had early nights before hand. It didn't prevent me from being woken up by people trampling on my feet on the way to the interval-bar.

 

Messaien has much the same effect, whilst the music of Howells causes me to endure fits of apoplexy and projectile vomitting.

 

Now....about my lunch-time at Halifax next June....decisions, decisions!

 

What do I do? Improvised variations on "Three blind mice" or more serious stuff?

 

I may abandon, or at least seriously modify my idea of an Eastern European programme, on the basis that I can't get hold of the one big work I have been looking for, by Klement Slavicky, and in any event, it would take me ages to learn even if I got it tomorrow.

 

However, it occured to me that Reubke was technically from East Germany, I believe, so that could possibly substitute, rather than the somewhat overplayed Liszt BACH. (Hungarian)

 

The rest of the programme could be lighter fayre, going back to a couple of delightful 15th century ditties by "Jan of Lublin" (Poland), maybe a little Fugue by Carl Ferdinand Seger, (Czechoslovakia) on a strangely whole-tone theme taken from a Czech Christmas Carol, using the opening notes (in equal measures) C,D,E,F#,G#,G#G#, and an equally delightful short fugue in D minor. Then a bit of gravity with the Kodaly "Preludium" (hungarian) a bit of light relief with a classical work by Brixi, (Czechoslovakia) and then the big "rebuke" for those of a less than nervous disposition, or who don't have a CAMRA event looming the same afternoon.

 

Answers on a post-card, or better still perhaps, a "Mander Organs Discussion Board" organ-recital advisory panel? (MODBORAP?)

 

We could even lay on special buses, but Philip Tordoff would almost certainly insist on some clapped out Roe-bodied AEC from around 1940, complete with sliding door, slippery leather upholstery and bone-rattling cart springs.

 

 

MM

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

Actually Nick, five minutes of Wagner is more than enough for me!

 

I once went to a "Ring Cycle" performance in Leeds. I even had early nights before hand. It didn't prevent me from being woken up by people trampling on my feet on the way to the interval-bar.

 

Messaien has much the same effect, whilst the music of Howells causes me to endure fits of apoplexy and projectile vomitting.

 

Now....about my lunch-time at Halifax next June....decisions, decisions!

 

What do I do?   Improvised variations on "Three blind mice" or more serious stuff?

 

I may abandon, or at least seriously modify my idea of an Eastern European programme, on the basis that I can't get hold of the one big work I have been looking for, by Klement Slavicky, and in any event, it would take me ages to learn even if I got it tomorrow.

 

However, it occured to me that Reubke was technically from East Germany, I believe, so that could possibly substitute, rather than the somewhat overplayed Liszt BACH. (Hungarian)

 

The rest of the programme could be lighter fayre, going back to a couple of delightful 15th century ditties by "Jan of Lublin" (Poland), maybe a little Fugue by Carl Ferdinand Seger, (Czechoslovakia) on a strangely whole-tone theme taken from a Czech Christmas Carol, using the opening notes (in equal measures) C,D,E,F#,G#,G#G#, and an equally delightful short fugue in D minor. Then a bit of gravity with the Kodaly "Preludium" (hungarian) a bit of light relief with a classical work by Brixi, (Czechoslovakia) and then the big "rebuke" for those of a less than nervous disposition, or who don't have a CAMRA event looming the same afternoon.

 

Answers on a post-card, or better still perhaps, a "Mander Organs Discussion Board" organ-recital advisory panel? (MODBORAP?)

 

We could even lay on special buses, but Philip Tordoff would almost certainly insist on some clapped out Roe-bodied AEC from around 1940, complete with sliding door, slippery leather upholstery and bone-rattling cart springs.

MM

 

 

Since I assume that you are referring to a church recital in Halifax, should the acronym not be: MOBDCRAP?

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

Now....about my lunch-time at Halifax next June....decisions, decisions!

 

What do I do?  Improvised variations on "Three blind mice" or more serious stuff?

 

 

What you could do is play a hymn tune and then regale everyone with stories for 45 minutes.

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

 

Now....about my lunch-time at Halifax next June....decisions, decisions!

 

What do I do?   Improvised variations on "Three blind mice" or more serious stuff?

 

I may abandon, or at least seriously modify my idea of an Eastern European programme, on the basis that I can't get hold of the one big work I have been looking for, by Klement Slavicky, and in any event, it would take me ages to learn even if I got it tomorrow.

 

However, it occured to me that Reubke was technically from East Germany, I believe, so that could possibly substitute, rather than the somewhat overplayed Liszt BACH. (Hungarian)

 

The rest of the programme could be lighter fayre, going back to a couple of delightful 15th century ditties by "Jan of Lublin" (Poland), maybe a little Fugue by Carl Ferdinand Seger, (Czechoslovakia) on a strangely whole-tone theme taken from a Czech Christmas Carol, using the opening notes (in equal measures) C,D,E,F#,G#,G#G#, and an equally delightful short fugue in D minor. Then a bit of gravity with the Kodaly "Preludium" (hungarian) a bit of light relief with a classical work by Brixi, (Czechoslovakia) and then the big "rebuke" for those of a less than nervous disposition, or who don't have a CAMRA event looming the same afternoon.

 

Answers on a post-card, or better still perhaps, a "Mander Organs Discussion Board" organ-recital advisory panel? (MODBORAP?)

 

We could even lay on special buses, but Philip Tordoff would almost certainly insist on some clapped out Roe-bodied AEC from around 1940, complete with sliding door, slippery leather upholstery and bone-rattling cart springs.

MM

 

 

How about some Cochereau? Or Nielsen's Commotio? I am inclined to agree with you regarding Wagner - or, to be honest, opera, in general. However, I am not convinced that the size of your audience will be increased if people see a lot of unfamiliar names on the poster(s) - particularly if they are (or appear to be) Eastern Bloc names.

 

I know that we have had this particular discussion before, but I have noticed a similar phenomenon at other venues at which this type of programme was advertised.

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What you could do is play a hymn tune and then regale everyone with stories for 45 minutes.

 

 

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

 

I bet Virgil Fox could have played the Reubke and shouted out the lesson at the same time!

 

"Vengeance is showing itself folks! Here we go!"

 

:)

 

MM

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How about some Cochereau? Or Nielsen's Commotio? I am inclined to agree with you regarding Wagner - or, to be honest, opera, in general. However, I am not convinced that the size of your audience will be increased if people see a lot of unfamiliar names on the poster(s) - particularly if they are (or appear to be) Eastern Bloc names.

 

I know that we have had this particular discussion before, but I have noticed a similar phenomenon at other venues at which this type of programme was advertised.

 

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

 

In that case, I shall promote it as a French programme, and then tell the audience I suffered a burglary at the 11th hour!

 

There are always ways!

 

MM

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

 

In that case, I shall promote it as a French programme, and then tell the audience I suffered a burglary at the 11th hour!

 

There are always ways!

 

MM

 

Nielsen - French?

 

Shurely shome mishtake?

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I have to learn the Edmundson for a concert in a couple of weeks - can't get into it at all at the moment.  Any good recordings you know of, Mr B?

 

DavidC

 

Nimbus Records "Christmas from Lichfield" NI 5496.

 

Played by Andy Lumsden, one word, FANTASTIC.

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