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New Beckerath At Marlborough College


riddler67

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Am I alone in thinking that this looks like a real dog's b*****ks, an over indulgent specification in shear number of stops and a hopeless mish-mash of style, in fact all of the things that those of us who have commission toasters are accused of elsewhere.

 

Are you sure our late lamented american correspondent was not the consultant on this job?

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Who can tell from a mere stop list? Surely the question of whether or not it's a dog's breakfast can only be answered after hearing it and, preferably, playing it. Perhaps I'm missing the obvious, but I don't see any obvious lack of integrity in the specification, except that the Solo Organ on paper looks like a Romantic English division grafted onto a fairly typical, all-purpose, modern German spec.

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Who can tell from a mere stop list? Surely the question of whether or not it's a dog's breakfast can only be answered after hearing it and, preferably, playing it. Perhaps I'm missing the obvious, but I don't see any obvious lack of integrity in the specification, except that the Solo Organ on paper looks like a Romantic English division grafted onto a fairly typical, all-purpose, modern German spec.

 

In that respect it is similar to the Marcussen at Tonbridge School:

 

http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch...ec_index=D02948

 

and if Marlborough get something half as good as that they should be very happy. IMHO.

 

Michael

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er...from the rest of your comments, did you mean to write 'breakfast'?..."the DB's" is generally used as a term of approval, up this end of the M5 anyway.

 

...still hoping for that Board Open Day to be announced...

I'm up for the Open Day as I'd like to hear what beckerath can do. I agree it looks slightly odd on paper but what looks great on paper can often disappoint. Some of my favourite instruments have very stock specifications but outstanding voicing - eg Chichester (mp 32 reed apart).

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Am I alone in thinking that this looks like a real dog's b*****ks, an over indulgent specification in shear number of stops and a hopeless mish-mash of style, in fact all of the things that those of us who have commission toasters are accused of elsewhere.

 

Are you sure our late lamented american correspondent was not the consultant on this job?

 

We drew up the stop list in consulatation with Wendelin Eberle of Rieger and Rolf Miehl of Beckerath. Paul Hale came on board as an advisor when the local authority started taking an interest! And brilliant he was too.

 

Of course, the new Beckerath at Marlborough is in many ways an organists' paradise, with full length 32ft flue and reed, fiery chorus reeds, translucent flutes, a bit of this, a bit of that, plus the old Tuba and some of the F&A pipework being retained. Stylistically, however, it leaves a lot to be desired (dog's breakfast, anyone?). Give me the integrity and honesty of the Beckerath organ at Clare College, Cambridge, any day.

 

The whole integrity thing is, course, a lengthy and worthy debate - no doubt it's been much discussed on this board, which I as a relative newcomer won't have seen or engaged in.

 

My personal opinion is that it IS possible to blend the different styles of organ building, and, as I said in the post which started this thread I'd like to think we have managed to do this relatively succesfully at Marlborough. To be able to sit at one organ and feel that you are being as honest as feasible to as many different schools of organ composition as possible is surely justifiable? I adore playing the FW at Salisbury (well, when its swell is working anyway!) but cannot in all honesty claim that there is any feeling of being true to Bach, Couperin, Vierne, Messiaen etc. Having been drilled by Peter Hurford at the RAM in the 80s I did become a mechanical action convert and spent three years studying baroque articulation - a joyous experience as you can imagine... But so many big mechanical instruments seem to lack warmth - we played many in our search at Marlborough, thought that we might have found the answer with Rieger's effort at Essen Cathedral, but still the strings weren't quite right (fascinating enclosed Tuba in a detached division at the rear of the church though). Come listen to (and play) our Beckerath on our soon to be anounced Board Open Day and see what you think. I'd like to think that it deserves hearing before condemning.

 

Tim

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
I think I may have read somewhere that the Flute Allemande (at least its incarnation at Passau Cathedral) was a harmonic conical flute - but at 16'?

 

John

 

Following on from my previous post concerning this naming of a stop, I have delved a little in the meantime. The stop can refer to two quite different stops and construction, depending on country.

 

In France, it was/is an 8' stop that is a Bourdon bass to about ten G. Sometimes there was a 4' to add to the illusion of greater harmonic content. Then, open montre-like pipes took over which provided a gentle opaque and distinctive sound. It relies greatly upon the players touch and hearing to create optimum effect.

 

The modern example to be found in the St Louis (Paris) organ, is quite a different matter. I have already suggested that its presence in the church is quite outstanding and memorable. This, I am told, is an experimental stop to some degree as I believe Mr Drake provided some scalings for M. Aubertin from an old Nordic/Scandinavian source (we must ask him to find out precisely!). Aubertin elaborated upon it all to provide this extraordinary 4' on the R-Positif. The first octave is an open flute with very high cut-ups to provide few harmonics. Then at T.C. it becomes overblowing with pipes triple length. The scale I could give, but few would believe me!

 

I have fogotten that the specification has gently changed for the Oxford organ. The 2nd 8' of the Positive is a Portunal. It has some similarities with the Fl. A. of the French tradition and description above, but it has one or two differences which make it a Portunal and thus providing more versatility in the intimate acoustic of the college chapel.

 

All the best, and apologies for maintaining such a pedantic stance on the matter.

 

Nigel

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er...from the rest of your comments, did you mean to write 'breakfast'?..."the DB's" is generally used as a term of approval, up this end of the M5 anyway.

 

...still hoping for that Board Open Day to be announced...

You're quite correct, I meant "Dog's dinner" or whatever, the other expression being as you rightly suggest a positive affirmation which was not what I had in mind.

 

I would agree that the specification seems largely germanic, but the original description, and I quote:-

 

"As a school we want our pupils to be able to hear North German principal choruses, French classical Cornets and Cromornes, the French symphonic swell, the warmth, sonorities and scale of the great British tradition"

 

still strikes me as somewhat confused.

 

I know I'm hopelessly old-fashioned, perhaps thats why I can't see the place for a "Principal Celestes" on a great organ and regard this as step in the direction of american taste and surely not typical of English, German or French style.

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thought that we might have found the answer with Rieger's effort at Essen Cathedral, but still the strings weren't quite right (fascinating enclosed Tuba in a detached division at the rear of the church though).

Tim

 

Did you really?. Now THIS is an organ that I would like to classify as a nearly complete disaster, given the total inability of the foundation stops to integrate the upperwork. And that "Auxiliaire" is IMHO nothing more than a superfluous noise-maker. Who needs that in such a small cathedral? Anyone over 60 in the south aisle is i immediate danger of cardiac failure once that lot gets going. A dead invitation to organists to outflank the congregation.

 

I really would like to think that Beckerath can do a lot better than that.

 

Cheers

Barry

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I know I'm hopelessly old-fashioned, perhaps thats why I can't see the place for a "Principal Celestes" on a great organ and regard this as step in the direction of american taste and surely not typical of English, German or French style.

 

...........no but it is of early Italian. "Principal celestes" is surly just another name for a Piffaro which came as fairly standard on the main division of late renaissaince and early baroque Italian instruments ....

If it is voiced correctly with the 8'principal it would be ideal for pieces like Frescobaldi Toccata chromatica [Fiori musicali].

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
"Principal celestes" is surly just another name for a Piffaro which came as fairly standard on the main division of late renaissaince and early baroque Italian instruments ....

If it is voiced correctly with the 8'principal it would be ideal for pieces like Frescobaldi Toccata chromatica [Fiori musicali].

 

Indeed, this sound is one of the most memorable (and obviously enjoyed by 19th Cent. builders on their pélerinages) and a precursor to the symphonic undulants which were the results of them. Moreover, they are totally ideal (and no doubt envisaged for that very purpose) for pieces like Frescobaldi's Toccata chromatica [Fiori musicali], but with the temperament of the time which vibrantly colours the music to such an extraordinary extent. Equal tuning renders the works playable only in Sepia and certainly makes the Fiori wilt.

What is the Temperament for Marlborough, by the way? It is so important to get this right.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

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Indeed, this sound is one of the most memorable (and obviously enjoyed by 19th Cent. builders on their pélerinages) and a precursor to the symphonic undulants which were the results of them. Moreover, they are totally ideal (and no doubt envisaged for that very purpose) for pieces like Frescobaldi's Toccata chromatica [Fiori musicali], but with the temperament of the time which vibrantly colours the music to such an extraordinary extent. Equal tuning renders the works playable only in Sepia and certainly makes the Fiori wilt.

What is the Temperament for Marlborough, by the way? It is so important to get this right.

 

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

Congratulations to Nigel on his painstaking polychromaticism!

 

What is the right temperament for a seemingly 'multi-cultural' organ like Marlborough? If it is not to be equally-tempered, what would be appropriate for an instrument whose declared purpose is allow performance of organ music from a variety of periods and nationalities?

 

A mildly unequal one like Valotti perhaps, as at Magdalen, Oxford? Neither fish nor fowl, some might say. It adds an mild dab of mustard to the 17-18c palate, but makes Vierne ever so slightly sour. Maybe the Marlburians can stomach that sort of thing, but I imagine they would feel decidedly queasy at the Berceuse in Werkmeister III!

 

One thing seems pretty certain - there will be fair helpings of Vierne (and Franck, and Reger, and Howells and Elgar etc - you name it) served up in the college chapel.

 

If I may suggest a personal preference, it would be for Neidhardt I, for general sweetness and palatability, (with the possibly exception of E major). It seems to have had JSB's endorsement and is closely related to Bradley Lehman's newly postulated 'Bach temperament'. I accept, of course, that it has many of the limitations already mentioned.

 

It's the perennial question, I suppose, of what sort of compromise you are prepared to make between colour/vitality/interest/authenticity on the one hand and versatility/eclecticism on the other.

 

JS

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I think the job of an organ in a school is quite different to elsewhere - particularly one which maintains a strong choral music tradition like Marlborough. It might not be high art as far as organ design is concerned but it's going to make a good fist of most things you throw at it, certainly much better than what was there before, and act as a stepping stone for a few more people to take an interest and delve deeper. School organs are not about being authentic and true to styles, they're about going all over the repertoire (both choral and solo) and making a good enough noise that people want to take an interest. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I think the job of an organ in a school is quite different to elsewhere - particularly one which maintains a strong choral music tradition like Marlborough. It might not be high art as far as organ design is concerned but it's going to make a good fist of most things you throw at it, certainly much better than what was there before, and act as a stepping stone for a few more people to take an interest and delve deeper. School organs are not about being authentic and true to styles, they're about going all over the repertoire (both choral and solo) and making a good enough noise that people want to take an interest. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

 

 

I endorse the above comments.

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I endorse the above comments.

 

I totally agree with Paul and John Sayer.

 

Does it really matter what the stops are called apart from the interest for collecters of specifications - (maybe it does - another thread perhaps?) The sound is of course what matters which largely depends on the skill of the voicer. We must have all drawn stops called one thing and that sound like something completely different.

 

The Marlborough specification is certainly different from some recent standard (boring looking?) specifications and should provide great interest for the scholars. I for one am certainly looking forward to hearing this insrument in the building and well remember the previous rather disappointing organ.

 

Perhaps we need new ideas for organs in England rather than just copies of previous instruments with slightly different specifications - you may not like Jean Guillou's specifications but the instruments are never dull or bland.

 

This is a very interesting and enjoyable site - with many thanks again to John Mander.

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"you may not like Jean Guillou's specifications but the instruments are never dull or bland."

(Quote)

 

Have you ever heard ours in the église du Chant d'oiseau, Brussels?

This very organ was one of the reasons I began to promote the

british organ in Belgium.

 

Pierre

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"you may not like Jean Guillou's specifications but the instruments are never dull or bland."

(Quote)

 

Have you ever heard ours in the église du Chant d'oiseau, Brussels?

This very organ was one of the reasons I began to promote the

british organ in Belgium.

 

Pierre

 

 

I do not know the Brussels instrument but was thinking of St Eustache which I have heard in the building, and Les Alpe d'huit which I have heard on a CD. Both specs are imaginative (IMHO).

Of course we have wonderful organs here and I think it is splendid you are promoting British organs in Belgium and for an imaginative specification and voicing I have a special regard for Coventry Cthedral' H&H.

 

Regards

Colin

 

PS I always enjoy your contributions to this board!

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Here are some pictures of the "Chant d'oiseau" organ, and

the specification is at the bottom of the page:

 

http://perso.orange.fr/antoine.pietrini/oiseau.htm

 

This is a typical "organist-made spec", that is, with an accent

on the solists, while you spent many time reconstituting choruses

with many couplers.

And then there are these chamades......Just above the heads, in a

not that big and quite resonant church...TA TA TAAAA !

 

Pierre

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Thanks for this - it is a bit more imaginative than I had in mind!

 

I think the Coventry Cathedral spec is more to my liking for a new British cathedral organ and copes with a lot of repertoire very successfully without forfeiting its integrity. It is also a splendid instrument for accompanying the services.

 

 

However, to get back to the subject, what is your opinion on the Marlborough organ so far? Although of course a proper comment cannot be made until it is heard!

 

Colin

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As you say, I should hear it first.

I know of excellent ecclectic organs, and not-that good ones.

This synthesis of several epochs, not only areas (this kind of synthesis

exists since the end of the Renaissance, not least in Belgium!) with the

aim to add repertoires, was tried for the first time in Germany as early

as 1930.

It was meant as a reaction against the Orgelbewegung, itself promoting

strict neo-baroque organs -whatever this actually meant by that time-.

In some ways, it was a come-back to the "alsacian Reform" kind of thinking,

with Schweitzer and Rupp and their specifications inspired by both Cavaillé-Coll

and Andreas Silbermann (read: what was then believed to be Silbermann's features).

(This was around 1900-1920).

 

This ecclectic organ has a name in french: "Néo-classique" organ, also not Néo-baroque,

which is the strictly restricted to the ancient repertoire version.

The ecclectic organ appeared in France from the cross-fertilization that emerged from the

gathering of two men: Victor Gonzalez, a former voicer by Cavaillé-Coll who had opened

his own shop, and Rudolf Von Beckerath -a man our host here knows very well-, a largely

autodidact german builder that came in France as an apprentice by Gonzalez around 1930

because Gonzalez still built tracker actions, which was seldom at that time. As Von Beckerath

was a Schnitger fan, what he wanted was to build tracker organs.

 

What emerged from this gathering was something extraordinary, that is, a kind of synthesis

between northern german baroque and french romantic styles.

Sometimes it worked (example: Soissons Cathedral organ), sometimes it did not work.

It worked when the voicers had "Das Sagen", and did something different from both baroque german and romantic french styles.

Then you have a Duruflé-Messiaen etc organ.

It did not work when the consultants had the hand, and wanted the Cromorne to be a Krummhorn,

the Bourdons to have "baroque chiff" and so on. An organ build like a Lego toy also, with a bit of this and a bit of that.

I apologize I won't cite examples out of professional deontology.

 

From about 1970, true "Néo-classiques" organs became very rarely build -an exception was Beauvais, 1979-, the Neo-baroque reigned supreme.

Since 1990 the ecclectic organ experiences a revival, something I call "Post-Neo-baroque", a kind of inverted movement; the Néo-classique organ emerged from the romantic, with more "baroque" in the course of time, while the Post-neo-baroque emerged from the Neo-baroque, with more and more "romantic" in the course of time. And round and round goes the history, as always.

Now as to the value of these organs, it depends of course entirely upon their builders and voicers, not at all their style; I do know of several different styles of organs, but of none "bad" one.

What I always say is I would prefer to build two little organs rather than a big, ecclectical one, that is,

one 100% baroque, and the other 100% romantic or modern/ experimental.

This would be far easier for the voicers -no compromises!- and would allow to have unequal temperament for the one, equal for the other (etc).

Pierre

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What I always say is I would prefer to build two little organs rather than a big, ecclectical one, that is,

one 100% baroque, and the other 100% romantic or modern/ experimental.

 

I take it you've never met our Bursar???! To ask for one new organ was risky, to ask for two would have been ill-advised, rash, dare one say lunacy? Of course I see where you're coming from - and, as much discussion on this board has borne out, in a PERFECT world compromise would not be necessary.

 

It was good to read your detailed analysis of this genre of organ building - Rolf Miehl was at great pains to remind us of R von B's time in France and of his homage to Schnitger. Our swell is aurally very French (obviously it is on paper, but you need to hear it) and our positiv uses Schnitger scales throughout (apart from the Larigot which is, of course, not a stop he would have used).

 

Open Day date is currently under discussion. Will post it as soon as it's agreed.

 

Tim

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"Rolf Miehl was at great pains to remind us of R von B's time in France and of his homage to Schnitger. "

(Quote)

 

And this was a great page of the 20th century's organ history, a page that should

be better known.

Victor Gonzalez begins to gain a growing interest in France, so chances are

we shall be able to advance a bit.

 

There are some infos in english on the Beckerath's Home Page:

http://www.beckerath.com/en/company/history.html

 

Even better: Go to the bottom left of this page:

http://www.andremarchal.com/pages/discographie.htm

 

You will see a picture and the specification of an organ built 1934 (!) by Victor and Fernand Gonzalez with

the young Rudolf Von Beckerath under the supervision -and after the instructions- of André Marchal.

This organ was for the Living-room of Mr and Mrs Gouin, and is now in the St-Marguerite Church, Le Vésinet (F)

(By the way, note the Tierce Mixture on the Swell...)

 

And here is the Page about the present-day organ at Le Vésinet:

 

http://orgue.montesson.neuf.fr/pages/vesinet.htm

 

....Restored by the french builder Marc Hedelin, who is a member of my french forum "Organographia".

Pierre

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And here is the Page about the present-day organ at Le Vésinet:

 

http://orgue.montesson.neuf.fr/pages/vesinet.htm

 

....Restored by the french builder Marc Hedelin, who is a member of my french forum "Organographia".

Pierre

 

Whilst it can be counter-productive to judge an instrument without first hearing its effect in a wide range of music in the building for which it was voiced, nevertheless there are a few points which occur to me.

 

I can see little point in the G.O. Nasard - aside from the fact that there are two other such stops, I would place a far higher importance on a separate Doublette, as a vital part of the chorus. There is also only one 4p flute rank on the instrument. This too, I would insert before a third Nasard. It is difficult to fathom the purpose of the G.O. Nasard with reference to the rest of this division. There is no Tierce, 4p flute or 2p flute so a Cornet séparé is not possible* - neither are such combinations as 8p and 4p flutes and Nasard. If, however, it is to be a principal-scaled rank, it is still incomplete, since it lacks a corresponding narrow-scale tierce or even a Doublette.

 

I would also prefer a second 16p flue on the Pédale before inserting the second reed (Dolcian), since there appear to be sufficient ranks on the claviers to require a fuller foundation than is likely to be imparted by a single Soubasse 16p - particularly if this rank is also quiet enough to be usable with the Récit strings.

 

On the Récit, the Ranquette and Chalumeau are presumably 'Baroque' in voicing - if it is possible loosely to generalise. I think that I would prefer an Hautbois 8p or even a Clairon 4p, for general repertoire. I realise that this instrument has not been specifically designed for either accompanying the repertoire of the Anglican church - or even for my taste! However, I find it difficult to understand the thinking behind some of the design. Perhaps the voicing differs widely from the sounds normally associated with ranks of these names; although, if this is the case, perhaps it would be better to re-name the stops.

 

* In any case, this combination is available on the Positif clavier.

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