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Westminster Cathedral Organ


AJJ
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Having just listened to the recent Robert Quinney recordings from Westminster Cathedral on the Signum label (Brahms, Wagner & Dupre) it would be interesting to know whether the sound of the organ as found here is as good as it is in the building without the advantage of seemingly quite close and high up microphone placement etc. To me these CDs are sonically (including of course the playing) quite splendid - lively pedal reeds, masses of orchestral colour, lush foundations, fairly 'up front' chorus voicing and a quite steely brilliance to the upperwork. In fact the Great Mixture seems to come on with a real punch - the whole thing being quite unlike any other Willis III of that era that I have come across. I have not heard the organ 'live' since I was a teenager and mainly since then only as a backing to the choir but would be interested to know what those who know the organ well and may have heard these CDs might think.

 

http://signumrecords.com/catalogue/sigcd089/089Booklet.pdf

 

AJJ

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Having just listened to the recent Robert Quinney recordings from Westminster Cathedral on the Signum label (Brahms, Wagner & Dupre) it would be interesting to know whether the sound of the organ as found here is as good as it is in the building without the advantage of seemingly quite close and high up microphone placement etc. To me these CDs are sonically (including of course the playing) quite splendid - lively pedal reeds, masses of orchestral colour, lush foundations, fairly 'up front' chorus voicing and a quite steely brilliance to the upperwork. In fact the Great Mixture seems to come on with a real punch - the whole thing being quite unlike any other Willis III of that era that I have come across. I have not heard the organ 'live' since I was a teenager and mainly since then only as a backing to the choir but would be interested to know what those who know the organ well and may have heard these CDs might think.

 

http://signumrecords.com/catalogue/sigcd089/089Booklet.pdf

 

AJJ

 

 

I suppose I should not reply, not yet having hear Robert Quinney's CD, but I can at least confirm that the Westminster Cathedral Great Mixture does sound like no other! Your description of 'steely brilliance' is both apt and accurate. Indeed, at the west-end console the Great Mixture ('Grand Chorus') comes on as quite a shock to the player; not surprising considering it is sited very close to the console. Near to, it has so much physical impact that (to keep my composure) I find I have to prepare myself before bringing it on. Sorry if this comment sounds like something from Pseuds' Corner (or maybe 'Luvvies') in Private Eye - but it's true!

 

I know the Schulze Great Mixtures at Doncaster, Armley and Tyne Dock (as now at Ellesmere College) and the Willis 3 Mixtures at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and still believe this W.C. stop is in a class of its own. If it were not for the magnificent result which it gives in a vast building, I would say 'good job' because it's not exactly a musical sound as heard by the player.

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This sounds a bit like advertising but the recording of Simon Preston at the RAH - also on Signum (part of the same Christmas present from daughter no. 2 as the Westminster CDs) is quite stunning. Some repertoire that at first glance might raise a few eyebrows but playing and recording are rather amazing! Has anyone else heard this? I would have it for the Gershwin and Jongen alone!

 

http://signumrecords.com/catalogue/sigcd08...084_booklet.pdf

 

AJJ

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This sounds a bit like advertising but the recording of Simon Preston at the RAH - also on Signum (part of the same Christmas present from daughter no. 2 as the Westminster CDs) is quite stunning. Some repertoire that at first glance might raise a few eyebrows but playing and recording are rather amazing! Has anyone else heard this? I would have it for the Gershwin and Jongen alone!

Agreed absolutely!

 

Paul

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Guest Roffensis

I don't have these recordings yet, so cannot comment on how they compare to the sound in the building. But I am tempted to point out the difference I heard following the 78 rebuild. Apart from the Great being divided as originally it was not, the organ sounds more polite now than it did. I used to think how really shocking it could sound, vulgar in the extreme, very terrifying and really quite hard and brash. Moving East did not seem to make the overall impression more polite either. It seems to just cannonball itself down the cathedral at you. I absolutely loved it!!

 

I still do, with reservations. Today I find it more polite and restrained. Some of the sheer roar and steely vulgarity has gone. I wonder if much of this was due to Reeds out of reg, dirt and so on, but interestingly I heard one tale of a pile of pipes at the back of the cathedral, spotted metal principal pipes I think, that were not being re used. So the story goes. A acquaintance of mine reckons he actually has one of these pipes, and it near blows your head off. Downright unpleasant at close quarters!! Whether tonal work was done on the organ I don't know, I moved from the area in 1979 and have not been near as regular as I was. needless to say, one's hearing is probably not as good as in teenage years!

 

R

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Have to agree that the Robert Quinney and Simon Preston CDs from Signum are real gems.

 

As to whether the Robert Quinney 2CD set is a pretty fair reflection of the Westminster Cathedral organ as heard in the building with the exception of the 32ft pedal reed which is much bigger. Of course, it is not as good as hearing this instrument in the flesh, which is always a stirring experience. It is a very difficult organ to record, such is its power - in the building you need to be at least halfway down the nave if you don't want to be blown onto your knees by the tutti - and very few record companies have ever really succeeded in capturing its unique soundworld. However, what is really special about this organ is that it sounds like no other - no mean feat! Much of this is to do with the quality of the reeds, particularly the Swell chorus reeds which breath fire like no other Swell reeds I have ever heard, but also, as intimated above, due to the one stop wonder that is the X rank Grand Chorus.

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Have to agree that the Robert Quinney and Simon Preston CDs from Signum are real gems.

 

As to whether the Robert Quinney 2CD set is a pretty fair reflection of the Westminster Cathedral organ as heard in the building with the exception of the 32ft pedal reed which is much bigger. Of course, it is not as good as hearing this instrument in the flesh, which is always a stirring experience. It is a very difficult organ to record, such is its power - in the building you need to be at least halfway down the nave if you don't want to be blown onto your knees by the tutti - and very few record companies have ever really succeeded in capturing its unique soundworld. However, what is really special about this organ is that it sounds like no other - no mean feat! Much of this is to do with the quality of the reeds, particularly the Swell chorus reeds which breath fire like no other Swell reeds I have ever heard, but also, as intimated above, due to the one stop wonder that is the X rank Grand Chorus.

 

Presumably this mixture (I thought that it was five ranks, incidentally) was not altered by H&H when they restored the organ and made the G.O. playable in two divisions?

 

http://www.westminstercathedral.org.uk/mus...sic_organs.html

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Presumably this mixture (I thought that it was five ranks, incidentally) was not altered by H&H when they restored the organ and made the G.O. playable in two divisions?

 

http://www.westminstercathedral.org.uk/mus...sic_organs.html

 

I have just been through this link to the description. I note in the specification that the 32 Bombarde is an extension of the 16ft. I was always brought up to believe that it is a downward extension of the Trombone 16ft and that if the Bombarde 16ft had been used for the extension Mr Willis would not take responsibility for its use (or words to that effect). Am I right or have I been hoodwinked all these years?

(Me-thinks I am getting hugely pedantic. Perhaps it is my proof-reading in me oozing to the fore.)

Best wishes,

Nigel

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I have just been through this link to the description. I note in the specification that the 32 Bombarde is an extension of the 16ft. I was always brought up to believe that it is a downward extension of the Trombone 16ft and that if the Bombarde 16ft had been used for the extension Mr Willis would not take responsibility for its use (or words to that effect). Am I right or have I been hoodwinked all these years?

(Me-thinks I am getting hugely pedantic. Perhaps it is my proof-reading in me oozing to the fore.)

Best wishes,

Nigel

 

The Pedal 32' Contra Bombarde is indeed an extension of the 16' Bombarde and the Pedal 8' Octave Trombone is an extension of the 16' Trombone. The Trombone unit chest is on the South side of the organ chamber with the Bombarde unit chests on the North side.

 

Andy Scott

London Tuner H&H

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