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Fantasia In G


Westgate Morris
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I learnt this about 6 months ago. as with most things work through it slowly... it is quite easy for the first section to run away with itself, liberal stacatto solved that problem for me, as well as leaning on the first semiquaver of each group.

 

The 2nd section is quite slow, but i've heard organists play this and it become turgid. Bach should never be dull, and if it is it's your playings fault (even in the most 'depressing' chorale preludes) Keep it constant and bright

 

The 3rd section, work on it manuals alone before adding in the pedal.

 

Thats a brief guide from what i learnt.

 

But all the usual shebang for the middle section like lh/ped rh/ped etc

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I have a CD of Patrick Russill playing it at the Brompton Oratory - reasonably brisk throughout - using a big 'Grands Jeux' type registration for all three sections - more added at the end. It sounds very impressive and the uniform registration is not a problem to my ears anyway.

 

AJJ

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As a listener I like the middle section to be brisk. It doesn't really work otherwise. What does really spoil a performance is when an organist goes all shy and quiet in the final section.

 

I agree. This is the one thing which for me spoils an otherwise exemplary recording by the late Helmut Walcha at Sint Laurens, Alkmaar.

 

I have performed it with two light (and only slightly contrasting) registrations for the first section, with 'echo' efffects; I use a fairly big registration for the middle section and for the end, I have occasionally used just all reeds and cornets - adding the chamade for the final flourish.

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I agree. This is the one thing which for me spoils an otherwise exemplary recording by the late Helmut Walcha at Sint Laurens, Alkmaar.

 

I have performed it with two light (and only slightly contrasting) registrations for the first section, with 'echo' efffects; I use a fairly big registration for the middle section and for the end, I have occasionally used just all reeds and cornets - adding the chamade for the final flourish.

 

Speed doesn't bother me for the middle section. What I need to hear is the lines clearly articulated, i.e. pick out all the little tunes and phrase them properly like you would a trio.

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I'd say, ariticulation in movts. 1 and 3 particularly. Grandeur in mvt. two, but that doesn't necessarily mean slow - I think I tend to think of it as two or even one in a bar. Articulation to bring out the structure, and the effect of the big pedal scale towards the end.

 

Otherwise, it seems to me, that it's a piece to be played with great enjoyment throughout, to communicate that to the listener. Elements of dance, as always, contained within it.

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Speed doesn't bother me for the middle section. What I need to hear is the lines clearly articulated, i.e. pick out all the little tunes and phrase them properly like you would a trio.

 

I agree about the clarity of the inner parts. However, I did not mention speed in my post - that was another contributor.

 

For the record, if taken too slowly, the central section can sound ponderous.

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I agree about the clarity of the inner parts. However, I did not mention speed in my post - that was another contributor.

 

For the record, if taken too slowly, the central section can sound ponderous.

 

Ah, I misread the quote in your post - I assumed you were saying that the middle section not being brisk was the reason you weren't 100% happy with the Walcha recording. Re-reading shows that you meant the registration.

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Re. tempo of the middle section - it needs to move along as 2 in a bar. The tempo doesn't need to be pushed so it's brisk - a tempo of say mimum ~ 66-68 is about right. It needs to be spacious and grand but it does need a sense of forward movement so you hear 5 lines rather than chords but the spaciousness and majesty is lost if the tempo's pushed... The lines should generally be legato, with breaks as necessary to articulate the lines (as ajt points out) and accentuate the rhythm - work on getting your touch really consistent so you've got a good foundation for your articulation - shortening notes is not effective when the other notes are staccato and uneven!

 

re. echo effects - so long as they don't get in the way of rhythm!! Personally, I find them annoying in Helmut Walcha at the Laurenskerk in the first section (or am I thinking of another recording - M.C. Alain?) as they get in the way of the rhythm for me as the sound and volume changes mid-beat and it just sounds lumpy. They can work but I think it's a bit gimmicky myself and only really necessary if you've got a horrible sounding organ which needs registration changes every other bar.

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Re. tempo of the middle section - it needs to move along as 2 in a bar. The tempo doesn't need to be pushed so it's brisk - a tempo of say mimum ~ 66-68 is about right. It needs to be spacious and grand but it does need a sense of forward movement so you hear 5 lines rather than chords but the spaciousness and majesty is lost if the tempo's pushed... The lines should generally be legato, with breaks as necessary to articulate the lines (as ajt points out) and accentuate the rhythm - work on getting your touch really consistent so you've got a good foundation for your articulation - shortening notes is not effective when the other notes are staccato and uneven!

 

re. echo effects - so long as they don't get in the way of rhythm!! Personally, I find them annoying in Helmut Walcha at the Laurenskerk in the first section (or am I thinking of another recording - M.C. Alain?) as they get in the way of the rhythm for me as the sound and volume changes mid-beat and it just sounds lumpy. They can work but I think it's a bit gimmicky myself and only really necessary if you've got a horrible sounding organ which needs registration changes every other bar.

 

 

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I tried to find that stupendous Netherlands "Orgel Radio" streaming-broadcast of the Fantasia in G from St.Laurens, Alkmaar, but sadly it has now been removed from the site; which changes regularly.

 

If I recall correctly from about a year ago, this was played very simply, with no more than three registrations throughout. I think the first section was played on the full second manual, the middle-section played on full Hoofdwerk, with a reduction back to the original registration until that final flourish, which cracked in on full organ: the only pedal addition being that wonderfully rumbling 21.2/3ft rank which goes to either low G or F on the pedals.

 

Even the recording was spine-tingling enough, but in the flesh, it must have been absolutely overwhelming in effect.

 

MM

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  • 1 year later...

Does anyone remember a stunning historical recording of this (I think from Dresden Hofkirche) played during radio 3's Bach marathon at christmas a couple of years ago? The playing really seemed to combine grandeur and vitality such as I had not heard before, nor have I heard since.

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Re. tempo of the middle section - it needs to move along as 2 in a bar.

I'm sorry I missed this thread when it started last year. There is no ambiguity; the middle section has a 'cut C' (i.e. 2/2 or alla breve) time signature, therefore it does proceed with a minim pulse.

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