Author Topic: Registering unfashionable organs  (Read 3344 times)

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Registering unfashionable organs
« on: April 07, 2010, 02:48:12 PM »
Hi!

I just popped into the forum to see what might have been going on . . . and the photos of the bulldozed organ at the bottom of the page grabbed me . . . and in particular the couplers. The instrument might not look very exciting to some . . . but another look brings a new perspective:


On Choir we have 8884
Great 88842
Swell 88884 plus II rank mixture

An organ with lots of tone colour . . . and I can hear classical purists saying that it's rubbish being unsuitable for Bach. But this instrument takes advantage of pneumatic technology that opened up an era of building despised today. We are so spoiled by the neo Classical Revival of the past 40 years that we forget how organists of the early 20th century "coped" and achieved valid performances. The result of this is that in new pipe organs we are satisfied with nothing less than a pipe for each stop of each key - and I'm not saying that this is a bad thing - but it makes modern pipe organs comparatively more expensive than small pipe organs were in the past. This was a justified reaction to the failings of "unit" instruments or "extension" instruments where arguably borrowing pipes at different pitches could give good tone colour but failed full organ. An example of this, if I am not mistaken, is
http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=D04826 at Tenterden (whilst in passing http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?Fn=Rsearch&rec_index=D04820 must be the only example of a 9ft stop in existence  8) ;D ;D ;D ). But on the way to such decadence and poor results were instruments such as the one in issue here with the stops pictured above
Pedal
           
1
Acoustic   Bass
32
A
           
2
Bourdon
16
A
           
3
Bass Flute
8
A
Choir
           
4
Lieblich   Gedact
8
           
5
Salicional
8
           
6
Lieblich   Flute
4
           
7
Clarinet
8
Great
           
8
Open   Diapason
8
           
9
Stopped   Diapason
8
ex Swell
           
10
Dulciana
8
           
11
Principal
4
           
12
Harmonic   Flute
4
           
13
Piccolo
2
           
14
Tremulant
Swell
           
15
Rohr Flute
8
ex Great
           
16
Viol di   Gamba
8
           
17
Voix   Celeste
8
           
18
Gemshorn
4
           
19
Dulcet   Mixture
II
2 2/3 & 2
           
20
Oboe
8
           
21
Tremulant
With 61 note manuals, when you use those Swell to Great Super and Sub octave couplers, you introduce to the Great a proper 16 ft and 4ft devloped chorus with Gross Nasard right through to 1ft excluding the Tierce, which arguably in equal temperament has to be used very judiciously in any event, and one still has the Choir stops with which to contrast if one wants. With Clarinet on Choir and Oboe on Swell one can play earlier repertoire requiring Cromorne on Positif and Cornet on Recit - and with the Oboe and mixture and Super Octave on Swell, one can get a feel of a bright Trumpet. So we see a valuably versatile instrument out of what looks like a boring specification and modest cost which would produce the "real thing" probably at little more than the commercial cost of a mediocre electronic sporting an apparently flashier stoplist.

So perhaps "Good" and "Bad" organs might be a little about what stops one uses, what one combines with which, and remembering to try pulling out the right couplers.

One also has to remember that organists of the interwar period had become perhaps a little more familiar with tone synthesis than we are today, in their familiarity with Hammonds and their drawbars, adding together flutes at different pitches to get Trumpets, Tubas and strings. This was a volte face from the time that a Pope decided that double reeds were the work of the devil so cunning pipe organ builders put together the Cornet mixture of flues to synthesise the Oboe. And that brings us back to how to play something requiring the Cornet on an instrument without the apparent stop nor pitches to do it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIl-LRafVO4

Just because we have forgotten how to play such instruments does not mean that such instruments are intrinsically bad. We just have to work out what the then "good" organ builders had in mind. One also has to beware alterations as Harrisons put a discordant Septieme into their "Harmonics" on the great to give piquancy to the bland Tromba, and in doing so turned it into a hair raising trumpet. In order to use the "Harmonics" as a Mixture for use with the flues, sometimes the Septieme is taken out, bringing blandness to the instrument . . .

So if an instrument has those intermanual super and sub octave couplers . . . they're there to be tried. Attempting to discover intended idioms is so much better than trying to have alterations done to force such instruments into a compromised version of what we consider now to be our ideals!

Best wishes

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NonPlayingAnorak

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Re: Registering unfashionable organs
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2010, 12:55:08 AM »
An interesting point... I'm not agin a bit of extension and borrowing here and there, per se. It's when it gets silly (Hello, Westminster Abbey!) that I lose interest. Oh, and, from what I've heard, the organ at Tenterden is a dreary old heap... not just unfashionable, but truly without musical merit.

 


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