Author Topic: Failure to understand reed organ registration - Organists' Review Aug 2011  (Read 6229 times)

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revtonynewnham

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Hi

Reading through my copy of this, I find recommendations for playing Vieux Noel from Franck's "L'Organiste" on pipe organ - in an article by Daniel Moult aimed at exam candidates (the piece is set for ABRSM & Trinity Guildhall exams at Grade 3).

He suggests playing it on a single manual - and seems to not know anything about Harmonium registration!

I have written to the editor at length (see below) to point out that his suggestions fail to reveal either the true beauty of this piece (which I play frequently), nor Franck's intentions.

Every Blessing

Tony

Copy of my letter to the editor, Organists' Review:-

Dear Editor

With reference to the article "you can play that" in the August 2011 edition, and in particular the first piece mentioned, "Vieux Noel" from Franck's "L'Organiste".  As Daniel Moult correctly notes, Franck wrote this piece for the Harmonium.  However, one vital thing that he seems to miss in suggesting playing this piece is one manual throughout is that this goes totally against what Franck wrote. I am amazed that, in these days of relating performances to the composer's intentions, the glaring errors that I mention below have been allowed to pass without comment.

A glance at the Harmonium score reveals that this is registered for ranks 2 & 5 in the right hand, and rank 1 in the left hand.  Thus, it is a "solo and accompaniment" piece - and the right hand uses 16ft stops - so should sound an octave lower than noted.  Rank 2 is a 16ft foundation, rank 5 is a Musette - normally tuned as a mild celeste.  Rank 1 for the l.h. is an 8ft foundation stop.  This needs to be taken into account to realise both the composer's intentions and the full beauty of this piece.  Playing it on one manual just fails to do the composer's intentions justice.

Even the suggestions (from Anne Marsden Thomas) don't fully follow Franck's intentions, which has a registration change on the last beat of bar 16, where melody goes into the left hand, with the addition of an 8ft reed sound, and the r.h. Musette is removed.  This is reversed at the beginning of bar 26 where the l.h. reed is cancelled, and the r.h. solo re-enters on the last beat of that bar, again with the Mussette rank added.

Pieces like this appear, at first glance, to be written for a single manual.  However, the French Harmonium is amazingly standardised, with the basic 4 ranks at least available on the majority of instruments, and the keyboard split at e/f ABOVE middle C.  This has a bearing on re-arranging for pipe organ when the 2 halves of the keyboard have different registrations.  Composers for Harmonium often treat one - or both - halves of the keyboard as, in effect, transposing instruments, playing either an octave above or below notated pitch, depending what stops are called for.

For reference, the standard ranks - which will be numbered on the drawstops, are:-

Bass:-
1. Cor Anglais 8ft
2. Bourdon 16ft
3. Clarion 4ft
4 Basson 8ft


Treble
1. Flute 8ft
2. Clarinette 16ft
3. Fifre 4ft (or Flageolet 4ft)
4. Hautbois 8ft

The Grand Jeu stop (indicated by a G in a circle in the registration) acts as a blind "full organ" combination, drawing all of the 4 base ranks in both treble and bass.  (The additional ranks also have standard numbers that are indicated in harmonium music.  Franck in "L'Organiste" only calls for the basic 4, plus Mussette in the treble (rank 5).

I can only hope that examiners of any candidate who chooses to play this piece on one manual throughout have no knowledge of Franck's original intentions!

Yours

Rev Tony Newnham
Bradford

twanguitar

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Having much respect for Tony, I found his post all the more surprising.  It would be odd in the extreme if Daniel Moult did not "know anything about harmonium registration", given that his paper qualifications include MA and FRCO.  Nothing in his OR article suggests this is the case, and nor does he say that one should necessarily play it on a single manual.  He merely suggests that is one possibility, but then goes on to recommend how it might be registered on two (thus realising Tony's solo v accompaniment ideas), even down to the level of detail of naming the stops one might use.  And, Tony, he specifically addresses the registration changes which the music calls for at bars 16 and 26 and which you yourself pointed out.

Had I fired off this letter to OR I think I would, by now, be wondering whether I had allowed valour to get the upper hand over discretion!  Still, it will be interesting to see whether they publish it.

TG

revtonynewnham

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Hi

Indeed - the 2man registration (attributed to Anne Marsden-Thomas) is better than a one-manual interpretation, but still misses the distinctive r.h. solo sound that Franck calls for.

My main  point is the fact that Moult seems to have missed Franck's intentions completely in his suggestions - which come first in the article.  The iece in question is one that I play frequently - on Harmonium - and there is also a somewhat similar arrangement of the same piece by Guillmant that is also in my repertoire.

Every Blessing

Tony

 


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