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Thread: Early organs - small organs - early music?

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    Midshipman, Forte spotty's Avatar
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    Early organs - small organs - early music?

    Help me understand my pipe organ tastes.
    I don't like big organs (haha)
    Basically I like small intimate stops, whether they be meditative string like stops, or bubbly little flute like stops. What I most dislike is your standard 8 4 2 1 principals with that big most easily identifiable sound.
    I also only really like rennaisance and early baroque music.
    So, is there any congruity to what I like.
    Is very early organ music (rennaisance and early baroque) like that by Gabrielli and Claudio Merulo , and perhaps someone like Pachelbel typically suited to smaller organs and less dramatic and dense registrations? And are the early organs typically relatively smaller than those of the mid to late baroque and onwards?
    Please excuse my ignorant terminology on some of this. I'm just trying to be understood.

    Thoughts?

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    I play every week on a small pipe organ ... 9 ranks, specifically:
    8' Spitzflote (wired for 4' & 2' pitches)
    8' Gemshorn
    8' Gemshorn Celeste (TC)
    8' Trompette (85 pipes, so includes 12 note extension for 16' & 4')
    8' Principal (wired for 4' & 2' pitches)
    8' Gedackt (wired for 4' & 2' pitches)
    III Mixture

    It is voiced in such a manner that it can roar like a lion and yet be soft and gentle like a baby lamb. It is well suited for all organ literature, and I have performed the likes of the Franck A Minor (No 3) and the Mendelssohn Sonata I in concerts on this organ.

    By nature, it is an intimate organ - and well suited for baroque with its un-nicked pipework (meaning its speech characteristics are rather "chiffy", which I really like).

    Defending larger instruments, those can also be played to sound like a smaller organ - it's all in how the organist registers the particular piece to be played. Just because an instrument has 150 ranks doesn't mean that all ranks must be played full bore on every piece.

    I think Buxtehude's original organ in Helsignør, Denmark, may have been on the smallish side (compared to what it is now) ... I've always employed fewer stops when playing Buxtehude, and Pachelbel ... Bach, on the other hand, at least to me always sound great whether or not one employs large or small registrations.

    I enjoy all pipe organs, regardless of size. When meeting one for the first time, I always start out with the softest stops ... as for me, that is what makes or breaks a great organ.
    Kh ~~.
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  3. #3
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso Dorsetmike's Avatar
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    You may find this site of interest,

    http://www.npor.org.uk/hosa_info.shtml

    so far only one area of England (East Anglia) has been covered, there are sound tracks from over 40 historic organs, 4 or 5 complete works, not just samples for each organ, along with some photos and complete listings of pipework.

    This is an example of the detail on an organ

    http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsear...c_index=N01293

    and a recording played on the organ, ideally you will need Adobe Flash Player, although any other MP3 player can be used.

    http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/NPaud...93&Code=2&No=5
    Cheers MIKE.

    How many roads must a man walk down ... ... before he admits he's lost?

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    Midshipman, Forte spotty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dorsetmike View Post
    You may find this site of interest,
    Indeed!
    Facinating stuff. And wonderful exquisite little organs.
    I'll be spending some time at that site sampling the various instruments.

    I appreciate your comments too Krumhorn.
    I guess perhaps too often I've heard recordings where the artist wants to 'showcase' the power of the instrument on every piece and thus except for 1 or 2 tracks, everything is played with 'full ranks'.

    Frankly, a huge organ in a huge church at times gets too 'muddy' for me. The detail in Pachebel's fugues (and Bach too) end up getting lost in all the reverb and delay.

    Oh and that brings up another bias of mine against big organs. I just can't play them. The amount of delay between key press and pipe speak (on the big pipes anyway) gets to be that I simply can't hold the piece together rythmically. I realize that is a defect in my technical ability, but regardless, I just don't like it - haha.

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    Lieutenant, Associate Concertmaster
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    On the matter of early organ music, I have a friend, equally besotted with all things organic as myself, who is concerned about what he sees as current preferences in some circles for early music and alternative tunings. The latter almost make it impossible to play much organ music of the past two centuries on such instruments.
    He feels that this will alienate modern audiences even further.
    Any thoughts?


    Analogicus

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    Ensign, Principal
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    Analogicus,

    My practise instrument, as opposed to my performing instrument, is tuned to Thomas Young http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_temperament While you can 'get the notes right' playing say Elgar or Rheinburger, when you get to five or six sharps and flats it is an experience only to be entertained when the building is otherwise empty.

    On the plus side, the tuning gives Bach P and Fs a very different sound depending on their key. For example, F minor has an 'edgy' feel as opposed to a 'smooth' D minor.

    On the subject of Big versus small (Ooo er, Matron..) My favourite single stop is the open diapason on the Choir manual of Bristol Cathedral organ. I think most of the pipes of that stop are from the 1685 organ and have a delicate and intimate tone that is an absolute delight for early music accompaniment/voluntaries.

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    Midshipman, Forte spotty's Avatar
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    My harpsichord teacher has tried tuning his orchestra and his instrument to historic tunings, and abandoned the effort. I file it under the umbrella of practical vs authentic. Sure modern tunings aren't quite authentic, but historic tunings sound just awful in certain keys. Its a trade off.

  8. #8
    Ensign, Principal
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    This sort of thing is a possible solution - if you have the money :-)
    http://www.pasiorgans.com/conference/constcco.html

  9. #9
    Captain of Water Music
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    Tunings, or rather temperaments (for keyboard instruments) gives the musician a hint of what kind of music is suited for that particular instrument.

    As I've previously been working (as a professional organist) in a church with a replica of a historic organ (dated to around 1628) with mean-tone tuning (1/4 comma) for many years I can tell that the ears become acustomed to the peculiar sound characteristics of a certain temperament.

    For me, with that experience, it's as foolish trying to play late baroque to modern music on such an instrument as it's totally boring and dull hearing the chromatic passages of J P Sweelinck on equal temperament of a modern organ. No matter the playing skills, it's just audible differences in the instruments that makes some music better suited to it (speaks with much more sparkles and comes to life in a fresh way).

    But to return to the starting topic, I too as organist mostly fall in love with smaller instruments that have a unique voice. Even if it can be seen as a limitation I'd preferr a smaller but good (inspiring) instrument every day to a large, non-personal, factory produced soulless one (especially if the electronics or pneumatics start to fail).

    Having seen many organs so far, it's easy to say that the diversity of smaller (and many times older) organs many times have much more personality (not to mention better build quality) than certain modern "uni-sex" instruments. (That's not to say that a large instrument can't be good or a unique personality as an instrument though, certain ones by all means are...)

    Be proud of your taste! It's your own.

    Kind regards

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    Midshipman, Forte spotty's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses all.

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