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Thread: Why Isn't Guilmant More Highly Regarded?

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    Why Isn't Guilmant More Highly Regarded?

    I am a listener, not a musician. I have tried repeatedly to enjoy Vierne, Widor and Tournemire. I have 2 sets of Vierne symphonies, both of which disinterest me. However, I love Franck and Messiaen (even though I find the spelling of his name impossible to remember). What I fail to understand is why Alexandre Guilmant isn't considered more highly than the other late French Romantics. To my ears, his works are more tuneful and airier. They invite re-hearing. Was he once so famous as a performer that his works were disparaged?

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    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster FinnViking's Avatar
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    I once had all the thick Guilmant collections that are availble nowadays. They stood in my note shelf for more than a decade. Then one day I decided to play through everything that I had collected and save what was worth performing and learning and throw away what wasn't. To my surprise, not much of Guilmant' music was worth it. There are certain gems among the pieces, really beautiful and/or joyful, but mostly it wasn't anything special. The same applies to every composer, though... A matter of taste, of course! And I never play, Vierne, Franck or Messiaen, and only selected movements form Widor. I prefer more "melodic" music.
    Last edited by FinnViking; Jan-01-2013 at 18:36.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FinnViking View Post
    I once had all the thick Guilmant collections that are availble nowadays. They stood in my note shelf for more than a decade. Then one day I decided to play through everything that I had collected and save what was worth performing and learning and throw away what wasn't. To my surprise, not much of Guilmant' music was worth it. There are certain gems among the pieces, really beautiful and/or joyful, but mostly it wasn't anything special. The same applies to every composer, though... A matter of taste, of course! And I never play, Vierne, Franck or Messiaen, and only selected movements form Widor. I prefer more "melodic" music.
    Now I'm curious about your preferences--- names please!

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    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster FinnViking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elk View Post
    Now I'm curious about your preferences--- names please!
    Here pieces that I've recorded: http://www.hakanpaa.net/hearmeplay.htm
    And obviously I haven't recorded anything I haven't liked! As I said, this is a matter of taste. My colleagues say I play rubbish, and the audience is excited.
    Last edited by FinnViking; Jan-01-2013 at 20:13.

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    Thumbs up

    Thank you, Marko. I understand what you mean by 'melody'. I guess I prefer works with a little more edge. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the first 5 of your improvisations (as many as I've listened to) and will listen to them all. They are more interesting than the first 6 other pieces I listened to.

    Again thanks. Your are a wonderful improviser playing on a fine organ.

    Steve

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    Well of course, Guilmant was the early-music scholar who resurrected early French organ-music. He was also a supreme academic and represents a French neo-classic style which influenced Widor. Debussy soon wrecked that!

    Now if you thought you didn't like Guilmant, I challenge anyone to say the same after listening to a VERY special recording, where the recording-engineer is a good organist, (actually my successor as Uni organ-scholar).

    The recording is probably the best I've ever heard of organ and orchestra playing together, and the final movement is just STUNNING!

    Go on...have a listen and THEN tell me Guilmant is rubbish!!!!!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7es98AW8nYI
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j82jIx2XVGA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fxIe5kDoUI
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlnBBhwqSqU

    The organ is Liverpool Cathedral, with Ian Tracey at the console.

    Best,

    MM
    Last edited by MusingMuso; Jan-16-2013 at 01:55. Reason: spelling

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    Thanks for the links, Musing Muso. That performance shows exactly what I fancy about Guilmant!

    I didn't realize he was an academic. That explains the flowering of late romanticism in his music without the forward-looking harmonies of someone like Mahler. Yes, I can see how Debussy put paid to his sound world and also, perhaps, why he isn't more highly regarded, but I still prefer his compositions to those of Widor or Vierne.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elk View Post
    Thanks for the links, Musing Muso. That performance shows exactly what I fancy about Guilmant!

    I didn't realize he was an academic. That explains the flowering of late romanticism in his music without the forward-looking harmonies of someone like Mahler. Yes, I can see how Debussy put paid to his sound world and also, perhaps, why he isn't more highly regarded, but I still prefer his compositions to those of Widor or Vierne.
    =====================


    The other thing, which for me, makes Guimant stand head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries, is the fact that he not only wrote for other genres, his orchestration is absolutely superb....perhaps only equalled by Saint-Seans.

    I find it funny that people say Liverpool is the wrong organ to use, when actually, Guilmant had a much wider view of the world than all his fellow Parisian organists. He spent quite a lot of time in America.

    I'll see if I can find some decent recordings of his Harmonium music, which is incredibly good.

    best,

    MM

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    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MusingMuso View Post
    Well of course, Guilmant was the early-music scholar who resurrected early French organ-music. He was also a supreme academic and represents a French neo-classic style which influenced Widor. Debussy soon wrecked that!
    I am a die-hard Guilmant fan and acknowledge the original contributions he bequeaths us today. Debussy did a lot of wrecking in his day because he is an outgrowth of the French Revolution which pitched all the old into the dustbin of History. In a Millenium people will say: "Debussy, whats that? a strangled cat?" Ask the same people about JSBach, the Master from Thüringen, and you'll get knowing smiles - they understand that JSBach is the Everliving Source of the highest in Music.
    Last edited by Corno Dolce; Jan-28-2013 at 09:44.
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    alot of the problem lies with the professors at music schools, private teachers, and so called appreciation of the arts.. who have a mind set of what must be learned and listened to in -order to be a sucessful musician. As a rule Guilmant is hardly ever mentioned. Just the Big name boys from years of pushing..i.e. Bach, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart etc.. I remember my college study and Heaven help me if my organ professor caught me playing much besides Bach, Widor , Vierne, some Brahms. I believe teachers in these modern days are more liberal as to what may be good for the student to learn as well as the Old boys. IMHO
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
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    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wljmrbill View Post
    alot of the problem lies with the professors at music schools, private teachers, and so called appreciation of the arts.. who have a mind set of what must be learned and listened to in -order to be a sucessful musician. As a rule Guilmant is hardly ever mentioned. Just the Big name boys from years of pushing..i.e. Bach, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart etc.. I remember my college study and Heaven help me if my organ professor caught me playing much besides Bach, Widor , Vierne, some Brahms. I believe teachers in these modern days are more liberal as to what may be good for the student to learn as well as the Old boys. IMHO
    I can assure you that this attitude does not prevail in the UK, to the best of my knowledge. My own college professors and tutors encouraged us to study as widely as possible - including attending concerts and listening to 'new' works, which we might otherwise have discounted.

    In addition, as a teacther myself, I encourage my pupils in the same manner. The current field of study stretches from the Baroque up to (in one case) Dire Straits. naturally, this latter is an exceptional example. Nevertheless, within the range of classical music, I encourage my pupils to play just about anything which I consider to be worth playing. And, if they were to come to me with something which I regarded as 'unworthy', either I would extract any positive points I could from the score - or at the least, explain why I thought there might be something better which they should study.
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Feb-01-2013 at 21:08.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    I only rely upon Guilmant for church service music, especially when I have not the time to properly prepare/rehearse some other pieces(s) during the week. My parishioners 'eat it up' and always comment on 'how nice that offertory' was when Guilmant is listed in the bulletin, however.

    I rather find some of his stuff ordinary (boring actually) ... but there are exceptions of course. Some of the 'larger' works are superb.

    Since Guilmant is in the public domain, there is a plethora of downloadable organ scores on the IMSLP site, ripe for the taking.

    Lars A. ♫

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    As I first stated, I'm a listener only, so does that mean, Lars, that Guilmant's scores are so inevitable, or the fingering so simple, that they virtually play themselves for an experienced organist?

    Steve

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    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krummhorn View Post
    I only rely upon Guilmant for church service music, especially when I have not the time to properly prepare/rehearse some other pieces(s) during the week. My parishioners 'eat it up' and always comment on 'how nice that offertory' was when Guilmant is listed in the bulletin, however.

    I rather find some of his stuff ordinary (boring actually) ... but there are exceptions of course. Some of the 'larger' works are superb.

    Since Guilmant is in the public domain, there is a plethora of downloadable organ scores on the IMSLP site, ripe for the taking.

    Lars A. ♫
    Kh, you meant "ripe for the ripping"?...?
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elk View Post
    As I first stated, I'm a listener only, so does that mean, Lars, that Guilmant's scores are so inevitable, or the fingering so simple, that they virtually play themselves for an experienced organist?

    Steve
    Steve,

    Let me clarify my thoughts on Guilmant ...

    When I said "ordinary" or "boring" ... for me those are the kind of pieces that are uninteresting for me as a player/performer. I would just as soon play Mary Had A Little Lamb in those cases - they just aren't interesting to me as a player/performer.

    Lars A

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