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Thread: Bach Passacaglia in c Registration

  1. #1
    Recruit, Pianissimo
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    Bach Passacaglia in c Registration

    Hello;
    I am in the process of learning the passacaglia, and wondered if anyone has a simple registration scheme for the variations, possibly involving manual changes more than stop changes, and with of course no use of pistons!
    Thanks,
    (my 1st post by the way)

  2. #2
    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Hi organist32 ... Welcome to Magle International Music Forums

    A judicious use of the Crescendo shoe can be a great substitute for the lack of pistons - my church instrument has but 4 generals (electro-pnuematic at that), so I make good use of the crescendo. Having played this organ for 26 years I know exactly when and what stop is 'drawn' completely by 'feel'.
    Kh ~~.
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    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Hello organist32,

    Welcome aboard the Starship MIMF where everyone is a star. Please do make yourself feel right at home in our small part of the Galaxy and stay for a spell.

    Cheers

    Corno Dolce
    *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."

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    I would never use a crescendo pedal (shoe??) in Bach, wasn't invented and isn't what he would ever have done. A judicious selection of stops added, yes. But that's just my personal view ...

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Although I certainly agree with your statement, CT64, but some of us are not fortunate enough to have instruments with all the implements for making registration changes easier

    When both hands are going different directions in a display of rapid 16th notes, without the aid of pistons (and toe studs) there is no time to pull another stop (or in my case use the rocker tabs), which is why I use the crescendo "pedal" (I was always taught 'shoe' ... sorry).

    Somehow I don't think JS would mind - and the listener who can't see the console would be none the wiser
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  6. #6
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    And do you think Bach had a registration helper? Not sure ... likely not. The poor Blacksmith would have been behind the beast pumping the bellows ...

    Bach also played on some quite large instruments (Leipzig) so would have had fun with plent of stops to choose from I guess.

  7. #7
    Recruit, Pianissimo
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    I have to say I agree about not using pistons, crescendo pedals or other modern aids when playing Bach; personally, I would only hand register. If there isn't a suitable place for a manual change, or to pull a stop, I think the music doesn't require it. If you have a good sound/registration to start with, there is no need to constantly adjust the colour, as you would in, say, Howells or Franck.

  8. #8
    Midshipman, Forte
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    Of course, you might also consider the option of playing it without any changes of registration at all, that is, playing on the plenum, principals 8', 4', 2' and mixture or something to that effect in the manuals, and some 16' reed added to (or replacing) the 16' foundation in the pedal, perhaps.

    Many find it too one dimensional that way, however, this music is so strong that it really doesn't need help by registration changes to be interesting, actually the opposite might be the consequence. As it is a very difficult piece (but then again, that goes for almost anything he wrote!), it might also be adding to the problems if you have to think about registration as you go.

    Then there's the argument of authenticity, I believe scholars would argue that it is indeed that way works of this size was played in those days, plenum throughout. But that is a somewhat tired discussion, and I don't intend to turn this thread into more of that!

    Enjoy playing this wonderful work, I know I will when one day I throw myself at it...

  9. #9
    Midshipman, Forte
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    If you have a programable cresendo pedal, thats best. It was this piece that inspired my to do something completly different. Just remember you saw it here first. Program your 'pp' registration with your cresendo pedal at the half on position, 50%, and add the standard reg increments going on up, with almost tutti at 100%, full open. And here's were it gets weird. Going down from the halfway, 50% position, add more string 8s, then flute 8s, then flute 4s, str4s and at the bottom add some real light 8' reeds. With the cresendo all the way down to 0% you will have all the 8s in the organ and most of the 4s, no 2s and no mutations, it will be fat and slushy. So we have the minimum number of ranks is in the middle, with cranking up being the standard stuff. But backing it off from the middle position, the other direction gives you a different cresendo building up fat foundations. Idealy we want several cresendo pedals, each programmed to color differently as they are rolled on and overlayed. You come up with these things having 340 or so ranks at you disposal.

  10. #10
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    I am always interested in the arguement.... how would bach have played it !!!!

    I am sure that if Bach had the advantage of a modern day instrument he would have used its resources to the full, indeed that was his job a lot of the time when testing new instruments.

    In my opinion the registration should be amended for each individual organ, to show the music to its best advantage int temrs of clarity, tone colour and excitement, and not be limited by trying to faithfully reproduce the sound Bach created on his particular organ. Why not use the Swell pedal, I cant imagine the A minor fugue for example without it as it aids excitment and tone colour.

    I await wails of lament !!!!!! lol

  11. #11
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Bach, had he been alive, would have LOVED all the huge organs around. Seeing as Leipzig was the one of the biggest he'd seen and it only had one 32' stop. Bach commented that he missed the 32' stops when they weren't on organs he played.

    Imagine his stupor if he's seen Sydney Town Hall, or worse, the Wannamaker monster! He would have played for 24 hours solidly, I'm sure.

  12. #12
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    One wonders whether he would have still been baroque or would have turned more romantic/ orchestral in his writing with the wannamaker organ ?

  13. #13
    Midshipman, Forte
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    An interesting point is that Bach was indeed considered to be old fashioned in his later days, when the lighter wiener classical style was becoming popular and fugues and the like was going out of fashion, so to speak. I think my point is that Bach, like any other composer, was a product of his time, and the question whether or not he would be more of a romantic composer is completely superflous, as the romantic period was a consequence of the classical period, which for its part was a reaction to the baroque period.

    I do understand people who like to make the passacaglia (and the fugue, too, for that matter) a crescendo/diminuendo/crescendo-piece, it's often the very nature of this musical form. To my ears, though, that effect has been thought of by Bach himself, and he more or less creates those effects without the use of registration. The best examples are the middle part with the arpeggios, the texture gets thinner and thinner to the point of almost disappearance of the music!, and the extra voice being added in the end of the passacaglia, going from 4 to 5 voices, which creates an elegant and definitely audible crescendo effect. However, subtleties like the mentioned might be overheard if the player tries to help the music on its way by means of registration changes and swell pedal overuse , possibly GETTING in the way of it.

    My two (or that would be four now) cents!
    Last edited by tom; Mar-11-2008 at 21:17.

  14. #14
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso methodistgirl's Avatar
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    I believe I heard it once. I would like to hear it again. It's a bigger piece
    than even Toccata & fugue.
    judy tooley

  15. #15
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    tom - maybe fugues were going out of fashion because composer lacked the talent to bring them off with the flair of Bach.

    As to Bach being alive today, of course he'd be a modern, or a romantic had he been born in the 18th century.

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