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Come Sweet Death

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  • Come Sweet Death

    What's your favorite Youtube recording of Come Sweet Death by Bach? I heard it live at the Alabama Theater on Big Bertha and it took me away. I've been looking for a YouTube vid that takes me there. I liked this one, but wonder if there is better out there... https://youtu.be/yYKAysA3J6k
    Allen ADC 3500
    Hammond L100

  • #2
    Well, the classic performance is Virgil Fox playing the Wanamaker Organ. Lots of recordings of that online.
    Larry is my name; Allen is an organ brand. Allen RMWTHEA.3 with RMI Electra-Piano; Allen 423-C+Gyro; Britson Opus OEM38; Saville Series IV Opus 209; Steinway AR Duo-Art, Mills Violano Virtuoso with MIDI; Hammond 9812H with roll player; Gulbransen Rialto; Roland E-200; Mason&Hamlin AR Ampico piano, Allen ADC-5300-D with MIDI.


    • Jay999
      Jay999 commented
      Editing a comment
      The Virgil Fox CD was broadcast on "Pipe Dreams" many years ago. During the introduction
      before playing the CD, it was stated that the CD had been released with a mistake in the audio, and to turn our home system treble control all the way up to correct the problem. I have that CD in my collection, and indeed, if the treble is boosted fully, the recording sounds very good.

    • regeron
      regeron commented
      Editing a comment
      Hmmm. when I clicked on your link, I got a train arriving in Strasburg.

    • Silken Path
      Silken Path commented
      Editing a comment
      So did I. It was interesting, though.

  • #3

    While I think Aram's performance is certainly well done, the tempo is a little slow for me. However, Aram's performance is 2 minutes shorter than Virgil Fox's. Perhaps it's the variation in expression and stop changes that makes Mr. Fox's feel like it takes less time. Then again, the Wanamaker has a few more stops to play with than the Allen Organ Aram played.


    P.S. I apologize for using Aram's first name, but I can't seem to spell his last name correctly.
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 10 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos


    • mlaird
      mlaird commented
      Editing a comment
      Virgil wrote that arrangement for Wanamaker's, so that is THE definitive rendition of the piece. However, hearing it played at Wanamaker's now doesn't sound the same as when Virgil played it, for both good and bad reasons. The bad reason, IMHO, is that the String division's flat stops have been retuned to be sharp instead of flat, which makes the celeste effect different than it used to be. The good reasons are that the organ is much more in tune than it used to be back when Virgil played it, nearly all of it is working properly, and the acoustics have been vastly improved. I wish the organ weren't quite as much in tune as it is now, but that's personal preference, perhaps since I grew used to it being out of tune when I heard it growing up near Philly.

    • myorgan
      myorgan commented
      Editing a comment

      The only time I heard the Wanamaker was for the 100th anniversary. However, I was only there for a few organists I'd never heard of before. Mr. Conte's performance with the Phily group was well balanced, but weighted too heavily on the symphonic group–as it probably should have been. The organ can be wonderful, but if the person playing it cannot register it well....

      If the concern about the celestes is accurate, that could explain a lot.


    • beel m
      beel m commented
      Editing a comment
      Michael- you were correct! This is from Ray Binswanger, head of Friends Of the Wanamaker Organ:

      "Hi Bill
      Yes they moved from flat natural sharp to natural sharp extra sharp. The rationale was that flat lowered the pitch line perceptibly. I found the difference very subtle and accordingly left the website listing alone (it is just tuning).

      We found that when the division was tuned it lost a lot of its sheen. It has been left alone and has gone back to a sort of randomness that gives it the wonderful effect.

      Playing with just the naturals gives an amazing mixture-like effect.

      Interesting. When the Atlantic City organ is done, they will be able to brag that it not only is the product of a single designer and a single builder, but it has been restored to its original sound. The Wanamaker organ, OTOH, has been added to and much changed- more than I realized until today.
      Last edited by beel m; 12-03-2019, 03:07 PM. Reason: typo

  • #4
    The flat-tuned string ranks were tuned sharp?? I am there all the time and never heard that. Next time I go to Macy's (prolly early next week) I'll ask Curt, if he's there.


    • #5
      I do love Virgil's arrangement of this piece. I play the Come, Sweet Rest Arr. by Ellen J Lorenz. Really it's the same piece but I'll take flats over sharps and time!! lol


      • myorgan
        myorgan commented
        Editing a comment

        I thought the original was in C minor (3 flats)?


    • #6
      Yes, I use the Fox arrangement and am always greatly pleased when I play it for others.
      I my minds eye or ear I tray to keep the Virgil Fox performance in my head.
      That arrangement is in C# minor.
      It's always moving.

      Michael has it right too. Aram Basmadjian performs the Virgil Fox's arrangement of Come, Sweet Death as good as any IMHO.
      That is a hard name to remember to spell.
      Remember too that Virgil also did the Fanfares for the Parsifal. Another fabulous piece and majestic with lots of big chords and fairly short too.
      Everyone enjoys that piece.
      But Virgil has done many great things to please the ears and stir the souls.
      He signed my LP for me at the church in a town near me, Paoli, Pa.
      He said the same thing to everyone there, "put this record on, turn the bass and the volume all the way up and go into the next room and listen".


      • #7
        Alas, I realized too late. It wasn't Paoli, Pa, it was in Bryn Mawr, Pa at a big church that had the Ruffatti organ installed there sometime after.
        The arrangement I have is by V. Fox in C# minor from the St. Cecilia series no. 671-(3); H.W. Gray Publication.
        I'm sure you can still get it.

        BTW, I was there very early and I watched V. Fox warm up the keys; it was probably a cleaning style that he preferred, I'm sure.
        He used a white and light handkerchief and laid it on the keyboard and used 2 hands side by side and briskly rubbed them back and forth all the way up to C5.
        He did this on every manual. I thought that was interesting and never gave it too much thought.

        The day came when I was to play a large pipe organ at a private residence and humbly asked if perhaps I could practice 1 day before the performance.
        It was granted. I sat and put my hands on the organ manuals and then it hit me! Ah Ha
        That's why Virgil did that! (Of course this is just conjecture on my part ha ha).

        The keys were not clean and to the degree that they cold be distracting. I know, I know. Don't laugh.
        They just had the feel of grit here and there. Anyway, I had my brief case with me and had some tissues and cleaned away !!
        Then I never forgot what Virgil did that night.


        • #8
          Since the entire Wanamaker organ is tuned rather flat compared to the A=440 that we generally use today, it's probably true that those flat-tuned string ranks accentuate this difference in pitch between orchestral instruments and the organ. Perhaps that was a motivating factor for the re-pitching of the flat ranks in the String. However, I agree with Ray's comment above that the String division loses its impact when it's perfectly in tune. It needs to be randomly, slightly out of tune in order to sound like the strings of an orchestra. I hope they let it stay slightly out of tune in order to keep that "sheen" to its sound. I think this effect is best heard in pieces like "Come, Sweet Death," and Keith Chapman's rendition of Jongen's "Choral," where the instrument gradually builds up from nothing to full organ. I don't think "Choral" sounds all that impressive without the unmatched crescendo possible on the Wanamaker organ.