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Bach on a French romantic style organ of the year 1890

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  • Bach on a French romantic style organ of the year 1890

    I recorded recently the well known Toccata in F BWV 540 of J.S. Bach, played on an organ, build in the French romantic style.
    Normally its played on clear transparent sounding baroque organs, but I found the result very attractive.
    Please, give your comments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHr0i7GnhzA


  • #2
    Quite nice. Very good performance. (Was it all played on the lower manual?)

    David

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    • #3
      Very nice performance. Very interesting to hear this work with full 8' Trompettes in the manuals. As J.B. Jameson once said, it does not appear that Bach objects to being played on French instruments at all!

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      • #4
        The first time I listened to this piece, I really didn't like it at all! :-( At the outset, instead of hearing the anticipated seamless integration of balanced voicing between pedals and and the manuals, the first big long sustained F completely overwhelmed the manuals, reducing the manuals to little more than a somewhat muddy undefined background noise. Just not Bach!! :o

        Then I listened to it again . . . and then again and again! The more I repeated the experience, the more I actually grew to like it! Once I was able to totally disassociate the performance as anything related to Bach, it started to sound more and more wonderful as I listened to something new and different from an annonymous composer who didn't fit into any familar pidgeon hole. Having eliminated Bach from the process, I really couldn't associate the rich and wonderful music I was hearing, with any composer I'd ever heard before. I don't know why Wagner comes to mind, 'cause I really don't like Wagner, but the rich romantic flair given to this performance leads me to want to know who wrote it! It doesn't sound at all like Bach!

        Of course, there are various components of this performance that conspire to induce you to love it, even if it is a total sacrilege.

        First, there is the organist: Willeke Smits. I've never heard that name before, but I am sure that it won't be long before most of us are familiar with that name. She is very impressive! And for you organ-shoe freaks out there: did you notice that she was (gasp) wearing ballet slippers! :-)

        Second, there is the organ: a tiny rinky-dink II/30 stop organ, that in it's native environment, sounds like an organ many x that size! Encompassed within the most perfect environment for an organ one could ever imagine; Together, they make a magnificent team.
        Last edited by Clarion; 11-18-2011, 08:03 PM.
        2008: Phoenix III/44

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        • #5
          Simply outstanding! Really good to hear an innovative approach done with good taste and enthusiasm.

          mike
          If it is Caesar that you worship, then Caesar you shall serve.

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          • #6
            So sad the french romantics didn't wtrote any organ music that they have to butcher Bach to have something to play on those organs...

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            • #7
              So sad the french romantics didn't wtrote any organ music
              Yeah, Franck, Vierne, Widor, Boellman, Gigout, Mulet, Saint-Saens, Tournemire, et al didn't write anything. I sure hope you're being ironic.

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              • #8
                Butchered? How? I have 30+ years training and experience as a classical musician--performance, theory, history--and I can't go so far as to say this is butchery.

                Tempo is near that of a good many other recordings. Style is articulate. Does the butchery exist in registration and timbre? Even that seems to do no real harm to the music.

                What I do hear is more pedal reed than is necessary during the pedal points, though it is at home in the pedal solos. I hear a very live room that muddies the texture. I don't believe the reed ranks are inarticulate; when has anyone heard an inarticulate reed, anyway? The manual reeds are ascendant, which doesn't seem the best, but it's not butchery. I do hear a typically unbalanced and low-fidelity audio track, common to almost all online organ videos. Combined with the acoustic, it renders any meaningful interpretation of the performance just about completely impossible.

                Perhaps the butchery lies in an "unconventional" registration for this piece, using ranks with "un-Baroque" timbre, whatever that is. It's easy to believe that today we know everything there is to know about the sound of music in, say, 1730...though we have nothing but written and anecdotal accounts and aging, altered, instruments with somewhat deteriorated pipework to establish that sound concept. All in all, it's a pretty thin way to establish a definitive norm. And I seem to recall a quote stating that Bach was a "friend of the reeds."

                While it's not my favorite recording of the piece, I'm happy that the performer programmed it, that an audience was introduced to it, and that someone might have gone home with an appreciation of Bach.

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                • #9
                  Some variation in registration would be nice. Overall, it is enjoyable as a somewhat different approach to a Bach piece with a different sound than usually heard.

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                  • #10
                    Thanks for the comments.
                    Willeke Smits played also works of Vierne; maybe I should upload some of it, especially for Havoc...;-)

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                    • #11
                      At least that would have sounded more appropriate and given the listeners a better idea of the organ and its music. Don't upload it for my sake but others might appreciate it and get a better understanding why there is a relation between the type of organ and the music best suited for it. In other words, why there is often a good background to "conventions".

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                      • #12
                        Oh...the web is a place for everybody. Just go to youtube and listen to all sorts of organ recordings. I can't tell you how many times I've stopped to listen to a famous or less well-known Aeolian-Skinner and these all have the necessary plena to play Bach as the poo-pooers on here seem to be saying they miss.

                        Often it will be a young student playing correctly but a bit under tempo, etc. I'm thrilled when I see ANY new organist, and this playing of this music we are discussing by this organist is GOOD playing. May not be your cup of tea, but I would hardly use the word "butcher."

                        I did the Fantasy & Fugue in g Minor on my junior recital and I had to be careful. Couldn't use the pedal 16' Posaune during the pedal points in in the fantasy even with everything else going on above, but in a French organ the plena are usually rather timid and the mixtures are voiced to be used with the reeds. I understand the critique, but it may have been boring as heck without the reeds. You never know. I for one am always in support of someone registering with panache, even if it is unusual. Give her a break.

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