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Thoughts on the synphonic organ vs the Classic

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  • #16
    Originally posted by APipeOrganist View Post
    And god, I love organ symphonies. But they were written for organ, not for an orchestra. And that's the ultimate definition of a symphonic organ: An organ that has the expressive and tonal capabilities to play a symphony, but preferably one written for organ. And an orchestral piece played on an organ is never going to sound as good anyway. You can't get the second viola to play one specific A slightly louder to emphasise a chord, or get accurate pizzicato on the violins. Can you imagine trying to play the clarinet glissando from Rhapsody in Blue on an organ? You can't pitch-blend like that on an organ, and so you won't get the same effect. It's nonsensical to think that an organ can replace an orchestra, no matter how much we like to pretend that it can. And "expanding organ literature"? There's a couple of easy ways to do that. 1. Write new organ literature. 2. Play more than BWV565, Widor's Toccata and the like. There are THOUSANDS of organ works. We are not limited in any way. Why expand the literature when only a fifth of it is ever played? The orchestral organ fundamentally doesn't have a reason to exist. Its sole reason for being around has been replaced by a succession of recording technologies and cheaper concerts. However, you can't play Bach well with an orchestra. That's not what it was written for. Hence the Organ Reform Movement. Suddenly "wow, we can play the music how it was intended, rather than a bastardised transcription of a transcription. This sounds way better!". Because orchestral organs are a bad replacement for an orchestra, and an even worse replacement of a classical organ.
    I agree with much of what you say, however, it could be fairly argued that your writing shows a bias towards only regarding Baroque and Pre-Baroque organ literature as 'real organ music'. I wonder if a 'Symphonic Organ' would be as much at sea playing Vaughan Williams as it might be in reproducing ... Couperin?

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    • #17
      A symphonic organ is one that can play along with an orchestra and/or be the solist against it. Organ symphonies are symphonies where the organ is the solist, more comparable to a piano or violin concerto than an orchestral symphony.

      Originally posted by APipeOrganist View Post
      And "expanding organ literature"? There's a couple of easy ways to do that. 1. Write new organ literature. 2. Play more than BWV565, Widor's Toccata and the like. There are THOUSANDS of organ works. We are not limited in any way. Why expand the literature when only a fifth of it is ever played?
      I partly agree with this. Expanding your own repertoire you can do easily by playing more than the known hits. And hardly the surface is scratched by what is commonly played. And then you can wite as much new music as you want, I see no reason to advise against expanding it with new work. Ony, I do not see adaptations as "new" work. So why try to write adaptations and think this will be a worthy expansion of the repertoire?

      Now, I admit I do like Stokowski from time to time and in limited doses. And I do have a few (sometimes improbable) versions of BWV565 on assorted instruments. It can be a good thing as it shows that some composers/performers do understand that music so good they can get away with it. And it also shows that the music is damn good. But I don't see this as "new" work. I put it more down as amusement. But on the other hand I admit it can be a good way to expose people to the music.

      Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
      I agree with much of what you say, however, it could be fairly argued that your writing shows a bias towards only regarding Baroque and Pre-Baroque organ literature as 'real organ music'. I wonder if a 'Symphonic Organ' would be as much at sea playing Vaughan Williams as it might be in reproducing ... Couperin?
      No, a symphonic organ is what you need for Vaughan Williams. And most modern (20-th century) music actually sounds best on such organs. Which is not so strange as those composers were mostly brought up on that sort of organs and the french romantic ideal or they just use all the little immitative sounds of it or they just need a lot of manuals and a lot of volume. But Couperin needs an organ that can bring out the lines and voices, you occasionally need a Cornet or Cromhorne that cuts through instead of the melted/muddled/mixed sound of the symphonic organ. Which is the sound it is intended to make and is needed for most of the repertoire written for it. Mendelsohn on a baroque organ just doesn't cut it either.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Leisesturm View Post
        I agree with much of what you say, however, it could be fairly argued that your writing shows a bias towards only regarding Baroque and Pre-Baroque organ literature as 'real organ music'. I wonder if a 'Symphonic Organ' would be as much at sea playing Vaughan Williams as it might be in reproducing ... Couperin?
        I do want to make it clear that I love romantic and symphonic organ literature. My ringtone is the Finale from Vierne's Symphony No.1 for Organ, and I think my most played track is P. Whitlock's Fanfare from Four Extemporisations. There's something really special about that period of organ music, with the vast experimentation in tonality that makes it really exciting to listen to. And the organs that I play on the most are usually wholly Romantic beasts, so I have to learn to play appropriate literature for them anyway.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by APipeOrganist View Post
          I personally think that organs should be built for playing organ music, not an ultimately inferior version of an orchestral piece.
          Completely agree.
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          • #20
            So i am confused. I was taught that mutations are harmonic collaborating ranks which means that they enforce the harmonis in the series in which they are built for.

            My point is that ranks that imitate an orchestral instrument do not need such enformence because the required harmonics the intend to reporduce the required timber is already their. Granted their is some more work to be done in certain ranks.

            This is the point i was trying to get across is that mutations are to serve as harmonic enforcement. People who play in diffrent parts do not intend to enrich the timber as a whole.

            Therefore if have a rank thst closley imitate a clarinet it is not required to uses mutations to enrich that sound.

            - - - Updated - - -

            Originally posted by APipeOrganist View Post
            But it kinda does, that's the problem. Because you have multiple clarinets, multiple flutes, multiple horns, multiple of everything, in most symphonies you have people playing in octaves, fifths, and thirds with the other parts. And I also think you misunderstand what a symphonic organ is. They're not a replacement of a classical organ, it's an extension of them. They still have mixtures, mutations, principal choruses, all of the things that you would associate with the classical organ, but they also have orchestral sounds. The "unit orchestra" and the like are usually called "orchestral organs" and the distinction does have to be made. It's impossible to accurately play Bach, Buxtehude, Daquin, Wesley, Stanley, Greene or any other baroque/classical works on an orchestral organ, but it is possible to do so with a symphonic organ. And about mutations, symphonic organs had more mutations than a classical organ. b21st, 1-1/7', 8/9', other weird things.

            My bigger question here is "Why does the organ have to imitate an orchestra?". What purpose does it serve? The only real reason that organs were required to replace symphony orchestras in the first place was because going to a concert was really expensive, and it was cheaper for a city to have an organist that could perform those works by himself. Before the advent of easily accessible home music, the only way to listen to orchestral music was by going to a concert, until the invention of the symphonic organ. Look at the organ in St George's Hall, Liverpool. Every time the orchestra up the road put on a concert, the city organist would go and have a look at the programme, get the scores out of the library and play the same concert for free on the organ. This was fantastic for people that couldn't afford to to the orchestral performance, but we aren't in that situation anymore. If I want to listen to Mahler 5, I go on Spotify, hook it up to my home stereo and listen away. I don't need to go to a concert to hear it. That's why I find orchestral organs so frustrating. I personally think that organs should be built for playing organ music, not an ultimately inferior version of an orchestral piece.

            And god, I love organ symphonies. But they were written for organ, not for an orchestra. And that's the ultimate definition of a symphonic organ: An organ that has the expressive and tonal capabilities to play a symphony, but preferably one written for organ. And an orchestral piece played on an organ is never going to sound as good anyway. You can't get the second viola to play one specific A slightly louder to emphasise a chord, or get accurate pizzicato on the violins. Can you imagine trying to play the clarinet glissando from Rhapsody in Blue on an organ? You can't pitch-blend like that on an organ, and so you won't get the same effect. It's nonsensical to think that an organ can replace an orchestra, no matter how much we like to pretend that it can. And "expanding organ literature"? There's a couple of easy ways to do that. 1. Write new organ literature. 2. Play more than BWV565, Widor's Toccata and the like. There are THOUSANDS of organ works. We are not limited in any way. Why expand the literature when only a fifth of it is ever played? The orchestral organ fundamentally doesn't have a reason to exist. Its sole reason for being around has been replaced by a succession of recording technologies and cheaper concerts. However, you can't play Bach well with an orchestra. That's not what it was written for. Hence the Organ Reform Movement. Suddenly "wow, we can play the music how it was intended, rather than a bastardised transcription of a transcription. This sounds way better!". Because orchestral organs are a bad replacement for an orchestra, and an even worse replacement of a classical organ.
            Lew williams did it on the unit orchestra for rhapsody in blue

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Havoc View Post
              No, a symphonic organ is what you need for Vaughan Williams.
              That was my point. I was telling the other poster that they were being maybe unfair to symphonic organs when there are composers like Vaughan Williams that need to be played on organs more to the symphonic style because they probably wouldn't work very well on a 'classic' (read: neo-baroque) instrument.

              Originally posted by Havoc View Post
              And most modern (20-th century) music actually sounds best on such organs. Which is not so strange as those composers were mostly brought up on that sort of organs and the french romantic ideal or they just use all the little immitative sounds of it or they just need a lot of manuals and a lot of volume. But Couperin needs an organ that can bring out the lines and voices, you occasionally need a Cornet or Cromhorne that cuts through instead of the melted/muddled/mixed sound of the symphonic organ. Which is the sound it is intended to make and is needed for most of the repertoire written for it. Mendelsohn on a baroque organ just doesn't cut it either.
              Melted, muddled, mixed sound? Well ... if you want that, the symphonic organ can give it to you, but if you do not, a properly designed symphonic instrument should be able to get considerably more articulate.

              - - - Updated - - -

              Originally posted by APipeOrganist View Post
              I do want to make it clear that I love romantic and symphonic organ literature. My ringtone is the Finale from Vierne's Symphony No.1 for Organ, and I think my most played track is P. Whitlock's Fanfare from Four Extemporisations. There's something really special about that period of organ music, with the vast experimentation in tonality that makes it really exciting to listen to. And the organs that I play on the most are usually wholly Romantic beasts, so I have to learn to play appropriate literature for them anyway.
              Love the Whitlock "Fanfare". The middle section is some of the most ravishing tone painting from an organist/composer I've ever heard. The only problem is all the performances of it you are likely to hear are way, way, way too fast. I'm learning it so I can play it like I hear it in my head and eventually record it for YouTube.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Ben Madison View Post
                So i am confused. I was taught that mutations are harmonic collaborating ranks which means that they enforce the harmonis in the series in which they are built for.

                My point is that ranks that imitate an orchestral instrument do not need such enformence because the required harmonics the intend to reporduce the required timber is already their. Granted their is some more work to be done in certain ranks.

                This is the point i was trying to get across is that mutations are to serve as harmonic enforcement. People who play in diffrent parts do not intend to enrich the timber as a whole.

                Therefore if have a rank thst closley imitate a clarinet it is not required to uses mutations to enrich that sound.
                Consider that the instruments in a symphony orchestra are played by individuals, each which can vary the volume and articulation of their part on a note-by-note basis for the purpose of musical clarity. There is no way that is possible on a pipe organ, even if the timbre of the voices is perfectly identical to their orchestral counterpart. In other words, organs are organs and have different requirements to succeed as musical instruments. Symphonic and Theatre organs also have mutations.
                Lew williams did it on the unit orchestra for rhapsody in blue
                Lew is a very skillful organist, but his opening to Rhapsody In Blue is a chromatic glissando, not the pitch bend of a clarinetist.
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                • #23
                  It is a heartwarming fact that the newer symphonic halls in Europe are being built with proper symphonic organs. The KLAIS instrument at the Elbphilarmony in Hamburg is one. (This is the new venue where Merkel recently treated Trump to the Ninth, which apparently was his first taste of live Ludwig Van. He said he loved it…) https://www.elbphilharmonie.de/en/press/organhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RgU6zHTi0o

                  The second is a GRENZING at the Auditorium of the Maison de la Radio, part of the French Public Broadcasting Corporation. This You Tube is only in French, sorry, but as you move forward you'll get the gist of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qMSfhuXFs8
                  Last edited by Vincent; 10-09-2018, 09:27 AM.
                  Vincent
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                  • #24

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                    • #25
                      Open Wood.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Vincent View Post

                        The second is a GRENZING at the Auditorium of the Maison de la Radio, part of the French Public Broadcasting Corporation. This You Tube is only in French, sorry, but as you move forward you'll get the gist of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qMSfhuXFs8
                        Lot of these older organs are silent because they are NOT legacy mechanical organs. They are pneumatic/electro-pneumatic systems that have become impossible to keep running. So the only option or complete rebuild or complete replace. Also a lot of them have another problem and that is asbestos. This could have been used as soundprofing or fire proofing or electric insulating material. But right now it makes those organs just furniture. Also a lot of these organs where just build to the lowest cost with "revolutionary new materials" that just didn't stood up to the test of time.

                        The Grenzing at Brussels cathedral is a complete mechanical legacy organ. So your argument is void. This is a result of such projects being international tenders where the best price quality gets the order. Now I do not like the Grenzing in Brussels but this has only to do with the voicing which I find totally inadequate for the volume of that building and the fact that is is a "compromise" organ. It does not adhere to a single sonic school but tries to do everything as well. Result is that it does nothing right.

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                        • #27
                          I certainly am no specialist, but I can tell that the new Gerhard Grenzing (Barcelona) organ at the Maison de la Radio in Paris is no mechanical legacy instrument. It is a thoroughly modern computer age machine with the latest electrical proportional action, and mobile console.

                          The Auditorium itself is not huge (1460 seats), but i find it very suitable for chamber music, choirs and organ. But for me the chief attraction is that it is five minutes walk from where I live

                          Vincent.

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                          Vincent
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