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Is there a single pipe organ in America that will play everything in organ history?

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  • Is there a single pipe organ in America that will play everything in organ history?

    This is from medieval Europe up to the present.

    The repertoire includes Baroque composers and/or organ arrangements for them: Bach, Handel, Couperin and Vivaldi
    The repertoire also includes 19th century/Romantic composers and/or organ arrangements for some of their works: Wagner, Brahms, Liszt, Widor, Johann Strauss II, Mendelsohn, Reger and Vierne.

    In all of classical and church music for the organ, the Baroque and the Romantic are of the utmost of importance.

    The organ in question hence must be built with room acoustics, harmonics, stop lists and registrations in mind for the very broadest repertoire.


    The two most beautiful organs in America (and in the world) I have ever heard are:

    1. the great Aeolian-Skinner tracker organ at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City on a Columbia Records LP, 1975, Organ Orgy: A Wagner Sound Spectacular, organist Anthony Newman

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Su-d6_pBFY

    and

    2. the Flentrop tracker organ at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA played by E. Power Biggs on one or more Columbia Records LPs

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVu0auaZu7s

    In Number 1, Mr. Newman plays five majestic pieces from Wagner's various Romantic operas including Die Meistersinger. In Number 2, Mr. Biggs plays various

    Bach compositions including Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

    My ideal instrument would be able to sound exactly like both the Aeolian-Skinner and the Flentrop as mentioned above. The stops would need to include Voix Celeste and State Trumpet which seem to be important novelties of the French Romantic organ builder, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, plus the conventional registrations of the German and Dutch Baroque norm.

    The State Trumpet and Voix Celeste are notable in Newman's interpretations of Wagner.

    Another question is what temperament should be used for my hypothetical perfect organ? Bach preferred his exclusive well temperament, German brothers Gottfried and Andreas Silbermann, master organ builders of the Baroque Period preferred tuning in meantone but to Johann Sebastian Bach's displeasure but modern organ builders may prefer another tuning convention.

    The two grandmaster American organists of the 20th Century, Biggs and Newman, are beyond compare.


    Moreover, how about if my ideal organ also carries well the little-known Renaissance organ music as composed by Hassler?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2q42XcKOao&t=970s
    Last edited by jonmyrlebailey; 11-17-2018, 03:18 AM.

  • #2
    You answered your own question. And I wonder why you wouldn't want to play anything modern.
    As far as I'm concerned: jack of all trades, master of none.

    Comment


    • #3
      Why would I not want to play a modern organ or modern organ music?

      I would gladly play a modern instrument that faithfully reproduces the majestic and divine music of composers from the Victorian era and earlier on in history
      and with true allegiance and reverence to those very same composers.

      I'm not familiar with organ music or classical/church music arranged for organ composed past the 19th century.

      My mother got me hooked on Bach at age 9 and on Wagner at age 12.

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree with Havoc's point. The American Classic organ was an attempt to create an instrument that would play all periods of organ music. While they were serviceable instruments in many respects, anyone who has heard or played historic instruments would not be fooled. I know of one instrument at a college in this area that had a German style and French style trumpet to make the instrument more versatile. I think the weakness of this approach is that organs in a particular style are a complete entity. While some people think it is possible to create an organ that would satisfy the demands of different historic periods and national schools, in my experience they are usually deficient in important ways. If an architect designed a house that had an English Tudor oriel, prairie style windows, cape cod shutters and a California ranch mid-century modern cathedral ceilings, we would find such a building strange and not at all aesthetically pleasing.

        Or course good builders are influenced by the past and do try to create instruments that are versatile. In my opinion, the most successful attempts do not try to be all things to all people.
        Bill

        My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

        Comment


        • #5
          To some extent the answer goes back to the old adage that the most important stop on an organ is the room in which it is located--meaning that the acoustical environment of an organ is a critical element of the sound of any organ.

          You can't really have an organ voiced on the smaller side for a small space, such as the Busch-Reisinger Flentrop, that will sound exceptionally well in a huge cathedral which would support larger symphonic works of the Romantic period. The acoustics and instrument have to work together, making an "all purpose organ" difficult.

          To this extent, at least, digital instruments have the advantage, as artificial acoustics can provide acoustics suitable to different organs and their associated music.

          Comment


          • #6
            If you're looking for an organ that will provide an "authentic" interpretation of all that organ music, you won't find it. Composers, performers and listeners had (and continue to have) too many different goals.

            If you are content with an "adequate-to-good" interpretation, and are prepared to compromise, any organ might suit your needs, depending on where or how much you are willing to compromise.

            I'd like to know, from the original poster, what the point of the question really is, or what prompted the question to be asked.

            Usually, when I hear a question like this, I put it in the same category as "What makes the perfect spouse?" It is ridiculous at some level, because everyone has different needs and desires, different expectations of the spouse, and different personal characteristics of their own to offer. The true answer then becomes "There isn't one," and the discussion of such a question becomes pointless.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by regeron View Post
              ....I put it in the same category as "What makes the perfect spouse?" It is ridiculous at some level, because everyone has different needs and desires, different expectations of the spouse, and different personal characteristics of their own to offer. The true answer then becomes "There isn't one," and the discussion of such a question becomes pointless.
              My wife would disagree with this answer. I might not. :)
              When I become dictator, those who preach intolerance will not be tolerated.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by ShadyJoe View Post
                My wife would disagree with this answer. I might not. :)
                ShadyJoe, this begs the question, just who is the perfect spouse in your marriage? O:-)
                Bill

                My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

                Comment


                • #9
                  My apologies. I should have said, "There is no single spouse who would be considered 'perfect foo all other potential spouses," or something to that effect. Or no 'one size fits all' solution. ;-)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The simple question and point is: can ONE pipe organ do it all?

                    If it sounds super to MY EARS, then there's no real compromise.

                    I know how damn well the Great Aeolian-Skinner Organ at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City can do instrumental arrangements the Romantic opera works of Wagner when Anthony Newman is at the console. I know how damn well it and the gigantic gothic building it's housed in can even handle Widor's Toccata. My ears are the judge of it. You can hear that unmistakable State Trumpet a mile away. This organ does very well with church hymns too.

                    I have yet to hear Bach or Couperin on this magnificent American instrument. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (I would like to hear the Dorian version as well) would be the ultimate test with the likes of E Power Biggs (wishful thinking) at the console to perform the test. God bless Mr. Biggs' soul. He passed away in 1977.

                    I have yet to hear Aeolian-Skinner enter the Baroque Test. Is your Bach and Couperin "barr-rrroke", Mr. Skinner?

                    The single most important organ stop is the person at the console.

                    You are hard-pressed to beat the likes of E Power Biggs and Anthony Newman.


                    The grand piano analogy is Steinway & Sons. A Steinway, preferably a Hamburg Steinway, will do all classical piano pieces by all piano composers: Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Liszt, Schumann, Chopin and George Gershwin, period.

                    Could the American Great Organ by The Aeolian-Skinner Company at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC be the "Steinway" of pipe organs?
                    Is Flentrop, by the same token, possibly the "Bösendorfer" of pipe organs?
                    Last edited by jonmyrlebailey; 11-18-2018, 07:31 AM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by toodles View Post
                      To some extent the answer goes back to the old adage that the most important stop on an organ is the room in which it is located--meaning that the acoustical environment of an organ is a critical element of the sound of any organ.

                      You can't really have an organ voiced on the smaller side for a small space, such as the Busch-Reisinger Flentrop, that will sound exceptionally well in a huge cathedral which would support larger symphonic works of the Romantic period. The acoustics and instrument have to work together, making an "all purpose organ" difficult.

                      To this extent, at least, digital instruments have the advantage, as artificial acoustics can provide acoustics suitable to different organs and their associated music.

                      Digital instruments? "Electronic organ"?

                      In the line of John Houseman, actor, choirmaster role in the 1980 made-for-TV film "A Christmas Without Snow", "There is no substitute for a real pipe organ."

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Without_Snow

                      - - - Updated - - -

                      Originally posted by jonmyrlebailey View Post
                      This is from medieval Europe up to the present.

                      The repertoire includes Baroque composers and/or organ arrangements for them: Bach, Handel, Couperin and Vivaldi
                      The repertoire also includes 19th century/Romantic composers and/or organ arrangements for some of their works: Wagner, Brahms, Liszt, Widor, Johann Strauss II, Mendelsohn, Reger and Vierne.

                      In all of classical and church music for the organ, the Baroque and the Romantic are of the utmost of importance.

                      The organ in question hence must be built with room acoustics, harmonics, stop lists and registrations in mind for the very broadest repertoire.


                      The two most beautiful organs in America (and in the world) I have ever heard are:

                      1. the great Aeolian-Skinner tracker organ at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City on a Columbia Records LP, 1975, Organ Orgy: A Wagner Sound Spectacular, organist Anthony Newman

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Su-d6_pBFY

                      and

                      2. the Flentrop tracker organ at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA played by E. Power Biggs on one or more Columbia Records LPs

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVu0auaZu7s

                      In Number 1, Mr. Newman plays five majestic pieces from Wagner's various Romantic operas including Die Meistersinger. In Number 2, Mr. Biggs plays various

                      Bach compositions including Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

                      My ideal instrument would be able to sound exactly like both the Aeolian-Skinner and the Flentrop as mentioned above. The stops would need to include Voix Celeste and State Trumpet which seem to be important novelties of the French Romantic organ builder, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, plus the conventional registrations of the German and Dutch Baroque norm.

                      The State Trumpet and Voix Celeste are notable in Newman's interpretations of Wagner.

                      Another question is what temperament should be used for my hypothetical perfect organ? Bach preferred his exclusive well temperament, German brothers Gottfried and Andreas Silbermann, master organ builders of the Baroque Period preferred tuning in meantone but to Johann Sebastian Bach's displeasure but modern organ builders may prefer another tuning convention.

                      The two grandmaster American organists of the 20th Century, Biggs and Newman, are beyond compare.


                      Moreover, how about if my ideal organ also carries well the little-known Renaissance organ music as composed by Hassler?

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2q42XcKOao&t=970s
                      Correction: the Aeolian-Skinner Great Organ at St. John is NOT a tracker action but something more newfangled action-wise but a heavenly-sounding instrument nonetheless.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        You seem to imply that if no pipe organ is available, silence is the only acceptable alternative. That's a pretty narrow viewpoint.

                        You owe it to yourself to hear what some really excellent electronic organs can do. You might be surprised.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think it unreasonable to compare pianos and organs in this context.
                          -- Any piano manufacturer will make many more pianos in a given time period than any organ builder
                          -- At some level, pianos are designed to fill certain expectations (one manual - 88 keys) while organs have much more freedom (how many manuals? how many stops? nods to various historic or geographic schools?)

                          I also suspect that anyone who limits his reference points (Biggs and Newman as performers, Bach/Couperin/Widor + a few others as composers, Skinner and Flentrop as builders) has far too little experience and knowledge to know that they are really asking, or to understand the answers that people attempt to give to bring them along.

                          I've seen this before - people who want to learn and expand their horizons will ask questions (even naive ones) in a way that you can help them in their progress. Other people are not out to learn, but merely to express the superiority of their opinions. For these, no answer will be of any use because they weren't really wanting one.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by regeron View Post
                            I think it unreasonable to compare pianos and organs in this context.
                            -- Any piano manufacturer will make many more pianos in a given time period than any organ builder
                            -- At some level, pianos are designed to fill certain expectations (one manual - 88 keys) while organs have much more freedom (how many manuals? how many stops? nods to various historic or geographic schools?)

                            I also suspect that anyone who limits his reference points (Biggs and Newman as performers, Bach/Couperin/Widor + a few others as composers, Skinner and Flentrop as builders) has far too little experience and knowledge to know that they are really asking, or to understand the answers that people attempt to give to bring them along.

                            I've seen this before - people who want to learn and expand their horizons will ask questions (even naive ones) in a way that you can help them in their progress. Other people are not out to learn, but merely to express the superiority of their opinions. For these, no answer will be of any use because they weren't really wanting one.

                            Pianos also have three pedals: soft, sostenuto and damper.

                            I can best judge organs, players and composers by my own ears.

                            Ultimately, my ears tell all. My ears, heart and soul know what I like and don't like.

                            It's all in the music after all is said and done.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jonmyrlebailey View Post
                              Pianos also have three pedals: soft, sostenuto and damper.

                              I can best judge organs, players and composers by my own ears.

                              Ultimately, my ears tell all. My ears, heart and soul know what I like and don't like.

                              It's all in the music after all is said and done.
                              If that's the case, do you really need anyone else's input?

                              It seems that if anyone has a differing point of view, it will be automatically invalid because it's not your experience.
                              That's fine for a while, but it can lead to a very isolated and incomplete view of the whole world of music - its instruments and their builders, the composers and performers, and the listeners. It's a vast and wonderful world. If anyone is happy with their two or three recordings, enjoy. But be careful how that limited viewpoint is presented to an audience of readers who can probably list hundreds of beautiful organs, played by hundreds of accomplished musicians, performing the music of hundreds of worthwhile composers.

                              - - - Updated - - -

                              Originally posted by jonmyrlebailey View Post
                              Correction: the Aeolian-Skinner Great Organ at St. John is NOT a tracker action but something more newfangled action-wise but a heavenly-sounding instrument nonetheless.
                              There are several kinds of organ action that sound heavenly. "Heavenly" is not dependent on action-type.

                              - - - Updated - - -

                              I'd still like to know, from the original poster, what the point of the original question really is, or what prompted the question to be asked.

                              - - - Updated - - -

                              Originally posted by jonmyrlebailey View Post
                              Pianos also have three pedals: soft, sostenuto and damper.
                              Yes, and that is VERY standard, though you do see some pianos with only 2 pedals.
                              Organ pedals? Do you want 30 or 32 (or 13 or 25?)? Concave or flat? Radiating or straight?

                              The two instruments still can't be compared that way.

                              Comment

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