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

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  • #16
    I have never let the limits of any particular organ dictate what can or cannot be played on it. I served a church for over 30 years that had a II/9 Möller pipe organ in a building that sat 340. Over the years I played the likes of the Franck A minor chorale (No 3), and Mendelssohn Sonata I.

    We organists are tasked to utilize to the best of our ability the tonal resources that we have at our disposal. The lack of a 32' pipe rank in the pedal, when it is called for in the registrations by the composer, will never keep me from playing the piece for a concert or service. Not every church, and certainly a II/9 will have a 32' pedal stop.

    The AOB (analog) I presently play (equivalent of 13 ranks) is capable of anything I wish to play. Whether or not the total tonal resources are what the composer intended is up to the player and/or listener, and I won't refuse to play any piece just because I don't have all the stops of a great cathedral organ.

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    • #17
      That little Flentrop 1958 at Harvard is so impressive for a small pipe organ with a limited number of stops especially when played by E. Power Biggs. With few stops and built by the Dutch in the Northern European tradition, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor as well as Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor even carry much better on this organ from Holland than some renditions of this music on some cathedral organs in Germany which recordings I have heard. Johann Sebastian Bach was a devout Protestant man who wrote much in the way of church works in addition to popular secular pieces famed in the classical music community worldwide. Couperin was a devout Roman Catholic Frenchman of the Baroque who wrote divine pieces for Christian functions.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Piperdane View Post
        I have never let the limits of any particular organ dictate what can or cannot be played on it.
        That's the spirit :-)

        We will have BWV 539 in our recital for the 160th birthday of our one-manual-27-note-pedalboard-organ and I'm sure it will be great.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by jonmyrlebailey View Post
          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.
          ......

          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?
          Then the answer is simple: no.

          I do not care about the State trumpet because it will never sound like a french classical trumpet. Nor will it sound like a north-german trumpet. And it sure won't be a spanish chamade. Likewise will the gothic cathedral be a room that can make the chamber organ works of Haydn, Mozart or C PH E Bach any justice. Likewise will it never be able to do early baroque any justice with its equal temperament.

          And I think that Mozart sounds better on a pianoforte as well.

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          • #20
            But to the non-musicologist, the Great Aeolian-Skinner at St. John the Divine might just sound marvelous regardless of the composer. I like Johann Strauss's Blue Danube waltz on a pipe organ too. The circus-like waltz just sounds a natural on organ. An organ covering Romantic stops is prefered. Needs a celeste and to sound symphonic. The celeste will make you feel as if you are floating in space as in the 2001: A Space Odyssey film. A suspect a vox humana is on the registration as well.

            Here is the best example of the organ Blue Danube I've heard to date:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtXwbM5B31s

            John Hong, Julliard Music School, New York

            http://nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/JuilliardSchool.html


            I'm always impressed with the excellent musicianship of those raised in the Asian culture.
            Old-fashioned hard-core knuckle-rapping discipline to achieve in their upbringing.
            Children raised in the Asian culture are pushed hard by parents and peers.

            I suspect European children in Bach's time and in their music and arts communities were raised tough too.

            America is much too soft on her youth especially today.
            Last edited by jonmyrlebailey; 11-19-2018, 02:50 PM.

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            • #21
              I've heard that Flentrop in person in recital as well as in the famous Biggs recordings, which I studied exhaustively as an undergrad organ student. It's a specialist instrument, one which is really in its element with baroque polyphony like Bach, which was precisely what it was intended for. Outside of that context, the results would be decidedly less impressive. It's also a relatively small organ in a relatively small (if reverberant) space, and overall, has a lot less impact at any distance from the instrument than it would seem from the Biggs recordings. Again, a specialist. This reflects a very different intent than a large instrument like the St. John's Aeolian-Skinner, and it did in the 1950's as well.

              There are actually quite a few builders who are doing sterling quality work today. I think of the two current organs at St Thomas NYC: the Taylor & Boody in the gallery, which is a lot like the Flentrop in intention and execution, and the new Dobson in the chancel, which is quite different in a complimentary way- large, colorful, and bombastic to the T&B's precise, clear vertical tonality. Both wonderful, both very different. And this is but one example of very many.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by jonmyrlebailey View Post
                Old-fashioned hard-core knuckle-rapping discipline to achieve in their upbringing.
                Children raised in the Asian culture are pushed hard by parents and peers.

                I suspect European children in Bach's time and in their music and arts communities were raised tough too.

                America is much too soft on her youth especially today.
                Physical punishment and/or abuse is a poor way to encourage a student. I have worked with several adult students who gave up during their youth because they absolutely detested having their knuckles rapped, and it took them decades to get over that and attempt to return to their instrument. It's the perfect example of something that has done more harm than good.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Havoc View Post
                  As far as I'm concerned: jack of all trades, master of none.
                  "But oftentimes better than a master of one"

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                  • #24
                    Pianos are a terrible analogy. Steinway standardised managed to essentially standardise the piano, and other than exceptions like the Bosendorfer Imperial with its extra bass notes and the pianos that have a fourth Harmonic pedal, there isn't really any variation in pianos at all. That's why you have models of pianos, so if you want two the same you can. Pipe organs are designed for a specific building, and in a specific style, so you can't really make an instrument that will play everything.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by michaelhoddy View Post
                      I've heard that Flentrop in person in recital as well as in the famous Biggs recordings, which I studied exhaustively as an undergrad organ student. It's a specialist instrument, one which is really in its element with baroque polyphony like Bach, which was precisely what it was intended for. Outside of that context, the results would be decidedly less impressive. It's also a relatively small organ in a relatively small (if reverberant) space, and overall, has a lot less impact at any distance from the instrument than it would seem from the Biggs recordings. Again, a specialist. This reflects a very different intent than a large instrument like the St. John's Aeolian-Skinner, and it did in the 1950's as well.

                      There are actually quite a few builders who are doing sterling quality work today. I think of the two current organs at St Thomas NYC: the Taylor & Boody in the gallery, which is a lot like the Flentrop in intention and execution, and the new Dobson in the chancel, which is quite different in a complimentary way- large, colorful, and bombastic to the T&B's precise, clear vertical tonality. Both wonderful, both very different. And this is but one example of very many.
                      So, it's not just a simple matter of "bolting" on a few extra aftermarket stops to a pipe organ the way an ordinary street automobile is built like custom hot rod.

                      I used to think the limit to the repertoire is all in the ranks and number of manuals and stop knobs installed.

                      Bach and Coupern are saloon cars, a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II, elegant, fine, but not super wild. Racy Romantic composers as Wagner and Widor, on the other hand, are Ferraris by comparison.


                      If I were a billionaire, I would tell my custom organ builder to make it sound its very best whether Bach, Couperin, Wagner, Widor or Johann Strauss II is played.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by jonmyrlebailey View Post
                        I used to think the limit to the repertoire is all in the ranks and number of manuals and stop knobs installed.
                        The limit to the repertoire lies in the hands and feet of the organist. Of course, there are pieces that can't be played as intended by the composer if you have less than two manuals, but the thing I love about the organ is that a good piece of music can sound good on almost any instrument if played by someone who knows what she/he is doing.

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                        • #27
                          It's safe to say an American organ like the Great Aeolian-Skinner at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Divine, New York City can cover anything classical or liturgical with the right organist at the console.

                          If not perfect for every piece of organ music ever made, or classical composition arranged for organ, it is a great versatile music machine. This Skinner seems to have everything well covered from Bach to Reger.

                          Damn those Germans who tried to destroy every last Romantic organ in Germany!

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

                          Orgelbewegung
                          Last edited by jonmyrlebailey; 11-20-2018, 05:01 AM.

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                          • #28
                            First of all, there are still a lot of organs from the romantic era over here that haven't been touched during the Orgelbewegung. Second, there has been a lot of effort to restore organs that had been changed in a way that nowadays is seen as counterproductive.
                            Third, I wonder how much you really know about German organ tradition to make such a bold statement...
                            Last edited by andijah; 11-20-2018, 10:27 AM. Reason: typo...

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                            • #29
                              I think the thread starter should go and find a teacher that can learn him about music. This is just bragging without any content about the 2 organs he wants to hear and the perfomers he likes.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Havoc View Post
                                I think the thread starter should go and find a teacher that can learn him about music. This is just bragging without any content about the 2 organs he wants to hear and the perfomers he likes.
                                Amen to that. Finding a good teacher (and being willing to soak up what they teach) has been very enlightening for me. I learned more (about how organs from different periods were voiced and what music is most appropriate) in my lesson last week than in my previous four years of learning on my own. It has been fascinating to learn about registering outside of the 'American Classic' realm.

                                Follow-up question for the OP: How tight are your constraints on what is acceptable? Enough of the notes that you can tell what the piece is, perfect interpretation and execution, or somewhere inbetween?
                                Technically, the answer to the original question is: Yes. It's possible to play anything in organ history on any keyboard (pipe organ, electronic organ, spinet, positive organ, synth, or piano) if you don't mind some missing notes, or muddiness, or a lack of polyphony/sustain/volume.

                                If it is the other extreme, maybe the original question should have read read: Is there a single pipe organ in America that will accomodate any piece in organ history with it's academically correct interpretation? The answer to that is no. You would probably have to go digital or virtual to do that.

                                In between those two extremes: A very talented organist could probably do almost any piece justice on just about any pipe organ.
                                Last edited by samibe; 11-20-2018, 04:44 PM.
                                Sam
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