The Organ Music of Bach

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 19, 2003.

  1. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,040
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Lisbon
    As I said, I don't know VArtolo's AoF, and your remarks do not make me eager to spend the money.

    But I disagree in your view of Messori as far as the Chorales of the 'Organ Mass' are concerned. I will go a little into my own reaction to the record.

    I listened to it in the shop (just about a minute of each piece, or even less); it told me nothing, but I wanted to know the organs, they sounded very 'big' and I was always drawn to deep sounding organs.

    Listening at home I had exactly the same attitude you mention. The Prelude (to which I have not listened properly yet – I listened to the chorales first, and slowly) seemed too 'unbuttoned' in the sense that each section ended with too big a ritardando.

    Yet, in the chorales, I felt a great deal of poetry. I never felt the metronome ticking (a feature that I truly loath), the phrasing was very 'broad' (long phrasing) but yet every structural part was there. The tempo is maintained throughout even if it varies; variations in the tempo are natural, you'll find that in Walcha, in Anton Heiler, and in MArie Claire Alain (but, I agree, not in Leonhardt).

    The music flows, I agree on the edge of too much freedom, but every voice is respected (more or less, but in a very different way, as in the harpsichord version of the Art of Fugue by Sebastien Guillot).

    As I see it, Messori views the music as a flux between important harmonic points; that is, indeed, the way in which Beethoven or Brahms is played: in long phrases between crucial harmonic points. Between those points, everything belongs to a 'gesture', as if throwing the music from point A to point B. In Messori theses gestures are, most of the time, controlled.

    It may be argued that this is not the proper way to play Bach. Buxtehude perhaps, but not Bach. I actually agree: if you analyse the fingering of some of Bach's keyboard works (mainly his pedagogic fingerings of easy pieces) you will come to the conclusion that Bach played cantabile on relatively short phrases.

    Yet, as Walcha, Heiller and Alain have shown, Bach's music, mainly his organ pieces, has a structural quality that encourages the stressing of very large phrases and building the whole as oppositions of these phrases. There is almost a sonata-form like structure in those long pieces that will never be revealed if you concentrate only on very short phrases (as Koopman and, indeed, in some instances Leonhardt, do; and that is indeed why, to my view, they utterly fail as conductors in, say, the introductions to the Passions: everything is taken step by step, and rhetoric is confined to the beat: as everything is stressed, it becomes deadly monotonous; the same may be said, I think, about Dantone's WTC).

    I know it has been defended that Bach's music is not to be played as a whole, but beat by beat. The proof that this is wrong is the awful recording by Monica Hughet (spelling?) of the sonatas and partias and, to my mind, the superiority of Szeryng over Kuijken on the same works. Also, the ghastly recording by Leonhardt of the Von Himmel hoch variations or his very first recording of the Art of Fugue, which is truly horrible, show that this is musically the wrong approach.

    So I am claiming that Bach's music, as indeed all music except perhaps dance music, is to be played into a coherent architecture in which details matter rather less than the whole.

    In this sense I defend Walcha, Heiller, Alain, Messori, Kempff and Perhaya (spelling, again) against Leonhardt, Koopman, Suzuki.

    Some may think I am clustering the unclusterable: Alain, Walcha and Messori don't belong together. They do in the sense that architecture precedes detail.

    I'll come back to this later. I hope this makes sense.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 5, 2010
    1. Advertisements

  2. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,040
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Lisbon
    So I tried to learn to upload and download, etc. This is an example on how not to play a canon:http://www.mediafire.com/?oymfyg0iy01
    All the stress is on short phrases, on the beat, and this is the result: like a student reading from the score.
    I hope you can listen to it.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 5, 2010
    1. Advertisements

  3. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    1
    Quite agreee. This is indeed pedestrian and ovearticulated. Leonhardt I guess, without "controlling" it. His Bach organ recordings were not entirely successfull, and much of it makes an impression of being experimental, at least upon me.
    But I do not think that the Dutch style per se includes overarticulating. And pointed articulation does not exclude long phrases.

    Here are three different organists playing more or less detached.
    I do not need to tell what the music is.


    The first very detached but full of energy and very clearly articulated. I am not sure, that I have been able to delete the name, but the playing is IMO a great surprise.

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/4ntwzzx23qw/1,9.mp3


    The second playing what I would call balanced non-legato, the way I more or less prefer. And long phrasing.

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/hm3zztwkwoy/2,1.mp3

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/yzhmnkdymtm/2,7.mp3

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/tjciz1rhzo2/2,9.mp3


    The third playing more legato, the discrete detached playing just discernible. And long phrases too.

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/jzk5n4z3rng/3,1.mp3

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/lzikmiqgwoz/3,9.mp3
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 6, 2010
  4. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,040
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Lisbon
    You are right, it is Leonhardt. And I agree that the Dutch school does not forbid long articulation; indeed, in some organ recordings (for instance, of Sweelinck, and most of the later ones), Leonhardt himself uses it.

    About your downloads:

    The first one is Gould, I suppose. Only he would use the Fagott and plenum in such a fugue and no one else would hammer the organ like that. I don't like it, but of course the organ is much less forbidding of excessive articulation than the piano, and that particular fugue agrees with that approach.

    I agree that the second set of recordings is the most convincing. Counterpoint I is very expressive, beautifully articulated. The augmentation fugue is marvelous, even if I would have it with the mixture; and C.ix is very expressive; rather more than is usual. I agree that in the organ, this is the right kind of touch to do. It reminds me of Fagius, but perhaps a little more expressive.

    The third recording is a beauty: the organ sounds a marvel, and the idea of using the reed in the pedal (pull down from an upper manual, I think?) works wonders (but is a trifle overdone, because the theme appears too often; it is, I think, meant to mingle with the rest of the work in a less clear way). But it is too legato, and all one hears is the upper voice and some harmonic support vaguely theme-related. The many extraneous sounds during the recording make wonder if this a home made recording? If it is, hearty congratulations to the player.

    That said, the counterpoints of the art of fugue are perhaps too short (excepting the double and triple fugues) to have an idea of the overall approach of the organist. As i said, the large organ fugues give us a better idea of the structural approach of the musician.

    I don't have half the records you have, so I cannot really compete in downloading, but I will try to find something interesting.

    Very good thread :D
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 6, 2010
  5. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    1
    That's right. I just relistened to vol.4 of the complete set (including the BWV 533) and found it dreadful. The entire vol 4 is unmemorable.
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 6, 2010
  6. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    1
    Right again, and Lagacé's integral is of course more interesting than Scott Ross'Dorian. I acquired it a few years ago, but I have not listened to more than about one third of it - there has been so much else to listen to. :)

    Lagacé's touch is a bit more detached than Stockmeier's, but else I think he reminds a lot of him, being a rather uninterventional kind of artist. And his Beckerath organ is adequate, but not specially interesting. On the contrary I find the different Kreienbrink organs, Stockmeier uses, very interesting.
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 6, 2010
  7. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    1
    This is not quite, what I wrote. I wrote, that pointed articulation does not exclude long phrases = long phrasing. My intention is to find some well-working examples of this.

    Completely agreed, except that I like it. Actually this is the only Bach recording of Gould's I can stand, even if his idea of some of the other CPt.'s is dreadful.

    Completely agreed here too. The organist is Rudolf Scheidegger (pupil of Eduard Müller and Marie-Claire Alain among others, and later harpsichordist in the Hans-Martin Linde Consort and since 1987 resident organist in Grossmünster, Zürich).
    The organ is the Martin Pflüger organ (1984) of St. Corneli in Tosters near Feldkirch, Austria. One 8' manual with ten stops and pedal with two stops.

    Despite the fact,that it is a live recording I find the sound is wery good displaying this organ to great advantage. I want to give Marc the chance to guess the name of the organist, but of course I shall reveal it later.

    Yes, and I will think of finding some better examples.
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 6, 2010
  8. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2007
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yes, the Kreienbrinks sound clear and crispy, I like that.
    As I wrote before, the soundclip of the Montréal organ (Scott Ross) reminded me of the 'Tamburini' sound, a bit superficial really.

    I found out that there are 6 volumes of Lagacé's set available at the Dutch library, so I added these to my favourites .... someday I'll borrow them. But my favourite list is very long - there's so much else to listen to. :)
     
    Marc, Jun 6, 2010
  9. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2007
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    0
    I just downloaded and listened to these two clips .... with great pleasure .... and again I have the feeling that to me the organ might be the best suited instrument for Die Kunst der Fuge.
    I know I should take another listen to the soundclips, but my first guess would be ..... Corti .... ??
    On a nice, yet not flabbergasting Tamburini again (like his integral)?
     
    Marc, Jun 6, 2010
  10. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    1
    Right again, Alessio Corti on the Tamburini organ of the protestantic church in Milano. He also used that organ for his integral, but not for the AoF, which was recorded on the organ of Maria Secreta.
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 6, 2010
  11. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2007
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    0
    It was a rather lucky guess .... I found it 'suspicious' that you wanted to give me another chance .... it reminded me of some recent online blabbering elsewhere on the digital highway. ;)

    Btw: just now, I checked the same highway (via Google) if this live-recording might be available on disc.
    I used these parameters:
    "die kunst der fuge" bach organ "live-recording" corti
    I didn't find a link with a disc, but I did find something very interesting!

    http://avaxhome.ws/music/classical/bach_kunst_der_fuge.html

    http://rapidshare.com/files/226357060/ArteFuga.part1.rar
    http://rapidshare.com/files/226370171/ArteFuga.part2.rar
    http://rapidshare.com/files/226378753/ArteFuga.part3.rar
    http://rapidshare.com/files/331834167/Locandina.rar

    I'm downloading right now .... man, I like this board! :D
     
    Marc, Jun 6, 2010
  12. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,040
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Lisbon
    You are right, that is not what you wrote, but I understood you, it was just my mistake when writing.

    I will try and get something curious.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 6, 2010
  13. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    1
    Dear Rodrigo, may I ask which organ your new avatar depicts?
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 6, 2010
  14. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2003
    Messages:
    1,040
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Lisbon
    Yes, of course. It is the organ of the Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) Monastery in Coimbra. It was initially built by Heitor Lobo in 1530, and then progressively enlarged. It is a large 16' with three divisions that are playable from the same keyboard (as often happens in Iberia).

    I have not yet played it but it has been recently restored. As I am coming more often to this forum (because of the excellent posting!) it occurred to me to change the avatar as the casework is fairly impressive.

    Now Coimbra is relatively far from Lisbon and I did not make the trip yet, but when I do I will inform.

    You may find more information here. As you know, «Flautado» is Principal, «baixo» is the bass half and «tiples» the treble half; the other names are easy to translate. The reeds, of course, have odd names, and except for the trumpet (trompeta or trombeta or also trompa) are somewhat different from the northern ones.

    In fact it has occurred to me to begin a thread on Iberian organ music, now that I know how to download files (but I wonder about © issues!). This is a long due task I promised to fulfil, as you know.

    Thank you for your interest. :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 7, 2010
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 7, 2010
  15. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    1
    Passacaglia BWV 582

    Thanks, Rodrigo, for the explanation of the organ. It seems to be an organ with a cornucopia of reeds.

    Now three different versions of the BWV 582. Chosen to illustrate my words about articulation/phrasing. You are BTW wellcome to guess about the performers and organs.

    No.1)
    Very short articulated, often in a degree as to make the perception of the phrasing impossible. The passacaglia- theme is already at the first statement cut up into fifteen small pieces. But else an energetic, tense reading.

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/3t5tzn5ktvn/01 Passacaglia.mp3


    No.2)
    Not quite so short articulated, just enough to be what I consider stylish, and not interferring with the phrasing. You are not in doubt, that the organist phrases the main theme right from the outset in two halves -as one should, IMO. Registrations are very consequential, without fussy changes. My favorite of the three.

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/ie4kzijultm/02 Passacaglia.mp3


    No.3)
    More legato presentation of the main theme, played in one long breath. and I often find the phrasings too long. On the other hand the articulation seems a bit pianistic, the organist playing either legato or staccato and nothing really in between.

    http://www.mediafire.com/file/dvzjmfyiaz2/03 Passacaglia.mp3
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 7, 2010
  16. Rodrigo de Sá

    bat Connoisseur Par Excelence

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2004
    Messages:
    448
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Dark castle
    Keith Emerson plays Bach backwards on his Hammond!


    Forget Walcha, Heiller and Alain... here comes Keith Emerson!
     
    bat, Jun 7, 2010
  17. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2007
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    0
    Dear Bat, I appreciate your enthousiasm.
    But to me, this is nothing but snobbish pop rubbish.
    Clips like these remind me of my happiness and relief when Ramones & Sex Pistols arrived on the scene.

    Ray Manzarek only rarely played a Hammond, but I'd prefer him to Emerson any time (The Changeling!). But then, I just love The Doors.
     
    Marc, Jun 7, 2010
  18. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2004
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    1
    :SLEEP::SLEEP::SLEEP:

    Well, if it must be Emerson, I prefer the Emerson Quartet.:)
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 7, 2010
  19. Rodrigo de Sá

    ar-t

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2010
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Texas

    Well, can't agree with the Ramones, and Sex Pistols, but the rest is spot on. Emerson did have a tendency to pretentious, smarmy nonsense.
     
    ar-t, Jun 8, 2010
  20. Rodrigo de Sá

    Grothendieck

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Messages:
    220
    Likes Received:
    5
    I was looking at the Wikipedia entry for Helmut Walcha today. There's a new link to some video footage of Walcha playing. I just thought I'd pass it along. This is the first time I've encountered any video of him playing. Too bad it's not Alkmaar.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 13, 2010
    Grothendieck, Dec 11, 2010
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.