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

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    Dear Pe-Zulu:

    Thank you (I suppose you mean the Arte Nova record). I can't seem to get it from amazon... I'll search a little more.

    P.S.: I agree about Anton Heiller: He was one of the great Bach organists of last Century. I have a few CDs by him (4, I think) and he is indeed brilliant. His Leipziger Chorales are amont the very best, IMO.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 7, 2004
    Rodrigo de Sá, Nov 7, 2004
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  2. Rodrigo de Sá

    bat Connoisseur Par Excelence

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    At least amazon.de has the Oster CD. The Finn HÃ¥kan Wikman recorded also a CD with the Jacobi which includes the Doric toccata & fuge. It is fun to compare that one with Oster (if you really have the time)
     
    bat, Nov 9, 2004
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  3. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Dear Bat

    Incidentally Ton Koopman has also recorded the Dorian on the Jacobi-organ (a part of his integral for Teldec).

    As to Wikman: I own his Kunst der Fuge, and always wanted to hear his Dorian, since I read about it some time ago. Do you know where to get it.

    Venlig hilsen
     
    pe-zulu, Nov 9, 2004
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  4. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Dear Bat

    I just found the Wikman-Cd at Amazon.de, and ordered it instantly (as well as the Perotin/HilliardCD).
    Thanks for mentioning Wikman.

    Venlig hilsen
     
    pe-zulu, Nov 9, 2004
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  5. Rodrigo de Sá

    bat Connoisseur Par Excelence

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    I know the Perotin record, Viderunt omnes is great, the rest is not as good.
    Is anyone else familiar with van Oortmerssen's Bach organ records? If I had to choose something with me to that desert island, or nuthouse, just now I would choose the Fagius set, those 7 van Oortmerssen CDs and some Sibelius. And Wagner! And the Who! Happy with (Walcha-influenced?) Wikman? At least his Dorian toccata isn't rushed.
     
    bat, Nov 18, 2004
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  6. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Dear Bat

    Viderunt Omnes SHOULD be the best, it is surely the best from the hand of Perotin, even if Sederunt Principes is only a little inferior . I will find out , when I get it.

    I have one van Oortmerssen Cd, the one from Roskilde (hurrah-here in Denmark, wonderful restored organ) containing among others the Dorian. I find him a little dry, and find Fagius much more inspired. If there were no Alain and Rübsam,I surely would prefer Fagius and Heiller(but not Fagius'Kunst der Fuge).
    I like Wikmans Kunst der Fuge, it is really natural and unfussy, not like typical Walcha, but I must add, that Walchas Kunst der Fuge is more emotional and expressive than Walcha uses to be. Indeed I find it mandatory for anyone interested in Kunst der Fuge. I am very curious to hear Wikmans Dorian.
    So I have to wait untill I receive it.

    Venlig hilsen
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 13, 2005
    pe-zulu, Nov 18, 2004
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  7. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    I have now listened to parts of this (Helmut Walcha Bach integrale MONO) Doc bargain release

    http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/hnum/6348063/rk/classic/rsk/hitlist

    and compared it to the (about two years old) Archiv reissue as well as to the original LPs from the 1950es, of which I own a major part.

    The source material for the latest bargain release from Doc can´t be the LPs, but seems to be the two years old Archiv release. This ( the Archive)has certainly got more transparency than the original LPs, and more presence. The Doc release is very similar (only the grouping of the works on the individual CDs differs), but I think a discrete amount of ambience also has been added, most notably in the pauses, where the reverberence "blows in the wind" a tad differently, and if it is teoretically unsatisfying, it is in practice not that bad, considering the extraordinary dry acoustics in the church of St. Peter and Paul in Cappel, which here have got some modification.

    All in all the Doc release is very much more than full value for money, price only 10 Euro for 10CDs.

    I can add, that Archiv in the 1970 released the Leipzig Chorales and Canonic Variations on two LPs in electronic stereo remastering, but the new Doc release is very much superior.
     
    pe-zulu, May 7, 2006
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  8. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    RÜBSAM

    Let me begin by characterizing, overall, his playing style. Even if I listened to his playing several times, I cannot overcome a sensation that the pieces do not breathe. This functions to perfection is such pieces as the Passacaglia, the Concerto in a (Vivaldi) or even the triosonatas, which sparkle and are very alive in long phrases.

    In chorales, this may work, even if he takes quite a different approach to them. I chiefly mean the ornamental chorales, here (one of the voices plays the cantus, the other play a complex intertwining of voices.

    On the whole they are all right. But I cannot understand the way in which he plays the flourishes. He seems to think of them in terms of a string of notes that rapidly lead to the main note. This I cannot understand: I tend to like the flourishes to be expressive.

    Also, there is not a great deal of breathing between the phrases, and this bothers me, too. So, I would say that many of the big preludes and fugues are splendid, but I would like a more human or even mystical approach to the chorales.

    Finally, I do not understand his articulations. The same phrase, in different voices, may be quite differently articulated – pa’ram’param’’pam or pararararam. I do not understand this. Finally, there are some cases where he clearly lets some voices go faster than the rest (when one voice is played in crotchets and the other in longer notes).

    So there is a lot I do not like. This is odd. I think I did not understand his playing. It seems straightforward, but then there are odd things.

    I must mention the organ he plays. It is a more or less organ reform movement organ: brigthish, with very small weight, even if the Great Organ is based on a Principal 16. But the octave 8 is so much stronger, that the plenum (16, 8, 4, 3, 2, Mixture, Cymbel) really seems an 8’ plenum, perhaps with a soft bourdon 16. This I must say I detest: it only muddles the sound and does not in fact lower the octave. It is senseless to build a Principal 16 in this way: a Bourdon would have sufficed and it is much cheaper to build, and a quintadena would be better. The pedals are stronger, but, even if there is a subquint present (12 or, more exactly, 10 2/3), the trombones are, as Bach would put it “overweak”.

    But this is not my main criticism: the organ is, to my taste, ugly. There is no colour: everything is grey, even the flutes and the reeds. There is an interesting 8, 4, 2 flute chorus in the Brustwerk, but otherwise it is all grey. Even the Ranckett 16 is colourless.

    On the plus side, the organ is rather precise: all ranks are quick speaking. Again, a plus in the plenum pieces, a very definite minus in the subtler ones.

    Having listened to these records, I might have said that I hoped that I could listen to more recent records. Well, this puzzles me even more, because the recent records of Rübsam are completely different. I plainly do not understand them. So, probably, I did not understand Rübsam’s old recordings too. The problem is that I did listen repeatedly to them, so I really do not know what to think.

    Some thoughts?
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 26, 2006
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  9. Rodrigo de Sá

    bat Connoisseur Par Excelence

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    About those old Cappel recordings: the instrument is unaltered (?) Arp Schnitger, but somehow we still don't know how the Schnitgers were meant to sound?
     
    bat, Jun 27, 2006
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  10. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    The instrument was altered, but not very much. We do know, in general terms, how the Schnitgers sounded. Only, there are many kinds of Shcnitger, because he used previous pipework very often.

    It seems that his interventions on new organs almost always reinforced the mixtures and the low pedal range.

    There is a very interesting comment in Audsley (I can find the exact reference) in which, during the 18th Century, an Englishmen visited Hambourg and compared three organs: Reinken's Katharinenkirche; St.Nicolai (Schnitger, Vincent Lübeck's organ) and the huge Hildebrandt.

    Hildebrandt's instrument was the most powerful; Katharinenkirche was brilliant and very quick - silvery. Schnitger's Nicolai was very dark, very powerful. One is bound to think of Ahrend's restoraution of ST Jacobi: it does sound deep and impressive, with a dark-red and gold sound. Ideal for Buxtehude, really.

    His smaller organs are different. Principals are rather sweet but powerful; mixtures are always strong; the trombone is always very dark.

    A specific feature of Schnitger's organs is that there is a very important element, the trompete plenum. In bigger organs, this is achieved by trumpet 16' plus octaves, aliquots and mixtures. In smaller organs the quintadenas 16 underscore the trompet line and the result is a rather dark sound, reedy and very powerful.

    Another really interesting feature is that, usually, the positiv is actually more brilliant that the Werck (Great, or Haupt). The great (Manual II) may be coupled (and in big organs is intended to be coupled) to the brustwerk or the oberwerk (above the HW and behind the façade 16' pipes).

    But even if one uses the couplers (HW+OW+BW) the sound is never as piercing as that of the positive. The positive cannot usually be coupled to the Haupwerk. There are no pedal couplers.

    So: dark sounding, rather cavernous, strong, against all the piercing Sharffs of the positive.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 27, 2006
    #90
  11. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Rübsam

    Dear RdS

    Interesting comments about Rübsam. I can see your point much of the time but not all the time. And I think, it is a matter of taste more than of understanding, - if you like him or not.

    What fascinates me is the great variation in the conception from one organist to another, and all have some important to say in their own way.

    In my opinion Rübsam views Bachs organ music from the rethorical angle. And he looks at most of the music as instrumental music (chamber music) for organ, and not as vocal music for organ. This is surely the reason why he phrases shorter than e.g. Walcha, but I don't know of any golden standard, so his point of view may be justified. He made this recording in the early hip- days, and all his choices are not necessarily lucky, much like the recordings of Leonhardt before 1965. I think his articulation is very chamber music like in general. I would forgive him a few inconsistencies; almost all organists are a bit fallible in this question. His way of treating flourishes in chorales is very rethorical, but it can't be named inexpressive for that reason. I think he demonstrates that expressivity is possible without dwelling much on the notes. This is another kind of expressivity, but it talks (pun intended) to me as much as the more singing kind.

    Trying to get through my listening pile, I haven't listened to Rübsam for some time, but yesterday I listened to his AoF. The force of suggestion is strong, and indeed I found some of the Contrapuncti a bit rushed, especially Cpt. I and X. As if he has choosen an uncomfortable fast tempo and isn't able to realise his intentions fully. His registrations on the other hand I find very convincing in the AoF, using the organ most often as some sort of chamber organ (predominantly 8F and 4F). I consider the AoF to be a harpsichord work, which can be played on organ, and should be played on a small organ, without - or at least with discreet - use of the pedal.

    Surely the Metzler organ lacks both character and gravity, and it is for that reason relatively unsuited to Bachs great free organ works. I think the AoF and the Triosonatas and the intime Chorals work sufficiently well on this organ as to balance, but even here the lack of character is annoying. Many of these so called neo-baroque organs from Metzler as well as Marcussen and modern German builders seem to lack character and individuality. Of course they haven't got any patina yet. I suppose that Arp Schnitgers organs also lacked patina when they were newly-built, but they certainly didn't lack character. Sometimes though I find the distinction between patina and character vague, when it is about old restored organs.

    Regards,
     
    pe-zulu, Jun 29, 2006
    #91
  12. Rodrigo de Sá

    revahi

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    Toccata & Fugue in D minor BWV.565

    What I really wanted to do was to start a new thread in this class but I cannot.
    Does anyone know where I can buy the above?
     
    revahi, Aug 14, 2006
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  13. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Revahi,
    wellcome to the forum.
    Have you got any particular interpretation of the BWV 565 in mind?
     
    pe-zulu, Aug 14, 2006
    #93
  14. Rodrigo de Sá

    bat Connoisseur Par Excelence

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    One possibility is Kevin Bowyer's first disc of his long Bach cycle, on Marcussen organ - fine recorded sound!
     
    bat, Aug 16, 2006
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  15. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    A short post on the Hildebrandt organ built, it is said, to Bach's specifications and that we know that he liked (Naumburg, Wenzelkirche).

    Pe-zulu pointed the record to me: Elisabeth Ullman. There is a magnificent doric Toccata, but for the rest the record is a bit boring.

    This is because the organ lacks refinement. It is strong, but does not have enough color and most stop combinations just fail to excite. It is as if Hildebrandt tried to promote volume but did not really care for beauty of tone.

    The organ is precise - I mean, the stops speak promptly, but even the flutes are coarse.

    Which brings me to one of my deepest doubts concerning Bach.

    Did he have a good hear for timbre? I somewhat doubt it. I say this because, in most of his organ works, he does not seem to rely on color or on the sheer beauty of sound. What he wrote for organ may very well be played in the orchestra. The same almost applies to his harpsichord music.

    Buxtehude knew how to compose for the organ: his works offer the most staggering possibilities, as Vogel, for instance, has noted. In Bach this is not the case: a couple of principals, a sexquialtera, perhaps a trumpet or a Fagot and normal fluework are quite enough to play all his lighter chorales. For Preludes and Fugues, it seems to me that a plenum is sufficient, perhaps with a secondary one.

    We know he liked strong mixtures (he considered Silbermann's mixtures 'overweak') and very deep sound (32' range). So are we to play his works with a 16' plenum in the manuals and a 32' in the pedals? It may be done... And I often think 'why not'?

    Emmanuel Bach said that no one could draw the stops as he did, but I really am not convinced. Perhaps he just used fuller registrations than usual (this is borne out by the critique made to his son's playing: the church council feared that he had broken the organ...) and the liberal use of reeds (which was not customary in central Germany: see Adlung and such advice).

    With harpsichords the same thing seems to be implied. The Mietkes he affectioned seem to sound rather horrible, flat and dull (but reconstructions of the Mietkes are based on guesswork because we do not know how they were strung). He liked a 16' tone in the harpsichord, too - again a strong, heavy, tone.

    He was said to play the violin with a penetrating tone: again, clarity and strength..

    So, did Bach prefer sheer brute amount of sound over beauty and delicacy?
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 27, 2007
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  16. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    Interesting question, but unfortunately I don't know anything really about the organ and about organ playing. But, who knows, that might change because I do have some acquaintances who play the organ, and they will be paying me a visit somewhere in august. Something to look foward to, we'll be listening to some organ CD's, I guess.

    Nevertheless, maybe it's possible to ask your final question regarding Bach's total work?

    Was Bach aiming for beauty and delicacy, in the way we are used to regard this nowadays?

    Should the violoncello suites be played like Rostropovich or like Anner Bylsma? Bylsma finally decided that the way Anna Magdalena Bach (only her copy of the works survived) is asking the cellist to play the phrases is correct, while almost every other interpreter considers them as 'wrong' and 'ugly', caused by the 'fact' that she had to write it down in a hurry, and wasn't secure enough. Bylsma wrote a book about his research: Bach, the fencing master.

    Should the cantates be performed like Herreweghe or like Harnoncourt?
    Harnoncourt also wrote a disputed book about baroque music: Musik als Klangrede. The problem with this book is that he doesn't say where he assembled his ideas from. Harnoncourt claims that in the late baroque, music melodic lines were approached in a more fragmentary way, because music really was 'speaking in notes'. Consequently this meant avoiding legato lines by using heavy accents, dividing long phrases into many short ones, allowing sudden stops at the end of each little melodic phrase, which resulted in final notes that are almost inaudible, and many other 'non-beautiful' things.
    Harnoncourt stated that we should perform Bach's music like it is some kind of a speech, instead play it like it is some kind of a painting. The latter way of playing is a 19th-century approach.

    I remember on another forum a discussion about the cantatas, and people were complaining about the Leonhardt/Harnoncourt set: it doesn't sound melodic, it doesn't sound beautiful. Other members of that forum asked: are you sure they are supposed to sound like that?

    Is it possible that Bach's penetrating tone is just the way music was played in the late Baroque, as Harnoncourt claims? Does this also mean that it is correct that the organ is precise, the stops speak promptly and the flutes are coarse?

    And do we really have to care about that, when listening to Bach? Or do we agree with people like Herreweghe and Koopman, who decided to mingle the lessons of Leonhardt and Harnoncourt with their own views about melodic lines? Which means that their performances are more singing like the way we are used to sing nowadays?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2007
    Marc, Jun 27, 2007
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  17. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Dear Rodrigo

    It is true, that it is possible to grow ear-tired of the insistent plenum sound in Bachs great organ works. But the dogme, which forbids changing of registration during one piece, shouldn't forbid changing of manuals with contrasting plenum sounds during the playing. I think the problem is, that we tend to listen to too many great organ works in one sitting, whether at home or at recitals. But probably like you, I get more ear-tired by one hour of Naumburg plenum than by one hour of Ponitz plenum or Sct.Jacobi, Lübeck plenum. By the way I find many places in Bachs music, which ask for more delicate instrumental timbre e.g. the organ Triosonatas, much of the violin-harpsichord sonatas, many movements in the Cantates. But he certainly doesn't ask for delicate timbre in the romantic style (much vibrato, excess of changing dynamic effects or almost inaudible pppp). But I don't miss it. I generally prefer my Bach to be played audible and clearly articulated.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2007
    pe-zulu, Jul 2, 2007
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  18. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    If we take baroque painting and decoration as indications of the kind of movement that ws in fashion at the time, Harnoncourt is dead wrong.

    During the 50ies the aesthetic was glass and steel. You can listen to it in Boulez, and also in the way Walcha played - it is not for nothing that he was so popular then.

    Baroque aesthetics is all about curves and ruptures. This is very clear in Buxtehude or Froberger.

    With Bach, flow is certainly present - you need only to see his monogram - and rupture is nowhere to be found. Also, he professed a cantabile style and his contemporaries described the way he played as legato. This does not necessarily mean legato in the romantic sense - I take it as flowing. Indeed, you cannot very well play Bach legato on an old keyboard because the hand must shift every so often, but you can give it a sense of flow. Gilbert is a master at such and he has very small hands.

    As pe-zulu said, I too don't like overly romantic playing, even if I can love certain Karl Richter interpretations (his first St. Matthew, for instance). I detest too much vibrato, I don't even like the sound of piano playing Bach, and I much prefer a good 18th century organ over a romantic one.

    But still, the Naumburg sound is ugly even without mixtures. Even flutes are 'penetrating'.

    Schnitger organs, in contrast, have many different colors (not so with Silbermann - but then I don't think I like Sibermann organs...), and the same may perhaps be said about Trost's. However, the link with Naumburg is strong and we know that Bach always suggested Hildebrandt as the organ builder. Perhaps it was a business arrangement, we don't know, but still...

    Couperin (both), Clérambault and so on, knew how to make a harpsichord sound beautiful. Did Bach? Perhaps in the partitas and the suites one can find the answer: he did know, but usually chose not to. Music first, sound a second consideration?
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jul 3, 2007
    #98
  19. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Rodrigo de Sá, Nov 29, 2008
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  20. Rodrigo de Sá

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Indeed. Not only a great musician but also a charming and gracious person. When she visited Melbourne some years ago, the rather small Organ Society of Victoria (an acquaintance was a member) asked her if she would be the guest of honour at a dinner. Not only did she accept, but she was also a delightful guest. The membership took some time to come back to earth.
     
    tones, Nov 30, 2008
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