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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    I unfortunately never met her. I saw her play a couple of times, but I never had the chance to actually meet her. I would have loved to tell her about the many moving and even exhilarating moments her records afforded me. But then I would only be repeating what many people already told her, and I doubt I would have the nerve to speak so freely about emotions.

    From her playing and from the interviews I have read, she seems a very kind, very human and very true person.

    There was a very long interview in Diapason about 10 years ago, which was very moving because of her absolute candour.

    When playing Bach (her Buxtehude doesn't really convince me) she infuses the music with humanity – Christian humanity – which is absent in all other major players. I find this a plus, as I do not really think Bach was a mystic. For such emotions we have to go back to the 17th or 16th Centuries (not mentioning the Middle Ages).

    I will venture to say that, among all the great performers, she seems to be more at ease with Bach: she just expresses Bach through herself, no masks, no cognitive a priori: just the music, seen by a humble person who thinks Bach should be heard and not her.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Nov 30, 2008
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  2. Rodrigo de Sá

    Griffy

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    Griffy, Dec 2, 2008
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  3. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    Sorry for this late reaction. Haven't visited this thread for a long while.

    If you're still visiting the forum, maybe you want to take a look at this one (2cd-set with organ works of Bach):
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Organ-Masterpieces-2CDs-Johann-Sebastian/dp/B00005BIK3

    Here's a review:
    http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2001/Aug01/bachorganmasterpieces.htm

    One mistake in the review: the Dreifältigkeits organ in Ottobeuren is not Dutch, but German.

    There are also many interesting samplers of Bach works, f.i. played by famous organ players like Helmut Walcha (Bach: Great Organ Works, 2cd, Deutsche Grammophon) and Lionel Rogg (Bach: Preludes, Toccatas and Fugues for Organ, 2cd, EMI Classics - Gemini).
    Hope you'll find something interesting!
     
    Marc, Mar 20, 2009
  4. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    Right now I'm listening to the Trio Sonatas, played by Marie-Claire Alain on the Schnitger-organ in the Der Aa Kerk, Groningen, Netherlands.

    B-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l s-o-u-n-d!

    :)

    And I already was in a certain blessed mood, because I backed the 100/1 winner of the Grand National last saturday!

    :redrum:

    :D
     
    Marc, Apr 7, 2009
  5. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    Another very late reaction: maybe this site would be an idea to visit?
    http://www.blockmrecords.org/bach/index.htm

    Free downloads of Bach organ works, sponsored by the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance (a.o.).
     
    Marc, Apr 16, 2009
  6. Rodrigo de Sá

    Brabo

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    Harpsichord versus Pianoforte for JS Bach?

    Much as I like the primitive keyboards, such as the harpsichord, especially for contemporary music to the instruments, but once I heard Bach played on a pianoforte (and I can recommend Angela Hewitt on Hyperion) the colours Rodrigo seems to miss in Bach's keyboard works are all there. May I humbly suggest that he listens to pianoforte interpretations of Bach and perseveres a bit longer? It paid off for me after a while... I am sure that he will ultimately agree. Period organs is another matter, and I too prefer a Schnitger over a Silbermann for The Master.
    Brabo
     
    Brabo, Jun 11, 2009
  7. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    Hallo Brabo, welcome to the forum!
    Hopefully we can bring back some 'life' to this thread.

    BTW: I've listened to an awful (NO NO: splendid!) amount of Bach organ cd's for the last six months or so, and I still can't decide what performer or organ sound I prefer the most. I'm afraid that, when organ is concerned, I'm prepared to like almost anything.

    Only thing I'm sure of: Michael Murray is boring. :SLEEP:

    (Sorry, Michael.)
     
    Marc, Jun 12, 2009
  8. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    But I did persevere: to the point of buying several records and listening to Bach played in piano live.

    I did not like Hewitt's version (I bought it, and then gave it to a friend) but the reason had mainly to do with an excess of expression (to many loudness progressions, which I find alien to Bach's music).

    The problem I have with the piano is the lack of high harmonics. This lack of bite and brilliance has annoyed me from when I was a boy: I studied the piano but did not like it and that was the main reason I changed to the organ. Even at the organ I could never really find a gedackt beautiful, I always liked bright sound. Beautiful harpsichords were a revelation to me: even today, I cannot conceive of a more beautiful sound than that of a well regulated, bright and mean tone tuned harpsichord.

    Now, I'm not teasing you, but in fact a Silbermann is a better choice for playing Bach than a Schnitger, the reason being that the very high and multi ranked mixtures do confound polyphony, whereas in a Silbermann all is clear. Silbermann principals, too, are much brighter than Schnither's, and much more polyphonic: to achieve the effect of a Silbermann principal 8 you must have principal+octava in a Schnitger.

    Thank you for your comment.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Sep 6, 2009
  9. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Alas, yes. It seems he just plays the notes and makes every beat audible. I had many records by him and gave them all to a friend...
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Sep 6, 2009
  10. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Well, I have done this several times, but every time I have regetted it. Either you get a romanticized Bach out of style, or an excentric Bach, or you get a "stylized" Bach, which on the other hand fast becomes boring because of the dull sound of the piano. Strange enough I have found, that the Bach keyboard work, which stands a stylized interpretation on piano (but not a romantic interpretation) the best, is The AoF.
     
    pe-zulu, Sep 6, 2009
  11. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    I think it depends somewhat upon which Bach-works you are thinking of. For the early works (eg BWV 532,535,565) which are cast in the Buxtehude idiom, Schnitger kind of instruments seem the natural choice IMO, whereas Silbermannn kind of instruments are more appropiate for the later works (eg Clavierübung III and BWV 544, 547, 548).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 6, 2009
    pe-zulu, Sep 6, 2009
  12. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Yes, of course you are right. The Buxtehude like pieces (which they are not: when copying Buxtehude Bach is a far lesser musician that the Dane) benefit from the high mixtures.

    But in almost all of the fugues (and even in some of the preludes: I'm thinking of the great c minor, with the opening chords) a more homogeneous mixture makes the music much clearer.

    Also, the big Silbermanns usually lack one or two ranks for Bach, but my preferred organ for Bach might be the Saint George organ, the one with the Bourdon on the Hauptwerk.

    The large Trost organ that Olivier Vernet uses for the greater works seems to be very fine too. But perhaps it is too strong; and then there is the Hildebrandt (Wenselkirche, is it not?), but it has a somewhat coarse tone. Bach liked it, though.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Sep 8, 2009
  13. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    Checked this site for the first time in about two months and lo .... our Forum Friend Rodrigo is back!
    Happy to see you're still around. No matter if we agreed or not, I always read your contributions with great interest. I hope this forum will remain a place to do so, once in a while.

    2009 is my organ year up to now, and I'm enjoying it intensely. And of course Bach's music plays an important role in that. It's still impossible to name my favourite organists or even compositions, but the last months I have been listening a lot to Ewald Kooiman (Coronata), Bram Beekman (Lindenberg Books & Music) and Piet Wiersma (EuroSound). They're all Dutch (yes, I'm a chauvinist 'pig' :p). Two of them are R.I.P. alas (Kooiman & Wiersma) and the discs are all officially OOP, but there are some lucky chances on the internet. I think these three are quite marvellous.
    Another one I really begin to admire is Michael Murray's fellow countryman George Ritchie. Kooiman, Beekman and Ritchie are very straightforward IMHO, and that's what I seem to prefer. (But not in the way Murray plays, of course. His playing is lacking of any inch of poignancy.)
    Wiersma brings in a welcome warmth of the barren North-Netherlands countryside of Groningen province. I know, it's a paradox, but .... this is my opinion, which I share. :D

    Unfortunately, Wiersma died before he could finish his integral Bach in Groningen, and the discs were only distributed by the foundation Groningen Orgelland, which stands up for the preservation of the historic organs in the northern parts of the Netherlands. I've been so lucky to find 6 of the 7 volumes this year, and also got a copy of the long-time-OOP Volume 1.

    But there are so many other names ... Walcha, Alain, Vernet, Stockmeier, Weinberger, Rübsam, Fagius, Koopman, Isoir, even E. Power Biggs ... they all have something to say in this immense and grand oeuvre. Luckilly, the oeuvre always wins. Even musicians that I appreciate less are still able to gain my attention, just because Bach's music is so wonderful.

    One of my favourite pieces during the last weeks: BWV 533 in e minor. It's overwhelming, especially when the organist remains the pleno tension from the very start of the Fugue. This Fugue is a whirlpool, and I just love to drown in it. The piece works very well in spatial acoustics IMO, like Stanislas Deriemaeker playing the Metzler organ of the Onze Lieve Vrouwekathedraal in Antwerp.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 23, 2009
    Marc, Oct 23, 2009
  14. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    Actually this is not a subject on which I should say too much. I'm still experiencing my own taste, so to speak. But .... I slightly prefer the expression of the Schnitgers. Although the Silbermanns have this 'granular' sound which is maybe more charming.

    About homogenity: I've listen two times this summer to the local organist Wim van Beek at the Agricola/De Mare/Schnitger/Hinsz organ in the Martini church Groningen. Van Beek was quite impressive in creating a homogenuous polyphonic sound. More clearness in his playing compared to f.i. Bernard Foccroulle and Jacques van Oortmerssen, whose concerts I also attended in the Martini church and who were very good too, btw (no offense meant to them).
     
    Marc, Oct 23, 2009
  15. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Hello all

    Just to set things in motion and to talk to you about a growing liking for Marie Claire Alain's Bach.

    I've been trying to recapture the feeling I had for a given record when I was an adolescent. When I was a youngster, I dind't have any money (my parents were very strict) and all I managed to get (I used to translate texts and get some pay for it) went into books and records.

    So when I bought a record, it was a real feast. I listened to it non stop for weeks on end, compared it to other discs and so on.

    As I am experiencing some problems with my cd player (it will only play certain cds) I usually listen to the same cd over and over again, and the idea of recapturing the feeling of 'a new record' came to me.

    I chose Marie Claire Alain's bach recordings from the late 80ies, in the Metzler in the Jesuit church in Lucerne and one of my all time favourites, the recording in the Schwenkedel organ in Saint Donat.

    Those two records are, in my view, fabulous. I am yet to listen to a better rendering of the toccata and fugue in d, of the great g minor fugue (from the Fantasia, bwv 542), and of the great A minor Concerto.

    I am always flabbergasted by the ease with which Alain is able to make the musical lines flow, with a subtle expression and concern about the harmonic whole, and also to the absolute marvel of listening to someone who chose to show Bach and not herself (and she could do it!).

    Later I tried the last 'intégrale' (complete works) but most of the organs put me off. In Bach I prefer modern instruments, done according to the old tradition. Even the Silbermann organs are a bit either out of tune or uneven, (although I think that Silbermann principals and, in small churches, mixtures, are close to ideal for Bach; and also the extraordinary 16' Posaunenbass, unequaled in my taste).

    So there are many seeds for argument here: Marie Claire Alain here (I will defend her if any of you chose to attack her) :) Also the choice of modern instruments for Bach playing; and the Silbermann sound itself.

    I hope you take the bait! ;)
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Mar 2, 2010
  16. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    And a ps to Marc. I didn't notice your two previous posts. I will just say that, in organ matters at least, you are quite right to be a chauvinist pig ;)

    An I do understand what you say about the Plat-Pays warmth...
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Mar 2, 2010
  17. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    Thread alive again! :cool:

    I have to go to bed, Rodrigo, and I'm almost too tired to think, but who knows what the (nearby?) future will bring. :D

    In short I would like to say this: it's funny you've mentioned Marie-Claire Alain's Schwenkedel recording of BWV 565, 578, 593, 542 and 582 (although it was first issued already in 1983, I do believe that's the one you're referring at). Why? Because that one happened to be my first organ vinyl purchase in my early studying years. After that, I taped it for my walkman and took it with me for many train & bus travelling.
    I certainly tend to agree with your very positive remarks concerning the Vivaldi concerto arrangement in A minor. I absolutely love her performance in that one. I haven't listened to the disc for a while, but in general I do recall rather long closing chords in BWV 565, 542 and 582, which I didn't appreciate that much. Therefore I checked the library collection and finally decided to exchange listening to Alain with listening to Gustav Leonhardt, playing the historic Müller organ of the Amsterdam Waalse Kerk. Together with a sampler disc of E. Power Biggs (Flentrop's Harvard organ), those were probably the only three Bach organ recordings that I listened to for about 10 to 15 years. Well, I still think: it could have been worse. ;)

    But now things have changed a little :eek:. I turned into a monomanic completist. With loads of favoured performers and only a few that I don't like at all .... if any. (This making my life very expensive, as you might understand.)

    Post Scriptum: I forgot that in my younger years I also bought Rübsam's Naxos disc with the Schübler chorales et al, but in those days I absolutely disliked his playing. But in the last year I've grown more used to him. Although I've discovered I prefer the young Rübsam, during his Philips years, with a fresh sounding Bach integral that's alas been OOP for some years right now.
     
    Marc, Mar 2, 2010
  18. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Alain and old organs

    Dear Rodrigo

    I am certainly not going to argue with you about Marie-Claire Alain, and especially not about her second integrale, which by far surpasses the her first and third integrale. In the first integrale she had not yet found her own style, and the playing is often stiff and unmemorable, And in the third integrale her playing is less concentrated and accordingly more routinier. Though the third is memorable because of the use of some important historical organs. But relistening to the third yesterday told me, that her registrations are almost always too thick and heavy and that the engineering is a catastrophe, resulting in annoying and diffuse sound. Fortunately I have often heard these organs much better recorded.

    But the question of modern organs contra well restored historical organs is another point. I will always prefer the latter. Of course modern organs lack patina, but they also lack character and especially the specific national character I associate with Bach's organ music (North German / Middle German), in the same way which I associate Grigny's music with French organ sound. Instead the modern usual Marcussen / Metzler organs have got an international and rather pale character, but it must be admitted, that they often sound very transparent and blend well and may be strictly in tune (equal - of course). Really the organ builders of to day are creating a completely new sound ideal, and of course it is possible to play Bach's organ works historically informed on such organs, but I must admit that I prefer the sound of the historical instruments. And not necessarily the greatest of these. Most of Bach's organ works sound best on relatively small organs. Theoretically the most transparent sound is created by a synthetisizer playing pure sinus waves. But would we like the sound even if the counterpoint could be heard impeccably?

    Kindest regards,
     
    pe-zulu, Mar 8, 2010
  19. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    I do not hope, that my bad influence has got something to do with this.

    :(:cool::):)
     
    pe-zulu, Mar 8, 2010
  20. Rodrigo de Sá

    Marc

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    In general, I agree with this.
    I admit I sometimes have to get used to the specific sound of one or another historic organ, but indeed in many cases the impact is more satisfying in the end. Therefore I'm able to listen to them for quite a long time. If i'm really in the mood: for hours and hours ....

    OTOH: I like Rübsam's first integral (Philips/OOP) very much, but after one hour or so I'm getting kinda bored, and this has got nothing to do with his playing.

    Some days ago a friend of mine was visiting da house, and he knows nothing about organ music, although he's always interested in other music to listen to. Especially now his son is playing keyboards, and developing himself rather skillfully.

    I was in a very mild mood that evening and only served my guest BWV 533 (Kee, Van Hagerbeer/Schnitger, Alkmaar, NL) and - on his request - BWV 565 (Rübsam, Metzler, Frauenfeld, CH), both at a rather loud volume, despite the neighbours. Well, he certainly liked it! :D

    But he also found the sound of the historic organ at the Laurenskerk in Alkmaar more striking than the Metzler instrument. The latter reminded him more of an electronic organ, which wasn't really a problem for him though .... again BWV 565 doing the trick. ;)

    What is it with that piece? :rolleyes:
     
    Marc, Mar 8, 2010
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