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What about the use of symphonic British organs of the Romantic periode? By Wolfram Syré

2017-08-01 - Playing and Pieces

What about the use of symphonic British organs of the Romantic periode?

There are written and unwritten laws for the use of convenient organs concerning organ music of every school.

The revival of the organ culture on the British island started after the Cromwell period and his „Glorious Revolution“. The organ music of this time which is represented by Henry Purcell or Christopher Gibbons followed the tradition of the style of the late Tudor periode, e. g. with Fancys for a double (= two-manual) organ. Let us start with the organ composers of the Baroque and the Classicism. William Boyce and John Stanley were the most prominent organ masters of this period. They created the „Voluntaries“ of two or more movements in the sucessful style of Georg Friedrich Händel. One generation later William Russel did the same following the music of Joseph Haydn. These British Voluntaries content much more interesting movements than the well known „Trumpet Tunes“. Especially the three mentioned masters composed organ works on an absolutly high musical level. The composers of these „Voluntaries“ indicated special registrations exactly for every musical situation in the scores:
„Diapasons“ (= Principal 8´) for the slow opening movements,
„Full Organ“ for Concerto movements and for Fugues,
Trumpet, Horn, Vox humana (all these with some additional Flutes), Cornet, Flute for solo passages,
„Stopped Diapason (= Gedackt 8´) with or without „Principal“ (= Octave 4´) or Flute 4´ for the accompagnements.
The organs of the late 17th century built by e. g. Renatus Harris or Bernard (Father) Smith had a Great, a Choir, and an Echo.

Specification of the organ in the Temple Church at London built in 1683-1684 by Bernard (Father) Smith:

Great
(FF, GG, AA, BB, HH, C, D - c3)
Prestant 12´
Holflute 12´
Principal 6´
Gedackt 6´
Quinta 4´
Super Octavo 3´
Cornett II ranks
Sesquialtera III ranks
Mixture IV
Trumpet 12´

Choir
(FF, GG, AA, BB, HH, C, D - c3)
Gedackt 12´
Violl[a] 12´
Holflute 6´
Sadt (?) 3´
Spitts Flute 3´
Voice humane 12´

Echo (c0 - c3)
Gedackt 6´
Super Octavo 3´
Gedackt
Flute
Cornett III ranks
Sesquialtera IV ranks
Trumpet

This organ model was the archetype of an British organ until the early 19th century and got only a few alterations. The Echo was changed in the 18th century to a Swell with the compass g0 to c3.

In 1810 had the organ the following specification:

Great
Open Diapason 8´
Stopped Diapason 8´
Principal 4´
Flute 4´
12th 2 2/3´
15th 2´
Sesquialtera III ranks
Cornett
Mixture III ranks
Trumpet 8´

Swell
Open Diapason 8´
Stopped Diapason 8´
Cornett IV ranks
Trumpet 8´
Hautboy 8´
Horn 8´
Choir
Stopped Diapason 8´
Principal 4´
Flute 4´
15th 2´
Vox humana 8´
Cremona 8´

In the early 19th century the compass was changed into C to f3 and a pedal division with a Flute 16´or 8´ and a coupler to the Great was added.
The next epoque which brought a new standard of playing the organ was the time of Samuel Sebastian Wesley and Henry Smart. The influence of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy‘s organ recitals in Great Britain inspired the British organists to use the pedals as an »obligate« keyboard. Large organs got more new pedal stops in this period, especially 16´-reeds.
During the Victorian time the leading organ builders William Hill and Henry Willis developed a British national symphonic organ model. But there were also influences from Edmund Schulze (Germany) and Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (France) who imported big new organs to the British island.

Specification of the organ in the Temple Church at London rebuilt in 1859 by Edmund Schulze:

Great (C - g3)
Double Diapason 16´
Open Diapason I 8´
Open Diapason II 8´
Stopped Diapason 8´
Hohl Flöte 8´
Viola di Gamba 8´
Principal 4´
Octave 4´
Nason Flute 4´
12th 2 2/3´
15th 2´
Full Mixture III ranks
Sharp Mixture IV ranks
Small Trumpet 8´
Large Trumpet 8´
Clarion 4´

Swell (C - g3)
Bourdon 16´
Open Diapason 8´
Rohr Gedact 8´
Principal 4´
Rohr Flöte 4´
12th + 15th 2 2/3´ + 2´
Mixture IV ranks
Double Bassoon 16´
French Horn 8´
Hautboy 8´
Orchestral Oboe 8´
Clarion 4´

Choir (C - g3)
Lieblich Bourdon 16´
Spitz Flöte 8´
Violin Diapason 8´
Dulciana 8´
Lieblich Gedact 8´
Flauto traverso 8´
Gemshorn 4´
Violin 4´
Lieblich Flöte 4´
Mixture III ranks
Corno di Bassetto 8´

Pedal (C - f1)
Sub Bass 32´
Open Bass 16´
Stopped Bass 16´
Violone 16´
Quint 10 2/3´
Violoncello 8´
12th + 15th 5 1/3´ + 4´
Trombone 16´

Swell to Great Great to Pedals
Swell to Choir Swell to Pedals
Choir Suboctave to Great Choir to Pedals

Schulze was admired by the British organ builders, and especially Joseph Jepson Binns voiced his organs in the style of Schulze. But the organ specifications did not follow Schulze, but rather Cavaillé-Coll. Here follows an example of an British organ model from the same period.

Specification of the organ in St. Andrew's, Holborn, at London rebuilt in 1872 by Hill & Sons:

Great (C - g3)
Double Diapason 16´
Open Diapason 8´
Open Diapason Nr. 2
Stopped Diapason 8´
Principal 4´
Harmonic Flute 4´
12th 2 2/3´
15th 2´
Sesquialtera III ranks
Mixture IV ranks
Posaune 8´
Clarion 4´

Choir (C - g3)
Lieblich Gedackt 16´
Open Diapason 8´
Gamba 8´
Dulciana 8´
Claribel 8´
Principal 4´
Suabe Flute 4´
15th 2´
Clarinet 8´ (from c0)

Swell (C - g3)
Bourdon 16´
Open Diapason 8´
Viol d'Amour 8´
Stopped Diapason 8´
Principal 4´
Wald Flute 4´
15th 2´
Mixture V ranks
Double Trumpet 16´
Cornopean 8´
Trumpet 8´
Oboe 8´
Clarion 4´

Pedal (C - f1)
Open Diapason 16´ (wood)
Open Diapason 16´ (metal)
Bourdon 16´
Principal 8´
12th 6´
15th 4´
Trombone 16´
Trumpet 8´

Swell to Great Great to Pedals
Swell to Great Sub Octave Swell to Pedals
Choir to Swell Choir to Pedals

Pneumatic action on Great and Couplers.

Both organs were not totaly new. They included much material from older Baroque instruments.

The British organists did not like Cavaillé-Coll‘s Bombardes, Trompettes and Clairons, because they had a »dark« or »black« sound. We know remarks of this kind about the Cavaillé-Coll-organ of the Sheffield town hall. The Romantic British Double Trumpets, Trumpets und Clarions are different meaning »light« like fanfares or bells. The tracker action was no longer possible because the divisions were too large for it. Thus soon the
»Barker«-level came into use. But in the same time the pneumatic action became more and more normal. The pneumatic action was much more precise than the »Barker«-level and needed less maintenance. The pneumatic action became also neccessary because of the restauration of many British cathedrals and churches in the »middle-age«-style. The Victorian understanding of this style was a romantic one which did not allow any interior objects of the Baroque including Baroque organ cases. The leading architect of this restaurations, Sir Gilbert Scott, had his own ideas about the »furniture« organ - small gothic-revival organ cases at the North wall of a church or on the choir-screen. These cases were to small for cathedral organs of a symphonic size.
The instrument in Hereford Cathedral which was built by Henry (Father) Smith in 1892 is a typical example for a British four-manual cathedral organ.

Great
Double Diapason 16´
Bourdon 16´
Open Diapason No. 1 8´
Open Diapason No. 2 8´
Open Diapason No. 3 8´
Stopped Diapason 8´
Claribel Flute 8´
Gamba 8´
Principal 4´
Harmonic Flute 4´
Twelfth 2 2/3´
Fifteenth 2´
Mixture (17. 19. 22.) III
Double Trumpet 16´
Trumpet 8´
Clarion 4´

Swell
Contra Gamba 16´
Open Diapason 8´
Stopped Diapason 8´
Salicional 8´
Vox Angelica 8´
Principal 4´
Lieblich Flute 4´
Fifteenth 2´
Mixture (17. 19. 22.) III
Hautboy 8´
Vox humana 8´
Tremulant
Double Trumpet 16´
Trumpet 8´
Clarion 4´

Choir
Bourdon 16´
Dulciana 8´
Spitz Flote 8´
Lieblich Gedackt 8´
Claribel Flute 8´
Gemshorn 4´
Lieblich Flote 4´
Picccolo 2´
Corno di Bassetto 8´

Solo
Harmonic Flute 8´
Harmonic Flute 4´
Tuba 8´

Echo
Viola da Gamba 8´
Voix Celestes 8´
Hohl Flote 8´
Glockenspiel
Clarionet 8´
Orchestral Oboe 8´
Tromba 8´

Pedal
Double Diapason 32´
Open Diapason 16´
Violone 16´
Bourdon 16´
Violoncello 8´
Octave 8´
Tombone 16´
Trumpet 8´

Swell to Great
Choir to Great
Solo to Great
Swell octave
Swell suboctave
Swell to Choir
Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
Solo to Pedal

There were some special British features to organs like these. The Mixtures include always a Tierce. The Great often holds two or more Open Diapasons 8´ and two Principals 4´. This could be the tradition of choir-screen organs with a double-fassade to the East and the West. The British Swell is softer than a French »Récit expressive«. So the Dulciana 8´ of the Choir was the only stop for the accompaniment of the Vox Coelestis, the Vox Humana or the Oboe of the Swell. The Vox Coelestis and the Orchestral Oboe of the Solo were stronger. The (high-presure-) Tuba was played against the Full Organ or was accompanied by the Full Organ. Only in some special musical situations the Tuba was coupled to the Great or to the Pedals.
The coupler Great to Pedals often had the same function as the French Tirasse Grand Orgue: It fixed the Swell to the Pedal but never the Swell Octave couplers to the Pedal if one used the coupler Swell to Great.
Symphonic three-manual organs had no Solo; the Orchestral Oboe and the Clarionet were found on the Choir.

The British Romantic Organ composers indicated their registrations very exactly in the scores. The use of the stops for a symphonic British organ piece from mezzoforte to fortissimo was the following:
Step one: Great Diapasons [8´, maybe also Flute 4´], Swell 8, 4 with Oboe, Pedal 16, 8, Swell to Great, Great to Pedal.
Step two: Great to Principal, Swell [8´, 4´, maybe also 2´] with Reeds [Trumpet 8´, Oboe 8´, maybe also Clarion 4´], Pedal 16, 8, Swell to Great, Great to Pedal.
Step three: Great to Fifteenth, Full Swell, Pedal 16, 8, Swell to Great, Great to Pedal.
Step four: Great Full, Swell Full, Full Pedal, Swell to Great, Great to Pedal [maybe also Swell Octave Couplers 16´ and 4´].
Step five: Tuba and Great Full, Swell Fulll, Full Pedal, Swell to Great, Great to Pedal [maybe also Swell Octave Couplers 16´ and 4´]; see above.
During the steps one to three there were additionally Solo-passages for the Clarionet, soft interludes on the Choir with Flutes 8´ and 4´ and Solo-passages for the Claribel Flute [8´, Great] with an accompaniment of the Swell Vox Coelestis, Oboe or Vox Humana.
Some combination pistons or a small capture system were enough to manage these registrations.
So we see that the symphonic British organ used only two main manuals in contrast to the French tradition using three manuals. It had a center of Great, Swell, and Pedals with a Piano-keyboard (Choir) and a Solo-keyboard (Solo) in addition.

Unfortunately the world of British historical organs is not very attractive. We can only meet few original organs from the Baroque period, if any, and only a few original instruments of the Regency period. And there are no unchanged and unenlarged Romantic organs anywhere in cathedrales or important parish churches.

Some symphonic organs of today include all or many original stops besides various extensions. In this case I suggest to use only them and not all options of the present organ; the result will explain why we should do so. If we are looking for well preserved original British symphonic organs we can find some fine instruments in smaller churches, in town halls and in castles.
What happened?
The sad history of most of the prominent British symphonic organs is the following:
Step one: ca. 1870 to 1890 built as a new instrument.
Step two: ca. 1930 Americanisation.
Step three: ca. 1960 Neo-Barockisation of the specification and of the voicing.
Step four: ca. 1980 or later preserving and technical reorganisation of the present situation. An organ-restauration according to the original state unfortunately is an almost absurd idea to the British organ experts and organ builders until today. Most of them want to have large instruments for organ music of all schools. But this is as we all know not possible.
The reason for step two was that the pneumatic action needed a general repair. So it was changed to electric action with the means of a new console, and with all possible Octave Couplers including the »negative«-Coupler Unisono off. These Octave couplers made some changes concerning the voicing. The specifications of the Pedal were augmented by transmissions of manual-16´-stops, additional 16´-stops (Open Wood or Open Metal), new or stronger 16´-reeds with 32´-extensions.
More alterations of the specification were done in step two and step three: 4´-Flutes, 4´-reeds, and mixtures in the Pedal, additional sharper mixtures in the manuals, Tierce-stops in the manuals which were very unusual during the Romantic periode. The Choir got the most fundamental changes. Its specification was augmented to a large neo-Baroque Positiv or Oberwerk which should be sort of a second but smaller Great like on an original continental Baroque instrument. This idea worked only on the paper; the location in the church, the pipe measures, and the voicing of a symphonic Choir stand against such an attempt.

The present specification of the Hereford cathedral organ shows the problems.

Great
Double Diapason 16´
Bourdon 16´
Open Diapason No. 1 8´
Open Diapason No. 2 8´
Open Diapason No. 3 8´
Stopped Diapason 8´
Claribel Flute 8´
Principal No. 1 4´
Principal No. 2 4´
Harmonic Flute 4´
Twelfth 2 2/3´
Fifteenth 2´
Mixture (17. 19. 22.) III
Mixture (19. 22. 26. 29.) IV
Double Trumpet 16´
Trumpet 8´
Clarion 4´
Swell to Great
Swell octave to Great
Swell suboct to Great
Choir to Great
Choir octave to Great
Choir suboct to Great
Solo to Great
Solo octave to Great
Solo suboct to Great

Swell
Contra Gamba 16´
Open Diapason 8´
Stopped Diapason 8´
Salicional 8´
Vox Angelica 8´
Principal 4´
Lieblich Flute 4´
Fifteenth 2´
Mixture (17. 19. 22.) III
Dulcian 16´
Oboe 8´
Tremulant
Double Trumpet 16´
Trumpet 8´
Clarion 4´
Swell octave
Swell suboctave
Swell unison off
Solo to Swell

Choir
Open Diapason 8´
Dulciana 8´
Lieblich Gedackt 8´
Claribel Flute 8´
Lieblich Flote 4´
Gemshorn 4´
Nazard 2 2/3´
Spitzflute 2´
Tierce 1 3/5´
Mixture (15. 19. 22.) III
Trumpet 8´
Choir octave
Choir suboctave
Choir unison off
Swell to Choir
Solo to Choir
Solo octave to Choir
Solo suboct to Choir

Solo
Viola da Gamba 8´
Voix Celeste 8´
Harmonic Flute 8´
Concert Flute 4´
Hohl Flute 2´
Orchestral Oboe 8´ / 16´
Clarinet 8´ / 16´
Cor Anglais 8´
Tremulant
Tromba 8´/ 16´
Glokenspiel 4´
Tuba 8´
Solo octave
Solo suboctave
Solo unison off
Solo low pressure 16’
Solo high pressure 8’
Great to Solo

Pedal
Open Double Bass 32´
Open Bass 16´
Open Diapason 16´
Bourdon 16´
Principal 8´
Stopped Flute 8´
Fifteenth 4´
Open Flute 4´
Mixture IV
Bombarde 32´
Ophicleide 16´
Tombone 16´
Trumpet 8´
Clarion 4´

Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Choir to Pedal
Solo to Pedal
Swell octave to Pedal
Choir octave to Pedal
Solo octave to Pedal





















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