Archive for the ‘Friday Pipe Organ’ Category


Friday Pipe Organ (20 Jan 2012)

   Posted by: John

Liturgical and sacred music has been around as long as people have worshipped God.  Some is simple and light, some dramatic, some is thought inspiring.  And much of it is not in English.

The well known romantic French composers of the 19th and 20th centuries were largely Catholic.  They were titular organists of the large churches and cathedrals and enjoyed some measure of prestige because of those posts.  Many were prolific composers, not limited to organ and choral music, but also writing symphonies for orchestra, concertos for small ensembles, and sometimes opera. 

Cesar Franck was one such composer and musician.  He had not written much music before 1859 when he became titular organist at the Basilica of Saint Clotilde, Paris.  Aristide Cavaille-Coll had just installed a new organ, and Franck fell in love with it.  He started writing music for organ and choir, music that is still part of organ reportoire and considered the most important French contribution to organ music for a century at that time. 

This piece is a motet called “Justus ut palma”, sung by baritone Jacques Bona, with Diego Innocenzi at the 1880 Cavaille-Coll organ in the Church of Saint Francios-de-Sales, Lyon, France.  Yes, there is a choir as well!  Throughout the video, there are some amazing pictures of the interior of the church.  Enjoy!


Friday Pipe Organ (13 Jan 2012)

   Posted by: John

People ask “Why do you need all those keyboards on an organ?” 

Well, the answer is, because there are all kinds of different instruments in an orchesta.  A pipe organ is intended to be an orchestra, only played by one or two people.  The symphonic organs of the Romantic era were designed to be orchestral in nature.  Aristide Cavaille-Coll broke some long standing traditions when he started building in the 1840’s.  He created, adjusted and invented several instrument stops, such as the basoon, oboe, english horn, and harmonic flute.  He introduced divided wind chests that allowed higher wind pressures.  Reed stops could be enabled or disabled by pedals.  These innovations, among many others, set his instruments apart from others and helped define the Romantic Symphonic organ.  By the time he built the organ in the Church of St. Sulpice, Paris in 1862, his style was well known and sought after. 

The symphonic organ was not just a development of the builder.  Organ design and specifications were also being driven by the music being written.  For example, Cesar Franck, a well known and prolific French composer and organist, was friends with Arisitide Cavaille-Coll and the two men collaborated in regards to organ design. 

As in an orchestra, different instruments and sounds coming at various times add color, variety and richness to the music.  Having several keyboards with different sounds allows the organist to give the music those characteristics.  Keep in mind that in the 1800’s, there were virtually no presets, no combination actions, and no electronics to assist the organist.  As many of these organs are still in existance and use (and in some cases, still original), they are played today just as they were when built.  Human assistants will change stops and engage couplers (as well as turn pages) for the organist, simply because it is impossible for him to do so while playing.  Even then, rapid registration changes are difficult if not impossible to accomplish.

With all of this in mind, this video is Pierre Pincemaille playing the Scherzo from Louis Vierne’s 2nd symphony for organ, finished in 1903.  The organ is made by Johannus, a digital instrument that is designed to sound like a Cavaille-Coll instrument.  Pierre makes use of all 4 keyboards to present the different sounds this piece requires.  It is easy to picture the sound just as Vierne would have written and played it on the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris organ, without the use of the electronic assists.


Friday Pipe Organ (6 Jan 2011)

   Posted by: John

I haven’t done Friday Pipe Organ for a long time, even though I have thought about it any number of times.  I will try to be better at it.

This week I am featuring a piece by Charles-Marie Widor, a prolific French Romantic era composer who was also titular orgainst at St. Sulpice, Paris from 1870 to 1933.  Much of the organ music written during this period was very difficult and this piece is no exception.  It is the 3rd movement from Widor’s 7th symphony for organ, written in 1890.  As this piece is in the public domain, I am also going to attach a pdf of the sheet music.  If you are able to follow along, you get a very good idea of how difficult it is.  The meter is typically 3/8 and 6/8, however the key moves between 3 and 6 sharps several times.  The Recit manual is set up with a reed instrument (Trompette), the Positiv and Grand manuals are more flutes and foundations, while the pedal is flute coupled to the Recit reed. 

If you follow the sheet music (Widor – 7th Organ Symphony – Andante), you can see the melody played largely on the Recit manual, the reed sound.  However, a countermelody is played on the Grand manual, along with a common countermelody in the pedals.  Additionally, at times each hand is playing a melody while similtaneously holding other notes against it.  As I said, difficult.

The organist in this clip is Ben Van Oosten and he is playing the magnificent 1890 Cavaille-Coll organ in the Church of St Ouen in Rouen, France. 

Cesar Franck (1822 – 1890) was a French composer and organist.  He was not as prolific a composer as others, the majority of his recognition coming from works later in his life.

In this video, Diego Innocenzi is playing the 1880 Cavaille-Coll organ in the church of St. Francois-de-Sales in Lyon, France.  This organ is one of the few Cavaille-Coll instruments that are original and unaltered.  It is somewhat unique in that the Recit (top) and Positif (middle) manuals are separately expressive, meaning the pipes in those divisions are mounted inside large boxes with shutters.  The expression pedals allow the organist to open or close the shutters to provide volume changes, or expression.  On the majority of Cavaille-Coll organs, only the Recit is expressive.

 Note that this is a mechanical organ.  The coupler action can be seen when Diego is playing the Grand (bottom) manual, and the keys on the Recit (top) manual are playing as well.  The pedals are also mechanically coupled to the manuals.  The couplers are actuated by foot levers  above the pedals.  The two wide pedals in the middle are the expression pedals.  The smaller metal foot levers are the mechanical coupler actuators. 


Friday Pipe Organ: Flying Fingers and Feet

   Posted by: John

Every now and then I run across a piece of organ music that is just amazing. 

Marcel Dupre was a child music prodigy, and became titular organist at St. Sulpice, Paris in 1934, a post he held until his death in 1971.  (He succeeded his former teacher, Charles-Marie Widor, who held that post from 1870 to 1933.)  In 1914, at the request of Widor his teacher, Dupre wrote a Prelude and Fugue in G minor that was so technically difficult that Widor declared it unplayable.  For many years, Dupre was the only one who could perform the work. 

With that in mind, the video I am linking is that piece, performed by Philippe Delacour, titular organist at Notre Dame de Metz.  Delacour is playing the Haerpfer organ of Chateau-Salins in France.  Note how he makes this most difficult piece look easy.

Aside from the feet and fingers just cruising away, there are some other things on this piece that are quite interesting.  Close to the end of the Prelude, before the fugue, notice that his each of his feet are playing multiple notes, sometimes across pedals (by that I mean not right next to each other, he has to arch his foot to play them).  For the Fugue, the time is 6/8, and the sheet music lists the tempo at 192 for a dotted quarter note.  That’s fast, and Philippe is playing the piece at that tempo.  Also keep in mind that while this organ that Delacour is playing is a pipe organ, it appears to have a fairly modern control system that is not entirely mechanical.  When Dupre wrote the piece in 1914, he very likely played it on the St. Sulpice organ, an instrument that is pneumatic/mechanical, and not quite as light to the touch as this one. 

Anyway, the video is well worth the watch and listen, as it demonstrates a fantastic piece of work.


Friday Pipe Organ – St Ouen

   Posted by: John

It has been a while since I have posted Friday Pipe Organ, mostly because I had the server turned off for a while.  Now that I have a solution in place that does not use any more electrical power, I will be updating Friday Pipe Organ every week.

This week’s organ is the 1890 Cavaille-Coll organ in the Church of St Ouen in Rouen, France.  The building itself dates back to the 14th century.   It is a large gothic-style building, famous for its architecture and stained glass windows, also dating to the 14th century.  The building was renovated in the mid 1800s.  It is not used as a regular church, that being given to a newer cathedral not far away.

Outside of the Church of St Ouen

Inside the Church of St Ouen, looking from the front to the back.  The organ is below the window.

Also famous is the organ.  The case dates to 1630, although it was enlarged to its current configuration sometime between 1630 and 1683.  Numerous organ builders worked on it over the centuries and it was, more than once, dismantled for long periods of time.

Aristide Cavaille-Coll initially looked at the organ in 1851 and over 30 years repaired and altered it several times.  In 1888, Cavaille-Coll was awarded a contract to completely rebuild the organ using the existing casework.  It was completed in 1890 and contains 64 speaking stops.  The organ stands unaltered and is listed as a French Historical Landmark.  It was the last of the long series of large symphonic organs that Cavaille-Coll himself built. 

Organ Facade.  Note the figures on the pillar tops.

The console has 4 manuals (keyboards) and the pedalboard.  The manual order from top to bottom is Bombarde, Recit, Grande, and Positif.  The Recit manual boasts 20 stops (the most that Cavaille-Coll ever used for the Recit) and is the only manual using expression (enclosed in a box having shutters the organist can open or close).  It is a mechanical tracker organ employing the Barker lever system that essentially gives a pneumatic power assist.  In the video clips, you will notice manuals with key action even though the organist’s hands are on a different manual.  This is typical of mechanical coupling and without the Barker levers the organist would have a difficult time pressing the keys.

One interesting thing about this organ: It has one of the strongest and loudest 32 ft Bombarde pedal ranks ever made by Cavaille-Coll.  Additionally, the Bombarde pipes are not mitered…the longest extends the full 32 ft length.  It is behind the facade and cannot be seen from the front.   The building itself has a 8-10 second reverb and I can only imagine what it sounds like in the actual church. 

In this clip, Michel Chapuis plays the organ.  This piece is an improvisation on a hymn and is peaceful and fairly quiet .  Notice that Mr. Chapuis at one point is playing two melodies on two manuals with his right hand, in addition to playing accompanying left hand and pedal notes.


This video features Kalevi Kiviniemi improvising on “Caprice Herioque”.  This piece displays the organ’s full power including the 32 ft Bombarde.  It is a very fast paced piece that also demonstrates the organ’s ability to respond to high speed pieces in spite of the mechanical action.



Friday Pipe Organ

   Posted by: John

I don’t know where this one is.  I saved the picture from Flickr, but was not able to find it again.  It looks cool though, and probably sounds fantastic.

And, for your listening pleasure, a piece by Theodore DuBois.  This is from a work called ‘6 Pieces’ and is called ‘Meditation’.  David Lines plays a virtual digital organ, the 1903 Cavaille-Coll at Notre-Dame de Metz in France.

6 Pieces Meditation – Theodore Dubois – David Lines (Cavaille Coll Metz)