Friday Pipe Organ (13 Jan 2012)

   Posted by: John   in Friday Pipe Organ

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.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 13th, 2012 at 12:47 am and is filed under Friday Pipe Organ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)