CE Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, London Sunday, June 26th

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  • Contre Bombarde

    #31
    I had been in Paris for only a few weeks and hadn't done much playing, just enough to keep my hand in using a small practice organ. My tutor had a long-standing invitation to play a recital on the C-C in St. Ouen, Rouen and asked if I would like to go along to hear and play what he considered to be the finest of the fine. I didn't have to be asked twice and decided that I should play something appropriate for the instrument and settled on Resurrection, the IVth movement of Dupré's Symphonie-Passion.

    To cut a long story short my tutor told me just to play the notes, he would act as registrant and do everything necessary to make it sound as it should. The only non-note playing work for me was to operate the pedal for the récit expressif as marked in the score. For anyone that doesn't know the piece, it is based on the plainchant adore te devote which bears some resemblance to Wachet Auf. The first part is quiet and contemplative but soon builds up towards a typical Dupré toccata and is possibly one one of his most exciting works, more so to me than the better known 1st movement .

    All started well and by about 3'40" full organ was prepared ready for the main pedal entry of the theme on bottom D. I had heard and played the piece on some big UK instruments but was completely unprepared for what was unleashed when I hit that note with my left toes. The tribune appeared to be in the grip of an earth tremor and the most shattering volume of sound hit me; bear in mind that one is not far from the action (pun...) on a mechanically operated organ such as this. The Contre Bombarde simply defies description. It doesn't just speak but declaims and the sound develops in an almost magical way as the note is held. I had never heard anything quite so shattering and it stopped me in my tracks, but not before playing a sequence of completely wrong notes, looking around, saying something quite uncharacteristically profane (St. Ouen is, perhaps fortunately for the sake of my eternal soul, no longer a consecrated building) and collapsing in a fit of hysterical laughter. My tutor stood there with a beatific grin and said that I wasn't the first who had reacted thus and he did hope that I wouldn't be the last. When I had calmed down we started again and got through to the end without mishap, but with goose-bumps the size of golf balls on my arms by the time the final chord had died away.

    To get an idea of the sound one should listen to Ben van Oosten's recording of the work from St Ouen but I promise you that no hi-fi ever conceived can give more than the faintest glimmer of how the organ sounds and feels in the flesh. It is worth the trip to hear it in the Autumn recital season because that is the only way that one can feel the overwhelming presence of this organ in a glorious acoustic.

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    • ardcarp
      Late member
      • Nov 2010
      • 11102

      #32
      It was worth waiting for.

      At risk of sounding like an organ nerd, I had a German experience rather than a French one. Yonks ago, playing the 'St Anne' Prelude and Fugue on a Kleis in Gottingen, I drew everything on the pedal for the final entry of the 'St Anne' tune, and the notes came very emphatically and worryingly from alternate left and right pedal towers, eg B flat from the left, G from the right, C and B flat again from the left, E flat from the right, and so on. Players of big classical instruments are no doubt used to this sort of thing, but for someone brought up on Harrisons and Willises with pedal pipes shoved round the back any old where, it was a rude awkening. Oh dear my esteem will have fallen with Draco now....

      Comment

      • ardcarp
        Late member
        • Nov 2010
        • 11102

        #33
        Sorry, Klais....

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        • DracoM
          Host
          • Mar 2007
          • 12775

          #34
          No, I'm just dazed.

          I do sometimes wonder on these threads of the deep organ fans actually hear anybody and get really irritated by the way the singing gets in the way in CE.

          Reminds me of the story of the opera orchestra bass players: one says to the other I'm going to listen up top tomorow night. Two days later reports back to his mate: 'Here, you'll never guess. You know that bit where we're going 'oomp -pah-pah, oom-pah-pah for about a hundred bars. Well, on stage, there's some geezer singing 'La Donna e Mobile' or something. And blow me down, there are three thousand people out there listening. Amazing. '

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