The organ

Discussion in 'Comedy & Tragedy' started by AdamSmith, Sep 7, 2016.

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  1. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Chuck was just never incapable of going beyond, again and again and again!

  2. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Just so too with the poets!

    Milton is incontrovertibly the Bach of literature, the most "perfect" one, and whom I adore -- but to read much in, give me the ravishing Spencer any day!

    Or, more even, the divine, "craggy" indeed, Blake!

    The standing water breeds reptiles of the mind.

    The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

    And my personal motto, intended for my epitaph...!

    The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
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  3. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Fall 2008
    Fenner Douglass ’42
    Oberlin Professor of Organ, 1949-1974
    David Boe, Oberlin College

    Fenner Douglass, whose distinguished and influential career as an organist, teacher, and scholar brought him international acclaim, died April 5, 2008, in Naples, Fla., at the age of 86. His long and productive association with Oberlin began in the late 1930s, when he arrived here from his hometown of New London, Conn., as a student in the College and Conservatory, studying organ with Arthur Poister and earning the BA in 1942. This was followed by four years of service as an officer in the U.S. Navy, much of this on a destroyer escort in the Pacific. Following his wartime service, he was admitted to Harvard Law School but opted instead to continue his music studies at Oberlin, earning the BM degree and, in 1949, the MMus degree. He remained as a member of the Conservatory faculty until 1974, when he accepted the positions of university organist and professor at Duke University, where he continued to teach until his retirement in 1987.

    At the outset of his career, Fenner became an active proponent of the "historical" organ. This coincided with an emerging interest in Europe and the U.S. in restoring organ-building to its classical roots. Fenner charted a course for the organ department and for himself as a performer and scholar that would leave an indelible mark on the profession and help lay the groundwork for Oberlin’s Historical Performance Program. His plan to equip the new Conservatory complex with mechanical-action organs in six practice rooms and two teaching studios can only be considered bold and innovative at a time when nearly all American organs were built with electro-pneumatic action. It marked also the beginning of a close friendship and professional relationship with the eminent Dutch organ builder Dirk Flentrop, who was later to build the organ in Warner Concert Hall and subsequently the large gallery instrument in Duke Chapel.

    In what is rare for a performing faculty member, Fenner embarked also on a career as a scholar, focusing his attention on the organ traditions of France. He took his young family to Holland in 1963-64 to carry out the research that led to the 1969 publication of his first book, The Language of the Classical French Organ, widely regarded as the most important reference work on the instruments and organ music of the French baroque period. Its popularity led to a second and revised edition in paperback in 1995.

    He next pursued research into the work of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, the greatest French organ builder of the 19th century. Holding a research status appointment in 1971-72, he again took his family abroad for the year, skillfully gaining access to previously inaccessible documents in Paris relating to the work of this master builder. His efforts resulted in a large, two-volume work, Cavaillé-Coll and the Musicians, published in 1980 and subsequently condensed and published as Cavaillé-Coll and the French Romantic Tradition in 1999.

    Fenner performed as an organ recitalist frequently in the U.S. and in Europe, often with his wife Jane at his side, assisting as registrant. During much of his Oberlin teaching career he served also as organist and choirmaster at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lakewood. He was widely admired as a master teacher. This is perhaps best reflected in the success of so many of his former students who are prominent today in the organ profession. He was particularly skilled at holding the rapt attention of groups in a master class or lecture format. His ability to simultaneously teach and entertain with anecdotal material was legendary. [I myself held in my hand, and copied out onto the chalkboard for the class at Fenner's direction, manuscript materials from the hand of Cavaillé-Coll himself. -- A.S.] Among his many stories was an account of his efforts to charm the granddaughter of Cavaillé-Coll into entrusting him with her grandfather’s correspondence, contracts, and related materials.

    In 1952 Fenner married his student Jane Fetherlin, which began a close personal and professional partnership that continued until her death in 2005. The Fenners loved to entertain students, faculty colleagues, and numerous out-of-town guests from among their wide circle of loyal friends. The large music room in their Morgan Street home contained a Flentrop organ, a harpsichord, and a grand piano, and it was frequently the site of after-concert receptions. [They brought those instruments to their subsequent gorgeous high-Modernist glass-and-steel 3-level home in downtown Chapel Hill, where they often offered warm host to colleagues and students alike.-- A.S.] Devoted parents, they found creative ways to involve their three children, Stephen, Emily, and John, in their travels and professional activities. While still living in Oberlin, Fenner and Jane built a home on Cape Cod that became the center of family activities in the summer months.

    Even after leaving for Duke University, Fenner maintained his active interest in the organ program at Oberlin. He returned a number of times to serve on the faculty of the summer organ institute. He also was a helpful and enthusiastic supporter of the efforts to build new organs in Fairchild and Finney chapels. Throughout his career he was much in demand as a consultant on major organ projects, sometimes extending his involvement beyond the technical aspects of these projects to cultivating donors. Among such efforts, he collaborated with his brother, attorney John W. Douglass, to raise money from his clients for several major projects at Duke and Oberlin. Their cultivation of a lead gift from Kay Africa made possible the magnificent C.B. Fisk organ in Cavaillé-Coll style in Finney Chapel.

    Fenner was formally honored on several occasions. Oberlin recognized his achievements in 2001 by awarding him the honorary Doctor of Music degree. One of his last consulting projects was the beautiful Taylor and Boody organ in Bower Chapel at Moorings Park, a retirement community in Naples where Fenner spent his last years. The organ was subsequently dedicated to Fenner Douglass. In 2007 his friends Alan and Marilyn Korest gave for Finney Chapel Oberlin’s 200th Steinway piano in honor of both Jane and Fenner.

    We mourn the loss of this great colleague and friend.

    David Boe is a professor of organ and chair of the Oberlin Conservatory’s Keyboard Division. This Memorial Minute was adopted by a standing vote of the General Faculty of Oberlin College on October 15, 2008.
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
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  4. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Urthona is arisen in his strength...
    In all his ancient strength to form the golden armour of science
    For intellectual War. The war of swords departed now,
    The dark Religions are departed & sweet Science reigns.

    (As if! :eek: )
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  5. whipped guy

    whipped guy Regent

    Some musical poetry... my favorite Mozart piano concerto is number 24 in C-minor K. 499 (actually it's a virtual tie with number 20 in D-minor K. 466) and my fav Beethoven piano concerto which is number 3 in C-minor. In both concerti the piano makes a return appearance after the first movement cadenza which is just one of the many traits that they share. In the Mozart the writing decrescendos to quiet ending while Beethoven builds to an almost unbearable crescendo of passion! Both are very effective and incidentally it is the only one of Mozart's mature piano concerti where he pulls this trick of having the piano return to solo status after the cadenza something he had done earlier in his concerto number 9 for example.

    One is tempted to say that Mozart is very Beethovenian in this concerto, but in reality it illustrates that Beethoven did not simply appear out of the blue but was indeed influenced by what came before and what was happening around him. Though I usually prefer original instutments in this repertory here are two traditional readings. Mozart did not leave any cadenza for this concerto, but what is played is apt and effective. However, Beethoven did for his and obviously I chose a performance that features it as some of the cadenzas others use sound a bit strange to my ears.

    Last edited: May 18, 2017
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  6. whipped guy

    whipped guy Regent

    I just came across this performance of Mozart's D-minor piano concerto and it is something that I was looking for in my search for an original instrument performance of Mozart's C-minor Concerto. That is a performance on a fortepiano that is close to how it would have been presented in Mozart's day. This is the only recording I have come across that respects Mozart's indication of "col basso", which indicates that the piano should accompany the orchestra in the tutti sections. Today many argue that such a marking was done solely for traditional reasons and was not meant to be strictly followed. However, it is known that it was traditional for orchestras to be lead from the keyboard into the early 19th Century so I personally have my doubts about that argument. Plus, the keyboard would be on stage and Mozart as both soloist and composer was known to have conducted from the keyboard and by playing continuo was the traditional way that conducting was done in the pre-romantic era.

    Additionally it was known that what Mozart wrote was only a portion of what he played. It was traditional to embellish certain sections and especially when repeated material was involved. This occurs most prominently in this performance in the second movement where each time the original theme is repeated it is varied. Also the second section of this movement is a very simple melody... bare bones and yet quite moving. Some say that this was intentional and as such should be played as written, yet others insist that it is essential to amplify and expand on the basic idea. That is what occurs in this performance.

    Another feature of this rendition concerns the cadenzas. Mozart did not leave any for this concerto and the ones traditionally played were composed by Beethoven no less. However, Beethoven's cadenzas were composed for a more expansive keyboard that included notes not available to Mozart. It is possibly to adapt Beethoven's cadenzas to fit the piano of Mozart's day, but in this recording forte-pianist Robert Levin supplies his own. In addition he includes a short cadenza midway through the final movement where one would be appropriate as in the 18th Century when a composer indicates a fermata or long rest it was actually an indication for the performer to improvise a cadenza at that point. There is also the German term "eingang" meaning entry or lead in. It is often indicated by a fermata or rest and allows the performer to improvise a short introductory passage that would lead into the upcoming theme. It is known that this was part of Mozart's musical language as well.

    In any event, Robert Levin on this recording virtually does all of the above. Indeed he is noted for his ability to improvise often on the spot in the style of Haydn and Mozart. While most of his attention has been devoted to Mozart (as one example he has devised his own reconstruction of the infamous Requiem) he has also contributed to the newest urtext publication of Haydn's piano sonatas by supplying cadenzas, embellishments, and eingang.

    Would I want this to be my only recording of Mozart's masterpiece? Emphatically not. Yet it is a valid account, but it is also good to hear what others have to say. Other solutions to the problems regarding interpretation are available and need to be heard. This is totally analogous to those who like myself collect Bel Canto operas. No two performances of any given piece are the same as all the principles that apply to Mozart apply there as well. That's why I lost count of how many performances I own of operas such as Norma, Lucia, Barbiere, etc. Not so with something like Tosca where what is performed at least as far as the basic notes are concerned is essentially the same for every performance. We are in an age where Mozart should not be performed in cookie cutter fashion... and that is only for the better as performers will be challenged to look beyond the bare notes and be forced to make decisions on what would constitute a valid interpretation.


    Last edited: May 18, 2017
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  7. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    In the quite marvelous film Farinelli, about that stupendously talented castrato, there is a great scene where none other than Handel is trying to show F's brother, the principal composer of works suitable for F's unique vocal range, how to actually compose.

    The point he makes, not only verbally but actually by FIXING, in real time at the harpsichord keyboard, the brother's flat-footed compositional dullnesses!

    Insert an unusual key change here! Then see what it does to the ensuing...! Etc.!
    Last edited: May 22, 2017
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  8. whipped guy

    whipped guy Regent

    Somewhat like this scene from Amadeus... Sventurato Salieri... poor unfortunate Salieri! :eek:

  9. g56whiz

    g56whiz Viscount

    Is Farinelli available on one of the streaming services? I saw it years ago and I'd like to see it again.
  10. g56whiz

    g56whiz Viscount

    I actually own Amadeus but on laserdisc. But I know no longer have a player. Alas.
  11. whipped guy

    whipped guy Regent

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  12. whipped guy

    whipped guy Regent

    After posting the above performance of Beethoven's 3rd piano concerto I took a look a several scores online. One score had the words "senza sordino" and "con sordino" referencing the now obsolete "mute" pedal peppered throughout. All others made no reference to it at all. The editor of the score suggested using the "loud pedal" for the "senza sordino" (without mute) markings and not using the "loud pedal" for the "con sordino" (with mute) sections.

    At the beginning of the second movement which is marked alternatively with and with out the mute pedal it was noted that when Beethoven played the concerto in 1803 he held the "loud pedal" down through out those sections marked without mute so as to increase the sound of the "feeble" sounding pianos of his day. It was therefore suggested that since "modern" pianos produce a stronger sound that this would not be necessary or advisable. Plus if the pedal were held down on a modern piano throughout such passages it would make a mishmash of the harmonies. Thus if the pedal were to be used it would need to be released as harmonies changed, which is commonsensical.

    The score dates from 1901 and pianos have probably gotten even stronger in the past 100 plus years! That the mute pedal no longer existes is most likely why it is not referenced in many score. However, I am sure that newer urtext scores (that are not in the public domain and not available online) would reference it forcing and challenging performers to make their own interpretive decisions regarding such passages. It has been said that when using scholarly up to date critical editions of a score it is often more difficult for the performer because they are forced to make such interpretive decisions. Old scores that were heavily edited made those decisions for the performer. This is especially true of scores from the Baroque and Classical eras where composers used fewer interpretive markings.

    So the confusion regarding how to interpret Ludwig's pedal markings, not to mention his metronome and other markings, continues!
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
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  13. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Today there seems to be fair credence given to that hypothesis that his metronome markings are so out-of-whack because he dropped his model on the floor and broke it! :eek:

    And then that he, being of course our mad Ludwig van, was evidently simply too abstracted by the lashings of the Muse whenever composing to take note of the simple fact the instrument was giving him impossibly absurd readings!
  14. whipped guy

    whipped guy Regent

    Yes! The broken metronome!!! LOL! One person's solution was to compare the relativity of the markings in each given movement of a composition and use that as a basis for variations in tempo between the sections.

    BTW I always marvel at Mr. Smith's use of language and in this case the phrase " lashings of the Muse" sent a chill through my body... Now to quote @honcho it has inspired me such that "I need to go hurt myself"!
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  15. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco


    Was Beethoven’s Metronome Wrong?
    Mathematic and musical detectives have discovered that perhaps Beethoven’s tempo was so strange because his metronome was broken.
    By Rose Eveleth
    September 18, 2013


    Read more:
    Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12!
    Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
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  16. g56whiz

    g56whiz Viscount

    Perhaps that explains it. Recently I was driving in the San Antonio area and tuned into KPAT in time to hear most of the last movement of the Ninth. I think it was Abbado conducting the Berlin. The tempi were so fast as to be nearly unsingable. I wondered if this is the new performance practice for LvB.
  17. whipped guy

    whipped guy Regent

    I think that I recall reading somewhere that the metronome marking for the "Turkish March" section of the last movement of the Ninth is off the charts. When done in old school fashion the march starts like a bunch of slow farting sounds. When done in HIP fashion things are so fast that the tenor sounds like he is choking to reach the climactic b-flat of his solo. In any event the contrapuntal passage that follows sounds fine at a faster tempo and some olde style conductors do speed things up here. Of course the introduction of such tempo fluctuations are another can of worms.
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  18. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    LMAO yet again!

    Specifically I just fell out laughing at sudden recall of the anecdote highlighted down below, first encountered by me age 13 in John N. Burk's solid, generally excellent Modern Library biography, and excellent reference to all the works too, The Life and Works of Beethoven.

    Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven (1776-1848) Beethoven's brother

    Nikolaus followed his brother Ludwig to Vienna in December 1795, expressing the wish to be known from then onwards as Johann, in memory of the brothers' late father.

    Johann had trained in Bonn as a pharmacist and took a position as pharmacist's assistant in Vienna.

    In March 1808 he bought an apothecary shop in Linz in Lower Austria, almost immediately falling into debt to such an extent that he was threatened with bankruptcy.

    He first sold the iron gratings of the windows, but the small amount he made quickly ran out. He then had two pieces of good fortune.

    First he discovered that the jars and pots on his shelves were made of pure solid English tin. Napoleon's ban on any trade in English goods raised their value enormously -- Johann sold them for good money and replaced them with pots made of earthenware.

    Then, in 1809, Napoleon invaded Austria and laid siege to Vienna. The French Emperor established his base camp in Linz and it was to there that he shipped his wounded soldiers. Johann van Beethoven was perfectly placed to supply all the French army's medical needs.

    Thus Johann made his fortune -- at the same time becoming enormously unpopular locally, since he had in effect collaborated with the enemy.

    With his new-found wealth, Johann bought an estate at Gneixendorf, a village near Krems on the Danube west of Vienna, which Ludwig visited with his nephew Karl in the last full year of his life.

    Ludwig's relationship with Johann was hardly less fraught than with his other brother, Carl. To begin with he simply could not come to terms with the apparently trivial decision of his brother to decide he should be addressed as Johann after his arrival in Vienna. In the famous Heiligenstadt Testament of 1802, addressed to his brothers, Ludwig could not bring himself to write the name 'Johann'. It is difficult to understand Ludwig's reasoning, other than as an awakening of a deep-seated resentment towards his father.

    In 1812 Johann announced his intention of marrying his housekeeper in Linz, Therese Obermeyer. Ludwig was in the Bohemian spa resort of Teplitz, in the months following his own ill-fated love affair with the 'Eternally Beloved'. When he learned of Johann's intention, he left immediately for Linz to confront his brother and convince him of the unsuitability of his housekeeper as wife -- a woman who would carry the name 'Beethoven'.

    Johann, in no uncertain terms, told Ludwig to mind his own business; his choice of wife was his own. Ludwig, in characteristic fury, first tried to persuade the local Bishop to refuse to marry the pair, on the grounds -- as he had discovered -- that Therese already had a small daughter by another man. The Bishop refused to intervene. Beethoven then applied to the civil authorities to have Therese expelled from Linz on the grounds that she had no right to be living there. The authorities took no action.

    Finally, it is said, the two brothers had a furious row and came to blows, after which Ludwig left Linz for Vienna. On 8 November Johann married Therese.

    But this marriage -- as with that of Carl and Johanna -- was to be unhappy; the couple had no children. The American Beethoven scholar Maynard Solomon says that the three Beethoven brothers were simply ill-equipped for marriage.

    Johann van Beethoven was not, by general recognition, a man of great intellect. When, after purchasing the estate in Gneixendorf, he signed a letter to Ludwig, 'From your brother Johann, landowner', Ludwig signed his reply, 'From your brother Ludwig, brain owner'. o_O :D :p

    Carl Czerny gives us a description of Johann as terse as that of Carl: 'Johann: large, dark, a handsome man and complete dandy.'

    Gerhard von Breuning, son of Ludwig's best friend, Stephan von Breuning, gives a more voluble - and devastating - critique of Johann, which I quote (almost) in full.

    'For some years after the death of the great "brain owner", his brother, the "landowner", played a strange, naive role. During Ludwig's life Johann's interest in his works was limited to possible gain from them; now he tried to present himself as an appreciative admirer. At concert performances of music by his deceased brother he would sit in the first row, all got up in a blue frock coat with white vest, and loudly shriek Bravos from his big mouth at the end of every piece, beating his bony white-gloved hands together importantly. These oversize gloves, with their flapping fingers, could often be seen elsewhere as well, in the elegant drives in the Prater ...

    'All this pretentiousness and in general the overall appearance of Johann -- who bore no physical resemblance to Ludwig: he had a long face, big nose, one eye squinting outwards, giving his face an expression of perpetual self-satisfaction -- earned him the nickname of "Archduke Lorenz", from the familiar proverb about people who endeavour to put on a great show and conduct themselves ridiculously in the process. Johann died in Vienna in January 1848. He proved to be as preposterous after his brother's death as he had been contemptible during his brother's life.'
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
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  19. whipped guy

    whipped guy Regent

    Now my turn to LMAO! The above reminds me of the Italian film Mio Fratello È Un Figlio Unico (My Brother Is An Only Child)!!!!!!
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  20. g56whiz

    g56whiz Viscount

    The same title as Jack Douglas's 1959 book oft shilled on Jack Paar's Tonight Show. (Now how do we get this thread back to its more lofty topics? Lol)
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