AVA206: I am to give a recital on an organ which has 3 mutation stops and would like to demonstrate all 3 during the recital
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 206, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Alison. And she writes:
I enjoying reading your blog and would appreciate some advice on repertoire using the mutation stops. I am to give a recital on an organ which has 3 mutation stops and would like to demonstrate all 3 during the recital. I have looked out a Cornet Voluntary by John Stanley and a tierce en taille by Michel Corrette, but perhaps you could suggest some other repertoire I could play?
Here is the full specification of the organ:
Department and Stop list
Pedal Key action Suspended Stop action Me Compass-low Compass-high Keys
1 Sub Bass 16 RDH Bourdon
Manual I Key action Suspended Stop action Me Compass-low Compass-high Keys
2 Principal 8
3 Stopped Diapason 8
4 Octave 4
5 Fifteenth 2
6 Nineteenth 1 1/3
7 Twentysecond 1
Manual II Key action Suspended Stop action Me Compass-low Compass-high Keys
8 Gedackt 8
9 Chimney Flute 4
10 Nazard 2 2/3
11 Flute 2
12 Tierce 1 3/5
Console type attached Stop type drawstop Pedalboard radiating concave
Naturals black, sharps black/white; couplers by hitch down pedal;
Manual II to Manual I
Manual II to Pedal
Manual I to Pedal
I hope you will use this question in your blog.
V: Basically, you can find the specification in the description of this conversation as a text. But we could also summarize, right? In the pedal, if it has only one stop, SubBass 16’, in the first manual, if it has Principle 8’, Stop Diapason 8’, Octave 4’, 15 2’, 19 1 1/3’, so that’s the mutation. And then 22nd one foot. And then on the second manual, Gedacht 8’, Chimney Flute 4’, Nazard 2 2/3’, Flute 2’ and Tierce 1 3/5’. Basically on the second manual it has two mutations—a fifth sound and a Tierce sound. And in the manual one he has a high pitched fifth; 1 1/3, right?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: So the most common mutations, I would say.
A: Yes, yes.
V: And if he has suspended key action, which means the keys should be depressed quite lightly, in Italian fashion, I believe, according to this specification.
A: Yes, it looks like very much Italian, because it doesn’t have reeds.
V: So, so she chose Cornier Voluntary by John Stanley. Let’s see if we could build the Cornier. For Cornier remember we need five banks.
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: 8, 4, a fifth, a two foot and a third. So on the second manual you have all, everything you need, right? Because we have to remember that they have to be flutes.
A: That’s right, so it looks like, you know, the second manual is actually a Cornier.
A: If you pull all stops together.
V: And then Tierce en Taille by Michel Corrette is something different. Tierce en taille. Tierce en taille means, it’s like a Cornier but in the tenor.
A: That’s right. It’s a French manor. Piece written in French manor.
V: Maybe without Nazard. Maybe, maybe Gedacht 8’, Chimney Flute 4’, sometimes for depth and reinforcement and this Tierce. And that might be enough, don’t you think?
A: Yes, I think so. I actually have to listen to that balance. Because sometimes its sort of risky you know, to decide to, what stops you will pull out before you actually, you know, play on that particular organ. Because, well, some, some stops, sometimes stops sound so much different from what you imagined. And from sort of, common, common stops. So you need to adjust right on the spot. But, but I think it might work.
V: And, my guess is that 1 1/3 19th on the first manual might be a principal stop.
A: Yes, that could be. Because it looks like you know, the first manual is stronger. It has no other principles.
V: So what we’ll be suggesting next might not work for the first manual. What about the ornamented chorales? You see? They’re probably more suited for the second manual, right?
A: Could be. But then it would probably be hard, you know, to select something for accompaniment on a different manual.
V: Well, sometimes you can play with Octave 4’ but one octave lower. If the tenor is not lower than tenor C.
A: That’s right. But then again, you know, maybe you could use one of those new principles. Probably Principle 8’ not a stop Diapason. What do you think?
V: Yeah, if it’s not too loud of course.
A: I know. You need to check the balance.
V: If it’s too loud then check Octave 4’ one octave lower and you have a couple of choices here on the second manual, to bring out the melody.
A: What do you think; would it possible to accompany the Gedacht 8’ on the second manual and then play solo on the first manual?
V: With 19th?
V: And stop Diapason?
A: Yes. Would that be possible, a possibility?
V: It could be possible, yeah. It could be possible. If it’s not too harsh, this 19th. If it’s not…
A: Yes. Then again you have to check on the spot to listen to how it sounds.
V: Right. So any type of ornamented melody in the soprano might work for any of those mutations, high pitched 3rd stops, like 1 1/3’ or Nazard together with Gedacht, right? Or a Tierce together with Gedacht, without Nazard.
A: What, let’s say, you know, if you would go to that organ and you would find out that mutations are just really loud. What would you do?
V: I don’t…
A: I think, I think it would work for Stanley like, you know, well, that piece, but, but for major ornamented chorale it would be too much. Would it be possible to register and not use mutations?
V: Yeah. Principle 8’ or Octave 4’ one octave lower, would be perfectly suitable for the solo voice, I think.
A: And what would you do when for accompaniment on the Gedacht 8’ or would you also add Chimney Flute 4’?
V: Chimney Flute 4’ of course. And we have to probably recommend to Allison to use Chimney alone sometimes in the demonstration too.
A: Yes. That would be nice. Because some pieces sound just beautiful played on the 4’ flute.
V: Or Flute 2’ on some passages.
A: That’s true.
V: If it’s a full, full demonstration too. So lots of choices even though it is just a twelve stop organ.
A: I know. You could also use some gap registrations as well you know, like 2’ 8 and 2 together.
V: Oh, you mean on the second manual Gedacht 8’ and Flute 2’,,,
A: That’s right.
V: Would sound perfect for, or even for ornamented chorale.
A: That’s right. Sometimes it works very nice.
V: Or remember you played the Canzona by Scheidemann this way.
A: Yes. I did it, and it worked quite well.
V: Mmm, hmm. It think you have to, you have to maybe play with coupler in the pedal, sometimes, right? To reinforce,,,
A: Yes. Yes, I think so, yes.
V: Because Subbass alone is not enough sometimes. Then you need to do either pedals to manual two or pedals to manual one, depending on which manual is accompanying.
V: Yes. But I think it’s, you know, its a nice, nice size instrument. It seems like it’s not a big one but you can still do lots of things with it. Don’t you think so?
V: I think so, yeah. And hopefully the room is a little bit reverberant so it can even enlarge the sound and reinforce the acoustics. Excellent! Lots of variety. It can be done very nicely I think during the recital. So you don’t need to have hundreds of stops to register some elegant and delightful organ music and play for, for thirty minutes or entire hour this way.
V: Yes, that’s right.
V: Even solo organ music, you don’t need to play with, with a friend or a singer. I mean you could, if you have an instrumentalist, but it’s perfectly possible to do a solo recital this way.
V: Yes and I think some Italian music would work well on this kind of instrument. Remember those sonatas, by,,,
V: By, by, I’m thinking about, eh, you’re thinking about Italians, right?
V: And we played it?
A: Well, yes you did. Remember, at the museum.
V: Oh, Gaetano Valerj’s sonatas are perfect for this too.
A: That’s what I thought but I also forgot his name. Getting old.
V: Mmm, hmm. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 138 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Listen to the audio version here. This question was sent by Rivadavia. And she writes:
“I am studying at least 15 minutes a day as suggested and have discovered that sometimes laziness or tiredness goes away and I can study for at least 1 hour in all. I love reading your podcasts, because I learn a lot from the difficulties that advanced musicians have. As I said in another email, I am a beginner (some sheet music from Ana Magdalenna Bach's book is still a bit difficult for me…) and I am no longer a child, but I intend to study until the end of my life because I like to learn music more and more.
I am also very happy to be in contact with renowned organists, as well as you, since I am in an early stage and, in another circumstance, I probably would not even come close to musicians like you. Reading one of the last podcasts, the name of Bernard Winsemius was mentioned. I had the opportunity to watch a video on YouTube of this organist playing a work by Nikolaus Bruhns and found it very cool the way he played. The mastery over the instrument and the score. Sometimes when I'm too lazy, I'm out of work, I watch this video and I get motivated enough to do AT LEAST the fifteen minutes of practice.
I have a piano-type MIDI keyboard at home, and I use free "Grandorgue" software to simulate organ sound. If you have never used it, it is very interesting and there is also the "Hauptwerk", but the full version is paid for. Of course they do not replace the wonderful real organ, but it helps to fantasize a little and learn to use the stops. Well, in that regard, I have a question. I know that there is an infinity of stops, but of the 10 or 20 most important, which could not be missing, which are considered the most fundamental? Is it possible to answer this question?
Thank you so much for your generosity in helping so many people around the world, like me.”
So Ausra, first of all: ten or twenty most important stops--in your opinion, where do we start?
Ausra: Well, I would say the Principal stops are the most important.
Vidas: An organ, large or small, should have a principal, right?
Ausra: Well, unless it’s a practice organ like the one in our house. It doesn’t have principals because it doesn’t have enough space, and it would be too loud. But in general, yes; the Principal is the most necessary organ stop.
Vidas: And those principals can be of various length.
Ausra: Sure. You can have Principal 16’ in the pedal; sometimes manual, too, in a large organ; then 8’, 4’, 2’, and even smaller.
Vidas: Mhm. Let’s see...of course, we need some flutes, right?
Ausra: Yes, definitely; this would be the second most important stop.
Vidas: Out of the flutes, what would you like the most, to have?
Ausra: Out of the flutes? Well, you know...I don’t know, if I prefer like Chimney Flute, or Gedackt-colored flute. Which one do you like the most? Or organ flute like Flute Harmonique, French style. It depends on the concrete stop; I could not say that, for example, “This one is my favorite.”
Vidas: The most interesting stop in the flute family, for me personally, on the St. John’s Church organ, might be Flauto Major, from the first manual. And of course, Flauto Minor, which is one octave higher, at 4’ length. Um...yes, I do like the Rohrflöte, and Gedackts as well.
Ausra: For me, my favorite flute at St. John’s Church is the Flute 4’ on the second manual.
Vidas: They call it Jula, right?
Ausra: Yes. That is my favorite.
Vidas: True. And it’s so deep in the organ, so it’s a little bit muffled, and it suits very well to play it alone.
Vidas: Do we need anything else, or would it be enough, to have just flutes...?
Ausra: Well, actually, these would be enough, to have already the sense of organ.
Vidas: But you mentioned the Principal chorus with mixtures, imitations…
Ausra: Yes, yes, yes, then I said that you can have higher pitched, even than the 2’; so the mixture would probably be the most recognizable organ stop, for amateurs; because if you watch a movie, or any kind of, I don’t know, documentary--
Ausra: And if you would have organ playing, you would get pleno sound, with mixtures.
Ausra: That’s how people in general have recognized the organ.
Vidas: True, true. Let’s imagine we have some string stops, also.
Ausra: Yes. These are very nice too; but probably not as common as principals and flutes and mixtures. But also it’s important to have them, and they are nice string quality stops.
Vidas: Viola, Salicional...
Ausra: Viola gamba…
Vidas: And undulating stops, too, like…
Ausra: Like Unda Maris...
Vidas: Viola Celeste.
Vidas: They work very well.
Ausra: But also, you can have organ without it, and you still can play a lot of music. And, well, reeds are common, too; but also, not every organ has it. I would say in Lithuania it’s not such an often-encountered stop. Like in Italy, too.
Ausra: You would not find many reed stops on historic Italian organs.
Vidas: Alright, so...now let’s build a hypothetical organ with twenty stops for Rivadavia.
Ausra: Ok, how many manuals? Two?
Vidas: I would say with twenty stops, you would need two manuals.
Ausra: Two manuals, and pedals.
Vidas: Not three.
Ausra: Of course, not three. Yes.
Vidas: Two manuals. So on the first manual might be...what, seven? Or six. Or eight stops. Six, seven, or eight?
Vidas: Let’s divide it into the sections.
Ausra: Well, ok, let’s do eight stops.
Vidas: Eight on the first manual, and then eight on the second manual.
Ausra: Maybe seven on the second, and five in the pedal.
Vidas: And then five in the pedal, right?
Vidas: We’ll see. So, out of eight in the Great, of course...do you think that it could have 8’ Principal, or 4’ Principal foundation?
Ausra: Well, now I’m thinking about it, it’s not too small an instrument for 8’ Principal.
8’, I think.
Vidas: I think 8’ would be fine, yes.
Vidas: That’s one, right?
Vidas: Do we need 16’ Bourdon?
Ausra: That would be very nice, yes.
Vidas: Two. Uh, some kind of flute, of 8’.
Ausra: Definitely, you definitely have to have…
Vidas: Let’s see, maybe Gedackt?
Ausra: Maybe Gedackt.
Vidas: Gedackt. Three. Now, four: do you need some strings on the first, or no?
Ausra: Well, not necessarily, I would say.
Vidas: Ok, so let’s go to the 4’ level.
Vidas: Octave 4’?
Ausra: Octave, yes.
Vidas: And Flute 4’.
Vidas: So that’s five.
Vidas: Ohh...we’re using stops very quickly now!
Ausra: I know! So, we have three left, so I would say it should be...Would you put Principal to foot, or Flute to foot?
Ausra: Principal. Ok, then we have a nice Principal chorus. And then of course, mixture: what kind of mixture would you add? How many of those?
Vidas: Uh...I would say three or four.
Ausra: Yes. And then, would you add a reed?
Ausra: Trompette 8’? Ok.
Vidas: Mhm. So that’s eight stops in the great.
Ausra: Yes. Now let’s move to the second manual!
Vidas: Okay. Second manual should be a little bit smaller in size, right…
Ausra: Well, since we decided to have seven stops.
Vidas: Okay. So maybe it would be built on the foundation of 4’ Principal…
Vidas: Which means we could have a Rohrflöte.
Ausra: 8’? Principal 4’?
Vidas: 8’. Principal 4’. Of course, don’t forget the strings…
Vidas: Before the Principal 4’, we could have a Viola, right?
Vidas: Viola--just one, or two? Viola, and maybe Viola Celeste.
Ausra: So these would be 8’ stops, both of them, yes?
Vidas: Right, both of them. So...and the fourth would be Principal 4’.
Vidas: What’s next?
Ausra: So now we have three stops left.
Vidas: Do we need a flute 4’?
Vidas: Mhm. What kind of flute?
Ausra: Well...what would you suggest? Something like at St. John’s? Or not necessarily?
Vidas: This is atypical for a global audience, right? Maybe we could name a more typical stop, right? Something like Flauto Traverso, or something like that…
Ausra: Yes. But it would be 4’.
Ausra: And then I think you should add Flute 2’, too, not from the second manual.
Vidas: Yes, so that’s number 6.
Ausra: That’s 6, yes, and now we have to have some sort of treat. Maybe Oboe 8’, or Krummhorn 8’--what would you suggest?
Vidas: Oboe or Krummhorn, or Vox Humana?
Vidas: Hmm. Hard choice.
Vidas: Oboe...and Vox Humana or Krummhorn. Would this organ have a swell box? Not necessarily.
Ausra: Not necessarily, yes.
Vidas: So then, maybe...You go ahead!
Ausra: I would have probably an Oboe.
Vidas: Ok. That would be probably a more Romantic option.
Ausra: Since we have already those two string stops…
Vidas: Mhm. Good. So that’s seven. No mixture, right?
Ausra: No mixture.
Ausra: But that’s okay, I mean…
Vidas: But that’s okay, unless we could sacrifice one of the…
Ausra: Pedal stops?
Vidas: No. Maybe one string.
Ausra: Yes, that’s a possibility, too.
Vidas: And have a mixture instead of Celeste.
Ausra: Maybe you want to have a mixture on the second manual, too.
Vidas: Or sacrifice one pedal stop. Let’s go to the pedals now.
Vidas: What would be the lowest Principal based in the pedals?
Ausra: 16’, of course.
Ausra: Because we have the 8’ Principal in the first manual, so we have to have Principal 16’ in the pedal.
Vidas: Mhm. Ok. So that’s one.
Ausra: Or...you would not add Principal? I think it’s fair, to have 16’ Principal in the pedal.
Vidas: Yeah, let’s have 16’...
Ausra: Because our pedal division is not so big, not so large--we have only 5 stops. It would be nice to have a Principal 16’.
Vidas: And of course, then, Subbass 16’.
Ausra: Subbass 16’, yes. Which is a flute stop.
Vidas: What else? You would need, probably, Octavbass 8’.
Ausra: Yes, yes, Octavbass 8’. This is a Principal stop.
Vidas: And Flautbass 8’.
Vidas: Right? That’s four.
Ausra: And then what else would you do? An Oktave 4’, or…?
Vidas: Or reed?
Ausra: Or reed, yes. That’s a hard question. I probably would have Octave 4’.
Ausra: Because you know, you could actually couple the Trompette from the first manual.
Vidas: And I would choose the reed, because every division, now, would have a reed--
Ausra: Except pedal.
Vidas: And a different pitch level than the manuals. 16’ Posaune.
Ausra: And how the Pleno would sound without mixture?
Vidas: You could have a manual coupler, right?
Ausra: That’s right. Maybe--okay, and which reed would you choose, then? Posaune or Trompette?
Vidas: I would go with Posaune.
Ausra: Posaune 16’, yes.
Vidas: Mhm. So. We have five stops in the pedals, and seven in the second manual, and the first one, on the great--
Ausra: And of course you would add couplers, like you know, that you would be able to couple both manuals together, and to also add the pedal.
Vidas: Yeah, second to the first, second to the pedals, and first to the pedals.
Vidas: That’s it.
Vidas: That’s all we need.
Ausra: And actually, with such an organ, you could play a lot of music.
Vidas: True. Will it have mechanical action, or not? For you?
Ausra: If I would build an organ? Yes. The action would be mechanical.
Vidas: Mhm, because the touch would be more sensitive; you could have more connection to the instrument.
Vidas: Excellent. So guys, this is our sample 20-stop organ on two manuals and pedals; if you like it, you can build it for Rivadavia! Or build it for yourself! Alright; this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Don’t forget to send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 130 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Listen to the audio version here. Today’s question was sent by Aleksey, and he wants to know about registration: “What are some of the perfect, or worst, stop combinations?” That’s a broad question, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, it’s a very broad question.
Vidas: Where should we start?
Ausra: I think, you know, not understanding the style well can make you to put wrong stops for your pieces.
Vidas: Remember sometimes we go to churches, and...especially not in Vilnius, but in other cities where people play the organ, but they completely--they don’t know what they’re using, what type of instruments, and what type of stops they should use. Sometimes they play with all the stops drawn out, and with vibrato, with tremolo.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right, yes.
Vidas: Have you heard that?
Ausra: Yes, I have heard that actually many times.
Vidas: It’s like a big Hammond organ--although it’s a pipe organ. It sounds quite funny!
Ausra: I know, or when you use some undulating stop and you don’t use an 8’ stop.
Ausra: That’s another thing; I have heard that also many times.
Vidas: Or when you use mixtures without foundations.
Ausra: Yes. It’s also a horrifying sound, at least for my ears.
Vidas: The reason they do that is sometimes mixtures are positioned closest to the player, in the bottom row--
Ausra: And it’s easy to pull them!
Vidas: Easy to find them! And the principal is on the top, and you have to reach for it. And maybe an amateur organist just looks at the closest stop and draws it!
Ausra: I know, it’s a hard thing, you know. And it takes time to develop good taste, and knowledge about different styles and different registrations; and how to adjust, for example, to a particular organ which is not built in that period, or not styled in that period, but you still have to play music from some particular period...
Vidas: What organ do you know the most, Ausra?
Ausra: St. Johns’, probably.
Vidas: I agree.
Ausra: And of course, our practice organ. I know it’s very big! It has 2 stops!
Vidas: Yeah-- 8’ and 4’!
Ausra: And pull-down pedal.
Vidas: There is so much to learn about those 2 stops.
Ausra: I know.
Vidas: Soft, and softer!
Vidas: Hahaha. Do you have a favorite organ stop in our church?
Ausra: Well...well...my very favorite? ...Cornet. If I had to choose one, it would be the Cornet stop.
Vidas: If I had to choose...I would choose two, actually: Unda Maris, and Viola Gamba. At first, Unda Maris was better for me than Gamba; but recently, I’ve been discovering such beautiful (and quite intense!) colors with the upper range of Viola Gamba on the third manual, that I kind of keep improvising on these stops all the time.
Ausra: Yes. And I find that Cornet really beautiful; it’s very nice for a solo voice.
Vidas: I think in every recital, we use Cornet at least once.
Ausra: Yes. And there are also other nice stops. Some flutes are really nice. And I like Posaune in the pedal--Posaune 16’ in the pedals.
Vidas: Especially the low E♭?
Ausra: Haha yes!
Vidas: Why E♭?
Ausra: Because it makes such a funny sound. And it’s fun to play Bach’s Prelude in E♭ Major, where you have to...press it!
Vidas: Oh, the B section?
Ausra: Yes, yes.
“Ba-ba-ba-bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum...BAHHH!” Haha! That low E♭!
Ausra: Yes. It sounds funny! So, if we could tell people about things that they should probably not do while registering...I think even playing Trio Sonata by J. S. Bach...
Ausra: I would say you should always add 16’.
Vidas: In the manuals or in the pedals?
Ausra: In the pedals. In the pedals, because I have heard trio sonatas played so many times; and people not using 16’ in the pedal--I think that’s a principle mistake.
Vidas: Remember, we recently heard even Bach cantatas--Christmas Oratorio--performed--
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: And they didn’t play the continuo arias with double bass. Doubled bass was always present with choir movements, right? So always that octave-down sound was present in the loud sections; but when somebody sang an aria with 1 or 2 instruments, they didn’t use 16’.
Vidas: Which was, I think, not a good choice.
Ausra: No; in general, I like a low foundation, that gravity in the pedal. And I would suggest to always play with a 16’ stop in the pedal, unless there is some indication by the composer not to do that, or if it has like a solo voice, or it should be played on some particular stop.
Vidas: You sound like Mendelssohn, now.
Vidas: He wrote in his Preface to his 6 Organ Sonatas that you should always include a 16’ stop unless there is indication otherwise.
Ausra: Because, you know, without a 16’ stop in the pedal, organ loses half of its beauty.
Vidas: But then there is the question of the historical period, right? Before the 17th century, for example, 16’ in the pedal was not very common.
Ausra: Well, yes, because most of that music before that period was written only for manuals, so you don’t have that trouble. Think about, like, early Italian music, early French music--they didn’t have a developed pedal, so they did not need 16’.
Vidas: What about German?
Ausra: Well, I’m talking about non-German, starting from non-German. Look how the organs are developed; I mean, look at their huge pedal towers…
Vidas: But before the 17th century, 16’ pedals even in Germany was not always chosen.
Ausra: Well...do you mean if the performer would not choose it, or that it was absent from the organ?
Vidas: Performer, of course. Because of course, those big huge pedal towers sometimes include 32’ stops. But cantus firmus in the pedals, when they used chorale notes in the long values played by feet, they did not always include 16’.
Ausra: So then you have cantus firmus in the pedal. I already mentioned it’s when the pedal has a solo voice, then actually yes, you don’t include the 16’, but that’s another story.
Vidas: Unless it’s the bass.
Vidas: In the bass, yes.
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: But if it’s in tenor, it’s 8’ level; if it’s alto, maybe 4’ level; if it’s soprano, maybe 2’ level. Right?
Ausra: Yes. But for most cases, still you can find, you know...If you would compare repertoire with 16’ stop in the pedal and without it, I would say that with-16’ would win over those cases without 16’.
Vidas: Especially the repertoire that we are accustomed to today.
Ausra: Yes; and plus, if you are a church organist--if you are accompanying congregational singing--I just would not imagine that you would not use 16’ in the pedal.
Vidas: Yes, you’re right. For congregational singing, 16’ stops are essential.
Ausra: Yes. What about putting 16’ in the manuals? What would you suggest for people to do then?
Vidas: There are choices when you want to have more gravity. And for example, some organs don’t have a pedalboard at all, but they have 16’ in the manual. Then you have stop combinations with 16’; and it’s a little bit muddy, but it’s a broader sound, with more gravity. It fits sometimes. And then there was a question with mixtures. Sometimes mixtures are high, sometimes low. With low mixtures, like in our St. John’s Church, the first manual mixture is based on the 4’ level; which means that you do need to have 16’ in the manual.
Ausra: And I have heard many times, when organists come, and they just don’t use the 16’ in the manual but use that mixture--and it sounds, actually, not good.
Vidas: Can you use mixtures with strings, for example? Is it a good idea?
Ausra: Well...not so much.
Vidas: You don’t...?
Ausra: I don’t like that combination. Although I’ve heard some organists do that. What about you?
Vidas: Yeah, sometimes. If the string is soft--and I don’t mean, here, undulating strings, like Viola Celeste, but just like Viola or--
Vidas: Gamba. Then sometimes it’s okay, especially when I improvise, and I build up a pleno sound, and I don’t have time to take out some of the strings--it sounds convincing, to me.
Ausra: Well, if I want to strengthen my principal chorus, then I add flutes, not strings. That’s what I prefer.
Vidas: Do you think flutes eat more air, or strings?
Ausra: Flutes, probably.
Vidas: So in our case, in our organ, there is some inconsistency with the winding system, and sometimes those “big” stops which require a lot of air don’t necessarily fit the large sounds--I mean, the large registration. I mean here, the 16’ flutes, on the third manual or on the second manual--I don’t use them.
Ausra: Well, I don’t use them either; but I use 8’ flutes, and that doesn’t hurt the organ so much. Other than the wind system. So basically, registration is a tricky thing. You can know it theoretically very well; but on each instrument you need to adjust, and you need to listen. Because sometimes, you know, if you just pull out the stops that are required for that piece, and you will not listen to it, you might get a disaster, because each organ is a little bit different. But, like, we talked sometime about that organ in Nida that we have on the coast in Lithuania, that has just a ridiculous mixture. It’s so awful! I never use it! Even if I’m playing a piece by J. S. Bach that requires mixture and pleno registration--still, I don’t manage it. It’s very ugly!
Vidas: It is too fierce, too...screaming.
Vidas: Too high-pitched.
Vidas: Like a cymbal, but too bright.
Ausra: I know. And I’m thinking if I would use it, after my performance, probably the church would be empty--everybody would just leave!
Vidas: Maybe it’s ok to use it just once in awhile, just for a special effect. And that’s it.
Ausra: But, well, if you are playing, let’s say, a prelude and fugue by Bach--
Vidas: A long one…!
Ausra: A long one! Then, you know, hardly anybody would survive it. And I’ve heard organists use that mixture, you know. So you always just need to listen to the organ stop, and to your registration.
Vidas: And how it sounds in the church, in the sanctuary.
Ausra: Yes. So it’s always a good idea, if you’re registering pieces for your recital, to have an assistant or somebody that could help you, to play a little bit of your music, so you could just go downstairs and listen to how it sounds.
Vidas: If you don’t have an assistant, put a recorder or a phone down in the pews, and then record yourself for a short moment, and see if you like the combinations; and then come back, listen to it, and change something if you don’t.
Ausra: Yes, that’s a good idea, too.
Vidas: Thank you guys! This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let's start episode 44 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Annunziato.
He writes, "Hello Vidas and Ausra Motuzaite. I hope that this email finds you both well. First of all, I would like to thank you for the mails you are sending me. There is a lot to learn. I wish you every success in all your dealings. The podcasts are very interesting. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to ask you questions. Currently, from the end of last May, I am playing a Sicilian pipe organ, builder Santucci, period 1775. We having one manual, 53 keys, 17 pedal notes, 15 manual stops, three pedal stops and two accessories. At the right column stop list among covers are interesting markings as individual stops. Like in Roman numerals, XXVI and XXIX, XXII and XIX. Can you please tell me what they are? Perhaps they have names like Flauto XXII in soprani and when can I use them? Until I receive your reply, wishing you my very best regards, Annunziato."
So wonderful, Ausra, this is Italian organ tradition, to write stops as intervals, basically. Not like German, French or other traditions. Well, maybe English have something like this too, when they write 12th for example or 15th as an organ stop.
Ausra: I know since you were in Italy, not so long ago, maybe you could now explain for our friends how to understand it?
Vidas: Yeah, it's basically if you take the lowest note, let's say C, right, in the base octave. It is the basis of the principal. They would write "Principale", right, for the principal 8’, but later they would write "Ottava". Ottava means octave, above this principal. So this is like a 4’ stop. Later, instead of adding one of them more, they would write an interval. You have to count interval from the bass note.
So what comes next is like 15th and that would be like Roman numeral XV. This means like a 5th, 2 ⅔’. In Italian, Decimaquinta. Then you have another Roman numeral denoting maybe 2’ principal, right? They would not write, "Super-octave", they would write something like XIX. Then maybe a XXII and XXVI. You have to count intervals, basically, back to the bass note. That's how Italians wrote their stops. It's may be confusing, but it's very logical.
Ausra: Yes, if you get used to Italian instrument. But if encounter it for the first time, it might be a little tricky. Then just try each stop separately and listen to it.
Vidas: Listen to it, which octave are you playing?
Vidas: Sometimes you will get an octave sound, but sometimes you get a 5th sound, too.
Ausra: Yes, and then you figure it out. You just make yourself like a dictionary in your notebook.
Vidas: But if it's an old organ, and it is, right? From 1775.
Ausra: It looks like it's very Italian, because it has only three pedal stops. That's so common for Catholic countries, like Italy, or France.
Vidas: Yes, it has maybe three pedal stops and maybe the coupler, perhaps I hope, to have a longer sustained pedal point. Or sometimes they don't even have pedal couplers.
Ausra: No, you don't use so much pedals in Catholic liturgy. Especially in those times, in those days.
Vidas: You only have 17 pedal notes, this means that you have incomplete pedal compass, like 1-1/2 octave perhaps, right? So you don't play a lot of Reger.
Ausra: Oh, definitely not. Probably some Frescobaldi, Fiori Musicali.
Vidas: Or improvisation, improvisations could sound really well on these type of instruments. He told me he has one manual, right? Some stops might be divided as he writes. "Flauto in Vigessima Seconda" means flute in twenty second, but only in soprano, which means that only the right hand starting from C can play this. So in the tenor range, it doesn't sound. Only in the soprano range with the right hand you can place the flauto. Vigessima Seconda.
Now let's calculate 26 from the bass. 26, 24, 26, 7, 8, 8, 16, 8, two octaves, right? It's a 5th. It's a 5th, I think, but not 2 ⅔’ but 1 ⅓’. It looks like this. Very high-pitched flute.
Ausra: High-pitched flute, yeah.
Vidas: But as a flute, not a principal. So it doesn't fit with any Ripieno sound at least, I think. The Ripieno is another tool entirely in Italian organs. It's a handle. You take out this handle and entire row of principal stops like a plenum sounds are present and could be sounding. It's like a mixture, organ Ripieno. Full principal chorus if you use this piano handle. But remember in Italian, organs they don't have a mixture sound per se, you have to assemble mixtures.
Ausra: Yes, you have to pull it out from the organ, yes.
Vidas: Pull everything together. Sometimes everything together if you want a big sound, and sometimes just a handful of stops.
Ausra: Yes, because sometimes they have full Ripieno, and sometimes you have just smalller Ripieno.
Vidas: Yes. Maybe it's for a later conversation because it's a long subject but every mode in this tradition have different type of registrations. Sometimes one principal would be enough for one particular mode, sometimes a flute, sometimes principals 8’ and 4’ for another mode. We will discuss it another time, I think.
Wonderful guys, please send us more questions. This was very interesting. We hope this is useful to you and you can do this by subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt and reply to any of our messages.
And remember, when you practice -
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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#AskVidasAndAusra 23 - What are the different families of organ stops and how do they work?
Five swallows darting
Having no knowledge about
Organ stops. Oh, well...
Today's question was sent by Ugochukwu. He wants to know about the different families of organ stops and how they work.
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
Please send us your questions. We love helping you grow.
Vidas: We're starting the 23rd episode of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Ugochukwu and he asks about the organ pipe families. What are they, and how do they work?
Basically, Ausra, that's four or five families of organ stops, isn’t it?
Vidas: So, what's the most common family people should know about?
Ausra: Definitely principals.
Vidas: They are usually positioned in the facade.
Ausra: Usually they are made from metal.
Vidas: And how do they sound, basically?
Ausra: Clear and bright, I would say.
Vidas: And firm sound because their scaling is quite medium, not like the second type. The second family is flutes, right?
Ausra: Yes. And actually, usually if you want to tune the organ, you tune them according to the principal.
Vidas: Principal 4’.
Vidas: Of that particular division. Yeah, by the way, never tune your organ based on any principal, based on any division. You choose, for example, to tune stops from the Hauptwerk, let's say, from the Great and you tune it to the Principal 4’ or octave four, of that division. Not from the Swell, not from the Positive, but from the same division, because sometimes those divisions might be a little bit off.
Vidas: And you have to really check its tuning, at which foot level. They have to fit together.
So back to the families of stops. Then, there is probably the next type, flutes, right?
Vidas: Flutes can be made out of metal and ...
Ausra: and wood.
Vidas: They are different from the principals in a few ways.
Ausra: Yes. Sometimes, you can have like covered flute, like Gedackt would be, in German. Or you could have, like a Chimney Flute.
Vidas: Chimney flute you mean, in German, a Rohrflöte, right?
Ausra: Yes. Rohrflöte. That's right. It's has a certain chimney at the top of the pipe.
Vidas: Yeah. I was looking for the right word. And what kind of sound does it make?
Ausra: They have a softer, and gentler sound comparing to the principals.
Vidas: But flutes might be different, right?
Ausra: Sure, yeah.
Vidas: They all resemble, in one way or another, some kind of flute, but their character might be different, right?
Vidas: Then there is a third family. Maybe, let's say strings, right?
Vidas: And strings are?
Ausra: They are actually similar to principals in construction. Except that, string stops are sort of narrower. Pipes are narrower, so they make a different sound comparing to principals, and it sounds a little bit like string instruments. Because it has that subtle vibration in their sound.
Vidas: But you mean vibration when you mix, let's say, viola and viola Celeste sound, right?
Vidas: Two stops. Then the celeste sound might be tuned a little bit sharper or flatter, and therefore, they make vibrations. I would say that string sounds not only are narrower, but they're very gentle, right?
Vidas: Softer than the principals usually are.
Ausra: Sounds nice for romantic music, like slow movements.
Vidas: Then the fourth family is, of course ...
Vidas: The reeds. Have you seen reeds in the facade?
Ausra: I don't think I had, but there are sometimes in the Spanish organs, yes. They have those, you know, horizontal reeds, Chamades.
Vidas: Yes, they are mounted on the facade, and they face the altar. Therefore, they are very loud.
Ausra: But it's not common in other instruments. And, you know, what is interesting about the reed stops, of course we have tuned them a lot, because we are getting out of tune pretty fast, at least some of them. But actually, they resemble those ancient instruments, wood instruments, like cromorne, clarinet, and others.
Vidas: Yes. And you mentioned Chamade in Spanish organs. Nowadays, many modern organs have them, too.
Vidas: Which have some Spanish elements, and some French elements, and some German elements. They are eclectic instruments, right?
Vidas: There are two kinds of reeds, right? Chorus reeds and solo reeds.
Vidas: Chorus reeds mix well with the ensemble of other stops, like trumpet.
Vidas: Right? Bombarde.
Vidas: Yes. They have long resonators, usually. And solo reeds have shorter resonators, and they don't mix particularly well with the other stops.
Ausra: Yeah, so you use them as solo voices.
Vidas: Yes, like Oboe, Cromorne you mentioned, right?
Ausra: Yes Cromorne.
Vidas: Vox humana, right?
Ausra: Schalmey maybe?
Vidas: Yes. Vox humana in German is not the same as Voix humaine in French. A little bit different sound in French because, in French tradition, it's very nasal, and even softer, I would say. In Cavaille-Coll’s organs, they usually like to use it with the tremulant, right?
Ausra: And I think we also have to talk a little bit about mutation stops.
Vidas: Mutations. It's like a fifth group, right?
Ausra: Yes. Well, actually their pipes are made as in principals.
Vidas: Or flutes, too.
Ausra: Those two groups, but here every key, every sound has a few pipes, so by pressing one key, you get several different notes.
Vidas: You're talking about compound mutations.
Ausra: Yes. Compound mutations.
Vidas: What about, like a fifth, or the third stop? Just simple mutation. It sounds, not at the eight foot pitch level, but at another interval, right?
Vidas: Like a fifth, or third?
Ausra: Yes. And you can, yes, you can play, for example, a C on the key and it sounds as the G above C.
Vidas: And are there any other besides fifth and thirds?
Ausra: Yes, of course.
Vidas: Which ones?
Ausra: I think you want to tell about it.
Vidas: Yes. There are some interesting experiments, I would say, done in the 20th century with sevenths and ninths. They are very squeaky, and you can look them up online how they sound.
Ausra: But it's not that common as fifths and thirds.
Vidas: So compound mutations, usually have a few rows of pipes. Like Cornet.
Vidas: And Cornet usually has five rows of pipes.
Ausra: Yes. Usually five, but I think you could get even more than five.
Vidas: 8’, 4’, 2 ⅔’, 2’ and 1 ⅗’. That's the usual composition of the Cornet. But it is, it sounds like a wind instrument when you play it like that.
Vidas: And it's usually constructed from flutes pipes.
Good. So guys, go ahead and experiment with your organs and find out other families that they have. Principals, flutes and compare them how they sound. Flutes, they sound wider, because their scaling is wider than the principals, and gentler, of course. Check for strings, and check for various kinds of reeds. It's really fun to experiment with organ stops. You can even create specific organ demonstration for your congregation just from demonstrating separate organ family stops, right?
Ausra: Yes. I think they would benefit from that a lot.
Vidas: You could explain to them how they work, how they sound, how they're constructed. I wouldn't let them touch the pipes, but maybe look at them from up close, if they are in the organ balcony. Sometimes you can even blow a wooden pipe yourself. That's really fun. And really, people will get a great interest in the organ, in the construction of the organ this way, right?
Vidas: It's especially interesting for children, too.
Vidas: So, it's a lot to think about, how many possibilities you have to encourage a young generation to get interested in pipe organ and how it works. And maybe you will get some future organists this way.
Alright, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Please send us your questions. The best way is through subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt. You enter your email address, you become a subscriber, you get our daily dose of organ playing advice and inspiration, and then you can reply to any of these messages and send us your questions. We would like to help you grow as an organist.
And remember, when you practice ...
Ausra: ... miracles happen.
What's the deal with mixtures?
By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
Whenever I play on modern organs (especially built in the Neo-Baroque style), one of the most common defects is harsh mixtures which are very painful to people with hearing aid.
Should you follow strictly composer's suggestions about using mixtures or should you be mindful of how it sounds?
Of course, the real result out in the nave is what matters, not what stops you use.
Often Principal chorus (Organo Pleno) registration where you normally would play with mixtures is sufficient on 8', 4', and 2' principals, especially when the building is not very reverberate.
I recommend avoiding such mixtures or using them very sparingly, perhaps only in a couple of culminations.
PS The same goes with difficult to play couplers on certain mechanical action organs.
What is fugara?
By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
According to Encyclopedia of Organ Stops, "The Fugara is a string of 8' or 4' pitch, popular among German builders of what Audsley calls the “later school”. It is made of open metal or wood pipes, sometimes tapered."
If you are interested in getting to know as many organ stops as possible, you should look into Encyclopedia of Organ Stops, created by Edward L. Stauff. In many cases you can listen to the sound samples of the stops you're interested in. It's the most comprehensive source about organ registers online.
Edward would be a great person to be interviewed for our Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast.
I recently played a small 10 stop studio organ in one school where the local organist has put orange-color stickers with numbers on the stops. Presumably because the names of the stops seemed confusing and he thought that dealing with numbers only would be easier.
He couldn't remember the names of 10 stops.
10 stops? Does that seem right?
10 stops is not the limit, though. In western part of Lithuania we have a chapel of the Franciscan church in Kretinga, where stands an organ from ca. 1680 with 8 stops and yes, the organist there applied stickers with the numbers. If I remember correctly, this time they are bright green. You saw the date right - this is a state-protected historical organ...
What's the smallest organ on which stops you think writing numbers would be helpful but not debilitating?
Ausra's Harmony Exercise:
Transposing Sequence in Bb Major: IV-vii6-I
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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