Out of the comfort zone
Posted 22 April 2012 - 19:33
During the past week I have been in the Brabant and Limburg regions of southern Holland on a tour organised by Johan Stolk (aka Dutch Organ Tours). Sixteen of us in two minibuses visited Aarle-Rixtel, Bergen op Zoom, Breda, Erp, Helmond, 's Hertogenbosch, Hilvarenbeek and Maastricht.
Ten different organs were demonstrated, and we were encouraged to play. Not one of them had a 'standard' console, all had straight and flat pedal-boards with 13, 25, 27 or 30 notes, most had keyboards with 54 or 56 notes, and several had stop-knobs which were in columns either side of the keyboard and across the top of the console opening. Eight were on west galleries, and two faced each other across the quire. One church had four organs and most had two. Two organs had a ruckpositive with the console under the main case, one had its console behind, and one on the side, and there were lots of opportunities to guess which manual was which!
Every one of them was a truly musical instrument, with charming flutes, interesting principal choruses, and characterful reeds. Music came to life in a way that it never does on an English octopod. To hear Corrette and Guilain played on French reeds and cornets in Maastricht and Helmond is a revelation, and to hear Bach on clear bright principals in 's Hertogenbosch is a joy. Chorale preludes become colourful, with lively flutes and blended mutations, and Karg-Elert makes much more sense on a big German romantic organ like the Ibach at Bergen op Zoom.
Yes it was cold and wet, and only two of the churches were heated, but what an education, for the eyes as well as the ears.
Never played a truly interesting organ? How about a trip to Holland......
Posted 23 April 2012 - 21:35