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Organ or harpsichord ?


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#1 Monsieur Hautbois

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 12:27

Hello,

 

I started the organ three years ago (I'm 46) but I only have a digital piano at home so pedalwork is out and I'm thinking of switching to the harpsichord or spinet (my organ tacher is also a qualified harpsichord tutor) because:

 

- I find digital organs ugly (my opinion) and they're not "real instruments".

 

- I don't really have enough room or money for a home pipe organ.

 

- I will probably never have many opportunities to play on a real church organ (apart form lesson time)

 

I still love the organ, I think it's probably more forgiving - for lack of a better word - to the amateur player (I might be totally wrong about this) but buying a harpsichord or spinet is becoming more and more tempting. My teacher is ok with this, even though her primary instrument is the organ.

 

What are your thoughts ?


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#2 fsharpminor

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 12:58

Digital organs are much improved these days  (though I agree pipes are better),  best thought of these days are probably  Viscount, they start from about £8K (2 manual + pedals). You can get a 3 manual from £10K...I would love one, and whilst I could afford one, I dont have room (well I could make room but f#major would veto it!)

............(PS I am not connected to Viscount in any way)...https://viscountorga...cts/compact-42/


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#3 Monsieur Hautbois

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 15:55

Thank you for your answer. I just find digital organs cumbersome and...aesthetically challenged. My question was mostly about technique: I was told that it was harder to sound good on a harpsichord for an amateur.


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#4 elemimele

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 18:09

... well, there's the well-known description of a harpsichord! I'd suggest looking at the repertoire. If you love chorale preludes and find yourself time and time drawn back to Bach's Orgelbuechlein, don't get stuck with just a harpsichord. If you aspire to the trio sonatas, you might regret losing your pedals. If you love keyboard music that doesn't require contrasting timbres, sounds good on a harpsichord, and you're happy to eschew grand pedals and reeds that sound like motor-horns, then the harpsichord might be for  you. It is a very beautiful instrument in the right hands.

 

About electronic organs; there are Hauptwerk recordings on YouTube that I struggle to differentiate from "real" recordings of real organs. Of course if, like me, you're a closet Luddite and like the feeling that what you are doing is mechanically opening a real pipe, with real live air, then even the best electronic set-up isn't going to be psychologically satisfying, but I do believe that for the technically minded, if they're adequately funded, there are options nowadays that are very attractive. 

 

About whether it sounds good - which is a very personal matter. I think that organs played badly can sound quite as bad, if not worse, than a harpsichord. The problem with either instrument, compared to a piano, is how to bring life to a melody. On an organ it's possible, at first, to draw the audience's attention away from a lack of musical life in the melody, a lack of dynamics, by snazzy registrations and possibly a bit of swell-pedal manipulation, but in the long run, this is all rather superficial. Sooner or later any organist has to learn to use articulation to the full, with sensitivity, if he/she is to play in an appealing and musical manner. The harpsichordist has less to hide behind when they first start, so it's possible to argue that it's a harder instrument - but the argument isn't really true. Both instruments have the same fundamental challenge of how to make the music musical when you haven't got a piano's completely amazing dynamic touch, and personally I think students should tackle it from the outset.


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#5 fsharpminor

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 19:47

I tend to think repertoire is rather limited for harpsichord, its mainly baroque period, though there are a few more modern works. Repertoire for organ covers all periods. Whilst we all love Bach,  the Organ Sonatas by Mendelssohn and Rheinberger are popular, then there is a lot of French Romantics period repertoire. and continuing through the 20th century with composers like Dupre and his pupil Messiaen. Also some excellent British organ music  , Elgars Sonata, and then the likes of Herbert Howells and others.


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#6 Monsieur Hautbois

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 22:03

Thank you both.

 

Indeed the repertoire for the organ is more varied, as are the possibilities of the instrument.

 

I'm not a closet Luddite at all, and I wouldn't mind buying a digital organ if it was pretty to look at (I'm that shallow smile.png). At the end of the day, I'm probably more of an organist at heart but having a beautiful harpsichord at home is also a very appealing idea. (Did I mention that I VERY indecisive ?)


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#7 mel2

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Posted 23 June 2018 - 22:11

Must admit I'm looking speculatively at digital organs, purely for practice purposes -not because I am enamoured of the look or sound of the things. If it has stops/tabs, a couple of manuals and a full sized pedal board, then it will probably do, if I can fit it in a corner of the garage.
Fed up of not being able to work on the church instrument.
To my ears the harpsichord sounds like rattling cutlery, and I agree with fsm that the repertoire is not as extensive as that for the organ.
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#8 Monsieur Hautbois

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Posted 24 June 2018 - 08:16

I think that digital organs are very good instruments for practising, but unfortunately I don't have access to any "real" instrument apart from the one at my local conservatoire (I sometimes take lessons on a church organ as well).
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#9 TweedleDee

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Posted 27 June 2018 - 15:33

I'd second the Hauptwerk recommendation.  You can spend as much time and money on it to make it look and sound exactly how you want.  And check out the Claviorganum instrument that is both an organ and clavichord.  Here are some pictures of what people have done:  http://pcorgan.com/FotosEN.html


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#10 Monsieur Hautbois

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Posted 27 June 2018 - 20:39

Thank you, some of them are indeed quite beautiful.


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#11 elemimele

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Posted 27 June 2018 - 21:02

The variety is quite amazing, too. There are people there who have spent serious cash and got a lot of high-end electronics. Then there is also Peter van den Dool, whose pedalboard is actually attached by a lot of bits of coloured string running round hooks to the ends of lolly-pop sticks stuck to a short and cheap USB keyboard! Gold star for ingenuity and showing what can be done with a bit of imagination.

… and in hopes of whetting your appetite, here's a Hauptwerk set-up playing one of my favourite bits of organ music, the Daphne variations by an anonymous composer in the Camphuysen manuscript. I'd be happy with something sounding like that, and it looks comfortable to play too (it'd be wasted on me though - and a tiny quibble would be that I do like stop-knobs...)


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#12 lorraineliyanage

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Posted 27 June 2018 - 22:52

A spinet might not be that satisfying to play if it doesn't have many notes as it limits what you can play - for example you can play a lot of Bach on a spinet, but French repertoire usually not possible.


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#13 Monsieur Hautbois

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Posted 30 June 2018 - 13:08

Yesterday was my last lesson before the summer holidays. My teacher told me she would make me work on pieces that are suitable for both organ and harpsichord, so that I can have more time to make a decision. (I might also give up keyboards altogether at the end of next year as I'm not very optimistic about my capacatities and progress but that's another story)

 

I'm leaning towards the organ, but we'll see. Thank you all for your advice and opinions.


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#14 elemimele

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Posted 30 June 2018 - 20:55

don't be negative about progress. The organ is a hard instrument; you've not only got the problem of getting to grips with multi-line music on up to 3 staves, coordinating 4 limbs, but every tiny nuance of when you press, and when you release, a key is utterly critical to making the instrument sound nice. It does take time to learn, for anyone. Good luck!


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#15 Monsieur Hautbois

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Posted 02 July 2018 - 14:16

Yes, I knew it would be hard when I started...only to discover that it was even harder than I thought it would be. smile.png


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