Joh. Brahms: Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele/ O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen/Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen ("Tholen")

Brahms' Choralvorspiele op. 122 suit the sound of the organ in Tholen particularly well. I recorded three of them and intend to record the others in the autumn and winter. Brahms' music is beautiful and represents the best of German romanticism, but I have to dose it, it is all water and if I play too much of it at a time it takes away the fire.

Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele is so peaceful:

In O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen represents the crescendo and the modulation from F to D major at the end the soul ascending to heaven:

I used Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen in my harmony lessons for second year piano students at Rotterdam Conservatoire. In stead of using the piano's pedal, they had to practise my finger substitutions in order to get a full-bodied legato. 


Concert in Brouwershaven

A few blog posts ago, I wrote that due to Hauptwerk I do not miss real organs so much, but yesterday I gave a concert in the Sint-Nicolaaskerk in Brouwershaven and I have to say it was a great joy to play the first class van Vulpen-organ in a beautiful church with very good acoustics. Moreover, the overall ambiance and organization was perfect.

It was interesting to observe the organ builder's change of esthetics between 1968, when he delivered the Hoofdwerk  and 1980, when the Rugwerk was added. The pipes of the Rugwerk have a full-bodied, round sound, while the Hoofdwerk generally sounds thinner, more according to the ideals of the neo baroque. When I studied organ in the late '70s and early '80s this change was frequently discussed among teachers and students. At the time, the Utrecht Conservatorium had three van Vulpen-organs and the light, sophisticated action of these instruments considerably influenced my views on the importance of an at the same time relaxed and precise way of playing. Yesterday, I was delighted to have a similar light and sensitive action at my disposal. The ancient pipes which remained (the Prestant 8' of the Rugwerk and part of the Prestant 16' of the Hoofdwerk) are of excellent quality.

The recitals in Brouwershaven are organized by Marien Stouten, the organist of the church. Creative, energetic and highly qualified, this young man deserves all the support to carry his initiative forward and stimulate cultural life in the town and region he lives in. He gave me excellent advice regarding the choice of stops and assisted me during the concert. The audience could watch the activities at the console through a video recording projected on the wall next to the organ. The effect of this must have been quite natural compared with projecting on a screen (I did not see it myself), as the colours were softened by the wall's off white surface. Marien Stouten aims at vitalizing organ concerts by programming contemporary music and also by objecting against a deplorable practice among well-known organists of prestigious instruments: to exchange the opportunities to give a concert between themselves in a closed circuit, a kind of old boys network. 

Not quite pleased with my performance of Bach's Jesu meine Freude yesterday evening, I made a recording of the piece this morning with the digitalized sound of the organ in Tholen (only 30 kilometers from Brouwershaven). This recording will be the subject of a next post.


Ton Bruynel - Dust (versions Vught, Haarlem and Utrecht)

In the late '70s, I studied electronic music as a side subject with Ton Bruynel at Utrechts Conservatorium. Among my fellow students were René Uijlenhoet (who is now a professor of electronic music at Rotterdam Conservatoire), Ad Wammes, Rob Nasveld and Carlos Michans. In those days, one still had to cut and paste literally, i.e. cutting a tape with a razor blade or a special device and put it where needed. I was not particularly good at it, but appreciated Ton Bruynel's lessons very much and learnt a lot from him regarding the overall importance of quality of sound. He could spend a whole week on getting the best sound for a fragment which lasted only a few seconds. Ton liked the organ, as a synthesizer avant la lettre. At highschool, I had already heard some of his music through Ton Hartsuiker's outstanding radio program Musica Nova (at the time my brother, a friend of his and I also used to listen to Stockhausen's Kontakte, Telemusik, Mikrophonie I and II, Aus den sieben Tagen and a lot of other contemporary music). During my studies, I played Relief and Arc, his early works for organ and soundtracks, and remember Ton being very enthusiastic about organ works by Messiaen and Reger. Around 1990, I visited him in Pedraza de la Sierra, where he got the idea to write Dust, inspired by a small 18th century organ. After he finished the piece in 1992, we recorded the organ part in the Hervormde Kerk in Vught.  He mixed this with the soundtracks in his studio (by then he had moved to Wapse in Holland, where I advised him about the organ part in the score) and issued this on his CD Looking Ears I. This "authentic" version sounds as follows:

Another "authentic" version is a live recording (made by Jos van der Linden) with the composer authorizing the balance between the organ and the soundtracks, made in the Grote Kerk in Haarlem on 29 June 1993.

Finally, a recording (also made by Jos van der Linden) of a performance at a Ton Bruynel festival in the Nicolaaskerk in Utrecht on 15 May 2008. This time, Rene Uijlenhoet supervised the balance between the organ and the soundtracks.

Comparing the three versions now, I prefer both the Vught and the Utrecht versions. The former because of its clarity and detailed expression, the latter because of its ambiance, in which the organ and the electronic part combine very well, while the space remains bright and clear (the Haarlem version sounds a bit hollow).


Conversations with Jan Welmers 2 - the importance of nature

Yesterday Jan Welmers and I again discussed the possible value of this blog in documenting the many conversations we had, for instance regarding young generations of organists. He emphasized the importance of referring to nature, like in the previous post the fact that we often make long walks in nature and combine talking about music with, for instance, bird watching.

During my studies in the early '80s, the organ class including professors Theo Teunissen and Jan Welmers made a trip to the Alsace to visit some of the many beautiful organs there, but we also drove up the Grand Ballon to enjoy the mountain with its wonderful views. Some ten years later (in the meantime I was a professor of organ myself), the organ class went to visit organs in Toulouse, now also accompanied by professor Kees Van Houten. I remember that Jan Welmers strongly suggested that we should also visit the Pyrenees, but unfortunately this was not possible.

Yesterday evening an interesting program on princess Irene was broadcasted to celebrate her 75th birthday. In the past, she became known as "the princess who talks with trees" and was sometimes a little laughed at because of that, but it is quite impressive to see and hear this noble person speak about her relation to nature.