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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Uggh!”

May 2, 2010


Dear Michael,

Dammit! there ought to be some limit to eclecticism. In a previous communication, you defended some contamination of program on the basis that “it is all organ music”. Well, in today’s program (May 2nd on WFMT) Marshall succeeded in making the organ sound like something between a theatre organ (bad) and a steam calliope (worse).
And yes, I heard the audience applauding. What came to my mind - with the final miscegenation - was Victor Borge, who was very popular - as a comedian, NOT as a pianist. One of my problems is that in addition to being a lover of organ music, I was - first - a music lover. I have enjoyed Verdi (generally) and Aida (particularly) for decades; so to hear Marshall screw up this beautiful MUSIC tonight was really painful.
In your programming I beg you to remember that the organ is “the King of instruments”. That should mean that the sounds that it is made to produce should be Regal. Not the sort of crap the you provided with this program. Certainly, there is not a paucity of truly musical organ program.
I remain an admirer of your work - with some exception. After all, it is not all organ music, and we are not all perfect

Glenn

 

Glenn,

Sorry to rile you, but I work with the memory that the pipe organ was created first as a ‘noise maker’, used in the pre-Christian days much as they use the electronic organs in ball-parks today, to rev up the multitudes.
With that in mind, I think Wayne Marshall is a eloquent exponent of a proud heritage. Sorry if you disagree. And as for his Verdi transcription, that was the tamest of the batch…difficult to understand what would be bothersome with that. Beautiful music is beautiful music, regardless of the medium.
I wonder what others think?!
jmb

 

Glenn responds,

Thank you for your response. I am well aware that beauty resides in the eye of the beholder, and I do not hope to alter your vision. My intention was to nudge it a little.
I do, however, disagree that the beauty of the music is independent of the medium. Imagine, for example, a transcription for organ of a Beethoven string quartet. Ugggh.
Uggh, indeed…but I think it was done, even in Beethoven’s time. Certainly there were contemporary transcriptions for organ of movements from his symphonies.
The idea of transcription is as old as the organ itself…the earliest, medieval organ tabulatures are about 50 ‘arrangements’ of vocal pieces. I cannot tell you what to like, but, indeed, it ‘is all organ music’…

Glenn

 

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