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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: Pulling out all the stops

April 7, 2006

Dear Michael,
I am looking to find a recording of an organ piece called The Hand of God. I do not know the composer, nor when it was writted.

Also, what is the organ term that means to pull out all of the stops?

Thanks for your time.

Erin Peters
Winona, Minnesota


Dear Erin,
Sorry, I don’t seem to be able to dredge up any reference to an organ piece titled The Hand of God, though someone else reading this online posting may provide an answer.

The actual term that applies to pulling out all the stops would be tutti, an Italian word meaning all together. The term full organ also implies a similar intent. However, the term organo pleno would more specifically direct (according to Mattheson and other 18th century writers) that the organist bring on the full chorus of principals (with mixtures and principal-based mutations, but without flutes or reeds), possibly also the 16′ manual registers, possibly also a similar ensemble from the secondary division coupled to the main division, plus a pedal to balance (including a 16′ Posaune, and possibly 32′ registers in slow music).

The French equivalent of this (full principals and mixtures) would be the Plein Jeux or (with 16′ foundation) the Grand Plein Jeux. The Grands Jeux is a full ensemble of reeds and mutations. In both cases, manuals may be coupled as appropriate or desired.

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