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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “Dutch Treats”

September 20, 2012

Dear Michael,

I've just picked up some Dutch organ music (with no registration suggestions), and I'd like to know more about typical registrations used in Dutch music. Does Dutch music have its own "sound?"

Daniel Yoder

Dear Daniel,

Composer of organ music in 'old times' generally provided no registration suggestions. In all of Bach's music, there are but two or three pieces where he makes suggestions of what stops he has in mind. French Baroque composers, on the other hand, developed formulas to which they quite strickly adhered, and you can see these in the titles to movements, such as "Grand Jeux" (full reed ensemble with cornets) or "Plein Jeux" (full principal ensemble) "Fugue sur l'anches" (probably Trumpets 8 and 4, with Cornet), or "Tierce en taille" (a registration of 8+4+2 2/3+2+1 3/5 as solo, accompanied by flutes or soft principals)…

When you say 'some Dutch music', do you mean Sweelinck? The registrations would be according to the musical piece…which pieces? A set of variations calls upon different colors for each one, a ricercare might require only one registration (and could be played on a single diapason, or several, or even a full principal chorus), a fantasy likely builds from soft to loud (listen to the recent Sweelinck Fantasy on Program #1236).

Dutch music likely has its own 'sound' because of the character of the compositions and the quality of the Dutch instruments (which are, to a degree, different from their historic German counterparts).




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