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17th/18th Century France

In order to overcome the relative weakness in the treble, the Grand Cornet of five ranks is added. It should be pointed out at this stage that, with the exception of very large instruments which contained a Bombarde or Raisonnance manual, the only full compass manuals in the French Classical organ are the Grand Orgue and the Positif. It usually contains a Trompette and a Cornet but these are loud solo and not chorus stops.

The fourth manual is usually an Echo organ and has a compass from Tenor C to d in alt. As its name implies, its use is restricted to providing an echo effect and we will examine it further in a future article. The principle is that the Grand Jeu should make as much sound as possible using the minimum of resources.

This means the use of the loud reeds strengthened by the Cornet, so for most average-sized organs this is the recipe: If there was a Bombarde manual, that too could be pulled out about a centimetre to engage with the Grand Orgue. This is because of the difficulty in keeping it in tune and the fact that it is the feeblest part of its range.

French organ school

British organ builders either make the trebles double length and overblow the first harmonic or replace the reeds with flue pipes but they keep the Clarion at an octave to the Trumpet throughout its range.. Why is the Cromorne used as well as the Trompettes? The answer is that the Cromorne is often the loudest sounding stop in the organ, partly because of its broad tongues but also because contained in the Positif Case it is closer to the listener than the main body of the organ. Nor is it an exclusively solo stop, and has very little to do with the Cremona stop we often find in Britain.

While the tremulant undoubtedly works, it is very much a last resort. How do we approach the Grand Jeu on a British romantic organ? I would advocate a minimalist approach going back to the principle of the most sound out of the fewest resources.

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Mixures have no place at all in the Grand Jeu and should be excluded. But if you have a tierce in your mixture, give it a go. Always try to keep a different colour for the secondary manual so that the Positif can be identified clearly. For visitors to this forum, the writer here trained as an organ builder many years ago and this gives him a very helpful perspective whilst in retirement he studies and plays French organs and composes.

If anyone would like a great piece to play, PM him for his Fugue on Incompatible Themes and it will greatly entertain you as well as anyone you play it to. David Pinnegar Hero Member Posts: You are urged to pick up a piece of music and follow the composer's instructions in order to learn the principles of registration involved in his music. These instructions are readily available in several modern books, and many newer editions of the music include a composer's registration instructions as well as the music.

These include specific lists of stops to be drawn for different effects, to be used in specific pitch registers, or to be used to accompany a given melodic line. Within this general practice, most instructions indicate that a reed should not be drawn alone as a solo stop; instead, it should be accompanied by its foundations.

Grand-Jeu for organ (Lasceux, Guillaume)

That is, the 8' Bourdon and 4' Prestant should be drawn on the same manual with the reed. Contrasting solo registrations can also be drawn on a pair of manuals for performance of duo or trio textures where independent but equally important voices are wanted. In a further refinement of the process of naming movements or pieces by their registrations, some titles also included an indication of the register in which the solo line was played, as in these examples: A solo line played in the bass register of the Trompette of the Grand orgue, with its foundations, as noted above.

A solo line played on the "Jeux de tierce" of the Positif, sounding in the "middle" range. In compositions where an ensemble of voices is wanted, rather than a solo line, there are two common registrations used in French Classical practice, used both to indicate the stops that are to be used and as titles of pieces: The Classical Plein Jeu is, of course, related to similar registrations in both Dutch and German practices, and is a descendant of the Medieval Blockwerk in both content and practice.

The Grand Jeu, on the other hand, is a quintessentially French sound, one that has been associated with the French Classical organ and its music since the earliest sources.


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The most elaborate compositions in the repertory are the Dialogues , which typically included indications for manual changes, alternation between melodic and ensemble textures, and sometimes even special effects involving the use of the Echo division. When no other indication is present, dialogues are meant to be played using the Grand jeu registration.

Pedal stops are rarely used, and they are a part of normal registration in only two instances. In some compositions, the Plein jeu registration is drawn on the manuals and is used to play a rather full, chordal texture.

In detail, however, the organs of the eighteenth century, some of which remain in an unaltered or restored condition, show some differences when compared to their predecessors. In terms of design and construction of individual stops: Greater dynamic contrast was given to soft and loud stops as the century progressed.