Organ News and Updates
Professor David Yearsley reflects on the effects of climate on Cornell's historic organs:
“Arbor eram vilis quondam sed viva tacebam / Nunc bene si tangor mortua dulce son” counts as one of the most lovely and lengthy of the Latin mottos used to decorate the inside of the lids of seventeenth-century Flemish harpsichords. It translates: “I was once an ordinary tree, although living I was silent; now, though dead, if I am well played, I sound sweetly.” The same defense of the human improvement on nature could well adorn the largest and oldest of the keyboard instruments—the organ—though with the crucial addition, somewhere amongst the branches and thorns, of the Latin syntax, of chalicitis (ore) or perhaps metallum used to make the pipes that actually produce the sound. These gleaming columns are the first to catch the attention of the eye. Most organs have wooden pipes, too, normally placed out of sight behind the shining façade; but the pipes of a few celebrated organs—most famously that from the early seventeenth century in Frederiksborg Castle ( http://www.thomaswikman.org/images/1b.jpg) in Denmark—are made exclusively of wood.
The Spring 2013 organ concert series begins this week with the first Midday Music for Organ recital on Wednesday January 30th at 12:30pm. University Organist Annette Richards presents a program of music that might have been heard at the court of Frederick the Great in Berlin, c. 1755, with works by Dieterich Buxtehude, C. P. E. Bach, J. S. Bach and the King’s sister, avid organ enthusiast and music collector Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia.
Professor of organ at the Hochschule für Kunste in Bremen (Germany), Edoardo Bellotti is in the U.S. this fall as a visiting professor at the Eastman School of Music. He will present a recital at Cornell on the new baroque organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel on Friday, November 16, at 8:00 PM. "Echoes of Italy" will feature works by superstars of the 17th and early 18th centuries--written both by Italian composers and Germans inspired by Italy--with fantasies, concertos, and toccatas, closing with J. S. Bach's Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564.
Cornell's new baroque organ has become the world's first organ with multiple historic wind systems, using a technique organ designer Munetaka Yokota perfected on a research instrument at the Göteborg Organ Art Center (GOArt) at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
With simple manual adjustments, organists can authentically re-create the wind systems of organs from the 15th to the beginning of the 19th century from north and central Germany on the instrument.
An exciting concert festival and symposium exploring music for the
baroque organ in America comprise this year’s Atkinson Forum in American
Studies. The Forum will be held Friday and Saturday, September 21 and
22, in Anabel Taylor Chapel, Sage Chapel, and Barnes Hall, and will
include four concerts and two panel sessions.
On April 3, Anabel Taylor Chapel will be the site of a unique
performance event: renowned organist Hans Davidsson will perform on
Cornell’s new baroque organ while three professional dancers—two of them
his sons--interpret the music.
If you missed last March's festival to inaugurate Cornell's new baroque organ in Anabel Taylor Hall, you have another chance to hear some of the fabulous performances, on the radio. American Public Media's program "Pipedreams" is featuring Cornell’s baroque organ on this coming Sunday’s “Old Is New” program.
Traditionally, organs have only been documented through mechanical measurements such as size and overall wind pressure. But this static data can’t communicate the dynamic behavior of the wind system and how an organ actually sounds.
Carl Johan Bergsten, a research engineer with the Gothenburg Organ Art Center (GOArt) at the University of GÖTEBORG, Sweden, spent the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday studying the wind system and acoustics of Cornell’s baroque organ. The measurements are part of a larger GOArt study exploring the interactions between bellows, wind chest, and pedals to determine an organ’s sound.
Throughout history, organ builders have striven for a steadier sound and to silence the noise of the key action. Modern organs have achieved this goal—to a fault, according to designer Munetaka Yokota. "Modern organs are easy to play and consistent," he says. "No matter what you do it sounds good. But they're missing the expressiveness old organs have."
No, those aren’t bullet holes, though the round black dots found on some tin organ pipes look like Al Capone’s been using them for target practice. The holes are signs of a far greater danger to organs than a gangster’s gun: corrosion.
Belgian organist Jean Ferrard visited Cornell University last March as one of the featured soloists for “Keyboard Culture in Eighteenth-Century Berlin,” the conference and festival inaugurating the new baroque organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel. He will return to Ithaca to perform a solo organ recital on Tuesday, November 8, at 8:00 PM.
The Cornell Baroque Organ will be featured in six concerts this Fall, with performances by guest artists from around the US, Germany and Belgium, in addition to Cornell's Acting University Organist Randall Harlow.
Three months after the tsunami and earthquake hit Japan, tens of thousands of people still live in temporary shelters. A benefit concert for Japanese relief efforts, featuring Cornell’s new baroque organ, will be held on Saturday, July 2nd, 7:30–9:30 pm at Cornell’s Anabel Taylor Chapel.
Munetaka Yokata, organ designer, explains why Cornell's organ is the size it is.
Choosing paint colors for Cornell’s baroque organ required detective work, a keen eye, and a willingness to experiment.
Researchers knew from the documentation that the Charlottenburg organ had blue labels for all of the names of the stops, but they didn’t know which blue, or why they were blue in the first place. It was an unusual choice.
Munetaka Yokata, organ designer, and David Yearsley,
Cornell University organist and professor of music, demonstrate the stops on
Cornell's majestic new organ at the inaugural conference in March.
Cornell’s baroque pipe organ is a masterpiece of successful research and craftsmanship, but despite its stunning beauty the project is not quite complete. Some components that remain unfinished include:
- All the great baroque organs had figural sculptures on them. Todd
McGrain, an artist and professor here at Cornell, has already imagined
some beautiful sculptural designs for Cornell’s baroque organ.
Organ designer Munetaka Yokota reveals how a small design choice made a huge impact on the voice of Cornell's new pipe organ.
The sounds of 18th-century Berlin came alive during the inaugural conference and concert festival celebrating Cornell's new $2 million baroque organ, March 8-13.
Leslie Adelson, director of Cornell’s Institute for German Cultural
Studies, offered words of welcome at the beginning of “Keyboard Culture
in 18th-Century Berlin and the German Sense of History,” a conference
and concert festival held March 10-13 to inaugurate Cornell’s new
Award-winning electronic music composer Kevin Ernste, professor of music and director of the Cornell Electroacoustic Music Center, will open the organ dedication’s keynote concert on Saturday, March 12 at 5:30 p.m. with a special inaugural composition. “It’s an exciting opportunity to showcase the organ as a vehicle for new music,” says Annette Richards, professor of music and conference organizer.
Jean Ferrard is one of “the most energetic, expert, and wide-ranging musicians of our time…an indefatigable teacher and performer,” wrote David Yearsley, professor of music, in a 2009 article in CounterPunch. Ferrard will perform music by Bull, Titelouze, Scheidt and Luython during the festival to inaugurate Cornell’s new baroque organ on Saturday, March 12, at 12:30 pm, in a concert he’s calling “The Roaring Twenties of the 1600s.”
Annette Richards, university organist and professor of music, talks
about the numerous opportunities for students to play, study, and enjoy
Cornell's new baroque organ.
Professor of music David Yearsley has been testing the new baroque pipe organ in Anabel Taylor Chapel with Midday Music performances of J.S. Bach's Trio Sonatas.
Cornell doctoral candidate Zachary Wadsworth has composed music for
other organs, but he says Cornell’s organ, “is an extraordinary
instrument and it’s going to be around for a very long time, and that’s
something really magical, to be there right when it’s being created.”
Shefford Baker, associate professor of materials science and engineering, discusses scientific questions raised by
Cornell's new baroque organ.
Harald Vogel is a name instantly familiar to those conversant with
baroque organ music: he is a leading authority on the interpretation of
German organ music from the eighteenth century and earlier. No surprise,
then that he will be the keynote performer at the concert festival and
conference inaugurating Cornell’s new baroque organ, to be held March 8 –
13 on Cornell’s campus (see Events for details).