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The Registration of Baroque Organ Music by…
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The Registration of Baroque Organ Music

by Barbara Owen

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Much of the music of the north European Baroque is familiar to organists, but it is often played and registered in a static and lackluster manner. This music is exuberant; the big pieces were meant to be exciting and even startling, and the small pieces offer endless opportunities for color. Perhaps part of our problem lies in the familiar brittle-sounding “neo-Baroque” instruments of the 1950s and 1960s that we tend to associate with this music, with their thin, top-heavy sound and unyielding wind supply. While it is true that the organs of northern Europe ostensibly provided the inspiration for this style, it is more of the letter than the spirit. They look all right on paper, but lack the substance to deliver musically.
The instruments for which Buxtehude, Bruhns and Böhm wrote are red-blooded, warm, and colorful, with seeming faults – such as unequal temperament and wind systems of uncertain equilibrium – that turn to virtues when the right music is played on them.
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Here, for the first time in a single volume, is a comprehensive study of registrational practices from circa 1550 to 1800. Each of the four parts of the book - the Renaissance and the Early, High, and Late Baroque - starts with a brief description of the political and religious climate of the period and the way it affected organ building and the music composed at the time. Within each historical period, Owen provides for each country a list of the active composers and information about representative organs, including their locations, dates, builders, and stoplists. She then discusses the registrational practices in each area in relation to contemporary musical styles and forms, referring to sources such as scores and treatises. In light of the historical evidence, Owen advises organists on adapting the earlier principles and practices to modern instruments in order to perform Baroque organ works in a style appropriate to their period and region.With its comprehensive geographic, historical, and musicological approach, The Registration of Baroque Organ Music will long remain an invaluable reference - and source of delight - for all organists.… (more)

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