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Thread: How far transcriptions to organ music can go? Impressionist organ composers?

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    Default How far transcriptions to organ music can go? Impressionist organ composers?

    This night (evening) I attended organ concert, which included also:
    - M. Ravel trio for violin, cello and organ (transcription from piano)
    - M. Ravel Pavane for violin, cello and organ
    - F. List Preludes for solo organ (transcription from symphony orchestra)

    To be honest, this was one of the rare cases when classical music tortured me a little bit. Is such organ transcriptions normal? This time I felt that there are really big differences between organ and piano and it is impossible to replicate all the delicate shades and dynamics of piano sounds in organ transcriptions. And also - organ sound is far more richer, monumental and it can not replace piano subject.

    I feel that our orgnist (who has excellent education and concert experience) is trying to please the audience but I think that organ transcriptions is not the right path to go. Which leads me to the question - what are notable impressionist organ composers whose works can be played instead of Ravel and Debussy transcriptions?

    As far as I know then the list is fairly short - Maurice Durufle can be one of them. Franck, Vierne, Dupre seems to be romantics or late romantics and not impressionists.
    Last edited by jonatan; Jul-30-2016 at 23:35.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Without trying to define "Impressionism" strictly (or at all), leading members of the 20th-century French organ school are:

    Charles Koechlin
    Charles Tournemire
    Jehan Alain
    Jean Langlais
    Marcel Dupre
    Olivier Messiaen
    Maurice Durufle

    Organists would be able to name others.

    I think the rather vague term "Impressionist" is better applied to specific works than to composers. Why do we call Ravel an Impressionist, for example? Some of his works seem to qualify, others certainly don't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Without trying to define "Impressionism" strictly (or at all), leading members of the 20th-century French organ school are:

    Charles Koechlin
    Charles Tournemire
    Jehan Alain
    Jean Langlais
    Marcel Dupre
    Olivier Messiaen
    Maurice Durufle

    Organists would be able to name others.

    I think the rather vague term "Impressionist" is better applied to specific works than to composers. Why do we call Ravel an Impressionist, for example? Some of his works seem to qualify, others certainly don't.
    Actually the list goes more like this:

    Messiaen

    Charles Koechlin
    Charles Tournemire
    Jehan Alain
    Jean Langlais
    Marcel Dupre
    Maurice Durufle

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chordalrock View Post
    Actually the list goes more like this:

    Messiaen

    Charles Koechlin
    Charles Tournemire
    Jehan Alain
    Jean Langlais
    Marcel Dupre
    Maurice Durufle
    You mean that Messiaen's music is far more "Impressionist" than that of the others? That was the nature of the question, after all.

    But I suspect you just like him best. Well, OK.

    Has anyone heard much of Tournemire's L'Orgue mystique? Fascinating stuff. Messiaen heard it and said "genius."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    You mean that Messiaen's music is far more "Impressionist" than that of the others? That was the nature of the question, after all.

    But I suspect you just like him best. Well, OK.

    Has anyone heard much of Tournemire's L'Orgue mystique? Fascinating stuff. Messiaen heard it and said "genius."
    No, I mean he is the most significant organ composer on that list, much like Beethoven would be the most significant composer on a list consisting of Clementi, Salieri, Cherubini, and Beethoven. Which of them I happen to prefer personally isn't really relevant here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Why do we call Ravel an Impressionist, for example? Some of his works seem to qualify, others certainly don't.
    We call them impressionists because something in their music made the name stick (Ravel and Debussy of course both disclaimed it). c.f. Stravinsky, on whom the name "fauve" was tried and failed to stick.

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildadam Bingor View Post
    We call them impressionists because something in their music made the name stick.
    I'll call that tautological because there's something in your statement that says the same thing twice.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Jul-31-2016 at 20:22.

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    If Debussy's Feuilles mortes is impressionist, why isn't Les Bergers by Messaien?

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    No you're doing it wrong. YOU should be asking "Why do those pieces by Ravel that don't qualify as impressionist not stop people from calling him impressionist."

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    Slight digression.
    I once sat through an organ transcription of Wagner's Tannhauser overture.
    It was horrific.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildadam Bingor View Post
    No you're doing it wrong. YOU should be asking "Why do those pieces by Ravel that don't qualify as impressionist not stop people from calling him impressionist."
    No "asking" is required to establish that people will do all sorts of silly things we can't stop them from doing. (I "should," incidentally, be asking what I want to ask, not what you tell me I should be asking. Your advice is not useful, and neither is your aggressive capitalization.)

    Although I know you already know this - I will explain for the benefit of anyone else who may be curious - my point in posing my question was that I think that "Impressionism" is not a very good description of much, if not most, of the music of Ravel. He apparently agreed. I'll add, bringing us back to the thread topic, that I don't think it applies very well to most of the organ music of the composers I cited, but it seems that being French and juxtaposing a lot of floating extended dominant chords is enough to get one branded an "Impressionist."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I "should," incidentally, be asking what I want to ask
    Well by that logic people should be calling music what they want to call it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    but it seems that being French and juxtaposing a lot of floating extended dominant chords is enough to get one branded an "Impressionist."
    I think it's that one of Debussy's greatest, most popular movements has a title that sounds like Monet, so anything that sounds like it anticipates or closely descends from Debussy gets the label. Which is a perfectly valid reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildadam Bingor View Post
    I think it's that one of Debussy's greatest, most popular movements has a title that sounds like Monet, so anything that sounds like it anticipates or closely descends from Debussy gets the label. Which is a perfectly valid reason.
    The term "Impressionism" is rather loosely used in the visual arts too, to artists as dissimilar as Manet, Cezanne, Monet, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Even less clear or meaningful is "Post-Impressionism," applied to artists who have almost nothing in common. I prefer to reserve the term "Impressionist" for art and music which is most concerned with evoking the transient visual, tactile or "atmospheric"qualities of something - an "impression" - through a strong emphasis on its immediate sensuous qualities. In music, that would generally imply some sort of programmatic, pictorial intent, with harmony, rhythm and timbre dedicated more to creating "atmospheres" than emotional expression or structure (but of course not to the exclusion of them). Debussy most deserves the designation "Impressionist" (even if he didn't like it), his works (I think) largely fitting the above description. I realize that it's become a facile term for a lot of music that has this or that degree of resemblance to his. Lots of terms are like that; "Wagnerian" was once quite popular.

    Humans do need names for things, but categories tend to obscure distinctions and replace realities. It never hurts to point that out.
    Last edited by Woodduck; Aug-02-2016 at 02:56.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    Even less clear or meaningful is "Post-Impressionism," applied to artists who have almost nothing in common.
    "Post-impressionist" means something in the visual arts - impressionist influenced, but also with explicit neoclassical rigor. Which actually might be a good way to describe Ravel - except he's the only other "impressionist" composer of any kind that people care about nearly as much as they do about Debussy, so giving him a prefix would feel weird.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hildadam Bingor View Post
    "Post-impressionist" means something in the visual arts - impressionist influenced, but also with explicit neoclassical rigor. Which actually might be a good way to describe Ravel - except he's the only other "impressionist" composer of any kind that people care about nearly as much as they do about Debussy, so giving him a prefix would feel weird.
    I would feel weird with a prefix too. Or a suffix, for that matter.

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