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Which instrument is harder?

  • Organ

    Votes: 19 76.0%
  • Piano

    Votes: 6 24.0%
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I was going to mention that. A lot of people who may have experimented with a Rodgers or Allen, or may have played some on an elector pneumatic action pipe organ might think that all organs have light action. They obviously have not played a tracker/mechanical-action organ. Even uncoupled manuals you still have a little bit of resistance, like pushing a lever with a spring. When an organist couples manuals, it becomes even heavier. Granted modern trackers have Barker levers (amazing invention of Aristide Cavaille-Coll, but even with that, the St Suplice organ when all 5 manuals are coupled, is said to be rather heavy. Daniel Roth must have some strong fingers. I love Cavaille-Coll organs, but as an organist myself, I prefer electro-pneumatic action.

Someone else mentioned difficult music, virtuosity, etc,. Again, there is a lot of organ repertoire that requires extreme virtuousity to play. Most anything by Marcel Dupre, Vierne, Reger, the Durufle Tocatta, Demessieux Six Etudes, a lot of Cesar Francks literature is difficult. J.S. Bach's Trio Sonatas require virtuosity in spades to play well and cleanly. There is just as much virtuosity in organ literature as in piano literature. Each instrument has its own particular demands on the skills and talents of the musician on the bench of that particular instrument. Also, almost all concert and professional church organists can play the piano at an advanced level. Can many concert pianists play the organ at an advanced level? I do know some that do, but not as many as the other way around.
 

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The organ. A virtuoso organist can probably transition more easily to other keyboard instruments than a pianist or harpsichordist can. Walcha, Karl Richter and Rübsam, for example.
 

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The organ. A virtuoso organist can probably transition more easily to other keyboard instruments than a pianist or harpsichordist can. Walcha, Karl Richter and Rübsam, for example.
Walcha and Richter were very skilled harpsichordists. In fact, most concert caliber organists tended to have studied harpsichord is their secondary instrument and visa versa. That said, I know All three of these organists were skilled at the piano. Richter was a conductor as well. Every organist that I know started on the piano. To enter conservatories and schools of music at Universities, all keyboard majors invariably need to audition on piano, usually at least one or two pieces of literature from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th century eras. Same as harpsichordists as well. That is because having a foundation in piano and piano technique is so important. It also shows just how important the piano is in the music world. Many schools and conservatories require some piano proficiency to study any area of music, including orchestral instruments and voice. I guess one could say, "The organ is the King of Instruments, while the piano is the Prime Minister." Yeah, I know, sounds corny, but maybe I just penned a new quote. I love all three of the major keyboard instruments. I am an organist; I have been an organist/choirmaster at various churches.
 

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Walcha and Richter were very skilled harpsichordists. In fact, most concert caliber organists tended to have studied harpsichord is their secondary instrument and visa versa. That said, I know All three of these organists were skilled at the piano. Richter was a conductor as well. Every organist that I know started on the piano. To enter conservatories and schools of music at Universities, all keyboard majors invariably need to audition on piano, usually at least one or two pieces of literature from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th century eras. Same as harpsichordists as well. That is because having a foundation in piano and piano technique is so important. It also shows just how important the piano is in the music world. Many schools and conservatories require some piano proficiency to study any area of music, including orchestral instruments and voice. I guess one could say, "The organ is the King of Instruments, while the piano is the Prime Minister." Yeah, I know, sounds corny, but maybe I just penned a new quote. I love all three of the major keyboard instruments. I am an organist; I have been an organist/choirmaster at various churches.
True, but the thing is I don't know that if you set Martha Argerich, Murray Perahia or András Schiff at the console of a pipe organ that they would know how to proceed.
 

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Organ is the "king of instruments"-certainly there is a lot of nuance, but definitely not as much as the piano. For example, playing a really really good pianissimo is one of the most difficult things to do on the piano but I've never heard any organist truly play what you would call pianissimo. And there just isn't as much room for articulation or phrasing. Of course you can play detached, and you can play connected, but there seems to be so much reverb out of the organist's control that I can't imagine that he has nearly the amount of options that a pianist has. In many ways the organ is the opposite of the harpsichord-where the harpsichord has no choice but to project a delicate, detached, quality, the organ has no choice but to project a regal, majestic, sound. The piano has more freedom with both spectrums while never fully committing to either one.

This is why one can take works written for the harpsichord/organ and transcribe them for the piano and not lose too much of the original intent. But if one were to transcribe a Scarlatti sonata for the organ, or a Brahms intermezzo for the harpsichord, bad things might happen.

This isn't knocking the organ in any way but this is just what I can hear with my own ears, having never played the instrument myself.
Actually, you make some good points. However, an organ can be very soft depending on the stops and ranks chosen. If one were to use only soft string stops like a Celeste or Harp stop, it would be very, very soft. If one chooses a loud reed like a State Trumpet, French Horn, Tuba Maribus stop it would project a very powerful sound where conversation would be difficult.

Another thing that hasn't been brought up when it comes to the musical skills of organists, particularly concert caliber organists and cathedral organists. Improvisation. The Art of Improvisation has largely been subdued and pushed out in most conservatories and university schools of music with the exception of Organ performance. It is a very important skill in the toolbox of an organist as in church services, particularly churches that are very liturgical. In the great churches and cathedrals of Europe, the titular organists are required to and expected to improvise on a mass theme. These are intricate and dense improvisations, and very, very beautiful. Organists such as the titulaires of Notre Dame and St. Sulpice (Olivier Latry and Daniel Roth) will improvise and a theme associated with a mass, rendering a beautiful passage of music that can go on for 10+ minutes. I would say that takes an extreme amount of musicality, creativity, and certainly advanced virtuosity. One can listen to these talented organists on YouTube and enter into a YouTube search of organ improvisations.

There are concert pianists that still improvise, and a movement is being made now to return improvisation to the repertoire of the piano - and I believe this is a good idea. I know the Helene Grimaud is skilled at improvisation, but having to make her name amongst a nation that is well-known and famous for their talented titular organists, it is incumbent that French pianists have a solid footing in improvisation. It is taught in their conservatories. Hopefully, the US follows suit.
 

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True, but the thing is I don't know that if you set Martha Argerich, Murray Perahia or András Schiff at the console of a pipe organ that they would know how to proceed.
I do know that most conservatories and schools of music do require some study of organ and harpsichord for piano majors. I had a friend that has an MM in Piano Performance who was asked to be his church's organist and choirmaster. He played the pipe organ rather well. Of course, he had taken some study on organ performance, which did help. Concert pianists have to put so much time into performing on their primary instument, coupled with travel and other aspects of their lives, probably would find it difficult to put time into another complex instrument such as the organ. Glenn Gould played the organ, though I think because of his back injuries, he never developed a supple pedal technique and tended only to play Baroque literature
 
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