Another day, another organ.

Haderslev Cathedral main organ. My apologies for the monochrome image. I was still finding my way around a new compact digital camera.

My search for the authentic organ sound to compare with my IB brought me to Haderslev Cathedral in southern Jutland for a performance of Messiaen's "L'Ascension". Vibeke Astner was playing the organ for a moving rendition of a work which I had never heard before. I tend to shy away from 20th century composers just as much as I avoid the works of 20th century artists. The audience must have numbered perhaps 40 by the time the last, lost, elderly soul wandered in towards the end of the half hour recital.

The music was certainly different. I read the supplied leaflet to discover that Messiaen was something of a genius. He invented his own scales and sought inspiration in the music of other continents. He was particularly interested in birdsong and would use his own notation to describe the sounds they made.

I thoroughly enjoyed the piece from start to finish. The playing was flawless and beautifully expressive. The full power of the organ had my solid oak pew vibrating against my back. Even my chest vibrated to the pedal organ at one point. Like the last, this organ has only 16' stops. I had rather fixed the idea in my mind that it took a giant organ with a 32 foot stop to produce the really heavy effects. However after reading a fascinating organ website I discovered the effects of playing pipes a fifth apart produced a new tone an octave below the lowest pipe. This may well explain the results of running organ tracks through SpectraPlus software where one can often see lots of 8Hz content. There are very few real 64 foot pipes or even folded 32 footers but there are always subharmonics. One odd effect I noted was a slow, half second beating effect on the deep tones occasionally. Whether the organist was producing this deliberately or it was a natural acoustic effect of combining tones I wasn't sure. It is certainly something I have heard on some of my English cathedral organ CDs.

From this same website I even found that clever organ designers had really invented the Tricolumn, a folded horn in a simple pipe form full range speaker. A design I had enlarged considerably to make a subwoofer to listen to organ LPs in the late 1960s. I was using a Mullard 510 valve amp back then which produced about as many useful watts as a birthday cake candle to drive my 10" Whitely, cambric-coned, loudspeaker unit. Cambric was a fine, light cotton material which pre-dated Kevlar and carbon fibre reinforcement material for paper loudspeaker cones by half a century or more.

But I digress. The more organs I hear the more I am delighted with the bass from my IB. Both have much the same sound quality, the power, the breath and the exquisite detail as each other. There is still a brightness and airiness missing from my speaker's attempts to reproduce the smaller pipes. The reverberation and "airiness" within the vast spaces of the buildings which house the organs is missing to some degree. I was never fond of bright speakers so must learn to live with this for the moment.

I was able to buy a Vibeke Astner CD of Messiaen's "Les Corps Glorieux" "Sept Visions brèves de laVie des Ressuscités" on the Helikon label after the recital . [HCD1056]

The sound quality on this CD is simply stunning. Absolutely state of the art. The 7th track: "Le Mystère de la saint Trinité" is the last of these mostly rather quiet, meditative pieces. Here the upper voices are underpinned by the most amazing, deep, quiet bass tones one is ever likely to enjoy. The clarity is extraordinary and makes the CD worth obtaining simply for this gorgeous, reference-quality track. The other tracks are all beautiful too in Messiaen's own rather individual style. Helikon is a small Danish record label.

Another organ CD I must mention is Felix Hell's "Organ Sensation". The sheer weight of bass on this stunning CD is tremendous! Certain tracks found the resonant frequencies of my walls and floor and even shook the kitchen ceiling downstairs. There is considerable infrasonic content to be found on this superb album with (probably) very few subwoofers other than an IB able to make really good use of it. Felix has an excellent website which is a must for the pipe organ enthusiast. His videos are a unique opportunity to watch an organist actually playing a large, fully-exposed console. Normally the organist is hidden away. Often high up on a screened balcony. Where one might only see the top of someone's head swaying along to the music.

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