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The Cambridge Companion to the Organ (Cambridge Companions to Music) Paperback – March 13, 1999
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"The Cambridge Companions to Music series offers a concise and useful overview of several musical instruments and a selection of composers. The volume is well laid out and thorough in its coverage, although intentionally limited because of the instrument's long and expansive history." Choice
"...this volume...is to be recommended to the accomplished organist or organ enthusiast. The essays provide much interesting and accurate information and should provoke much stimulating conversation." Peter V. Picerno, Notes
- Publisher : Cambridge University Press; 0 edition (March 13, 1999)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 356 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0521575842
- ISBN-13 : 978-0521575843
- Item Weight : 1.46 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.69 x 0.81 x 9.61 inches
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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One will have a tough go of it if s/he does not have a basic understanding of pipe organs, and a smattering of several languages: British English, French, Italian, German and Spanish as many terms and song titles are not translated. To do so would make this weighty volume even larger. Use Google or other translator and you are good to go. The text is a compendium of extensively researched essays/articles by well known experts in the field. As a retired physics teacher with a lifelong interest in the physics of music, I found the chapter on the physics of pipes particularly interesting and I learned some things I had not read elsewhere. Most articles are independent or only lightly cross referential so one could skip around and/or read only those chapters which are of interest. I have spent some time slowly plowing through chapter by chapter and penciling in notes to myself as I go and a couple chapters left to read. Solid gold for someone like me.
The treatment of Spanish and Portuguese 16th- and 17th-century organ writing is, at least to the non-specialist writing this review, largely incomprehensible (and where not incomprehensible, is dubious: can it really be true that the "royal trumpet" stops which characterized Iberian organs, and which so well suit 17th-century Iberian "battle music", are an 18th-century invention?). A more obviously encyclopedic approach, such as Julie Anne Sadie employed when she edited Cambridge's COMPANION TO BAROQUE MUSIC, would have been superior to what we have here.
Still, here is one church organist who feels very grateful to this tome's staff-notation passages for having introduced him to valuable pieces by Teutons (the mid-17th-century's J. K. Kerll), Americans (the late-19th-century Dudley Buck), and Englishmen (somebody named Henry Smart, who apparently died in 1879), hitherto mere vaguely-contemplated names, or else, in Smart's case, not even that. Better to treat this COMPANION as a goad to the performer who seeks fresh and agreeable sheet music, rather than as a reference resource.
Top reviews from other countries
Chapter 1: Origins and development of the organ (written by Nicholas Thistlethwaite)
Chapter 2: Organ construction (written by Stephen Bicknell)
Chapter 3: The physics of the organ (written by John Mainstone)
Chapter 4: Temperament and pitch (written by Christopher Kent)
Chapter 5: The organ case (written by Stephen Bicknell)
Chapter 6: Organ building today (written by Stephen Bicknell)
Chapter 7: The fundamentals of organ playing (written by Kimberly Marshall)
Chapter 8: A survey of historical performance practices (written by Kimberly Marshall)
Chapter 9: Organ music and the liturgy (written by Edward Higginbottom)
Chapter 10: Italian organ music to Frescobaldi (written by Christopher Stembridge)
Chapter 11: Iberian organ music before 1700 (written by James Dalton)
Chapter 12: The French classical organ school (written by Edward Higginbottom)
Chapter 13: English organ music to c1700 (written by Geoffrey Cox)
Chapter 14: Catholic Germany and Austria 1648-c1800 (written by Patrick Russill)
Chapter 15: The north German organ school (written by Geoffrey Webber)
Chapter 16: The organ music of J.S. Bach (written by David Yearsley)
Chapter 17: German organ music after 1800 (written by Graham Barber)
Chapter 18: French and Belgian organ music after 1800 (written by Gerard Brooks)
Chapter 19: British organ music after 1800 (written by Andrew McCrea)
Chapter 20: North American organ music after 1800 (written by Douglas Reed)
Chapters 1-6 (grouped as Part I) are about the instrument, chapters 7-9 (grouped as Part II) are about the player, and chapters 10-20 (grouped as Part III) are about selected repertoires.
I found The Cambridge Companion to the Organ to be a really interesting book to read as I have always been an enthusiast of organs, especially the pipe organs you see in churches, cathedrals, concert halls and perhaps even castles. Despite mostly listening to metal music (I sometimes also listen to classic rock and progressive rock from the 1970s and 1980s), I still have a love for pipe organs because of the beautiful sounds they make and I have a great appreciation for the history of the instrument and craftwork of organ building. When I was a kid I used to listen to the organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach (which chapter 16 of this book is about) and they left a lasting impression on me, whether it be the harsher pieces (Toccatas, for example) or the gentler pieces (Pastorales) of organ music. I was lucky enough to be given permission to play the pipe organ for music lessons in two churches in my home county, including the pipe organ in a protestant church in the town centre of where I live (I started off with piano lessons, and then progressed to lessons on the organ before I switched to guitar). Because of my enthusiasm for the pipe organ, I would even consider buying one of my own or have one custom-made for me if I had a big enough place to live in and, most importantly, if I could afford to do so.
Overall, The Cambridge Companion to the Organ is a great book to buy for organists (whether they be novices or professionals) and enthusiasts like myself. Very highly recommended.