The Flentrop Organ at the National Concert Hall (台北國家音樂廳Flentrop管風琴)
A pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by pumping pressurized air through organ pipes selected via keyboards or pedalboard. Because each pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass. Most organs have multiple ranks of pipes of differing timbre, pitch, and volume that the player can employ singly or in combination through the use of controls called stops.
A pipe organ has one or more keyboards (called manuals) played by the hands, and a pedalboard played by the feet; each keyboard has its own group of stops. The keyboard(s), pedalboard, and stops are housed in the organ’s console. The organ’s continuous supply of wind allows it to sustain notes for as long as the corresponding keys are pressed, unlike the piano and harpsichord whose sound begins to dissipate immediately after it is played.
During the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the organ’s tonal colors were influenced by musical instruments of that time. Organ builders incorporated stops that imitated various instruments, such as the krummhorn and the viola da gamba. The Baroque period is often thought of as organ building’s “golden age,” as virtually every important refinement was brought to a culminating art.
During the Romantic period, the organ became more symphonic, capable of creating a gradual crescendo. New technologies and the work of organ builders such as Eberhard Friedrich Walcker, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, and Henry Willis made it possible to build larger organs with more stops, more variation in sound and timbre, and more divisions. Enclosed divisions became common, and registration aids were developed to make it easier for the organist to manage the great number of stops. The desire for louder, grander organs required that the stops be voiced on a higher wind pressure than before. As a result, a greater force was required to overcome the wind pressure and depress the keys. To solve this problem, Cavaillé-Coll configured the English “Barker lever” to assist in operating the key action.
浪漫派時期的管風琴變為更交響化了，音色像交響樂一樣的豐富，聲音能夠由弱漸強。 此時的管風琴製琴師沃克、卡發利耶-柯爾及威理斯有了新技術可以建造更大型的管風琴，音栓的多樣性及音色變化也更為豐富。 管風琴家也因為音栓設置的輔助發明而能夠運用更多的音栓組合。此時期的管風琴能發出更宏亮而莊嚴的聲音，因而更大的風壓變的不可或缺，想當然爾風壓加大，演奏者則須用更大的力量彈奏。 為了解決這個問題，管風琴製琴師卡發利耶-柯爾用了英式的巴克槓桿原理使鍵盤變為更好彈奏。
Organ builders began to lean towards specifications with fewer mixtures and high-pitched stops. They preferred to use more 8’ and 16’ stops in their specifications and wider pipe scales. These practices created a warmer, richer sound than was common in the 18th century. Organs began to be built in concert halls, and composers such as Camille Saint-Saëns and Gustav Mahler used the organ in their orchestral works.
The development of pneumatic and electro-pneumatic key actions in the late 19th century made it possible to locate the console independently of the pipes, greatly expanding the possibilities in organ design. Electric stop actions were also developed, which allowed sophisticated combination actions to be created.
The Flentrop organ at the National Concert Hall was installed in 1987 and considered the largest organ in Asia at its time of installation. It has a total of 4,172 pipes ranging from 5 meters long to as short as 15 centimeters. The pipes are divided into 4 divisions: 3 manual divisions (FIGS. 1 and 2) and one pedal division (FIGS. 1 and 3). The tracker (mechanical) action of the Flentrop and the tonal colors of the pipes lend well itself to Baroque repertoire such as the organ music of J.S. Bach and also to his predecessors. It is rare that a concert hall chooses a more Baroque style pipe organ rather than a symphonic style organ.
One of the required repertoires for the competition, Prélude et fugue sur le nom d’Alain by Maurice Duruflé, is a classic example of a romantic work. The competitors will face some challenges performing a romantic work on the more Baroque style organ at the National Concert Hall.
Performing romantic works usually requires coupling two or more manuals for a more grand sound. Although the Prelude does not require coupling, the Fugue does. The resulting first challenge is the heavy coupling action on the Flentrop organ makes it difficult to achieve speed. The Flentrop organ has a mechanical action, which means there is a direct relay between the keys and the valves under each pipe. Because of that direct relay, the coupling of one or two manuals to another increases the pressure it takes to depress the keys and limits the speed any player can perform.
演奏浪漫派時期的作品通常需要聯軸 (將兩層以上鍵盤所配置的音栓結合) 產生更具感染力和莊嚴宏亮的聲音，雖然該作品的前奏不需要聯軸，但賦格需要。而參賽者所面臨的第一個挑戰則是聯軸後鍵盤變得非常重，此時彈奏快速的音群則變得困難。國家音樂廳的管風琴是全機械式沒有任何電子動力輔助，當彈奏時，機械式的牽引會將氣閥打開讓空氣進入音管而發出聲音；而聯軸時會牽引更多的氣閥使得彈奏者需更用力彈奏而限制了彈奏速度。
A gradual crescendo is also a hallmark of romantic works. To achieve a gradual crescendo on the Baroque style organ might not be as easy as on a romantic organ. During Romantic period, both in France and Germany, the organ changed to reflect the new tendencies of music, mainly the capability to play from very soft to very loud in a gradual manner. This was made possible by assisting the coupling of manuals together and voicing pipes so the sounds blend well together. Organ builders began to find ways to assist the action so it wouldn’t be so heavy. Later, with the availability of electricity, builders started to use different kinds of technologies such as the electro-pneumatic action, so the number of pipes being played has no effect on how much pressure is needed to depress the keys.
The music of the romantic period and later reflects these changes where it is common to see the composer ask the player to couple all the manuals with majority of the pipes being used. For example, the fugue from the Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d’Alain by Duruflé follows the typical norm of the French school of organ playing; all the foundations sounds are drawn on all manuals, the reeds and mixtures are added in succession to gradually increase the sounds. On the Flentrop organ, this will be very hard to execute well without any action assist to help the player depress the keys because the pressure will be quite high with all the stops being added.
Choosing registration on a Baroque style organ to mimic romantic repertoire is not easy. Another issue when performing repertoire that doesn’t ‘fit’ the organ, is that some organ sounds common on French romantic organs will not be available on a German Baroque organ. Even if the stop name is the same, the voicing of that sound will not be the same. So it is the duty of the player to adjust the registration, and find combination that will emulate what the composer had in mind.
A registrant will be standing next to the performer to assist with registration at the National Concert Hall. A modern organ usually comes with memories; a performer can program a particular combination of stops, which may be recalled through combination action stored in a piston during performance. However, the Flentrop organ at the National Concert Hall does not come with any memory. All the stops need to be drawn manually. To facilitate the performer with registration changes during performance, a registrant will collaborate with the performer and draw the stops during performance.
The Flentrop organ at the National Concert Hall is such a magnificent instrument with beautiful Baroque tonal colors housed in a gorgeous mahogany case. I encourage the audience to enjoy the once a life time experience of the first international organ performance competition in Taiwan and carefully observe how the masterpieces by the most influential composers from different periods are interpreted by the competitors.