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César Franck, Prélude, Fugue, Variation op. 18

Discussion in 'Works in Progress' started by Daniel Hoehr, Sep 29, 2013.

  1. Daniel Hoehr

    Daniel Hoehr New Member

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    Dear all

    This is a (preliminary) recording of César Franck's "Prélude, Fugue, Variation op. 18" in its original version for harmonium and piano. On the harmonium: Axel Wilberg.

    Axel and I are playing a few concerts this autumn featuring original late romantic music for harmonium and piano by César Franck and Sigfrid Karg-Elert.

    This is indeed work in progress but I think a bit more practice, a better recording (using a better piano) and this could be very nice. Any feedback more than welcome.

    Cheers

    Daniel
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Daniel. It's been awhile! Welcome back!!
    I listened to a couple minutes of this. It's a nice combination. I don't know the music, so I can't offer anything useful. Also, I don't know anything about a harmonium. Are they able to be tuned? Some notes on the harmonium used here sound fine, but others are quite off.
     
  3. Daniel Hoehr

    Daniel Hoehr New Member

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    Thank you, Monica :) It's really been a while.

    I think a harmonium can be tuned but they normally stay in tune for a very long time.

    The harmonium you hear in this recording is a very basic one from the 1930s. Some of the stops create a slightly-out-of-tune effect. The piano (a 1930s Bechstein and not in the best condition) is also slightly out of tune. Maybe that's why some notes sound off. (There are also some wrong ones.)

    The piece is best known in the version for organ solo.
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    This is very well performed. The piano sound is a bit muffled but were it any brighter you would drown the modest sound of the harmonium. Any distuning such as there is doesn't seem as problem to me.
    I can't help not liking this piece much though - with all due respect to master Franck. It seems to go on and on, with only the fugue (which predictably I like best) providing an all too brief contrast. The accordion-like sound of the harmonium (is it the Vox Humana register ?) does not help, it makes the endlessly spun out tune rather lachrimose to my ears. I'm not too sure this combination of instruments is a good one, and wonder why Franck originally scored this like he did, being a towering virtuoso on both organ and piano.
    But again, it is excellently played, and a very original idea to do concerts with this combination.
     
  5. Daniel Hoehr

    Daniel Hoehr New Member

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    Thank you, Chris. The combination of the harmonium and the piano was actually quite common in the second half of the 19th century because the harmonium was quite fashionable and people who could afford one (they were very expensive then) liked to have one in their salon next to their Erhards, Blüthners or Bechsteins. There is a wealth of music for this combination, mostly arrangements of opera music but also original compositions by e.g. Saint-Seans, Widor and, especially, the German late romatic composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert. As far as I know, Franck wrote his "Prélude, Fugue, Variation" for two of his students, who were sisters. The more advaced one was given the piano part, the other one the harmonium part. He later arranged it for organ solo and this arrangement is played very often.

    The piano in this recording is a Bechstein baby grand from the 1930s and it definitely needs some major maintenance work. The harmonium is a very basic one. It would sound more impressive on a harmonium d'arte.

    Thank you for your feedback.
     
  6. pianoman342

    pianoman342 Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Daniel,

    I had a listen to your duet recording. I think this is an achievement. I enjoyed hearing it throughout. I have to agree with Chris, this piece does seem to carry on and on, but I do enjoy Franck, he wrote some really lushly chromatic pieces. It was apparent to me the tuning was off, but it didn't take away to much from the performance. I for one would be interested to see how one can tune an organ. Do you saw off the pipes?! Anyway, nice work to you and your duet partner!
     
  7. Daniel Hoehr

    Daniel Hoehr New Member

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    Many thanks for your feedback.

    A harmonium doesn't have pipes like an organ, it uses reeds but I really don't know how it works exactly . The harmonium in our recording is fairly in tune, it is the old Bechstein salon grand (from the 1930s) which sounds off, I think.

    I agree with both of you that the piece seems like it drags on for ages. This is mainly due to the tempo, which is too slow for my taste. We need to play it more quickly and in 3/4 time rather than in 9/8. Thus it will get much more flow. It is quite repetitive, though.

    We are going to make a new recording of it and also of the duos by Karg-Elert with a decent grand piano and I will post them again if they come out well.

    Cheers

    Daniel
     

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