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Durham e-Theses
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The pipe organ in twentieth-century Great Britain, with specific focus on the development and effects of the neo-classical organ

Atherton, Matthew Stuart (2004) The pipe organ in twentieth-century Great Britain, with specific focus on the development and effects of the neo-classical organ. Masters thesis, Durham University.



From as early as the 1920s the romantic English organ became the target of much criticism, specifically amongst Europeans. Albert Schweitzer, for example, had questioned the organ's suitability for the performance of Bach's organ works, deploring its heaviness and crudity, and concluding that no organ in Britain, France, or Germany was suitable for Bach's organ works. Schweitzer's early writings, alongside the 1926 Freiberg Organ Conference resulted in the European organ reform movement, which in the successive years drifted across to Britain. The organ reform movement aimed at a return to historic practices in organ building. The technological advances made in the nineteenth century were rejected, and specific focus was placed upon mechanical key action and chorus structure. Initially, the British were highly defensive towards the nineteenth-century romantic organ. But in the 1950s, Ralph Downes became an important spokesperson for reform towards the British organ, and eventually his views became manifest in the design for the organ at The Royal Festival Hall, London. Many new and small neo-classical instruments were built to varying degrees of success as a result, following some, if not all, of the tenets of the organ reform movement. In Britain today, views are still mixed about the neo-classical organ. The rediscovery of mechanical key action has constituted an improvement in the general standard of organ playing. However, organists providing weekly music in our churches have found the neo-classical organ to be a brash, harsh, and unpleasant instrument, and are only favoured by a small number of organists. This thesis examines the context which informed these attitudes, by looking closely at an array of published sources, including journal articles from the 1950s, principle secondary sources in the field, and a questionnaire which has been sent out across Britain to institutions containing neo-classical instruments to ascertain their success (or otherwise).

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2004
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 10:03

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