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Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Existing and forthcoming Hauptwerk instruments, recommendations, ...

Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby Alte_neume » Wed Jun 13, 2018 10:30 pm

Hello all,
I am trying to decide on a sample set, preferably a historic instrument, which will authentically render early Northern German/Dutch music (from late renaissance, Sweelinck, to Buxtehude).

Top of my list is Arp Schnitger with OAM's Steinkirchen vs. Stade. I haven't seen any posts directly comparing the two (and as demo sets are not available for download, I'd like to know more from folks who have spent time using these sets). My cursory review of the stoplists, dispositions, reverb: Stade is bigger. Both semi-dry, with roughly equivalent reverb. Character, speech similar. Both reviewed as good sets.

Next is the newly released SP Altenbruch organ. I downloaded the demo set and the quality of sound is amazing. There were many things I liked about this, particularly the clarity/fidelity of the sounds. However, it is even more dry than Stade/Steinkirchen. Also I found that the tapering (favoring higher over lower registers) was a bit much for me. Lastly, the mixtures seemed very unbalanced (though perhaps authentic, to actually USE them I'd probably end up adjusting the volume through HW). I wonder if the two OAM Schnitgers are like this as well?

To all who respond, in advance, thank you!!
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby adrianw » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:38 am

OAM's somewhat uncompromising stance towards customers (no demo sets, no CODM, no recordings, pulling posts from CCH and so on) means I have never considered any of their offerings, so I cannot help with a firsthand comparison. No doubt you have listened on CCH to hear what others have been able to make of them.

But Altenbruch seems to me to be an easy winner. A new recording, in crystal-clear 6 channel variable acoustics, of an organ among those chosen by both Koopman and (pre restoration) Rene Saorgin for their Buxtehude cycle recordings against a 10-year old HW3 stereo set?

The Altenbruch set does make much heavier demands - 39.9GB to run 6-channels in the recommended 20-bit compressed configuration, so I suppose the comparatively tiny demands of the OAM sets (the minimum recommended HW configuration for the Stade is just 4GB) might be a consideration.

And the SP set looks much better value: Stade is E458+VAT while Altenbruch is just E300+VAT (and only E200 for the semidry stereo set).

None of this will matter if you really don't like the sound of the Klapmeyer. There are several historical sets from SP that I personally find easier on the ear, notably the excellent and under-rated Krzeszow, but they would be less authentic to this repertoire.
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby adri » Thu Jun 14, 2018 8:10 am

I had the Stade for a little while, but returned it. I simply found it too dry. Very well recorded by OAM, but just too dry (did I say that too-dry part already?) :-)

I don't have the Steinkirchen, but recordings on CBB sound more spacious (certainly way better than very dry Stade).

I do have Altenbruch and the acoustical setting is variable. While it is not a really wet set, it has enough room presence to make this set enjoyable. It's a good set, even though the organ's specs are a little unusual. But that's also a good thing.

Some historic perspective: many 2-manuals organs with pedals in North-Germany are often in rather semi-dry churches. Only in the large churches can you encounter more reverb.

I also have Kampen and Zutphen on which Buxtehude could be played as well, but then you find out that THAT much reverb is really not always good for the music of Buxtehude and other N-German composers of that period. And you have to slow down a bit.

Altenbruch will do just fine.
Steinkirchen probably too.
Stade probably not to your taste.

Hopefully a future set with a larger N-German type organ with decent reverb will come out? Let's hope so.

I'm not sure that whether a set is just stereo or 4- or 6-channels is important to you. To me not as much, as an organ's authenticity for the music you like to play is tantamount to my decision making.

Good luck1
Dr. Adrian de Groot, organologist and organ enthusiast for life (and beyond!) :-)
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby mnailor » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:26 am

I have all three. With Altenbruch, I only load the diffuse and rear channels so I can make the rear a little louder, and it's not as dry as Stade that way. The two both sound really good for Buxtehude, and are complete enough dispositions.

Steinkirchen has a little more reverb, is well recorded too, but I find the disposition too small for me to get enough variety.

I assume you don't want big acoustics like Zutphen or Haarlem, or you would have mentioned them.
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby Andrew Grahame » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:59 pm

adrianw wrote:OAM's somewhat uncompromising stance towards customers (no demo sets, no CODM, no recordings, pulling posts from CCH and so on) means I have never considered any of their offerings, so I cannot help with a firsthand comparison.


It's unfortunate that you've limited yourself with these two-dimensional perceptions. OAM sample sets are among the very best IMHO.

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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby telemanr » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:34 pm

As I understand it, OAM got to record these organs only because he agreed to the strictures insisted on by those in control of access to these organs.
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby Alte_neume » Thu Jun 14, 2018 10:22 pm

Thanks for your comments so far. I likely should have clarified in my original post, my intent is to use the sample set as a "study" set to improve my understanding, performance, and registration of Buxtehude's works and others in the early Northern German/Dutch school.

I am thinking perhaps I should spend a little more time with the Klapmeyer demo. My initial concern regarding the Zutphen and Kampen instruments is how well they represent their original disposition. The former restored to its state in 1815 and the latter with much of one manual dating 1866. How much derives from the earlier period builders?

Mnailor's point on Haarlem is a good one. Though I wonder if it is a better representation of a more "ripened" Baroque instrument. Obviously it plays Bach and even more modern quite well (esp. with its most recent restoration from what I've read), but how authentic is its Stylus Phantasticus?
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby adri » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:47 am

I have Zutphen, but this is not a North-German style organ and is quite wet, although adjustable. You need plenty of RAM for this one!

Haarlem: restored in 1960s by Marcussen; something highly criticized since then as being way too neo-baroque. I agree. I had a chance to buy it a great discount, but declined.

Kampen: not totally a North-German style organ either, and very wet. Not good for practice. I have it, like it, but use it msoly for improvisaitons and chorla preldues; for the larger preludes and fugues it is a bit muddy.

Stylus fantasticus is not only dependent on the organ, but also on your style of playing of course! You need to fully understand the spirit behind this style, and how to use the stops.

Ton Koopman is my opinion is not a good guide. Although I am not always too keen on Harald Vogel's dry style of playing, his knowledge of North German organ music is way more advanced than the flashy Koopman.

Also good organists to learn more about the North German style:

Stef Tuinstra
Pieter Dirksen
Martin Rost
Vincent van Laar
Peter Westerbrink
Joseph Kelemen
Erwin Wiersinga
Leo van Doeselaar
Tymen Jan Bronda
Jelte Hulzebos
Leonore Lub
Sietze de Vries
Gwendolyn Toth
Wolfgang Zerer
Siegbert Rampe

Dit zijn de namen die ik ken.
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby Alte_neume » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:01 am

Adri, your points are well taken. I own both sets of Complete Buxtehude by Koopman as well as Vogel. To be honest, I enjoy them both. I find it fascinating how different some of their interpretations can be. And of course, I find the selected instruments very useful. In particular, once I select "the" sample set I am keen to try some of his written registrations provided in the Vogel program notes.

Also a set no one has mentioned is the 1686/1720 Bosch/F.C. Schnitger Vollenhove sample set. It too has some added 19th c. stops, particularly in pedal division with a mid-20th century restoration. Anyone used this set?
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby adri » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:16 pm

Yes, I also have Vollenhove.
The Hoofdwerk is mainly 17th century in style and substance,
The Rugwerk is really more late 18th century sounding and doesn't match ideally with the older HW
The labial stops of the pedal are fine; the reeds more 19th century, but work basically OK.

This instrument was not correctly restored by Van Vulpen, as I find all the mixtures way too sharp/harsh.

Your mileage may vary. 17th cent. music for single keyboard sounds nice on the HW; very mild principals.
The Flutes on the HW are fantastic.

But to my ears, the combo of 17th, 18th, and 19th century materials has not been brought together into a happy marriage by Van Vulpen and the mixtures are so razor sharp.

Very well sampled, b.t.w.; OAM was way ahead of the curve back then.

Do you live near someone who has these organs for you to try? I'm afraid I'm probably too far away. :-)
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby mnailor » Fri Jun 15, 2018 6:33 pm

As much as Haarlem might be considered an inauthentically restored mutt compared to some of the other samplesets mentioned above, it is also a magnificent instrument and acoustic that comes through in a well done surround sampleset. Even with the thick reverb, there's a lot of clarity. Expensive but worth it to me.
(Not that this was a N German organbuilder, so off-topic.)
Last edited by mnailor on Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby montyjnc » Sat Jun 16, 2018 2:45 pm

For those who own the Zutphen, if you adjust the mixer to only direct, no diffuse is the sample usable for practice at all? Or do you just swim in the acoustic?
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby adri » Sun Jun 17, 2018 1:20 am

montyjnc wrote:For those who own the Zutphen, if you adjust the mixer to only direct, no diffuse is the sample usable for practice at all? Or do you just swim in the acoustic?


If you set the Front to "direct" and the rear to "silent", there is only a little bit of reverb left, and the organ doesn't quite sound itself anymore, but might be ok for practicing, if you don't mind practicing with this kind of odd sound. It sounds indeed more direct and dry-ish.
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby hsmith98 » Sun Jun 17, 2018 4:31 pm

I have heard all three organs in person with Michael Barone;; I cannot speak to the Hauptwerk comparison, but either Stade or Altenbruch are much fuller organs;; I lean to Stade if the software is good. There is not much reverb in any of these organs in their churches. ( More with Stade) HLS
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Re: Buxtehude Sample Set Decisions

Postby adri » Mon Jun 18, 2018 8:23 am

hsmith98 wrote:I have heard all three organs in person with Michael Barone;; I cannot speak to the Hauptwerk comparison, but either Stade or Altenbruch are much fuller organs;; I lean to Stade if the software is good. There is not much reverb in any of these organs in their churches. ( More with Stade) HLS


Let me add one more comment concerning the Stade: even though I returned it, perhaps I will get it again later. Why? Since I got high end monitor speakers and a high end external sound card, the sound quality compared to the past is enormous, and I am sure that Stade would sound much better now than it did with my old setup.

Thus: a good sound card and a good speaker system or headphones are essentuial, I believe.

My soundcard: Fireface UCX
Monitor/speakers: Focal Trio6 Be
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