Articles

René Verwer The organ in the concert hall (1). Emergence and use of the organ as an orchestral instrument
Het ORGEL 113 (2017), nr. 2, 3-11 [summary]



Who knows the ‘Festliches Praeludium für grosses Orchester und Orgel’ by Richard Strauss, the ‘Concerto Romano per organo, ottoni, timpani ed archi’ by Alfredo Casella, the ‘Symphony for Organ and Orchestra’ of Aaron Copland, or the ‘Fantaisie symphonique pour orgue et orchestre’ by François-Joseph Fétis? These works and composers are seldom mentioned in organ circles. After a period of growing interest in the combination of organ and orchestra, the enthusiasm seems to be ebbing in recent decades. Financial directors of orchestras keep their distance for obvious reasons, and conductors often consider the organ an uninvited guest in their concert halls. ‘Keep the organ in the church and the orchestra in the concert hall’ is an often heard opinion, which Hector Berlioz already propagated.
Knowledge of compositions for organ and orchestra is, unfortunately, often limited to the works of Saint-Saëns and Poulenc. Unfamiliarity breeds contempt, one might say. If one investigates the rich literature for this combination, however, one will conclude that the organ does indeed deserve a place in the concert hall. This series of articles sketches the history of the organ in the concert hall and offers an overview of the music for this combination from the period 1850-1950. The first installment considers the emergence of the concert hall organ, discussing placement, architecture, and characteristics.