“The Britannic Organ” Volume 8

Some additional information to the Reger recordings

1) Reger’s frequent use of the Vox Coelestis stop (often entirely on its own) can give an impression of tuning problems with the organ. Even when playing on two manuals the accompaniment represents a slightly different pitch and “beats” result. However, this is exactly as he played it. From the evidence of other roll recordings it was a common registration practice of the era.

2) Thanks to the excellence of modern recording technology the wide dynamic contrasts available from the Seewen-Britannic organ can be exactly reproduced. This will be a problem if a “comfortable” listening volume is set, for example at the outset of CD 1, since that is very quiet. Any option on our part to “ride” the levels on this recording was strictly avoided since -

a) it would give a false impression of the organ itself and its capability for a great range of dynamic effects (one of its strengths);

b) it could “bloat” softer registrations and make e.g. a lone Flute 8' confusingly appear to have more foundational acoustic power than full organ;

c) Reger himself is noted for introducing extreme dynamic levels into his music. Whereas previously a pp or ppp might have been the softest, ff or fff the loudest, his music carried a range of markings from pppp to“Org. Pl” (greater than fff). His own registration practice in Freiburg in 1913 reflected this, so we were duty-bound to reproduce it precisely.

The best advice is to leave your volume control as you normally have it set for the loudest music you play. It might then help to reduce ambient noise by shutting windows or turning off household items that produce sound: if your room is quiet, then you will clearly hear the dynamics that Reger intended.

3) Melodia (CD1 Track 3) The Seewen recording differs from that issued in earlier transcriptions, especially the missing bar at the end. That is because a copy roll now in Seewen’s possession was used for the other recordings which differs from the Master. This kind of enigma is typical of many that arise from Welte’s operations in early 20th century. There is only one Master of this roll currently known to be in existence (Welte Number 1296). It is held by the Max Reger Institut in Karlsruhe-Durlach and was used for this recording. The copy belonging to Seewen now plays poorly (one manual is a semitone transposed, many notes break up). It seems to have been made from another Master which is no longer in existence. That could have been a re-recording by Reger himself but, based on the evidence we have, seems more likely to be an edited version of the Max Reger Institut Master, later corrected by Welte technicians - a normal procedure with them. We have sorted out the transpositions and other evident playing faults of the Seewen copy and here present a recording of it for anybody interested. The version on The Britannic Organ recordings, for better or for worse, probably more accurately represents what Reger played at his recording session in 1913. Based on the examinations we do of these rolls he was not very secure in the performance of this piece - but whether he recorded it twice or Welte made a second Master, the main difference lies in the ending. With special thanks to Marcel Punt for his valued collaboration in this matter.

4) Misprint (German text only) - “Liebermann” not “iebermann” - top of page 54 in the booklet.