Monday, June 9, 2014

piano vs. organ

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) will have noticed an alarming trend. The blog is called pianonoise, and yet it seems to increasingly concern itself with the organ, which is a different instrument entirely. All of the topics entertained here lately are for the older instrument, and a glance at the new recordings in the audio index show that nothing but organ recordings have been posted for the last month. What gives?

It is a little embarrassing, I'll give you that. For the second time in the site's history the piano side of the catalog was running neck and neck with the organ side and then the organ portion did the same thing it did last year and took off with the prize. I do have an explanation for all this, however.

Mainly it is that this summer at our church the organ is undergoing some major renovations, and will be completely out of service for the months of July and August. Therefore, if the organ and I are going to spend any quality time together it had better be now. As a result of which the piano is being almost completely ignored. But a month from now that situation will be reversed.

The other reason for the predominance of the organ is however, that I am also an organist. Not just a guy who plays the organ. I love the instrument. I've become pretty good at playing it. I want to play all the great literature for it, explore all the registrational possibilities, shake the roof with its magnificence, and I don't care who knows it. Even if that is pretty much a ticket to musical geekdom of the first order. Too bad.

And what is most interesting over the past couple of years when my interest in the musical behemoth really took off is that I can see, from the heights of my enthusiasm, why organists are so dismissive of the piano whenever they condescend to even think about it in print. I don't share their smugness or their opinion, but I can see why.

Because when you are engaged in one of the glories of the organ, during those times when that is all I am playing, I think: why could I possibly want to play the piano, anyway?

But, as it happens, I always come back to the piano, eventually, and when I do, I think: what did I ever see in that other instrument?

The two live only a few feet apart from one another in our church sanctuary, and yet their history, and the music written for them, is so different. So is the approach. So is the effect on the listener.

And yet, if I were stranded on a desert island with only a computer and an internet connection (of course--how else could I post my effusions for you?) I'd want both a piano and an organ. The second one would be damnably hard to take care of on a desert island, with the reeds going out of tune every five minutes, and the piano wouldn't be all that maintenance-free either, but all the same, I don't think I could exist without both of them.

The same cannot be said for adherents of the two instruments. In fact, in a room full of everybody except organists I end up being an organ apologist. But I think organists who don't care at all for the piano are really missing out.

I can wax eloquent about each instrument in future installments. In the meantime, here are two pieces of music, as if to say, how, when you listen to this one, can you not love the piano? And how, when you hear this one, can you possibly not love the organ?

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