Organ Music for January 16

by Dr. Dennis Keene

At the Prelude (10:45am)

The Continuation of the Plein Jeux

Right now the organ team is voicing the various Plein Jeux of the organ. A Plein Jeux is also known as Organo Pleno, or Plenum, or Principal Chorus in various languages. It refers to the group of principal stops of different pitches that all go together, right up to the highest pitches of the organ. In great instruments all these stops balance so completely that you don’t hear individual sounds, but one united timbre. This registration, or combination of stops, is the core, the backbone of an organ. It is the sound one associates with major Bach pieces, but also major pieces from all European countries. Last Sunday we heard just the beginning of all of our Plein Jeux. Now, the Plein Jeux of the Grand Orgue (bottom keyboard) and the Positif (second keyboard) are complete, and quite magnificent! These excerpts from Bach’s 8 Little Preludes and Fugues will show these Plein Jeux in different configurations.

From Eight Little Preludes and Fugues
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Prelude and Fugue in C Major

Here I use the basic Plein Jeux of the Grand Orgue and Positif. I start on the Grand Orgue, and at the repeat of the first section switch to the Positif, then back to the Grand Orgue. For the Fugue, I couple the two together for a full but singing Plein Jeux sound. For the two lighter interludes I jump up to the Positif for a lighter texture.

Prelude and Fugue in D Minor

To accentuate the dramatic aspect of this Prelude I pull on the full Plein Jeux of both the Grand Orgue and Positif, from the lowest 16’ Montre stop to the highest Cymbale stops, and I pull on lots of deep Pedal stops. The sound is quite imposing! Again, for lighter interludes I go up to the Positif. For the Fugue I remove the highest stops – the Cymbales – but leave everything else, and the sound is rich and majestic.

Prelude and Fugue in G Minor

For a change, I play this pretty Prelude on the 8’ & 4’ flutes of the Positif. The Fugue will then be heard on the basic 8’ Plein Jeux of the Grand Orgue.

Prelude in A Minor

This piece is dramatic, so I go back to the full Plein Jeux of both the Grand Orgue and Positif coupled together, with plenty of Pedal. Even with this big sound, all the fast figurations are perfectly clear!