May. 6, 2016

Diminutive Pedalboard

Performing in public or practicing upon a fine, early, historic pipe organ equipped with a diminutive pedalboard (photo) or perhaps no pedals altogether poses a special challenge.
One can tell a pedalboard is early and historic when the pedal keys are 1) parallel (non-radiating), 2) flat with the floor (non-concave), 3) short (compared with modern instruments), and 4) of limited compass (often less than 2 octaves) ... characteristics which generally make it impossible, for all practical purposes, to perform much of the baroque, classical, romantic, and modern contemporary repertoire upon them.
Many fine organs were built during the early 19th century with only one manual and no pedalboard at all, or, if they did have one, it might have been only one octave long chromatically, as from A1 to Ab2.
This is one of many situations where having learned some pieces written for pipe organ manuals only, or with limited pedal, can come in especially handy [See menu bar, Free Stuff, 2 Staff].
Pipe organs, especially older, historic instruments, compared with pianos, come in a huge variety.
From our view as organists, it's much more challenging to play on different instruments than it is for a pianist to switch from one piano to another.
Pianists, if we ask them, will definitely disagree with that, but it's nevertheless true that the difference between pipe organs is greater than the difference between pianos.
One look at this pedalboard (photo) is enough to drive home this point; just with the pedals alone, no pianist is faced with such a wide diversity of shapes and sizes ... whether they're flat or concave, straight or radiating, full compass or limited compass ... as the organist does.
Also, unlike the piano, new pipe organs designed as identical copies of precious, historic instruments have to be played differently, and sound differently, in a different acoustical environments.