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the new grove organ


Barbara Owen and Peter Williams
Macmillan, 1988
ISBN 0 333 44446 9
437 pages, paperback

This book is probably the most affordable introduction to the pipe organ currently available. Particular strengths are the clear and concise diagrams illustrating the introductions to the technical side of the organ. Other chapters deal with the different types of pipework, the organ's historical development, and interesting chapters on reed organs and other variants outside the usual scope of such books.

One failing of this book is its rather biased view of twentieth century tonal developments. The authors' comparison of romantic and organ revival instruments seems to overly favour the latter, and their predicted future of a divergence between compromise instruments in churches and "more advanced" secular instruments with multiple temperaments based on classical ideals has thankfully not occured - concert halls are now being filled with versatile instruments instead of museum pieces, and churches are having instruments built for them that are both stylistically coherent and artistically satisfying. The assertion that the entirity of nineteenth century development has been "poorly documented" can no longer be said to be the case, and adds to parts of this book feeling prematurely dated.

The appendices make up over a third of the book, and consist of a stop dictionary, notes on registration, a glossary, and a directory of organ-builders. Despite its flaws, this book is a useful and compact introduction to the organ with a particular strength in early organ history.


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