Former organ student, Joey Fala, has been at home for Christmas break from college, and he and I were talking about Toccata in D minor by Max Reger (1873-1916) which he has been learning. I was telling him, it was “a heck of a lot easier to play when you have a crescendo pedal,” but of course, there is no such device on the Beckerath organ. I used such a device when I played the Toccata two years ago at the annual Midsummer Night’s Organ Concert at Central Union Church.
For you non-organists, a crescendo pedal is a pedal on an electropneumatic or digital organ which gradually brings on more and more stops the further it is depressed. The effect that is created is a crescendo, and the sound gets louder and fuller. (Of course, you have to push the keys down at the same time!) This is all done electronically — the stop knobs don’t actually come out. By the same token, when you gradually ease off on the crescendo pedal, the opposite effect happens — stops are retired, and the sound gets softer and thinner.
In Reger’s Toccata, there are many phrases which go from pianissimo to fortissimo within a few measures. So what I do on the Beckerath organ is set up six toestuds, starting with Number 1 at pianissimo, add a few more stops for Number 2, add more for Number 3 and so forth, until I have full organ set on Number 6. Then I use my right foot to press the toe studs in rapid succession, about every half or quarter note to create the crescendo effect. I use my right foot because my left foot is busy playing the pedal notes.
Joey shared this YouTube video with me, in which the organist has no crescendo pedal either but instead has human assistants (called registrants) to pull the stops out for him. LCHers should recognize the piece instantly as I program it on a regular basis. The performer is Jos van der Kooy on the organ at St. Bavo’s Church, Haarlem, Netherlands. Enjoy!
P.S. Don’t forget Rodney Gehrke’s recital this Sunday, January 15th at 4 pm. In a couple of his pieces, he’ll have to make do without a crescendo pedal as well!