“Ex Tempore” DVD from Fugue State Films

Organ Improvisation in England

with Ronny Krippner

Ex Tempore: The Art of Organ Improvisation in England with organist Ronny Krippner, All Region DVD – 97 minutes, CD – 53 minutes, containing improvisations from the DVD and several additional improvisations. English soundtrack with optional German subtitles. 16 page color booklet. 2011 Fugue State Films, fuguestatefilms.co.uk. Also available through OHS Catalogue.

Fugue State has produced a fascinating package on several counts. This is the first that I have seen anyone discuss improvisation as it relates to English styles of organ composition, covering Tallis, Byrd, Purcell, Handel, Victorian era, Howells, Mathias, and Leighton. Ronny Krippner, who studied improvisation in Germany and England, is able to talk about and improvise in all of these English styles. (I have never encountered any one person who could do this!) His approach is to give facts and conclusions interspersed with commentary from such respected improvisers as David Briggs. The result is a relaxing and engaging series of programs for each style presented and not a teaching lecture where the organist/viewer might feel compelled to pay close attention and take notes. The camera work is such that the viewer can learn from watching the hands and feet to gain a sense of what is involved should they desire to create improvisations of their own. This is one of several reasons that the DVD well bears watching more than once.

Krippner has a good rapport in being able to communicate verbally the basic stylistic character of each and then improvise interesting short pieces in each style. The six organs that are played are original (or in one case, a reconstruction) to the period. The c 1693 Adlington Hall organ, 1907 Walker at Bristol Cathedral, and 1967 Walker at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral were particularly interesting.

Watch a bit of the program on the Walker at Liverpool:

Several camera shots are used in each segment when possible, providing views appropriate to the music being improvised. Editing flows well and never intrudes. The excellent stereo sound quality gives a good aural picture of the spaces where the organs are. Both PAL and NTSC are provided on a two-sided disc.

I was not familiar with Fugue State Films before this, but this excellent production makes me want to see more of their products. I heartily endorse this interesting and entertaining journey through the English styles of improvisation.

D. John Apple

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