Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments
Monday - Another sunny morning, which is good, as this day is all on foot, walking through historic old Salzburg, first to the Kajetanerkirche, a tiny chapel (taller than wide or long) that provides perfect acoustics for one of the best-preserved of Austria’s historic instruments. By Egedacher from 1696, it was restored to its original condition, and its eight stops are absolute perfection…characterful, sweet and gentle, bold and delicious, the sorts of sounds which in every possible combination work beautifully together. You could play all day on any single rank or any ensemble, and the funky, shallow yet responsive key action talks back to you and the pipe simply sing…a dream. Nothing else today will be quite so satisfying.
Around the corner and up the street to the funicular, the cable car up the steep rock to the Hohensalzburg Fortress overlooking the city. After a tour of the fortified castle, we get a demonstration of the Stier-Bull, a collection of pipes that originally simply served as a kind of alarm-clock playing a chord in F-major, but then expanded into a loud-voiced barrel organ that plays tunes composed for it by Leopold Mozart. On a good day (cool and moist and with a breeze) the Stier can be heard across the valley).
Most in our group lunched at a pub up on the rock, on the opposite side, overlooking the verdant valley below (and further mountains beyond…breathtaking scenery for someone who spends most of his time in Minnesota). At 1 p.m. the group gathered at the Salzburg Cathedral for an introduction to its five main organs, all contemporary recreations in various historic formats, inspired by the Italianate style which is the predominant architectural and decorative feature of the building. Heribert Metzger played two of the little organs which cling to pillars at the crossing below the lofty copula, reconstructed after WW2 bombing (one of which would have been the instrument upon which Mozart played), and then invited us into the west-end loft for a demonstration of the ‘big organ’.
Very different were the two modern organs (in historic, or historic-styled cases) in the nearby Franciscan Church, which building is in two parts, a romanesque nave and a very tall gothic chancel. The chancel organ, in German neo-baroque style, is unexceptional, but the nave/gallery organ (also by Metzler) is almost explosive in its volume…a deafening earfull heard in the loft, and really almost too much while sitting in the nave…but totally thrilling, with its convincing French-romantic voicing…in the chancel. Bernhard Gfrerer played Bach and his own arrangements of Mozart German Dances on the chancel organ, then his arrangements from Mozart’s ballet “Ascanio in Alba” and the first movement of Guilmant’s Fifth Sonata on the nave organ, and with the Guilmant blew us away, in the best sense.
After free time in the old part of the city a bit of a rest back at the hotel, were trooped back into town (partly by coach, partly under umbrellas, since the bus cannot get into the heart of the old city…it started to rain, and really came down for a bit) to the St. Peter’s Stiftskeller (established in 803) for a Mozart Dinner in the Baroque Hall…traditional food (cream soup, roast capon with polenta and vegetables, honey frozen parfet dessert) with the various courses preluded by excepts from Mozart operas. One of our crew nearly knocked his eye out on one of the sconces in the upper hall, and got a nice gash…the only emergency so far. The little one-on-a-part string orchestra, with harpsichord, and the two vocalists, provided good entertainment value, with the young Japanese soprano (Michiko Watanabe) definitely a young star in the making…remember the name. The rain had ceased by the end of the dinner-concert (10:30), so the walk to the coach was no problem.