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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: Italian Organs

February 8, 2006

Dear Michael:
Why today is there not more organists like Walka, Richter and Biggs? Your Web site also contains very few Italian organs–Vegezzi-Bossi and others are neglected. (I have photos of Italian organs. Are you interested?)

Emanuele Belardinelli
Fabriano ITALY

Dear Emanuele,

I am concerned that you think today’s organists do not stand up to the likes of Walcha, Richter and Biggs. Yes, they were truly wonderful musicians, and powerful personalities in their time, but we have some to equal them today.

For instance, consider Wolfgang Ruebsam, a pupil of Walcha and Marie-Claire Alain, combining the best aspects of his teachers into a musicianship which is certaily their equal, perhaps even in some ways superior. Wolf teaches at the Hochschule in Saarebruecken and has recorded the complete Bach organ works twice…once on the Philips label when he was still in his twenties (on instruments by Marcussen and Metzler), and more recently for Naxos Records, utilizing a somewhat individual/iconoclastic interpretive approach and playing ‘period’ or ‘period-inspired’ instruments. His is some of the most thoughtful, and provocative, Bach you will ever hear.

Hans Fagius, a Swede who teaches in Denmark, has recorded the ‘complete Bach’ on Swedish Baroque organs for BIS Records…inspired and compelling.

John Butt, an Englishman who teaches in Scotland, may not have recorded the complete Bach, but his playing (of anything, historic or otherwise) is infused with an expressive vitality which was rare in the days of Walcha-Biggs-Richter.

There are many other admirable performers whose playing ‘moves the soul’, too many to list.

I visited Italy two years ago, and was impressed by the number of restorations we saw (and intrigued by the new-built organs from Italian craftsmen). The work of Luigi Tagliavini and Umberto Pineschi, and younger players such as Sergio Vartolo, Renaldo Allesandrini, Fabio Bonizzoni, Massimo Nosetti and Lieuwe Tamminga indicate to me that there is much interest in Italian organ music, old and new.

Yes, some American organ builders are at the forefront of artistic design, but I expect that some Italians are, particularly in the matter of sensitive restorations, doing important work, too.

Remember, the organ culture in Italy has always (historically) taken a back seat to instrumental and operatic concerns. I doubt that things will change all that much. Evenso, there are many delights to be enjoyed in the present Italian organ scene (at least from my perspective).

As for pictures, we post mostly photos relating to instruments in programs we have produced/aired. If you have better photos, by all means send them along.

jmb

 

 



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