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... and the top ten smallest organs in the world


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#1 elemimele

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Posted 03 November 2018 - 23:45

Since we have a Big organ thread, I thought it fun to add a Small organ thread (because small organs are also fun, and some of them have been as influential, and are as important historically, as their grander counterparts). I'm slightly undermined because one of my candidates is already in Fsharpminor's excellent link to mixtuur.com, namely the organ at Sion, Switzerland. It's often claimed as the oldest playable organ in the world, but Rysum in Germany is sometimes claimed as earlier.

Here's Rysum: 

And here is Sion: 

No list of interesting small organs would be complete without Frederiksborg castle in Denmark:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNX0gOTLWDo

This is an odd one though, as it's actually a 2-manual instrument with pedals and a surprising amount of tone colours for its not-enormous case; as such, different performers bring out wildly different flavours from it. The one I've posted conjures images of Drake off to capture the Spanish galleon, but there are plenty of recordings on YouTube where it sounds far more modern!

As a bit of a weird one, here is a randomly selected old Italian positive organ, genuinely very small. And yet it doesn't sound small

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVHbBHwMbgA

It has character and more presence than many of its bigger cousins. I think it makes an interesting comparison with the convenient but generic, muffled, nondescript gedackt-in-a-box organs that one meets so often.

There are lots of interesting small organs around. Anyone else got any claimants?


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#2 fsharpminor

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 09:52

Very interesting. I love that Italian Positive organ


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#3 elemimele

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 12:21

just came across this, Sietze de Vries on an old organ at Saint Savin.

It's completely stunning; not only is the organ extraordinarily beautiful, but also to me fascinating because of the quality of the playing; I am normally not a great appreciator of improvisation (because very few people can do it well). This improvisation is first-rate, with rhythm, structure, a sense of destination, and an ability not to lose the tune.

I think the organ still qualifies as small, since it has just one keyboard (which looks like a school CDT project).


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#4 Vox Humana

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 17:59

just came across this, Sietze de Vries on an old organ at Saint Savin.

It's completely stunning; not only is the organ extraordinarily beautiful, but also to me fascinating because of the quality of the playing; I am normally not a great appreciator of improvisation (because very few people can do it well). This improvisation is first-rate, with rhythm, structure, a sense of destination, and an ability not to lose the tune.

I think the organ still qualifies as small, since it has just one keyboard (which looks like a school CDT project).

 

Totally agree with all of that. What a beautiful sound this organ has.  I found a page about it here - and there's a second improvisation under the "M├ędias" tab. The instrument sounds close to a minor third below than today's pitch.


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#5 maggiemay

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Posted 04 November 2018 - 23:20

Really delightful! Thanks for posting this.
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#6 elemimele

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Posted 06 November 2018 - 12:52

Thanks Vox Humana for the link. I hadn't concentrated properly, and assumed the rudimentary pedals were pull-downs. I hadn't realised they actually operate animated gargoyles that make strange clopping noises! The second improvisation was as fascinating as the first; I've never seen bamboo pipes before (resonators on the regal stop??). I'm also completely amazed at what this organ sounds like, given its limited resources. The keyboard isn't even a full 4 octaves (38 notes with some missing sharps). On paper, I'd have written it off as too small to be musically viable, and yet when I listen to what Sietze de Vries is doing, it is outstanding, everything I would have hoped for from an organ, and more.


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#7 mel2

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Posted 18 November 2018 - 20:14

Played a 4-stop single manual today, about the size of a large wardrobe.
Open diapason 8', Lieblich Gedackt 8', Dulciana 8' and Principal 4'. Built in 1886.

No doubt countless similar examples throughout the country but nevertheless, fun and afterwards felt very lucky when I left the building on a glorious day surrounded by little but fields, rolling Wolds and sheep.
For some reason, over coffee a few minutes earlier, I had likened the management of such an instrument to that of a temperamental lavatory cistern with a unique flush mechanism that needs familiarity and persuasion before it will yield.
Can't think where that came from but it struck a chord with my companion.
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#8 Vox Humana

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Posted 18 November 2018 - 22:52

Very many years ago I played the organ shown on this page a couple of times, on one occasion in a concert I did with some singing friends in the museum. Apparently the organ once had a wooden label inside inscribed "E. Hoffheimer: Fec. Vien. 1592", but no such organ builder has ever been identified in Vienna and other factors point to a Flemish origin and, possibly, a date of 1602.  It is certainly a very beautiful piece of furniture to behold and the carving of the pipes is equally wonderful. I only wish I could say the same about the sound. The instrument has just three stops: there are flutes at 4' and 2' flute, both of which sound fairly piercing and not of memorable tone quality.. The third stop is an 8' regal which runs only from the B below middle C upwards (and which may be a later addition). Quite what the point of this half-compass regal stop was I have never been able to work out since the lack of the bass pipes automatically inverts any harmony descending below its compass. I can only assume that it was confined to improvisations of a very restricted compass or to playing single "voice" parts in consort with other instruments. 


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