1 (Organ) + 2 (Flutes) = (How many Pipes?)

Val di Lima is not just a place for Romanesque architecture (and so much else besides): it’s got an inordinate amount of fine organs – church organs, I mean. Luckily, because of the absence of any kind of fundamentalist zeal which destroyed the majority of pre 18th century organs in the UK, there are still several specimens dating back to the fifteen hundreds with original mechanism, pipes and those keyboards where the normally white keys are black and the black keys are white.

Indeed, great organists come from all around the world to play on our organs. Some years back even the magisterial Ton Koopman found his way here and this year we are promised that amazing French virtuoso Maxime Patel.

In my post on Incantation (see https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/incantation/) I mentioned the organ builders Agati and Tronci and several of this season’s concerts will be played on these top-class instruments including an original Agati dating back to 1790.

I sometimes reckon there are more period organs in our little valley than in the whole of the UK! Unfortunately, too many of them require considerable restoration to bring them back from the brink of utter unplayability. Will those countries devastated by puritan anti-organ zeal listen and contribute to their restoration?

The instruments of the Val di Lima now have a chance to sound their full sonority in the Vespri d’Organo series of concerts given at various churches in the area. Here is the program for 2013:

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I’d never thought of the parish church at Ponte a Serraglio as being particularly noteworthy – it has been rather messed about, most recently in 1930.

But it has a good Turrini instrument, with some pipes dating back hundreds of years, and a very acceptable acoustic which gave a golden glow to the recital given by organist Roberto Bacchini and flautists Michele Gianquinto and Elisa Ghezzo.

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A flute and organ concert? I puzzled to think what pieces had been written for this unusual combination and was kept guessing until I saw the programme. Why, of course, trio sonatas!

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And what a wonderful blend. Two single pipes together with the pipe-panoply the organ brings – no tinkling harpsichord (which instrument Tommy Beecham unkindly described as having the sound of two cats copulating on a corrugated iron roof) for the continuo part.

The only solo organ piece was the Galuppi (he of Browning’s evocative poem – Browning who with EB stayed at Bagni di Lucca was also a trained musician). “Those lesser thirds so plaintive, sixths diminished, sigh on sigh” came through rather well. Bacchini is, indeed, a very fine organist.

It was a delightful way to spend a musical evening. Away from the raucous noise of the nearby Bar Roma’s “live music” we were treated to a magical lacework succession of larghi, allegri, adagi, andanti and vivaci from an array of some of the greatest baroque composers. Here is a part of the Quantz with a K rating of 33.

Difficult to point out any particular highlight. The Handel was unfamiliar to me and my estimation of Frederick the Great’s teacher, Quantz was upped considerably. The Rosier piece showed how the transition to the high baroque came about – I would be interested to know in which part of his life the piece was composed – Rosier (virtuoso violinist and vice-Kapellmeister to the court of Prince Maximilian of Bonn who also ruled over that part of the low countries where the composer was born) lived to the grand old age of eight-five – so unusual for his time.

The only reasonably modern piece by Ortolani was sweetly melodic and, as encore, yet another arrangement of Pachelbel’s canon concluded the bewitching evening, even making us forget how hot the church had become on this one of the hottest days we’ve had in this part of the world, with temperatures well on the way to forty degrees centigrade.  Music can sometimes be as effective as a nice iced long drink to cool one down which our dynamic new priest Don Rosi, himself no mean organist, offered us at the parrocchiale.

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