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The Eastman Italian Baroque Organ
Fountain Court
Memorial Art Gallery, Rocehster, NY

The magnificent historic organ owned by the Eastman School of Music and placed in the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery is a baroque organ built in central Italy during the eighteenth century. The spectacular organ case contains parts of an earlier organ (wind-chest and pipes) that may have been built in the late seventeenth century. It was quite common that organs were preserved and enlarged in Italy, and this particular organ represents a mature concept in the development of Italian music history and organ culture. The known history of this organ begins in the late 1970s when it was purchased in an antique shop in Florence, Italy by the German organ builder Gerald Woehl. In 1979 Woehl discovered, purchased, and thereby rescued the instrument. Following Woehl’s purchase of the organ it was dismantled and placed in storage. In the fall of 2001 Woehl visited the Eastman School of Music and its organ department and saw the Fountain Court at the Memorial Art Gallery. A few months later a contract was signed between the two parties stating that the organ should be restored and documented by Gerald Woehl and Monika May in Marburg (Lahn), Germany. The installation of the organ at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester took place in July and August of 2005.

The General Concept

The Italian baroque organ represents the genesis and the essence of European baroque organ music and culture. The concept of the Italian organ at the Memorial Art Gallery comprises the general characteristics of the Italian organ building tradition, which, particularly in the middle and southern regions, remained without alterations from the beginning of the sixteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century: one manual, a small pedalboard with short octave (CEFGA–a), a single (either spring or slider) wind-chest, a limited number of stops primarily consisting of the divided ranks of the Ripieno (here only the two last ranks—XXVI and XXIX are placed on one toeboard and combined in one stop), and the soft vocal sound of the Principale (the only 8' flue stop). This was due to the fact that the liturgical practice in Italy changed very little during this period, and to the constant and consistent references to the vocal repertory and aesthetic, which was considered the ideal for all musical instruments. However, the general development of Italian music history is reflected in minor additions to the concept. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for example, a few stops for concerto-style and (primarily treble) solos, a pedal, and accessories (drums, bells, and birdsong) were often added. The most typical of these additions are to be found in the Italian organ at the Memorial Art Gallery. In fact, the restoration has shown that this instrument has a complex history and represents a mature concept and condition in the development of historic Italian organs.

A Reflection of Italian Organ History

The façade is divided into three pipe fields, which was a common style in central and southern Italy, partially due to the influence of the Flemish organ builder Willem Hermans (1601–1683), who was active in Italy in the second half of the seventeenth century. The side-panels of the case are decorated with 10-foot-high paintings of flowers in a vase, and its façade is adorned with an unusual motif depicting St. Andrew. The lavishly ornamented case, perhaps linking it to Italian court culture of its time, represents eighteenth-century high baroque style, and most likely was built separately from the organ. This was quite common in Italy, where the organ cases were built together with the interior architecture and furniture of the church (altar and pulpit), many times by the same artist and artisan. The interior of the organ—the instrument itself—was built by the organ builder sometime later, or, as it seems to be in our case, an already existing and older organ was adapted, somewhat enlarged, and installed in the already existing (or new) organ case. Two pipes, from the Principale (#45/c3) and the Voce Umana (#45/c3) respectively, have inscriptions with the date 1770. This is most likely the year when the interior organ was installed in the organ case. The wind-chest, together with most of the pipework, is older, possibly from the end of the seventeenth century or from the early eighteenth century, and it was enlarged, most likely around 1770, in order to include some new stops that were considered necessary in a larger organ at this time. Sometime later, most likely in the nineteenth century, the organ underwent changes again. The manual compass was extended with five notes (a supplemental wind-chest was added), the short octave of the pedal was most likely extended, and the pedal keyboard rebuilt. The late additions to the organ were of inferior craftsmanship. Accordingly, the aim of the recent restoration was to restore the organ to its 1770 condition.

The Concept of 1770

Around 1770 the organ was enlarged with the addition of three stops in the manual (a reed, a Flauto in ottava, and a Flauto in XVII) and a Contrabassi (16') in the pedal. The wind supply was most likely completely rebuilt, including two new multifold wedge bellows. The old wind-chest, constructed of several boards of walnut joined together and with the tone channels excavated out of this piece, was split lengthwise, and a similar piece of walnut was set in between the two original pieces. This facilitated the addition of the three new stops in the manual. The channels were excavated into this new piece in the same manner as the original, and sliders, blind sliders, and toeboards were made exactly in the same fashion as the old parts—an admirable piece of craftsmanship. An addition was made to the rear of the windchest for the Voce Umana, which was moved from the front of the chest in order to create space for a reed stop (unfortunately lost). Reed stops, mostly built in northern Italy, became increasingly popular also in the south at this time, reflecting the oboe and bassoon sounds of the orchestra. The Venetian organ builder Gaetano Callido (1727–1813), active in northern and central Italy, was very often requested to furnish Tromboncini stops for organs without reeds. In Callido’s organs they were placed in front of the façade, easily accessible for tuning. In our organ, and for the same reason, the reed stop was placed as close as possible to the façade behind the Principale. A Tromboncini-stop (modelledafter Gaetano Callido, Borca di Cadore, 1791) was reconstructed by Giovanni Pradella. The position of the eight original pipes of the Contrabassi could be reconstructed: four of them had been placed on each side (right and left) behind the outer pilaster of the façade, and fit along the inside of the side panels of the upper case at a 90-degree angle to the long side of the main chest. Most frequently, the Contrabassi pipes were placed along the back of the case, but there are some late-eighteenth-century organs with the pipes placed on the sides, for example the organ built by Andrea and Giuseppe Serassi in Brusio (1787) in Switzerland. The mechanical key and stop action for the Contrabassi was completely reconstructed according to this instrument.

The pipework, which is of northern Italian style (rather thick material and wide scalings), is very well preserved. The façade pipes (of high tin content and rather narrow scale, possibly southern style) were corroded, and as a consequence of the corrosion some of the pipes hardly produced proper sounds. A new method to open up the lower lip and clean the corroded undersurface of the languid without changing any of the voicing parameters was developed. Some foot tips have been renewed or repaired in the twentieth century; however, no alterations of the voicing were carried out. This instrument is, therefore, truly representative of the sonorities of the Italian baroque. The Fountain Court of the Memorial Art Gallery, the largest hall of the museum, is an ideal location for this historic instrument. The significance of this work of art required its installation in a controlled, acoustically favorable environment, accessible to the general public.

Within the realm of the Italian baroque tradition the organ at the Memorial Art Gallery, with its 14 stops, has to be considered a quite large instrument. It represents a midway point between the positive organs (with 5–10 stops) frequently built in the central and southern regions, and the largest organs based on the Principale 16' (with 15–20 stops).

The University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery has become home to a historic full-size Italian baroque organ, the first of its kind in North America. Rochester is now the only place in North America to hear authentic performances of Italian organ music written nearly three centuries ago for a large instrument. As a “living recording” of sounds made hundreds of years ago, it will serve as a research tool that will provide organists, other musicians, and scholars with a better understanding of how to interpret and shape a vast body of vocal and instrumental music created for this type of organ. It will allow the performance and study of a repertoire previously unavailable to the general public in North America. The organ is surrounded by a wonderful collection of Italian baroque paintings, including the most recent acquisition, the monumental altar painting by Luca Giordano (1634–1704), The Entombment (ca. 1650–1653). Thus, the new permanent exhibit in the Fountain Court provides a unique opportunity to experience simultaneously Italian baroque art and music. The Italian organ, which enhances the heritage of Rochester’s large Italian–American community, can be heard during weekly mini-concerts, sometimes at school tours, and in monthly concerts.

Manual (compass: CDEFGA–c3)
Principale bassi 8 (C wood, from D in façade)
Principale soprani 8
Ottava (4')
Decimaquinta (2'; treble reconstructed pipes)
Decimanona (1 1/3')
Vigesima Seconda (1')
Vigesima Sesta e Nona (1/2' and 1/3')
Flauto in ottava (4')
Flauto in duodecima (2 2/3')
Flauto in XVII (1 3/5', from f1)
Voce Umana (from d1)
Tromboncini bassi
Tromboncini soprani
Pedal: pull-down (compass: CEFGA–g#)
Contrabassi 16 (C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb, B, c;
new: c#, d#, f#, g#)
Tiratutti (Ripieno)
Tamburo (c#, d#, f#, g#)

Restoration: Organ-building & restoration workshop of Gerald Woehl, Marburg (Lahn), Germany
Restoration team: Gerald Woehl, Monika May, Simon Buser, Felix Kurt
Recontruction of Tromboncini: Organ-building workshop of Giovanni Pradella, Berbenno di Valtellina (SO) in Italy
Advisory committee: Edoardo Bellotti, Harald Vogel, Hans Davidsson

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The Eastman Italian Baroque Organ - William Porter - Hans Davidsson - David Higgs Promenade: Paintings of the Memorial Art Gallery - Edoardo Bellotti
The Eastman Italian Baroque organ/Porter, Davidsson, Higgs
Our Price: $18.98 - includes Free Shipping!
The only full-size Italian Baroque organ in North America, Eastman's newly installed and restored instrument reveals the exotic sounds of another culture and time. Played by three virtuosi of the school's faculty, the organ sounds as beautiful as it appears: a genuine work of art. Italian organ virtuoso Edoardo Bellotti creates this musical “promenade” based on a sampling of paintings at Rochester Memorial Art Gallery. Improvisations by Bellotti connect organ works by Frescobaldi, Pasquini, Vivaldi, and others, which are paired with seven paintings. Includes full-color images of the paintings and notes by Nancy Norwood, the museum’s Curator of European Art. Performed on the museum’s organ, the only full-size Italian Baroque organ in the Western hemisphere.