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PICT19346ac Cathedral St Croix Grand Organ
A contract signed on May 3, 1523 between the members of the Chapter of Orleans and organ builder Alexandre des Oliviers gives evidence for the first time for the presence of an organ in St. Croix cathedral. Repaired in 1556 by Claude Delagrange, the instrument was destroyed, in 1568, then the cathedral was destroyed by the Huguenots during the Religion war; In 1657, burgundian organ builder Noël Grantin installed a new instrument; In 1707, the instrument was completed by Jean Brocard; In 1757, works are commissionned to Jean-Baptiste Isnard, Jean-Esprit's nephew, and newly arrived in Orleans; On May 8, 1806, architect Benoît Lebrun, a parishionner of St. Croix, gave to Mgr. Bernier, bishop of Orleans, the Fleury organ installed in St. Benoît-sur-Loire abbey that he purchased in 1796 during the sale of national assets; This instrument had been built in 1631 and transformed in 1705; Its 17th and 18th century organcase is in a very classic style with its 5 turrets in the main case, the highest being at the extremeties, and 3 others in the positif case; The instrument did not leave St. Benoît-sur-Loire until 1821, in spite of the population's opposition, and reached Orleans by boats on the Loire; Parisian organ builder Louis Callinet is responsible for its reassembly in 1822 in the south transept of the cathedral because the present gallery and the last bays of the nave were not yet built; Ten years after, in 1831, Callinet restored and completed the instrument, now located in its present location on the back of the West wall; The instrument has 45 stops, including the 12 reed stops, over 4 manuals and «à la française» pedalboard with extension to lower F; The instrument develops from a Classic structure to a more Romantic aesthetics; The original organcase is enlarged and deeply revised even though as a whole it retains an aesthetics typical to the 17th and 18th centuries; Actual sculptures on the turrets, the atlandes and the cherub head on the base of the central turret come from the original organcase; Works carried out by Callinet are still present in the pipeworks mainly in the windchests of the Positif, Grand-Organ and the Pedal; In 1861, the collapse of the vault puts the instrument out of service; To rebuilt it, the Chapter, in 1878, calls upon the most famous organ builder of the time, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899) who had completed, in 1846, the chancel organ of the cathedral, a real masterwork recently restored; In order to better the acoustics in the very long nave, Cavaillé-Coll wished to lower the gallery by a few meters but the Chapter refused; Today, we still can appreciate this instrument with its 54 stops over 4 manuals and pedal; Since its inauguration by organist Alexandre Guilmant in 1880, the instrument never received major transformations save for the installation of an electric blower in the 1920's; It withstood the 1944 bombings and numerous bad weathers; Its tonal aesthetics were not revised during the neo-Classic wave popular from the 1930's; In 1973, organist Marie-Claire Alain writes up an important report on the instrument in order to obtain a classification by the Historic Monumets Commission; She states that the instrument « high-class (...) is a perfect authentic example of the works of Cavaillé-Coll »; However, she adds that a major restoration is urgently needed; The classification was adopted in July 1974, and renovation works were commissionned to organbuilding firm Haerpfer in 1978; During the course of these works, the diapason (A=435Hz) is raised (A=440Hz) in order to organize "Trumpet and Organ" concerts then very popular; Unfortunately, this action harmed the brightness of the isntrument, now more reedy; In 1981, the Chapter commissionned organ builder Haerpfer to restore the instrument and when completed, the cathedral enjoyed again the nice instrument that still arouses admiration from organists and organ lovers while being often used for recordings; In 1996, organ builder Bernard Huvry carried out works on the instrument; The instrument from Aristide Cavaillé-Coll is original in more than one way, in comparison with other contemporary instrument of this organbuilder; For one thing, the back Positif was preserved and was never emptied; Next, the same Positif incluses an autonomous 5-rank Plein Jeu; On the other hand, the presence of a Bombarde keyboard, that calls upon reeds, cornet and plein-jeu from the Grand-Organ division, reminds of the extraordinary Isnard organ in St. Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, with its Resonnance keyboard allowing to play the Pedal stops; In the Pedal division, the organ has a 16' Bombarde, a common stop, but also another Bombarde called 32' Contrebombarde which is the fifth of the 16' Bombarde, a real height of 10 2/3', and is an extremely rare and uncommon occurrence; The tonal structure of the organ is more of Romantic style with its many 8' stops, its narrow stops and its harmonic flutes but it strongly precludes symphonic organs; it is a decisive turning point in the organ aesthetics evolution at the end of the 19th century; The elegant console is "en fenêtre" between the Positif and the main organcase; Only the Positif manual has mechanical action while the other manuals use pneumatic assistance by Barker machines; Stop drawknobs, located on each side of the keyboards, are round and the name of the stop is written on a ceramic disc; Ventil pedals are made of metal and the storm pedal is located on the left of the pedalboard; Recit expression is activated by a balances pedal; Inside the organcase, everything is laid out neatly, room space is generously distributed easing access to the different sections of the instrument. One can see Callinet's organcase and, behind it, the extension made by Cavaillé-Coll up to the west wall of the cathedral housing the windchests of the Pedal division, the primary bellows, the blower and the enclosed Recit division; The layout of the windchests, divided between C and C# sides, is generally common: Grand-Organ in the center, Pedal in the extremities (inside Callinet's organcase and outside along the west wall), raised enclosed Recit behind the Grand-Organ windchests, and the Positif hanging over the rail; The layout of the mechanical action is very rational except maybe for the Barker machine of the Recit which is thrown off center; The tonal structure of the instrument is well balanced and very bright (certainly more than before 1980), and this concerns solo stops as well as foundation stops; However, the layout of the cathedral, that can cause gaps and reverberation harmful to the musical result, encourages organist to be very careful about his play and to give special importance to the registration he uses and also to the balance and dynamics of sound while playing music from J.S. Bach, from Couperin or from Franck; Softness of flutes (harmonic or not), brightness of the Plein-Jeu from the Positif, of reeds and foundation stops, the warmness of the Voix humaine and the Bassoon from the Recit, and the solo character of the 8' Montre are features worth mentioning; Unfortunately, time goes on and the prestigious Cavaillé-Coll instrument would require a truly restoration that will bring back its original magnificence and diapason, just as the builder had devised. France Loiret Orleans Cathedral of the Holy Cross Ste Croix.
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