It's good that we can explore different schools of organ building at first hand when offshore firms are retained to install their products here. But it is also good to recall that we have our own quite distinctive traditions going back centuries, and to forget that would be a travesty. To select just one instrument, because I have studied its sounds in great detail over 40 years, I would mention the large and beautiful Rushworth and Dreaper romantic organ not far from Pershore at Malvern Priory, fastidiously and sympathetically rebuilt by Nicholson's in 2004 with scarcely any tonal alterations. I recorded its sounds when making what would be called today a 'sample set' way back in 1979, thanks to the courtesy of the then DoM Richard Dacey. Then, it had been tonally reset a couple of years earlier by Rushworth's to more or less its original state in 1927, even though the money was not there to do other jobs such as major work on the action and winding system (not remedied until 2004, and how the thing managed to limp along in the meantime I do not know). 40 years later I am still exploring its beauties, such as the various flute stops (there are 8 and 4 foot flutes on each of the four manuals, all different). As an example, those on the Solo organ are more 'orchestral' in character than most of the others, and the way this was achieved by the voicer was to encourage their even-numbered harmonics to be stronger relative to the odds compared with the other flutes elsewhere. Then there is the glory of having 3 diapasons on the Great, meaning that you can't really criticise the largest one for being too fat when you can just select one of the others! And the way they combine amongst themselves is endlessly fascinating. Then, too, there are the 16/8/4 reeds on Great and Swell, whose contrasts were obviously so well thought out and implemented by someone with golden ears. And I haven't even mentioned the rather fluty mixtures with their somewhat unusual 19th century-style compositions (which I am grateful to Andrew Caskie at Nicholson's for helping me to unravel - quite difficult when all you have are audio recordings to go on!). And the range of beautiful quiet strings and colour reeds - I could go on boring you all for ever ... I realise not everyone gets switched on by organs like this, but picking up on a point made by Martin above who reminded us that organs are usually meant to accompany worship, well, you can certainly do that at Malvern - and then some.
Now that 40 years have elapsed since I recorded that pipework, means for making digital reconstructions of the sounds have become commonplace in the guise of the virtual pipe organ (unheard of in 1979), and although perhaps I should not mention it here, I have simulated the Malvern organ in this way at home. This has enabled me to continue exploring its subtleties from an aural and musical standpoint, rather than just from the physics of its sounds. I just hope that we do not allow our own heritage, defined by landmark instruments such as that at Malvern, to become lost or forgotten by whatever changes in fashion might take place in the future.
Definitely worth looking at NPOR E02082 for the photographs of the unusually fine case and information about the organ’s pedigree: essentially by George Sixsmith partly using a transplanted Binns from Peebles (the chamades, voiced by Nicholson’s, being later additions).
I used to play a small organ by Sixsmith in the south of England which also had a striking modern pipe display. It was beautifully made, comfortable to play, and completely reliable.