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Philip J Wells

University of Birmingham

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Board members may be interested to know that at the BIOS Research Conference yesterday at Birmingham John Whenham gave details of the construction of the new music building. This is to include a New Concert Organ which is being procured under Europen Union Procurement Directive rules. The French company Marc Garnier has won the bidding process.

They have built an organ in Tokyo where you choose the facade according to what music you are playing. Pics of the two cases are here; please scroll down http://organ-au-logis.pagesperso-orange.fr...daire/Tokyo.htm (Don't ask me to translate!)

Has anybody any experience of their work?

PJW

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They have built an organ in Tokyo where you choose the facade according to what music you are playing.

Has anybody any experience of their work?

PJW

 

I wonder if I could get mine to do that next time I play? Seriously - what's the point?

 

A <_<

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Guest Cynic
Fail to see the point when both are this ugly ...

 

 

I'm with you on this, H.

 

This seems to be the perfect organ to spend your unfeasibly large amount of money on when you are incapable of choosing what you really, really want!

The words 'Cop' and 'Out' come to mind. I can think of others too.

 

I hope my attitude is not patronising. Even so, surely a good builder can come up with a musical instrument that will serve many areas of the repertoire well, even if it is not a slavish copy of any one style. There is actually something worth trying to achieve with a target like that - our kind hosts have shown what can be done along these lines at St.Ignatius Loyola!

 

The scheme shown has got to be the pipe organ equivalent of the Bradford Computing Organ installed some ten years or so ago in The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford - replacing a rather over-baked 3-decker Father Willis, rebuilt along modestly up-to-date lines by H&H in the 1960s.. Designed by Simon Preston, the Bradford Computing Organ Marvel (to end all marvels) comprises four (electronically reproduced) specifications within the same set-up, one of which IIRC is Pembroke College Chapel, Cambridge. Another, of course (!!) is Ste Clotilde. It was supposed to be the most marvellous instrument ever created... don't hear much about it now it's actually arrived, do you?

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Fail to see the point when both are this ugly ...

You will have understood that it is not only change of the facade, but of main parts of the instruments. Flensburg St. Nikolai church (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, close to Danish border) comes to mind, where Gerald Woehl recently completed a "double" organ in a beuatiful renaissance case - combining a Schnitger reconstruction with a romantic instrument, using more than 12 pipes for the common stops due to unequal temperament for the Schnitger stops...

 

In Austria they have a small Garnier in a village church. It is very "historical", making use of "Springlade" chests (don't know the English term). It has a nice voicing and fine action, but, regarding the to me yet unknown concept of the Birmingham instrument, one would never expect Garnier to build something large or even symphonic or so. But I've heard that he is very special, so he may still have surprises to give. Don't know if he's still in charge or just his firm is.

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... the Bradford Computing Organ installed some ten years or so ago in The Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford - It was supposed to be the most marvellous instrument ever created... don't hear much about it now it's actually arrived, do you?

Possibly because there is another system available today which does the same job far better and is light-years ahead in terms of sound quality (and considerably cheaper). It's also ideal for academic institutions precisely because of the flexibility and realism it offers.

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While I agree*, that's not the why. It's ignored because it is a lack-lustre instrument in all it does; the fact that it is sounding out of a case full of Father Willis pipes is just an added frustration.

 

Paul

 

* with your comparative assessment of the alternative, of course, but not with any thought that it is necessary to use it in that building!

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.......................In Austria they have a small Garnier in a village church. It is very "historical", making use of "Springlade" chests (don't know the English term). It has a nice voicing and fine action, but, regarding the to me yet unknown concept of the Birmingham instrument, one would never expect Garnier to build something large or even symphonic or so. But I've heard that he is very special, so he may still have surprises to give. Don't know if he's still in charge or just his firm is.

 

Thank you for this. I have no idea how large the Birmingham instrument will be (surely at least 3 manuals) but it is to play North German music and have stops for the classic French sounds. In addition it will have a large role in accompanying the choir on the concert platform. I look forward to hearing more of the proposals in due course.

PJW

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Thank you for this. I have no idea how large the Birmingham instrument will be (surely at least 3 manuals) but it is to play North German music and have stops for the classic French sounds. In addition it will have a large role in accompanying the choir on the concert platform. I look forward to hearing more of the proposals in due course.

PJW

 

 

The text suggests the Tokyo organ is at least 3 rather than 2 instruments in one - Dutch Renaissance, German Barock and French Classical/Romantic - all playable by means of very clever (mechanical) technology.

 

I know of only 2 Garnier instruments - at Esquelbec in Flanders and in Strasbourg - both quite modest in size, uncompromising in tonal design and execution, yet both remarkably well-sounding on the ear. On verra.....

 

JS

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They have built an organ in Tokyo where you choose the facade according to what music you are playing. Pics of the two cases are here; please scroll down http://organ-au-logis.pagesperso-orange.fr...daire/Tokyo.htm (Don't ask me to translate!)

Has anybody any experience of their work?

PJW

 

I didn't translate, Google did it for me, and not very well:

 

A giant organ with two faces

 

From: "Factors of French organ" No. 16

 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space is a complex consisting of 4 rooms with representation from 300 to 2,000 seats and a dozen meeting rooms, conference and exhibition.

 

In a city like Tokyo, which has about 20 million inhabitants (including environs) may be a hundred concerts a day for several weeks with an organ. There are no further than 400 organs in the Japanese territory, and although most of these instruments are built in Christian churches, many public rooms have their wish. The first organ builder to have built an organ of French aesthetic was Schwenkedel around 1970. Other buildings were handed over to the Germans, Dutch, Danish ...

The second instrument was the French by Marc Garnier, 1983, Kobe University, followed by thirty other instruments including a Osaka Koenig.

 

The specifications for the construction of an organ at the Metropolitan Art Space instrument suggested a 70 to 85 games over 4 manuals, mechanical action, and to play all the directories from baroque to contemporary.

 

Faced with a project as risky for an organ "to play any" examples of which exist are rarely successful, Marc Garnier hesitated a while and then took advantage of a specification simplistic after all, whatever our editors specifications loads too rich!

 

The first difficulty was to explain to the architect that an organ is a set and it is not easy to build an instrument placed on a buffet. Facing a first draft of aesthetics "historicizing" the architect pretended that his room was not a museum. Hence the idea of building a "two-in-one instrument with double buffet and each corresponding to a particular aesthetic.

 

At the end of 1987 a contract is for construction of a double organ totaling 150 records.

These 150 records, for 126 games, were divided into 2 back to back buffets that are revealed by turning on the organ itself. However, for reasons of space, three sets of 32 'are still open against the wall.

This set presents 14 of the two instruments sound levels corresponding to 8 keyboards and 2 pedal.

 

It is not clear? Let me explain (... well, Mark Garnier said ...):

 

The deal "historic" two instruments controlled by three keyboards and pedal.

The first was built in the spirit of the instruments of the Flemish Renaissance. Agreement meantone to 8 pure thirds, from 467 Hz tuning fork

The second is modeled after instruments of central Germany from the 18th century. Agreement baroque pitch 415 Hz

 

Face "modern" instrument includes a "transition" with five manuals and pedal.

French classical organ with his party "romanticized" style mid-19th century, almost equal agreement, pitch 440 Hz

 

Thus, the organist can choose the instrument best suited to the repertoire that he wishes to interpret with the greatest musicological authenticity.

 

Technique:

 

The mobile unit is in three parts and is arranged on three rotating turrets. Moving from the old organ in the modern organ is to press a button "Historic" or "Modern".

 

The 32 'are located against the back wall and are based on 10 mattresses without mechanical register. Each note is a valve.

For the baroque organ there is a "Kontraposaune" real 32-foot, a "Prast" 32 'with mechanical extensions 16' and 8 'in which each pipe is fed by two valves, each corresponding to the mechanics of the organ and historical that of the modern organ. The principal organ of the # given in 415 gives the principal organ granted 440. For the instrument 467, the agreement is an admission by different wind settled by bolts.

The French side has a "Contrebombarde" 32 ', actual length too.

Traction notes and games through a dispatcher and is disengaged when the rotation buffets

 

The historical part consists of six planes and two audio books for the pedals. On the face indicates that both instruments have in common that the keyboards and the bench. Above the keyboard a lever to select the party Flemish or German. Each button controls the valves via two box springs of a double mechanical traction. To avoid excessive hardness, one of the two mattresses is powered by wind, as the initial choice, and a few little tricks allow a pressure difference and quality of wind speed for each type of organ. There are a total of 48 spring mattresses, a choice dictated for better resistance to the whims of air conditioners.

 

For the French side and contemporary there is only one instrument.

 

The records are drawn by tractors, with electric assist (if I understand everything!), Which allows, among others, have features adjustable combination memorized. A possible breakdown of the electronics would not stop to take the games in hand.

 

 

Hmmm, the last sentence actually should have translated "the stops are mechanically drawn, with electric assistance" - the mind boggles at an organ whose sliders are pulled by moving tractors!

 

Anyway, it's an interesting solution to an age-old problem - how to design an organ capable of playing different genres of music. You pick whether to play romantic, and the romantic case slides into view, or baroque, and the baroque case turns to face the audience. Or something like that. How that is any different from installing two entirely separate organs I don't know. Probably the hall should really say it has two entirely separate organs (does it say anywhere that you can play both romantic and baroque sounds from the same console?)

 

Not the first time something unusual has been attempted - there are a few instruments in the US that has two sets of stops, each tuned to different temperaments. Similar sort of concept, though it would sound even ghastlier if all the stops were drawn together, for instance see http://www.pasiorgans.com/conference/constcco.html.

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I'll try a precis - apologies if this was all obvious from the Google translation...some of it wasn't to me...

 

You do rather more than choose the facade. That thing is 3 completely separate organs, plus some shared 32' ranks behind the revolving sections.

 

The "modern" facade of the revolving sections, with a V/P console has a spec. representing a French classical instrument rebuilt in the C19 with romantic voices, in "almost" equal temperament at 440Hz

 

The "historique" facade, with a III/P console is made up of a Flemish-renaissance-style part, at 467Hz in "mean tone with 8 pure thirds"* temperament and a C18 central-German style part at 415Hz with baroque tuning.

 

The three 32' ranks stand against the back wall, separate from the revolving cases and (although this is the bit I'm most uncertain about) I think it says that the pipes on these ranks are shared between the 3 organs, by using the c# pipe @ 415 as the c pipe @ 440, and by 'differently regulated' winding for the 467.

 

 

 

*sorry, never really got my head round the maths of this, so I can't work out how we'd call this.

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Wonderful - thanks to all for their contributions.

I am still trying to get my head around what an organbuilder/organist would do with "48 spring matresses" in the organ loft!

PJW

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I wonder if I could get mine to do that next time I play? Seriously - what's the point?

 

A :blink:

 

====================

 

I can't see a point to this organ either, because whatever the voicing and specification, this will sound like a new organ in a modern concert hall; not an old organ(s) in an ancient stone-building. The great gothic cathedrals and magnificent hall-churches of Europe are the most important stops on the organ, and without them, it is just make-believe or, worse still, delusional.

 

Perhaps we're just living in a silly age.

 

All the academic niceties such as historic tuning and compasses, could be taught with a digital instrument perfectly adequately; leaving more money available to build a proper pipe-organ which sounds well in a new concert hall.

 

What I find amusing about this absurd project, is the fact that even within a particular age, instruments have been both inclusive and exclusive simultaneously......I shall explain.

 

Cavaille-Coll organ - Good for French Romantic (naturally), usually quite acceptable for Bach - hopeless for most German romantic music and English music

 

German romantic (Thuringian) - good for Mendelssohn, Bach, Rheinberger etc. Hopeless for Reger.

 

German romantic (later) - good for Reger, but not so good for Bach.

 

English romantic (Harrison) - good for accompaniment, Reger, English romantic school....absolutely useless for early French and not very good with Bach etc.

 

Modern German style...Good for Bach, quite acceptable for Reger, not bad for French music generally....absolutely useless for Howells and Statham (for example)

 

So ths list goes on, with as many variations and quirks as there are organs.

 

So what you need to cover the entire repertoire is not an organ with two or three revolving bits. You actually need an epicyclic organ, where pipes spin and dance in ever decreasing circles, only to re-appear where least expected.

 

Technically it can be done....I have no doubt. I have seen a machine which makes socks, and the way bits spin around within an eccentric orbit, while revolving around a fixed, larger orbit, is......well......a bit complicated. (I puzzled over it for an hour, before finally admitting defeat).

 

I have a funny feeling that Nigel Allcoat will agree with me when I once again mention the organ at St Paul's Hall, Huddersfield Uni. Nothing sounds like it sounded when it was written, but everything sounds good enough and convincing enough, to the extent that nothing seems to be lacking.

 

I can't help but think that this sort of academic "pie in the sky" is just oneupmanship of the worst kind, and probably what Hazlitt had in mind when he wrote about, "The ignorance of the learned....those who know more about the tribes and castes of the Kalmuc Tartars than they know about their own next-door neighbours."

 

Perhaps if the music schools were to concentrate on performance and composition, we may create a national organ-style worthy of the title and bring the organ back into the main-stream of serious music-making. As it is, we're in danger of becoming the freaks of musical nature with nonsense like this.

 

MM

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Wonderful - thanks to all for their contributions.

I am still trying to get my head around what an organbuilder/organist would do with "48 spring matresses" in the organ loft!

PJW

 

 

=======================

 

To avoid excessive hardness, one of the two mattresses is powered by wind, as the initial choice, and a few little tricks allow a pressure difference and quality of wind speed for each type of organ. There are a total of 48 spring mattresses, a choice dictated for better resistance to the whims of air conditioners.

 

I have informed the "News of the World"

 

MM

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Thank you for this. I have no idea how large the Birmingham instrument will be (surely at least 3 manuals) but it is to play North German music and have stops for the classic French sounds. In addition it will have a large role in accompanying the choir on the concert platform. I look forward to hearing more of the proposals in due course.

PJW

 

More details are now available:

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/bramall/learning-spaces/organ.aspx

 

PJW

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But why electric stop action and a sequencer here I wonder?

 

A

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Interesting. No comments on quality of work but I'm not sure how this, on paper at least, looks like a Concert Hall organ, or indeed is going to sound like one. A nice, almost luxurious teaching instrument maybe but I'm sure it'll have to work with choirs and orchestras and I just don't see how a single Pedal Subbass, a single manual 8' Principal, and 1 manual chorus mixture are going to carry it unless they are very bold, giving an indication of how the rest of the sound will be in balance. As for choral accompaniment it's not such a problem but if the sound is the one that's in my head it would explain why so many Northern mainland European establishments with choral traditions are buying up redundant English organs.

 

Proof of pudding and all that but I suspect yet another establishment has gone down the same route as so many others and have a super quality machine that ultimately just misses the point and doesn't quite satisfy. You open the biscuit tin expecting custard creams but all that's there are nice and rich tea, nothing wrong with that, just a bit of a disappointment.

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Interesting. No comments on quality of work but I'm not sure how this, on paper at least, looks like a Concert Hall organ, or indeed is going to sound like one. A nice, almost luxurious teaching instrument maybe but I'm sure it'll have to work with choirs and orchestras and I just don't see how a single Pedal Subbass, a single manual 8' Principal, and 1 manual chorus mixture are going to carry it unless they are very bold, giving an indication of how the rest of the sound will be in balance. As for choral accompaniment it's not such a problem but if the sound is the one that's in my head it would explain why so many Northern mainland European establishments with choral traditions are buying up redundant English organs.

 

Proof of pudding and all that but I suspect yet another establishment has gone down the same route as so many others and have a super quality machine that ultimately just misses the point and doesn't quite satisfy. You open the biscuit tin expecting custard creams but all that's there are nice and rich tea, nothing wrong with that, just a bit of a disappointment.

 

You may, very well, be right but I wonder how well you know the building. It's not a big concert hall as in a large 19th century 'town hall' nor is it on the scale of 'symphony hall' in Birmingham or the 'Bridgewater' in Manchester. My feeling, having felt the hall's acoustic and looked at the specification, was that it was about right - for what it was going to be used for. Of course, the proof of the pudding (or the biscuit!) will be in the eating!!

 

I have to say, though, that I do think that 'contrabourdun's' suggestion of the 3 manual from Biddulph is way off the mark!

 

http://www.venuebirmingham.com/bramall

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I have seen the room once, admittedly a while ago whilst on another job. What I'm getting at is not so much loudness or blunt density of tone, but the job a concert hall organ does and that the balance here doesn't look right to me. Certainly the job of a full scale concert hall organ isn't appropriate but this really does look like more of a large scale teaching instrument rather than a performance organ. I don't know what the intentions for use in toto are, so maybe this is right. Sadly I've heard far too often, instruments of a very similar style by high class buiders and they all fail in their balance in exactly the same way.

I'd have to write something close to an essay to put this in proper justifiable depth. That however is only one side of things. The other side is a lack of imagination in making the best use of limited resources to achieve the most appropriate outcome for the expected use of the instrument. Doubtless the designers would be confident of their success and I can see how in some respects I would definitely agree with them, at this stage in principle at least. I shall want to hear it in the acoustic to be convinced that I'm not going to get an excess of clarity from specific registers alone and in combination, at specific points of the compass where the notes are communicated par excellence but the music is not, despite the competence of the player. The existence or lack of reverberation to a small degree - a large degree would be irrelevant here - can both hinder and help, so the instrument needs to be balanced for that in addition to the above. It's quite an art form to get it right but you need to be starting from the right place with the right picture in your head. It's not the artistry I'm questioning it's the picture. What I see on paper doesn't in all respects contain the framework for the right picture to me.

 

I hope to have past experiences mollified and if possible I'll be happy to allow this example to provide an additional view to my mental construct. I'll wish them well for now.

 

As far as the other suggestion you mentioned goes, I'd have to agree. Worthy in itself but just not appropriate here.

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Interesting scheme in that the chair organ is played from behind so the player has to turn around. Nice in a way - whenever I've gone to the Symphony Hall for a big oratorio it's always disappointed me a bit that they have the humungous Klais yet they don't use it, instead they wheel a little whistlebox onto the stage and that's the organ part. It reminds me of the days when many centuries ago the chair organ was played by the organist turning round 180 degrees (are there still any such organs left in Europe?). Though why they couldn't have controlled the chair organ with its own reverse keyboard AND the lowest manual of the main console beats me.

 

I suppose in any essential neobaroque organ you are going to have to compromise with the third manual - what is the function of an enclosed oberwerk in such a scheme, if not to be the "swell" in an otherwise baroque organ? The trouble is, if you don't have an enclosed division with full chorus to mixture or at least 2 foot, plus strings and reeds then large chunks of the (especially Romantic) repertoire become virtually unplayable.

 

The Japanese double organ is an interesting idea though things that have only ever been implemented once or twice (like the Pasi double temperament organ) tend not to be repeated for a reason. In this case I suggest it's because an establishment that can afford such an instrument could just as easily afford a brand new classical/baroque organ and rehouse a sizeable and decent pedigree redundant romantic organ and thus boast two organs if it wanted. In fact why not just throw all the pipes of several different styles together and control them from one console? Surely a competent organ builder should be able to blend pipework from across the centuries into a convincing single work of art? That's what Cavaille-Coll did very successfully at St Sulpice (with its Cliquot pipework). Others who have subsequently tried to do that have not had quite such success by all accounts (Pierre Cochereau at Notre Dame springs to mind...)

 

As to the observation that there is an alternative* to the Bradford that can achieve at minimal cost what the Japanese organ is trying to achieve, in the context of a music college I have said before and will say again, my own experience of that alternative is that it's actually a really good idea for learning new repertoire and for learning how it sounded (including experiencing the limitations such as lack of registration aids) on the organs for which it was originally written. With my four manual self-built home practice organ I can experience the challenges of playing a cinema organ, any number of romantic or baroque organs, in any number of different acoustics from dry to oceanically wet, tuned to the temperament of my choice, at the organ's original pitch, at the click of a mouse. The effect has been to hugely widen my repertoire and improve my technique. As a tool for learning and appreciating organ music it's been a revelation for me - but it so makes me want to go out and play the originals even more. In a small teaching room in a music college therefore it could be a fantastic tool to encourage more students to learn the organ and to learn on a variety of the finest "organs" from around the world, each the pinnacle of that particular design school - but it doesn't pretend to be a substitute for buildings that can and should be able to accommodate a pipe organ. A real concert hall needs a real pipe organ.

 

* At the risk of contravening forum rules by naming non-pipe organ products I'm referring to Hauptwerk in case anybody didn't realise.

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Having read about the general unequal tuning und the meantone division (something which is existing in Germany at least at three places, but all churches), I do not think that the typical use in combination with choirs and orchestra was ever intended.

(And if it were, the advisers are in question... :ph34r: )

It may best serve alone and could beautifully add to programmes with Early Music, both as an accompanying instrument and with independent contributions.

I do not know what you think out there, but I heavily complain the fashion of our decades to turn to chest or positive organs, when it comes to unequal temperament for continuo within concerts. It's all about the difficulty of combining the need for visibility of the performers and the availability of an instrument with needed features on the same site.

As discussed elsewhere on this board, the perpetual use of a stopped 8' is a possibility of continuo sound, but far not the only one!

Where are the open 8' sounds, which were available on all the organ lofts of the past? I'm always happy to see purchases of chest organs having an open 8', and be it in the descant only. Intonation of vocal soloists or ensembles gets better, too, and more effectively than by pulling the 4' stop.

 

Sorry for talking without any idea of what this hall is beeing used for now or will be in future, but this kind of use would seem an appropriate and attractive way.

 

And I'd like to follow the critics of the concept: If used for music written after, say, 1840 and together with modern orchestra or an educated choir of 40+ persons, questions will appear, at least at the latter aspect.

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.............. the perpetual use of a stopped 8' is a possibility of continuo sound, but far not the only one! Where are the open 8' sounds, which were available on all the organ lofts of the past? I'm always happy to see purchases of chest organs having an open 8', and be it in the descant only. Intonation of vocal soloists or ensembles gets better, too, and more effectively than by pulling the 4' stop.

 

 

 

'Agree with this - even on my little 1 man. Victorian church job this is certainly the case. Here's an interesting exmaple of a contiuo organ with open 8' built for John Eliot Gardiner.

 

A

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...the perpetual use of a stopped 8' is a possibility of continuo sound, but far not the only one!...

 

This stopped 8 is usually a Gedackt which is OK for Bach, but how often does a small organ have a Stopped Diapason which is what is needed for the authentic performance of Handel?

PJW

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Here's an interesting exmaple of a contiuo organ with open 8' built for John Eliot Gardiner.

I sincerely hope the Ruhrflöte is a typo!

 

Friedrich

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