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davidh

Monteverdi's use of organs in Orfeo

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Monteverdi's opera Orfeo requires a large variety of accompanying instruments. Much of the score is melody + figured bass, with the continuo players left to realise the notes. Among the instruments are "two organs of wood" and a regal.

 

Does anyone have any information of what these organs might have been, and perhaps even a link to an online source with an illustration of anything similar, please?

 

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My knowledge of Monteverdi 'Orfeo' is somewhat limited. There are a huge number of continuo instruments, among them he asked for an 'organo di legno' which was a gently sounding organ with pipes only made of wood. It provided a background for the harp, lute or the chitarrone and, in the tutti welded the entire sound without obtruding. The Regal, with its rasping tone, on the other hand, was used for the underworld and for those scenes that gave the greatest contrast to the pastoral music.

 

This may be informative as to the 'Organo di Legno' http://www.denzilwraight.com/organo.htm - an example found in the Museo Correr in Venice and dating from 1494.

 

There are quite a few examples 'on line', and some pictures, if you google 'Organo di Legno'

 

Hope that helps.

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Henk Klop of Garderen here in the Netherlands produces a version of his continuo organ with an 8' prestant, and a second manual with an 8' regal. He told me years ago that this was developed expressly for performing Monteverdi's music, but I didn't think to ask him what the source for the development was. Klop adopted the "organo de legno" tradition for all of their instruments almost from the beginning of the firm, so the developmemt is logical.

 

I have been to many concerts of renaissance music using very small continuo organs. I am always astonished at how well a carefully-voiced 8' flute, no matter who made it, can carry along even quite large churches, and how captivating their voices are.

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Thank you for those suggestions. I'm sure that a modern continuo organ would be very effective, and its compact format would not be obtrusive. Is that format a recent invention, or were there much earlier instruments like these?

 

The Lorenzo da Pavia organ, 3.20 m high, would not be so convenient - and there were to be two such organs. The illustrations of early instruments that I have seen are far from compact.

 

What compass would be necessary? Without checking the whole score, I know that the bass goes down to at least DD, and while a chittarone might play the lower notes, there are occasions when only the organ is marked in the score.

 

Why two organs? Perhaps to permit echo effects!

 

Wonderful though Monteverdi is, his scores leave a lot of room for guesswork today.

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