la passion des orgues historiques

The magic of historical organs

There was a time when every church, every sanctuary had a pipe organ; the instrument flourished all over the world wherever Christianity took hold and as far back as the Middle Ages. But the greatest organs, those that have survived the ravages of time and history, date back to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries—before the 19th-century revolution carried out by the likes of Merklin and Cavaillé-Coll. At that point, the instrument would become a real “war machine” in terms of its registers and power; well-suited for a symphonic expansion, it eclipsed earlier models. In the 1960s, the founder of harmonia mundi had the idea of exploring those older instruments, assisted by “an organist, a recording engineer, and a two-horse-power vehicle.” This enthusiasm, which he imbibed from Dr. Pierre Rochas, was a key motivator in the initial period of the label, firmly focused on old instruments and highlighted by the artistry of such performers as René Saorgin, Francis Chapelet, Michel Chapuis, and Lionel Rogg; for harmonia mundi, Rogg went on record his second complete cycle of the organ music of J.S. Bach in 1970-71.

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