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Organist’s space: events, organ travels and player stories

Basilica san Frediano, Lucca

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Lucca is a Tuscan city that is a must on any visit to Italy. Close to Pisa it no doubt lives in the shadow of that far better know tourist Mecca. Lucca may not have a leaning tower but in my opinion it has a great deal more to offer the visitor looking to pass time and soak up Italian history and culture.

I have lost count of my visits to Lucca over the last 10 years. It is a medieval walled city and if you should ever visit you will understand why the walls never yielded to any attack. They are simply colossal. A city of this age is inevitably a permanent building site and so I have often found many of the churches there (of which there must be over 50) closed.

One of the more spectacular of these is the Basilica San Frediano dating from the early 12th century. It has a most spectacular mosaic west front and so I have often been drawn to visit it but never before this last trip found the doors open. Or was it perhaps I have had to pay Euro 3 to gain entrance and so passed on by. Whatever this time I put hand in pocket and paid up to have a look around.

nave_640As you see this is a very large and mostly uncluttered space which has a great acoustic. The fine west end organ is so typical of Italian instruments made at the beginning of the 17th century. To our eye the visual appearance of these early instruments does not promise a great sound, unlike the larger organs cases we see that are packed from side to side with pipes that promise thunder and weight just as soon as the blower is switched on.

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organ-close-up_640But you would be mistaken; the pipes are there but just not in evidence on the outside. Unfortunately I do not know if this organ iswest-end-mosaic still in daily use. Much nearer the altar there is an Alborn Galanti electronic organ played through very small speakers, made by another side of the Galanti family that split from the main Viscount business many years ago.

So I did not hear either organ but will make a point next time back in Lucca to find out more about the instrument and report back to you on it in greater detail.

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I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Viscount Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.