Earlier this year I wrote about my first visit to Viscount HQ in almost 18 months. I left Mondaino and Viscount behind early in the morning after a brief farewell with the staff. About mid way back from the Viscount factory visit in Mondaino and after a brief stop at Sansepolcro I broke for lunch at Arezzo.
I am not sure if we are blind to our own history or its just the excitement of being somewhere new but I never cease to be amazed at the staggering abundance of art and historic buildings that have survived in Italy.
Built mainly from stone unlike the UK’s medieval preponderance for wood, much more of the history there has survived the ravages of time. Fortunately, no ‘Great Fire’ of Florence events to my knowledge although of course there was the eruption at Pompei and there have been a good few earthquakes since. Even so a staggering amount of art and history survives.
Just look at the stone carvings in Arezzo Cathedral, the altar reredos is especially fine.
Arezzo Cathedral does not disappoint
Arezzo Cathedral does not disappoint as you will gather from the photographs included here. And there are 3 pipe organs as well!
On first entering the building through its shop on the north side it is the most modern nave organ that first catches the musician’s eye. A very striking design built in 2006 and a most unusual sight in any ancient Italian church.
Moments later reaching the centre of the nave the original much older instrument came into view. Hidden as it was hard against the north side wall with most of the pipe work in a chamber behind.
Seeing this instrument I immediately assumed that this historic old instrument must have passed the economic repair point. Happily this assumption was totally wrong.
Posting these pictures on facebook generated an explanation of why there is a second organ in the nave and also more information about the instrument that hides away in the huge side chapel, the Cappela della Madonna del Conforto.
I am indebted to Samuelle Tornaghi for confirming that the older instrument is by the builder Luca da Cortona and made between 1534 and 1536. Unfortunately, the resources of Google have not delivered any information on this instrument and the Cathedral shop had no recordings of it so unless one of our readers can add some information the details remain a mystery.
The nave pipe organ was installed to make choir accompaniment easier. This was built by Artigiana Pinci and his internet search is pretty much a google blast so again I am stumped to provide more information for you.
Two more organs at Arezzo Cathedral
The console of the Madonna Capella is readily on show while I could not see a single pipe to indicate its presence.
Again thanks to Samuelle I learnt that this instrument is by Tamburini with all the pipework hidden behind the great altar. This organ firm, which dates back to the late 1800’s, still exists today.
It has a web site you can find here. I have seen a number of Tamburini organs on my travels in Italy some with very lavish wood inlaid consoles but for the moment retrieval of these photographs is eluding me.
Finally there is actually a 4th organ in the Cathedral that may have been used for accompaniment before the nave pipe organ was built. You can just see the console directly below the ancient organ pipecase.
It’s a GEM digital organ. GEM is a competitor firm with instruments also made in Italy. GEM stand for Galanti Electronic Music. Many of you will know that a Galanti family also own Viscount and the history of the two companies is closely linked.
Typical of many family businesses there was a falling out between brothers in the 1950’s and the one Galanti founded GEM and the other Viscount. The factories were close by in the same village.
Viscount prospered while GEM ran into financial difficulties but there are still a good number of old GEM instruments hard at work in Italy and around the world. In fact I am told the GEM in Arrezzo may still be in use from time to time even now when there are 3 pipe organs to choose from!
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.