EN  

IT  

Stacks Image 175525
More delicate will be the consonance between the organ and the human voice than with string instruments.
“Il Corago”, 1630
“Duoi organi per Monteverdi” is the title of Walter Chinaglia’s research aiming to recreate the gentle sound of open, wooden pipes, which were widely used for organs during the 16th and 17th century as we know from multiple sources.
In contrast, today’s organs for accompaniment use almost exclusively stopped wooden pipes, thus limiting the possibilities of musicians to interpret pieces from this period in a correct way.

The objective of Walter Chinaglia’s research is therefore to bring back the original “principale sound” that combines a perfect metallic sound with the sweetness of wood, and thus open new perspectives to contemporary musicians.

Stacks Image 214941
What is it. What is it that made the sound of the italian wooden organs of the early 17th century so “soave”, so sweet and delicate, that they were preferred to accompany solo voices?
How could they possibly be so small and compact to be moved around on theatre stages and at the same time fit open pipes of up to 8 feet in their case?
How were they structured, how were their bellows designed, their pipes arranged - in order to produce this sweet intonation, this “dolce intonazione”?

Many uncertainties and difficulties had to be overcome throughout the design and construction process of the first of the two organs for Monteverdi, and the time needed to study, conceive and finally build the complex passages to achieve the perfect air flow has been highly underestimated.

And then, in the end, one single, tiny, almost invisible manipulation of the pipes made the long-sought subtle sound finally emerge and fill the air…
Stacks Image 215946

A short glimpse on the initial production steps
of the first of the two organs:

Keys made of weathered boxwood
(buxus sempervirens)

Stacks Image 216556
Stacks Image 216560
Stacks Image 216562

Pipes made of cypress wood (Cupressus sempervirens)

Stacks Image 216571
Stacks Image 216575
Stacks Image 216577
Stacks Image 216583
Stacks Image 216585
Stacks Image 216589

Details of bellows, case, inner structure (grooved blocks)

Stacks Image 216598
Stacks Image 216600
Stacks Image 216602
Stacks Image 216607
Stacks Image 216609
Stacks Image 216611

Photos: Lorenzo Zeuli

Stacks Image 216377
It all started with…
Stacks Image 216778
Stacks Image 216809
Upon reading descriptions in historical sources regarding the sound of italian “organi di legno” - organs with open wooden pipes - I was taken aback: the terms and expressions were so clear and precise that the sound seemed tangible.
In fact, the ideal of sound timbre was unmistakeable: “Quando le canne sono completamente in legno, costituisce per loro la perfezione ricevere la sonorità metallica” (1698) - “When the pipes are entirely made of wood, they reach perfection when their sound is metallic” . That is, the sound of the italian Renaissance Principale.

However, it is important to note that the aim was not to simply imitate metal pipes, but it was highly desired to achieve a sound that is “suave” (1600) - “subtle, soft” and “di dolce intonazione” (1561) - “with a sweet, delicate intonation”. As written by the organ builder Hermans, in my hometown Como: “Le canne del Principale secondo sono di legno, unisono col primo, il quale serve per cantar a voce sola ovvero con instrumenti” (1650) - “The pipes of the second Principale are made of wood, unison with the first, which is used for solo voices with instruments.”

Emilio de Cavalieri speaks of wooden organs “perfettisimi per dolcezza e soavità” - “perfectly subtle and suave”, as being considered “pietra di paragone per le buone voci” - “a touchstone for great voices”.

As a physicist I pay much attention to complex transient phenomena described in expressions like “che dispichi netto” (1517) - “that speaks promptly” and spiccassero un puoco più presto (1569) - “that sound attacked a little earlier […], “[...] tanto nelli soprani quanto nelli bassi” (1626) - “[...] both for basses and treble.”
Therefore, not only the acoustic spectrum (timbre) was important, but also the attack transient, mentioned as “bona pronunzia” - “good pronunciation”.

Finally, Antonio Barcotto invites us not to use stopped pipes because “è da sapere che tale voce è artificiosa e non naturale come quelle delle canne aperte” (1652) - “it must be known that this voice is artificial and not natural like the one of open pipes”.

Anything that has been written about wooden organs can be found realized to a great extent in Innsbruck (Silver Chapel), when playing the only surviving Renaissance organ with open wooden pipes.
Stacks Image 216780
There is clear evidence in all historical sources - of the internal coherence and consistency, the “organicity” of the organ!

The keyboard, in order to comply with the desired sound rich in detail, “non sia profonda né dura, [...], asay dolza a la mane” (1508) - “must be neither deep nor hard, [...], with a very soft touch.”

The bellows, which ensure the airflow, must be made of “assesselle” in modo “che detto organo non debba in alcun modo sospirare” (1585) - “thin slabs” ensuring “that said organ shall not sigh in any way”.

The historical sources also outline the material used for the case, the keyboard, the required design and many other details “per coloro che se intendano cossa sia organo” (1538) - “for those who know what an organ is all about”.
Stacks Image 216782
How many stops?

Costanzo Antegnati suggests to use the Principale “solo quando si vol cantare mottetti con poche voci” (1652) - only when you want to sing motets with a few voices”.

“Quando si farà i ripieni dell’organo faransi con mani e piedi, ma senza aggiunta d’altri registri [...]” (1602) - “When one plays the ripieni on the organ, one should do so with hands and feet, but without adding other stops […]”.
Stacks Image 216812
With all this information in mind, I felt it was about time to start an accurate philological reconstruction of two Italian organs with open pipes made of cypress - instruments which are missing in today’s historically informed performances of Italian music from the 16th and 17th century.

The first organ “all Ottava bassa”

Principale 8’ reale
A = 465Hz, Meantone Temperament 1/4 Cs
75x73x115cm (base); 87x71x45cm (top case)

Decoration by
Michele Barchi

  • Stacks Image 216867
  • Stacks Image 216870
  • Stacks Image 216873
  • Stacks Image 216876
  • Stacks Image 216879

Photos: Dr. Luca Fattorini

Stacks Image 216920
Stacks Image 216994
When the pipes are entirely made of wood, they reach perfection when their sound is metallic.
Andreas Werckmeister, “Orgelprobe”, 1698
Thanks to an acoustic spectrum analyzer it was possible to measure the harmonics content of each type of pipe.
The performed analysis shows that the open wooden Principale pipe produces the same acoustic spectrum as its metal equivalent. Which is not the case with the stopped pipe (coconada), whose spectrum misses the 2 harmonic and shows a cut-off in the high frequencies.

Spectral Analysis

Stacks Image 217021

Stacks Image 217039
Stacks Image 217041
This chapter hosts an extract from a rich essay written by maestro Michelangelo Gabbrielli, “Organ and Polyphony: performance practices in Italy between the 17th and 18th century”.

The excerpt “The use of small organs for choir accompaniment” is particularly meaningful for the research of the project “Duoi organi for Monteverdi”.

Click here to see the index of the full essay, which can be requested by direct email message to maestro Gabbrielli. (available in italian)

Michelangelo Gabbrielli
ORGANO E POLIFONIA: PRASSI ESECUTIVE IN ITALIA FRA XVI E XVII SECOLO
”L’uso di piccoli organi in complessi corali”
(italian)

Stacks Image 217071

Stacks Image 217078
Stacks Image 217275
The two wooden organs - Duoi organi di legno - Claudio Monteverdi requested explicitly in the first printed editions of his opera Orfeo in 1607 were chosen for their typical characteristics: they disposed of open pipes from cypress wood and produced the most subtle though clearly spoken sound. Furthermore they were small enough to be transported and complemented each other on stage by producing a stereophonic effect.

Monteverdi’s preference for their sound is also documented in a letter to cardinal Ferdinando (1611): “…I shall have the theorbos played by the musicians from Casale, to the accompaniment of the wooden organ (which is extremely suave) and in this way Signora Adriana and Don Giovanni Battista will sing the extremely beautiful madrigal “Ahi che morir mi sento”, and the other madrigal to the organ alone.”

Another reference for Monteverdi using two organs can be found in the archives of St Mark’s, which record the payments made to porters “…for carrying back and forth two organs to San Giorgio for M. Claudio Monteverdi, for the rehearsal of a Mass to be performed on 19 August 1613 in St. Mark’s”…

The second organ “all Ottava alta”

Principale 4’ reale
A = 465Hz, Meantone Temperament 1/4 Cs
87x70x45cm

Decoration by
Michele Barchi

Stacks Image 217095
Stacks Image 217097
Stacks Image 217258

Pipes made of cypress wood (Cupressus sempervirens)
Wood carving tool for case decoration

Stacks Image 217106
Stacks Image 217261
Stacks Image 217263

Case and decoration

Stacks Image 217209
Stacks Image 217219

The finalised organ

Stacks Image 217273
Keep in touch to receive updates on Walter Chinaglia’s research and the progress of this project, either by following him on social networks or by signing up to be notified by email.


Auto Reply
Thank you for your recent enquiry. We will get back to you as soon as possible.

Signature (Supports HTML)
Kind Regards Walter Chinaglia
Stacks Image 174214

© ORGANA di Walter Chinaglia
Via Montebello 10, 22072 Cermenate (CO) Italy, tel/fax +39 031 772776, mob. + 39 340 966 78 03
walter.chinaglia@gmail.com