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New Choir Organ in Svatá Hora (Holy Mountain) Abbey
Karel Paukert & Jaroslav Tůma


F10174   [8595017417429]   released 12/2008

Music for two keyboards, three or four hands and two, three and four feet
AURELIO BONELLI (c. 1569 – 1620)
ANONYMUS (18. stol.)
JOSEF BLANCO (1775 – 1811 nebo 1750 – 1841)

play all Svatá Hora - Jaroslav Tůma, Karel Paukert 65:52
Toccata Cleopatra a 8 2:08
Concertino a due - Allegro 2:43
Concertino a due - Adagio 4:47
Concertino a due - Allegro assai 6:39
Koncert a moll - Allegro 6:43
Koncert a moll - Affettuoso 5:48
Koncert a moll - Allegro 5:05
Concerto de dos Organos 4:16
Quartetto 5:04
Fuga d moll 5:16
Introdukce a fuga c moll, op.10 5:33
No stopě Růžového pantera 2:17
Rytmy a barvy 2:13
Ja se Vám líbí? 2:14
Vzpomínka na Ligetiho 2:51
A Niels Wilhelm Gade 2:14

organ-twin divided into two parts (1 – 9)
     Karel Paukert – „dolní positiv“ organo secondo, organo primo (6)
     Jaroslav Tůma – „horní positiv“ organo primo, organo secondo (6)
organ-twin put together (10 – 16)
     Jaroslav Tůma – primo
     Karel Paukert – secondo

FOR MANY MUSICIANS it is more difficult to play with another colleague than alone, as a soloist. A soloist is more free in a performance, because he or she does not have to take into account conflicting interpretive ideas of a partner and possibly be hampered by his or her inability to comply technically or expressively with the demands of the composition at hand. The fact that organists give concerts almost exclusively as soloists is inherent in the nature of their instrument.
     The ensemble of organ stops often creates colours akin to the palette of the orchestra. The role of these diverse colours is to connect, to respond to each other, or to create an “organo pleno”, where all the magnificence of this royal instrument resounds. Why would then the organist need a partner? Why should he or she face the trappings of the chamber music?
     This query will be answered when we peruse the past and observe the present. There is a surprising body of compositions specifying organ in connection with other instruments. Perhaps the visual contrast of an enormous instrument with a relatively small one in hands of a single person captivates the public’s interest. (The popularity of partnering trumpet or violin with the organ is well-known.)
     Ordinary liturgical practice requires great adaptability from the organist. Even encountering instruments that by virtue of their imprecise action hinder the commands given by the organist’s fingers and feet, a precise playing (accompaniment) is required. When the organist is also the choirmaster, conducting vocal and instrumental works on major feasts also belongs to his or her obligations. The ability to lead and to adjust when needed is one of the profession’s basic requirements.
     While players of string, wind or brass instruments are accustomed to playing in diverse chamber music ensembles, making music on two organs simultaneously is seldom encountered, despite the fact that two instruments are found in many churches, the main organ in the organ loft, the other in the vicinity of the altar. Moreover, there are instances where several organs are situated in one sacral space. The need for multiple instruments might be directed by liturgical requirements or style considerations, wherein each instrument is earmarked for a certain period of the history of music. This situation abounds in Spanish cathedrals, where in the 18th century as many as seven organs are documented.
     Historical documents inform us that organ duo playing was cultivated in many sacred spaces, especially in Italy, but also elsewhere in Europe. A proof of it are numerous compositions conceived for this unusual instrumental combination and also the occurrence of “organ-twins”, built for this purpose in the presbytery on the Epistle and Gospel side.
     This identical situation is documented on our compact disc, amplifying on the specific possibilities of the “organ-twin” of Svatá Hora. Vladimír Šlajch created here an instrument of unique technical and sonic properties. Although it appears to be a normal two-manual organ with pedal, in reality it offers uncommon possibilities for the liturgies at Svatá Hora. Normally, this organ is placed in the presbytery and is used as a choir organ. However, if the situation calls for it, the upper part can be detached and placed anywhere in the basilica or in its surrounding outdoor chapels. The one manual organ then remains in its original site in the presbytery, with its pipes placed in the lower case. The organist and the pedal pipes positioned behind are thus visible.
     The upper case with its silvery Principal pipes is positioned on another base containing another organ blower and bellows, so both instruments can be used independent of each other. Playing in this divided configuration offers a gratifying experience. Our repertory is recorded for the most part in this form, whereby the base portion of this “double” positive remained on the right side of the altar, and the upper manual was on the top of the mentioned base on the left.
     During any recording session the musicians strive for an optimal visual contact and proximity, to be able to observe each other’s body language. This is often opposed by the producer, who is responsible for the spatial aspect of the recording. In our case we opted for a displacement, which allows the listener to hear the instruments as separate entities. In some of the recorded compositions where the thematic material shifts from one instrument to another, we were striving for a lively dialogue, as though we would be engaged in polemics of sorts. In these echo-like situations, one interpreter asserts a detail seemingly opposed or modified by the other. One suggests, the other answers and at the same time returns with a question, each trying to assert his vision. In other instances, such as the Concerto of Johann Ludwig Krebs, we strove for “harmony of the souls”. The work was originally conceived for two harpsichords and requires a unanimous understanding and rendition of each phrase; it is possible to speak of a “coordinated breathing”.
     The compositions by Johann Christoph Kellner and Ernst Friedrich Gaebler might be a surprise to our listeners. Here the organ is played in its original configuration, with both parts together, on the right side of the altar. Both compositions are composed for four hands, thus both organists sit on the same bench, next to each other. Many are familiar with the popularity of this genre in the past, when the majority of the repertoire for this medium consisted of transcriptions of orchestral works. However, here we have original works that flourished in England and Germany in the 18th and 19th century. They personify the traditional harmonic language or polyphony and employ proven forms. They complete the seldom heard repertoire of this recording, which we would like to introduce to you. The instrument then presents a unique concept in organ building and offers an unusually colourful sound palette. Above all it impresses with a thoughtful working out of minute details and with the precise voicing of the individual stops.
     It is to be hoped that this “organ-twin” of Svatá Hora will be complemented in the near future by the large instrument in the balcony, which would further validate this holy site as a pilgrimage place, capable of rendering liturgical organ music of the highest quality, both in the breadth of the repertory as well as in their execution.

Jaroslav Tůma

SVATÁ HORA is a place of pilgrimage situated at the top of a hill above the town of Příbram, about 60 km southwest far from Prague. The origins of this place are shrouded in legends. The first chapel might have been built there in the second half of the 13th century. The Miraculous Statuette of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Svatá Hora, a gothic folk wood carving form the 14th century, finally reached Svatá Hora after distressful pilgrimages through the churches of Příbram.
     In 1632 the miraculous healing from the blindness occurred in Svatá Hora. Thanks to this miracle, an insignificant chapel in the woods above the town was transformed into a place of pilgrimage of national importance, known throughout the central Europe. The present marvellous Baroque complex, which has been registered as a national cultural monument since 1995, was built in the years 1653 – 1673. The best artists of that time participated at its construction and decoration, which continued well into the 18th century. Carlo Lurago, or Christoph and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofers, famous Italian stucco decorators Santino Cereghetti and Antonio Soldati or painters Karel Škréta and Petr Brandl are some of the most illustrious ones.
     The peak of the efforts of the Jesuits, who administered Svatá Hora in the years 1647 – 1773, represented the Coronation of the Madonna of Svatá Hora. This solemnity took place in June 1732, and so Svatá Hora irreversibly became one of the most important European places of pilgrimage. However, after favourable and fruitful time, poor periods usually follow. Such a period hit Svatá Hora after the abolition of the Jesuit order in 1773. Despite extraordinary efforts of the priors, who were in charge of Svatá Hora until the arrival of the Congregation of the Redemptorists in 1861, the place of pilgrimage deteriorated and lapsed.
      The Redemptorists gradually renovated and enhanced the whole complex of Svatá Hora. With the forced break caused by the communist time, they take care of it until now. The elevation of Svatá Hora to the papal basilica in 1905 represented the peak of their efforts. Svatá Hora was the first church in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on which this title was bestowed.
      Also the destiny of the sacred music in Svatá Hora goes hand in hand with its history. The first organ is mentioned in the documents from the middle of the 17th century. In every successive period the organ was changed according to the new musical flair. Only during the 20th century such a change occurred three times. By now an organ of poor quality, which was built in 1948, has been played in the basilica. Unfortunately, it is at the end of its working life, and it is often not possible to play it at all. When the Masses are celebrated out of doors, by the Coronation Altar, an electronic organ has been played. This has been used for ten years, but it is no longer possible to use it for technical reasons. A temporary solution has been found thanks to the kindness of Jaroslav Tůma, who loaned his positive organ.
      It is apparent that Svatá Hora needs two instruments. They should represent a conceptual long-time solution of high quality covering the needs of the sacred music in Svatá Hora. From the very beginning, the organ which should be used out of doors was thought to be mobile, principally due to the fact that it has to be protected against bad weather.
      Thus originated a project, embracing a construction of two organs. Matice Svatohorská, the civic association supporting Svatá Hora, decided to build the smaller, mobile organ at first. This instrument is to be played in both places for now. As the costs of this choir organ were lower, it was finished and paid earlier. The successful construction of that choir organ might encourage the donors to provide money for the second, more costly stage of the project, i.e. for the building of the main organ which is to be housed in the gallery of the basilica.
     Matice Svatohorská chose the reputable Czech organ builder Vladimír Šlajch to build both organs for Svatá Hora. His workshop, situated in Borovany (Southern Bohemia), has a range of experience both in the restoration of historic organs and in the building of new ones. Mr Šlajch’s instruments are to be found not only in the Czech Republic, but also in Austria, Germany, the United States of America, Japan and elsewhere. Among his activities in the Czech Republic ought to be mentioned the renovation of the organ in Loreta in Prague, in Doksy or in Plasy, then the new buildings in České Budějovice, in St Bartholomew Church and in the St Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Šlajch’s main organ in Bruchsal (close to Karlsruhe, Germany) is one the most significant instruments built in central Europe in the last few years.
     Šlajch’s organ building workshop follows the philosophy of retaining proven historic procedures and manual craftsmanship, and at the same time of using the most modern technologies and the best materials. Of course, this fact is reflected in the quality and the working life of an organ.
     The construction of the choir organ presents a unique technical solution for the demanding liturgical applications at the basilica. It has eleven stops, and consists of two independent instruments positioned one on the top of the other and pedal board. Through a simple operation they can be positioned next to each other.
The case of the organ is made of oak, is partly gilded, and is decorated with wood carvings made of lime and tinged with red. The keyboards are made of lime and spruce, and are encased in ebony and ivory. To make the transportation of the particular parts of the instrument easier, the iron forged tin-dipped hooks are added.
     The Principal, the stop placed in the prospect, represent a speciality of the organ disposition. It is made of 85 % tin alloy with 1 % copper addition. This procedure was used by Abraham Starck, an important Czech Baroque organ builder, and it is to be found for instance in the organ in Plasy. When restoring the instrument of Plasy, Vladimír Šlajch was inspired by this metal composition, and decided to use it when building the new choir organ for Svatá Hora.

Stanislav Přibyl, Rector of the Shrine, Svatá Hora

Further recordings by Jaroslav Tůma:

© Studio Svengali, April 2024
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