Last year, the Hof-Musici ensemble’s range of instruments was enriched with a unique instrument – an Italian chamber organ, the so-called Organo di Legno. Thanks to the generous investment of the Prague “Association for Central European Cultural Studies”, it was possible to have the instrument built by the organ builder Michal Novák and his organ building workshop Sandrik Giovannino de Provolone (www.sandrik-varhany.cz) from Chrustenice.
We are looking forward to being able to present the Organo di Legno to our audience in concerts and video recordings next year.
The instrument was modeled on the few surviving Italian instruments from the 17th century. The pipes were made exclusively of wood, and the organ does not require the electrification that is common today and is operated using a wedge bellows.
The instrument has an 8′ register with open pipes (so-called Principale italiano) and the range C/E – c”’ (with a short bass octave), which is characteristic of Italian keyboard instruments. The instrument’s case is decorated with carvings in the style of the early 17th century; the decoratively inlaid front pipes are particularly striking.
This type of organ was very popular in Italy in the 17th century, particularly for accompanying singing voices, not only in the field of church music, but also for chamber music and opera. It is well known that Claudio Monteverdi even required two organi di legno in the score of his Orfeo.
The use of chamber organs in opera performances is also documented at the Viennese imperial court in the second half of the 17th century.
The numerous contemporary treatises describe the sound of an Organo di Legno as, among other things, soave, dolce, pietra di paragone per le buone voci, voce dolcissima per i recitativi (gentle, sweet, touchstone for the good singing voices, the sweetest sound for the recitative).