On this last day of the Historic Organ Study Tour we were scheduled to visit the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino but in the words of our director, Bruce Stevens, “only one lady had the key to the church, and she is having surgery today, therefore the church is locked, and no one can enter the church.”
Instead we went a long bus ride to visit the Conservatory “Pedrollo” of Vicenza where Roberto Antonello has taught since 1994 and where he has been named Director of the Conservatory for the next three years.
The building dates from the 11th century and once housed a Dominican order. Now two-thirds of the conservatory serve college students and the remaining third preparatory division students.
The 2011 Zeni organ was inspired by the historic Silbermann model and was purchased at an amazing price of €300,000 for 37 ranks. I knew already that I was going to love it even before hearing or playing it. I played two movements from Bach’s Sei gegrüsset and it felt good.
Back to the Treviso area, we next visited the Chiesa di San Nicolo, an extremely large church with a beautiful 1778-1779 Gaetano Callido, the most famous Venetian organbuilder in the 1700s. The organ doors were painted by Giacomo Lauro with scenes from the life of Pope Benedict XI.
I did find it a little weird with middle C way off to the right because of a short contra octave below the usual bottom octave. I tried to play several movements of Bach’s partita on O Gott, du frommer Gott, and because of the leaps in the bass, got a little discombobulated because of all those extra notes in the bass keyboard.
We walked only a short distance to the Treviso Duomo, and what an organ with which to end the tour! It was a collaboration between the Kuhn organbuilder of Switzerland and Gerhard Hradetzky of Austria. By far it was the only eclectic organ on the tour, and seemed perfect to handle all kinds of repertoire. We met the church’s organist, Giovanni Feltrin, who demonstrated the instrument for us with repertoire choices as well as improvisations. He also helped tour participants with registration (pulling the stops). The organ handled French baroque literature, as well as French romantic works, had warm strings and a beautiful flute solo stop, plus fiery and massive reeds. It had been voiced for 1000 people in the pews and at times was a little loud, but it was the easiest to play. I really wish I had had more time with this organ.
What an incredible journey this has been! I’m grateful that I had this experience of learning about Italian organs, and being able to play these wonderful instruments. As Bruce Stevens, our tour director said, “Usually on a tour, there are two or three organs I don’t care for, but on this trip, I can’t name a single instrument I didn’t like!” Amen to that!
Thank you to Roberto Antonello for going above and over the call of duty to help us learn about Italian organs, and to our tour organizers, Bruce Stevens and Bill Van Pelt, and to our bus driver, Frank.
It was a fantastic trip!
(I will spend one more day in Venice before going home.)