PARIS (France) – Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique

THE CHALLENGE

The Cité de la Musique at La Villette, Paris is a veritable complex of concert halls, museums and digital libraries, open to all. And at its heart sits the Conservatoire National Supérieur de la Musique et de Danse, a European centre of reference for musical education. Dedicated in 1983 and built in a style of the time, it’s now home to 1200 students every year. Let alone nearly 300 pianos.

Organs are fewer, though nevertheless the Conservatoire’s auditorium has hosted a sizeable Rieger from day one. While recently, Olivier Latry and Michel Bouvard, the Conservatoire’s organ chairs, have added a further three. All reflecting the diversity of organ repertoire, but in three diverse ways.

Two have two manuals, mechanical-action and known genres: Silberman by Blumenroeder Quentin, and Peter Meier and Marco Venegoni after the symphonic Cavaillé-Coll. But the brief for the third was purpose over style. Its aim, to encourage students to experiment, open their souls, explore and improvise.

After all, in France, improvisation is as much a staple as interpretation. It commands not only a mastery of literature, theory and harmony but a fecund imagination and an urge to explore the unknown. It can’t be taught. Only nurtured.

Hence, the organ had to be a chameleon, ready to adapt as fast as a young imagination. And where, thanks to electric action, all four divisions and every pipe could create colours, nuances or beyond.

That in mind, the brief was also handed to a pool of advanced organ students. They fell on it like true improvisors. Thus in a sense, the challenge was already won. But only the design and execution would be the final proof of success.

Parigi 2
THE ORGAN ITSELF

In essence, the direct electric action instrument comprises three manuals and 13 extended ranks, making 49 stops in all. Electric action is a key student’s training for the real world. It abounds everywhere, and in turn creates challenges like distances and delays. And might even one day turn them into musical ideas.

On 81 mm. of pressure, the scaling and voicing style is recognisably French, though progressions allow every rank to fulfill an almost infinite number of roles. To that end, while the organ was built in Italy, pipes were entirely site-voiced by Nicolas Toussaint. It was also a sure way of tonally tailoring an organ to a space smaller than the average voicing-shop.

While the Grand Orgue, Positif and Récit have distinctive characters, tradition ends there. Divisions are swappable, divisible at any point and coupled at literally any pitch entirely at will. Even the Pedale is divisible, and either part coupled to a manual at a pitch of choice.

From there, more tools abound. the Sustainer can simply hold the last note held or substitute it with a selected chord. A Pizzicato function can be assigned to any manual, while the Soprano coupler selects the highest note played and liberates it to be coupled or played on other stops.

Each coupler can literally function at any pitch, opening up a previously unexplored gamut of colours. Recit to Positif at 2 2/7’. Grand Orgue to Pedale three semitones up. Discover them.

And in a country where church and concert-hall acoustics are as rich and varied as tone-colours, the organ helps prepare students to exploit them. Programmable action speeds simulate any time delay, while double expression – literally one swell-box within another – replicates to a degree the dynamics of a building in the confines of a practice-room.

In conclusion, here is both an organ and a laboratory in equal measure. One where a budding improvisor can unbuckle, dabble, let their spontaneity run amok and never get bored like a kid in a sweet-shop. We’ve only heard the start of it.

DISPOSITION

3 Keyboards 61 keys (C-c) – 2 Pedalboards 32 keys (C-g) interchangeable (AGO e BDO standards)

ABourdon *16′ – 8′
BMontre *8′ 
CBourdon8′ – 4′ – 2′ 
DPrestant *4′ – 2′ 
EGambe8′ – 4′ – 2′  
FFlûte4′ – 2′ 
GBasson16′ – 8′ 
HHautbois (Dessus)8′ 
IPlein – Jeu III *1.1/3′ 
JQuinte – Larigot 2.2/3′ – 1.1/3′
KTierce – Sèptieme1.3/5′ – 1.1/7′ 
LVoix Cèleste8′ 
MClarinette8′ 

*Stops in between the two swell boxes

I – GRAND’ORGANO

1.Bourdon16′A
2Montre8′B
3.Flûte8′1=12 C  13=61 F
4.Bourdon8′A
5.Prestant4′D
6.Flûte4′C
7.Quinte2.2/3′J
8.Doublette2′D
9.Plein Jeu III1.1/3′I
10.Cornet VCFJK
11.Basson16′G
12.Basson8′g

II – POSITIVO

13.Bourdon16′1=12 A – 13=61 F
14.Gambe8′1=12 E – 13=61 L
15.Bourdon8′C
16.Salicet4′1=49 L – 50=61 E
17.Flûte4′F
18.Nasard2.2/3′J
19.Flûte2′C
20.Tierce1.3/5′K
21.Larigot1.1/3′J
22.Septième1.1/7′K
23.Plein Jeu2′EJKL
24.Clarinette8′M

III – RECITATIVO

25.Bourdon16′1=12 A – 13=61 C
26.Gambe8′1=12 E – 13=61 L
27.Voix Céleste8′E
28.Bourdon-Flûte8′1=12 C – 13=61 F
29.Flûte4′C
30.Nasard2.2/3′J
31.Quarte2′F
32.Plein Jeu2′EJL
33.Cornet VCFJK
34.Basson16′G
35.Basson8”G
36.Hautbois8′1=24 G – 25=61 H
37.Tremblant  

PEDALE

38.Soubasse32′ A
39.Violoncelle8′1=12 A – 13=32 C    13=24 E – 25=32 L
40.Soubasse16′ A
41.Principal8′ B
42.Violoncelle8′1=12 E – 13=32 L
43.Bourdon8′A
44.Octave4′D
45.Flûte4′F
46.Flûte2′C
47.Basson16′G
48.Basson8”G
49.Clarinette4′M

ACCOPPIAMENTI

1.GO 16 GO 
2.GO Unison off 
3.GO 4 GO 
 
4.POS 16 POS  
5.POS Unison off 
6.POS 4 POS 
7.REC 16 REC 
8.REC Unison off 
9.REC 4 REC 
 
10.POS 16 GO 
11.REC 16 GO 
12.REC 16 POS 
13.POS 8 GO 
14.REC 8 GO 
15.REC 8 POS 
 
16.POS 4 GO 
17.REC 4 GO 
18.REC 4 POS 
19.GO 8 PED 
20.POS 8 PED 
21.REC 8 PED 
   
22.GO 4 PED 
23.POS 4 PED 
24.REC 4 PED 
SPECIAL FUNCTIONS DEDICATED TO IMPROVISATION

Following the description of the numerous unique special functions especially suited for Improvisation

SETTABLE FREE COUPLERS

1. Free Coupler 1
2. Free Coupler 2
3. Free Coupler 3
4. Free Coupler 4

These special couplers can be set by the organist on any interval or keyboard. Recit to Positive in 2.2/7′ or Great Organ to Pedal three tone up …. the only limit is immagination!

SWAP GO - POS

This function allows the swap between first and second keyboard and it is settable in the combinations

COUPURE PEDALE I

Divide the Pedalborad in two sections with a settable break point. In the basses it is possible to play the Pedal stops while in the trebles it is possible to play the manual couplers.

COUPURE PEDALE II

Like the first one but with a floating break point: playing just one pedal, it works like a manual coupler to pedal while holding a pedal in the basses and making a “cantabile” with the upper notes its transform itself and play the Pedal stops in the lower note and manual couplers in the upper

ALL PISTON NEXT

This function converts all pistons in the function “Next” or “+” o simplify the use of the organ for concerts or complex parts where the organist needs to be concentrated on the music and fast change to the next combination level.

CONGELE

With this function the organist can temporary lock the selected stops, make necessary changes to the stops while playing. The new stop’s selection will be unlocked and active putting off the “congele” function.

SOPRANO

This function selects the highest note played and liberates it to be coupled or played on other manual. Here they have Sostenuto Pos to Great and Rec to Great

PIZZICATO

This function acts to the coupled manual. The key or the keys played remains active for a short period (100 ms.) on the coupled manual.

SOSTENUTO I

Serie of push buttons under the keyboards (S) that, activated, hold the last notes played on the corresponding manual.

SOSTENUTO II

Serie of push buttons under the keyboards (S+) that, activated, hold the last notes played on the corresponding manual and replace them with the new ones.

SHUTTER SWITCH

Ten step switch to regulate the opening of the external expression shutters.

DELAY SWITCH

Programmable action speeds simulate a sound time delay in order to reproduce the sound delay in a large church or music hall.

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