PARIS (France) – Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique
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.
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.
3 Keyboards 61 keys (C-c) – 2 Pedalboards 32 keys (C-g) interchangeable (AGO e BDO standards)
|A||Bourdon *||16′ – 8′|
|C||Bourdon||8′ – 4′ – 2′|
|D||Prestant *||4′ – 2′|
|E||Gambe||8′ – 4′ – 2′|
|F||Flûte||4′ – 2′|
|G||Basson||16′ – 8′|
|I||Plein – Jeu III *||1.1/3′|
|J||Quinte – Larigot||2.2/3′ – 1.1/3′|
|K||Tierce – Sèptieme||1.3/5′ – 1.1/7′|
*Stops in between the two swell boxes
I – GRAND’ORGANO
|3.||Flûte||8′||1=12 C 13=61 F|
|9.||Plein Jeu III||1.1/3′||I|
II – POSITIVO
|13.||Bourdon||16′||1=12 A – 13=61 F|
|14.||Gambe||8′||1=12 E – 13=61 L|
|16.||Salicet||4′||1=49 L – 50=61 E|
III – RECITATIVO
|25.||Bourdon||16′||1=12 A – 13=61 C|
|26.||Gambe||8′||1=12 E – 13=61 L|
|28.||Bourdon-Flûte||8′||1=12 C – 13=61 F|
|36.||Hautbois||8′||1=24 G – 25=61 H|
|39.||Violoncelle||8′||1=12 A – 13=32 C 13=24 E – 25=32 L|
|42.||Violoncelle||8′||1=12 E – 13=32 L|
|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
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!