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The Haerpfer-Aubertin Organ of Château-Salins (France)

A NEW ACOUSTIC CONCEPT.In 1960, the HAERPFER ERMANN company from Boulay built a new organ in the wonderful 18th century case which had been modified in the 20th century and partly rebuilt in 1960. This organ was the first one, as many others, to have been harmonised "en plein vent" (with open pipes and low pressures) but it has quickly sunk into oblivion because this kind of harmonisation became rapidly old-fashioned. In 1995, the AUBERTIN factory was chosen to restore this instrument. I was entrusted with this building site within the framework of the training for my Art Diploma. I was faced up to a beautiful panelling which had already been altered, some 19th century stops, pipes made up with some 18th century pieces , and 20th century pipes boldly combining all existing materials ( fir, oak, pewter, spotted, copper, zinc, lead ). As I was in charge of instilling a soul in this instrument, I wondered what I was going to do in the technical as well as in the aesthetical field. I finally opted for the maintenance of the structures and the fundamental restoration of the traction. Every leather was changed, some electric components which were voluminous and obsolete were replaced by more modem transistors and resistances. Everything was carefully adjusted with different touches putting many organists in an awkward position when confronted to this "damn electric touch" . The cases and the windchest were partially rebuilt and rearranged to make each part of the instrument accessible and to favour the sound diffusion. The most important part of the work consisted in recreating a warm and musical tone in keeping with the wonderful case. The organ was completely harmonised again . The acoustic atmosphere is now quite close to the French baroque organ allowing at the same time a convincing performing of the German baroques, of the romantic, symphonic and, of course, of the neoclassical repertoire. For the first time, I have built a polyvalent instrument with a convincing character in any repertoire chosen. This organ now attracts a great number of famous organists and a number of specialists wondering how such sounds can be produced by those second rate pipes made of zinc, copper...which are now excluded from the materials used to build organs. When you have a precise idea of the sound you want to obtain, and if you have a good technique, you are able to master the material. This organ already foreshadows the European organ ofForbach which will be built 5 years later.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY.The organ, which had been originally built for the neighbouring abbey of Salival, had been installed in Chateau-Salins during the French Revolution. The ravages of several wars followed its installation and the last one leaved the organ completely mute until its reconstruction, modernisation and electrification by the HAERPFER ERMAN factory in 1960. Its case, dating from the 18th century is one of the last local relics to have avoided the test of time and modernism. The new instrument was christened in great pomp by Gaston Litaize and several recordings were made there by Marie Claire Alain and Gaston Litaize. But after the 60's, the organ still experienced some sporadic activities before falling into disuse, the "plein vent" harmonisation being already old-fashioned. The inexorable process of decay has carried on till 1995 when it was decided, through the impetus given by Roger Toumaire, chairman of the fabric committee, to entrust Michel Gaitlard with its restoration. The metamorphosis was so spectacular that an association was created to watch over the instrument, to open it to a dynamic team of organists and to prevent it from past mistakes. Many activities are organised to make the instrument known and to ensure its perpetuity, activities such as concerts (L. Robillard, 0. Latry...), welcoming organists passing through the region at the moment, school activities, sessions of introductions to the organ... (Text by Mr. Dominique Klein, chairman of the "Amis des orgues" association).

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