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The Organ at European Courts

Organist Francesco Cera plays an original positive organ built in 1772, now kept at the Franciscan Convent of Lustra Cilento in Italy.

Francesco Cera.

Photo: Francesco Cera

Francesco Cera.

The organ is an instrument that is most readily associated with sacred music and the Church.  But a new recording places the organ in a secular light: Francesco Cera’s 2016 Brilliant Classics release called The Organ at European Courts.  Dances, transcriptions, variations and intabulations were all part of the secular organ repertory from which this present recording gathers an anthology of 16th and 17th century music from Italy, Austria, Spain, Germany, France and England. Pieces include works composed by, Antico, Frescobaldi, Gabrieli, Pasquini, Antonio de Cabezon, Hofhaimer, Scheidemann, Scheidt, Hugh Aston, Pierre Attaingnant and Henri Du Mont.

Chamber Organs

Many royal and aristocratic households throughout Europe had their own chamber organs, or portative organs, that could be moved from one room to another.  These organs may have been small, but could be mightily ornate with intricately carved or painted cabinets, ivory inlay, and even silver and alabaster pipes. The nobility used these small organs in their homes and chapels for banquets and court events and for chamber music.

A keyboard elaboration of the franco-Flemish chanson “Je n’en dirai mot”  by the Venetian composer, Andrea Gabrieli is heard on this recording. When listening, it’s fun to imagine yourself in Renaissance Venice, hearing this played on one of the richly decorated organs of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi.

Hand Operated Bellows

For this recording, organist Francesco Cera, plays a rare and well preserved original positive organ built in 1772 by an unknown maker.  The instrument is kept at the Franciscan Convent of Lustra Cilento in Italy.  It is a single manual instrument with hand operated bellows.  The inherent unevenness of air of the non-mechanized bellows lends a wonderful complexity to the sound as the instrument itself, literally, breaths.

Organ Book of 1531

The back cover of the CD booklet reprints a detail of a French tapestry depicting a lady in the garden with her organ, surrounded by woodland creatures and accompanied by her attendant (operating the bellows, of course!) Oh, if these walls could speak! Perhaps we would hear the Lady playing a courtly Pavenne from Pierre Attaingnant’s organ book of 1531.

Tr. 5, Canzon francese detta je n'en dirai mot; Tr. 10, Diferencias sobre el canto llano del Caballero; Tr. 19, Pavenne
Francesco Cera — The Organ at European Courts (Brilliant Classics, 2016)
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album cover

Tr. 5, Canzon francese detta je n'en dirai mot; Tr. 10, Diferencias sobre el canto llano del Caballero; Tr. 19, Pavenne
Francesco Cera — The Organ at European Courts (Brilliant Classics, 2016)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Janelle Davis

Janelle Davis is a violinist and performer with period instrument ensembles throughout the United States. She is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Music degree from Indiana University, Bloomington where she specializes in early music.

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