Author Topic: A Mascioni restored in Malta...  (Read 3157 times)

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A Mascioni restored in Malta...
« on: July 28, 2012, 12:26:10 PM »


THe Sunday Times Logo   
Sunday, July 15, 2012 by
Ramona Depares
Restored to former glory

Wayne Marshall’s performance at St Augustine’s church will officially inaugurate the recently restored Mascioni pipe-organ. Restorer Robert Buhagiar tells Ramona Depares about the work involved in returning the organ to its original state.

When I interviewed conductor and organist Wayne Marshall he only had words of praise for the pipe-organ at St Augustine’s church, Valletta, which he is known to play regularly when in Malta.
The restoration required a particular skill due to the complexity and special design features of this particular model

“It’s a nice Mascioni that responds incredibly well to the organist’s demands.”

Now, this stamp of approval has been stepped up a notch or two as the organ will be officially inaugurated after a long process of restoration carried out by Robert Buhagiar.

The inauguration, part of the Malta Arts Festival programme, will see Marshall – who was recently appointed artistic director for the V18 project – performing a selection from Bach, Mozart, Bonnet, Schmidt and Messiaen next Sunday.

The pipe-organ, Buhagiar tells me, is a rather fine specimen that was built by one of the most renowned Italian pipe-organ firms in 1829. Mascioni is currently the oldest surviving organ building firms in Italy and their signature carries substantial cachet in organ playing circles.

“This particular instrument was built in 1952. It’s not the only Mascioni in Malta; most notably, the firm also built the organ in St John’s Co-Cathedral in 1960. What makes the St Augustine’s church specimen remarkable is its particularly beautiful tonal characteristics, apart from the fact that it is a relatively large instrument for Malta’s standards, and features a highly responsive transmission, typical of Mascioni organs.”

The restoration process started in December 2009; although it was still in playing condition, many parts showed obvious signs of decay and the full potential of the organ was not available to the organist.

“The situation was far beyond normal routine maintenance. One of the most severe problems was the failure of certain leather components. The transmission of Mascioni organs from this period relies extensively on leather components, of which there are well over a thousand in this case. With age these leather parts fail, giving rise to leakages and problems in the wind chests and bellows, reducing the efficiency of the transmission.”

The Augustinian community decided to take action and restore the organ before it become unplayable. The restoration required a particular skill due to the complexity and special design features of this particular organ, and Buhagiar, who has trained with the Mascioni firm, working on various organs all over Italy, was appointed.

“Apart from the extensive re-leathering operations, the restoration also involved two other main areas – the electromechanical switching and memory systems, and the voicing and tuning of the pipes.”

One of the many interesting aspects regarding the restoration of this organ, Buhagiar explains, is the treatment given to the original electro-mechanical switching and memory systems. These rather bulky and complex systems are the interface between the console and the various wind chests in the organ; the memory systems allow the organist to ‘record’ up to four stop combinations, which can then be recalled by pressing a button.

“Of course, nowadays it is acceptable and sometimes even advisable to replace all the original systems with new solid-state (electronic) systems. But in this case it would have been a pity to discard Mascioni’s high quality electro-mechanical workings. These types of switching systems are no longer produced nowadays and are a legacy from a particular era in the history of organ building.”

In fact, Buhagiar retained and restored them – cleaning, repairing and regulating thousands of electrical contacts in the process, bringing them back to full working condition.

The restoration of the pipes was another delicate process that involved the dismantling of all the pipes for much-needed cleaning and repairs. The timbre of the pipes was then corrected as necessary as per the original characteristics of each individual pipe and finally the organ was completely tuned.

With 1,441 pipes – the largest being 4.8 metres long and the smallest with a speaking length of a couple of centimetres – the process was complex.

Now, the results of Buhagiar’s works are set to be enjoyed by a packed church as the organ is put through its paces with some of the most well-loved classics. An inauguration fit for the noble instrument that it is.

The restored organ will be officially inaugurated today at 9 p.m. Entrance to the event is free but tickets are required.

The objective is to reach human immortality—that is, to create things which are necessary to mankind, necessary to the purpose of the existence of mankind, and which have become the fruit that drives the creation of a higher state of mankind than ever existed before."


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