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Pipe Organs

Basilica dell'Immacolata
Builder: George William Trice
Year built: 1885
Basilica dell'Immacolata

The organ of the "Basilica dell'Immacolata" owes its origin and its unique characteristics, which make it a "unicum" to a series of events and circumstances that led to the meeting, in Genoa the last years of the nineteenth century, two singular characters: the lawyer Genoese Pier Constantino Remondini, passionate student of the art of organ and the English organ builder who moved to Genoa mainly for health reasons and with the specific intent not to build organs but to engage in carbon trading. Remondini was fully immersed in the atmosphere of "Cecilian reform" and very documented on the organ European trends of that period; in numerous writings and public speeches supported the belief that, for the Italian organ was time to change course abandoning the model of organ-band, with all its appurtenances flavor almost blasphemous, to hang up the European tradition that would also allowed the execution of the great classical authors. Trice, the son of a renowned organ builder, had received professional training from a young age assisting his father in his work and his knowledge was not limited to an English scope but extended to the activity of the best known French organ builders and Germans of the moment. It so happened that Trice was required to build (in his spare time) a small organ for the English Church of Genoa, and this was the "calling card" by which the lawyer Remondini made his acquaintance. Remondini was immediately aware of the extraordinary opportunity that presented itself to make tangible for Italians, very tied to tradition, his ideas of reform and therefore started with Trice an intensive exchange of ideas. The opportunity to actually implement these projects showed up when a munificent benefactor, Benedetto Chiappa, offered the money needed for the construction of a new organ to equip the Basilica, which had none. Remondini developed the project by providing a tool in three sound bodies located respectively on the entrance portal (main organ) and two secondary organs (choral and expressive) on the sides of the altar; everything would be controlled by a console in electrical transmission with three manual keyboards with 61 keys and pedals 30 pedals, placed in the choir. In this project, Trice, using all top quality materials, especially for the phonic part, applied some innovative technical solutions to his personal design, such as the construction of wind chests that allowed the use of the same register on different keyboards, and the electric transmission system that for the first time made his appearance in Italy. The phonic arrangement had the following scheme:

First keyboardSecond keyboardThird keyboardPedalboard
Organo maggioreOrgano laterale corale (espressivo)Organo maggioreOrgano laterale coraleOrgano laterale espressivoOrgano maggioreOrgano coraleOrgano espressivo
Gamba 8'Gamba 8'Principale 16'Controgamba 16'Bordone 16'Subbasso 32'Bordone 16'Principale aperto 16'
Flauto chiuso 8'Bordone 8'Principale I 8'Principale 8'Eufonio 8'Contrabbasso 16'Violoncello 8'Ottava 8'
Flauto armonico 4'Flauto d'orchestra 4'Principale II 8'Dulciana 8'Viola 8'Bordone 16'Bordone dolce 8'
Flautino 2'Piccolo armonico 2'Ottava I 4'Ottava 4' Bordone 8'Violone 16'
Tuba mirabilis 8'Clarinetto 8'Ottava II 4'Duodecima 2 2/3'Ottava 4'Ottava 8'
Voce Umana 8'Oboe 8'Duodecima 2 2/3Quintadecima 2'Flauto 4'Flauto 8'
Voce celeste 8'Quintadecima 2'Pieno (XIX e XXII) Decimaquinta 2'Duodecima 5 1/3'
Pieno 5 fileTromba 8'Pieno 3 fileDecimaquinta 4'
Pieno 3 fileFlicorno 8'Trombone 16'
Dulciana 8'Tromba 4'Fagotto 16'
Bordone 8'
Controboe 16'
Tromba 8'
Tromba 4'

The pipes were 1886 in total.

The construction of the instrument, that took five years of work, was completed in 1890 and the inauguration took place during three concerts, held on 21, 22 and 23 April of that year, which were held respectively by G.B. Polleri, organist of the Basilica, by A. Guilmant and F. Capocci. As can be seen from the above description this was an organ with innovative and experimental features that sparked much discussion among the experts of that time. Apart from the exceptional sound quality of phonic material, appreciated by all, the combination of the whole and the electrical transmission mainly offered insights to the debate. Since then, the pipe organs building tendencies saw a real turning point in Italy.

The mechanical transmission systems and adopted by Trice had characteristics of real "prototypes" and their operation, after a few years, began to show many the weaknesses. These circumstances made it necessary for a restoration, whose implementation was entrusted in 1929 to Lorenzo Balbiani. He implemented a true remake of the instrument in light of the technical progress made in the first decades of the century in terms of organ construction skills and an updated timbric/artistic international vision, to meet the needs of the symphonic repertoire that characterized the organ compositions of that period. Balbiani retained all the original phonic material making a more rational redistribution and integrating it with appropriate additions of registers. The keyboards passed from three to four and the number of pipes from 1886 to about 4000. This new configuration is still in use today:

First keyboardSecond keyboardThird keyboardFourth keyboardPedalboard
Positivo espressivo (in cornu Epistulæ)Grand'Organo (sopra il portale)Recitativo espressivo (in cornu Evangelii)Recitativo forte espressivo (nel matroneo sinistro)sopra il portalein cornu Epistulæin cornu Evangelii
Arpa celesteTromba 4'Pieno 7 fileCampaneContrabbasso 16'Bordone 16'Subbasso 16'
Bordone 16'Tromba 8'Ottava 4'Pieno etereo 5 fileViolone 16'Dolce 8'Basso 8'
CornettoCorno inglese 16'Principale 8'Piccolo 2'Ottava 8'
Ottavino 2'Dulciana 8'Bordoncino 4'Fugara 4'Cello 8'
Flauto 4'Gamba 8'Flauto 8'Flauto 4'Gran quinta 10 e 2/3
Quintante 8'Bordone 8'Quintante 16'Eolina 8'Bombarda 16'
Eufonio 8'Flauto 4'Coro viole 8'Controgamba 16'Contrabbasso 32' (acustico)
Unda maris 8'Principale 16'Gamba 8'Concerto viole 8'
Viola 8'Principale 8'Armonica 8'Viola 8'
Salcionale 8'Corno di camoscio 8'Oboe 8'Voce corale 8'
Clarino 8'Ottava 4'Tuba mirabilis 8'
Nazardo 2 2/3'
Decimaquinta 2'
Ripieno 9 file
Campione audio
Code and graphic by Lucio Marinelli