In 1980, Gerald Woehl, a renowned German organ builder and instrument restorer, discovered a magnificent Italian Baroque organ in Florence, where it was on the verge of being sold as furniture. Twenty-five years later, the instrument has taken its place as the only full-size antique Italian organ in North America. Now owned by the Eastman School of Music, the fully restored and thoroughly documented organ now fills the Gallery’s Fountain Court with the sounds of the past.
Below, William Porter, Professor of Organ at the Eastman School of Music performs an excerpt from “Pavane Prymera”, a 16th century composition whose author is unknown.
Video: Matthew Mann | Video Producer, Communications | University of Rochester
As beautiful, authentic sounds fill the Fountain Court, the work of period artists are a feast for the eyes as well. The organ—with its 600 pipes and lavishly carved, painted and gilded 22-foot case—is the centerpiece of an installation that highlights over 30 major Baroque paintings and sculpture from the Gallery’s permanent collection.
The museum’s latest baroque acquisition, Luca Giordano’s monumental altarpiece The Entombment (1650-1653) is a powerful addition to this unique collaboration between the Eastman School of Music and the Memorial Art Gallery, both divisions of the University of Rochester. The Eastman organ, surrounded by major works of art from the Baroque period, immerses audience members and museum visitors alike in the rich and dramatic visual and musical culture of 17th- and 18th-century Europe.
Each Sunday students from the Eastman School of Music give 25-minute mini-recitals at 1 and 3 pm (included in Gallery admission). This working historic instrument reflects not only the art, architecture and science of Baroque Italy, but the musical and religious culture as well.
Once a month from October to May, the organ is featured in Third Thursday evening showcase concerts with the Eastman School. Concerts are offered free with Gallery admission.
For details of upcoming organ recitals and concerts, check the Gallery’s online events calendar.
Purchase or sample excerpts from these CDs of performances by Hans Davidsson, David Higgs, William Porter and Edoardo Bellotti on the organ.