Gray, a Franco-Swabian organ?

To perform works composed by Alexandre Pierre François Boëly, Johannes Brahms or Felix Mendelssohn on an organ that was rebuilt by the Alsatian family, the Callinets, in 1834 could well appear strange at first sight. The dates may correspond, with the exception perhaps of works by Brahms, but what about the style of the instrument ? The organ’s intrinsic qualities and the talent of the organist with his judicial performance and taste, already provide an answer to questions arising from the choice of the instrument. If we take a closer look at the organ’s aesthetic beauty and the personalities of those who built and restored it throughout the ages, things become clearer.

Although some of the casing and pipes in the organ at Gray date back to the 18th century, most of the instrument, since its latest restoration by Jean-François Muno in 1992, has remained as it was after being rebuilt by Joseph Callinet in 1834. During the first half of the 19thcentury, Joseph Callinet, the elder of two brothers from Rouffach(Alsace), held dual nationality, German -or more precisely,Swabian-thanks to Joseph Rabiny, and French– Parisian to be exact –by his father François.

We know that in 1786, at the age of 32, François Callinet « wishing to return to his native Burgundy », presented himself as « an accomplished organ builder » to Rabiny in Dijon. The latter, according to the specialist in the history of the French organ PierreHardouin, « hoped to benefit from this collaboration with the Parisian organ builder to better satisfy his French customers ».Rabiny entrusted him with his Burgundian clientel, and he finally settled in Alsace. In October 1794 François Callinet married Marguerite Rabiny in Rouffach, thus becoming Joseph Rabiny’s son in law. Joseph Callinet was born soon after in Dijon, in 1795.

So it was that Joseph Callinet was to become familiar, not only with the organs built by Rabiny in Burgundy and Franche-Comté, but also those of Karl-Joseph Riepp (who was also involved in Gray), who built one of the few organs in France with 24 foot casing. His father François had in fact already restored several Riepp organs to suit Parisian taste, the finest example of these being the organ in Dole. He may well have heard for the first time such stops as « Basse deViole », « Viola di Gamba » or « Violoncelle », a novelty in France, that Rabiny sometimes included in his organs.

After the Revolution, young Joseph frequented Rabiny in Rouffach, where the latter died in May 1813, but most of his skills he learned from his father, for whom he had deep admiration. It is well worth taking a look at François Callinet’s career, prior to his arrival in Dijon, since it provides an answer to many a question. He had spent 10 years as an apprentice in Paris during the final years of the ancien regime, working with some of the most prestigious royal organ builders, the « facteurs du Roy »; Adrien Picard l’Epine and above all François-Henry Clicquot. He was almost certainly involved, either in the workshops or on site, in the building of the organs of Saint-Sulpice, Notre-Dame, the royal military academy and numerous other sites in Paris or in the provinces (for example: Nemours) . As Pierre Hardouin points out, Lépine, not wishing to overshadowClicquot (he was married into the family) on the Parisian market, tended to accept commissions elsewhere, and above all from former clients of Karl-Joseph Riepp outside Paris (Auxerre,Nogent-sur-Seine). Thanks to these two Parisian master builders, François was impregnated by the art of French classical organ building at its highest peak, and this stayed with him right up to the end of his life (he died in 1820) and stands out even in his smallest, single keyboard instruments. He was to hand this down to his sons Joseph and Claude-Ignace, in particular Joseph, who worked with him on building cathedral organs (Valence, Autun, Besançon).

When it comes to it, this fine aesthetic blend has its roots in the history of a family.

Strengthened by what they had inherited and past masters of their trade, as well as managing a flourishing workshop, the Callinet brothers, set about creating their own style of instrument. The organ in Gray is a perfect example. It is fundamentally a French classical organ in its mechanical structure, its layout (the back positive « positif de dos » and the short keyboards on the Swell and Echo were still the general rule), and the cuneiform bellows with which it was fitted up until the 1850s. However it has a German pedal board, the type that Boëly would have no doubt required in Paris, and a late 18thcentury range of colour, enhanced by new stops (in particular the « gambas » from southern Germany that Rabiny was using in France as from 1765 in Vesoul). There is only one exception, but it is an important one. Apart from the very large instruments or old organs being rebuilt (as was the case in Gray), the big Plein-jeu, with separate Mixtures and Cymbale stops, and its corresponding counterparts on the Positif (choir organ) has disappeared. In the best of cases, they have been reduced to « fourniture et cymbalede cinq tuyaux par touche, d’une harmonie argentine » (silvery-voiced five rank mixture and cymbal stops). However, the one foot Sifflet (whistle), a stop in its own right, separated from thePlenum, has frequently been added.

So, what organs would Boëly have been playing in Paris once the Revolution was over and religious worship re-established ? There were still the great Clicquot organs which citizen Molard, in Year 3 of the Republic, had given orders to be cared for and spared destruction. So he found himself playing on organs that had been restored by Dallery, and sometimes stripped of their Plein-jeu, such as the organs of St-Gervais or St-Germain l’Auxerrois. But then he would have also been attracted by the new stops that were being added to these old instruments by the organ builders Daublaine and Callinet(we refer here to Louis Callinet, the nephew of François, who taught him his trade, and with whom Claude-Ignace spent several years) and their successor Ducroquet. Boëly would have certainly felt at home playing a Joseph Callinet organ, with its double Trompettes on the Great, its reeds on the Choir, its pedal and manual Bombardes, its Cornet on each manual, along with its Hautbois (oboe),Basson-Chalumeau and Flûtes traversières (flute stops), a registration that he had at his disposal on the François-HenryClicquot organ in Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois, an organ that FrançoisCallinet may well have helped build or look after !

And no doubt Felix Mendelssohn would have loved the Salicional « pleasant, sweet and rustic » or the Basson-Chalumeau, so often included on the Choir organ in instruments built by the Callinet brothers. Then, on the Great, the « sweet, crisp » Viole de Gambe, designed to imitate the bow being drawn over the strings of a viola di gamba, the Dulciana on the Récit, the tin pipes of the Violoncelle (cello stop) with its « crisp voicing » or the Ophicleide on the Pedals- everything you would find, for example, on the great Leipzig organs which were modernized during the first decades of the 19thcentury.

The music of these composers is thus admirably suited to the organ in Gray. It is to be hoped that this performance of their works will pay tribute once again to the beauty, the distinction and the quality of the Callinets of Alsace and their skill in organ building, at the same time as highlighting the superb restoration by Jean-FrançoisMuno and his perfect marriage of classical and pre-Romantic stops and successful blending of old pipes with the some 1400 new ones that have been added.


Jean-Christophe Tosi

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