The Organ


Cristina Garcia Banegas at the organ of Mariana Cathedral

When I first discovered that there was an organ in Brazil by one of North Europe's greatest builders, Arp Schnitger, I was surprised to say the least. One expects older organs in Latin America to be of Iberian origin, not in the more austere style of Northern Europe. The history of the organ in the Cathedral at Mariana is simple: originally built by Schnitger for the Franciscan church in Lisbon (1701) it was given by the King to this city and erected here in 1752, the move being carried out by Francisco Lisboa. Rebuilt in 1900 but subsequently silent for many years it was finally restored by Beckerath between 1977 & 1984, with more work being done by the Dutch firm of Edskes in 2001: there are now 18 stops (some divided) on 2 manuals. In the programme notes, the stop list is given in Portuguese, presumably reflecting what is actually on the console. But despite this Iberian nomenclature, the instrument speaks with a decidedly Northern European voice. So, what about the music?

Well, given the above history, it is perhaps surprising to see that the music presented - and, it should be said, admirably played - is all by Latin American composers from the time of the organ. Anon amongst them, being represented by a selection of pieces published by the Jesuits of Paraguay in 1743. As well as short works by Luis Pinto and Manuel Blasco, the bulk of the music is by Joseph Torres, whose works have elsewhere been recorded on one of the organs in Mexico Cathedral. But, in line with North German organ building practice, there are but 3 reeds on this organ (only one being a Trumpet), so it is rather odd to start the work with a "Batalla" which played on such an organ doesn't quite come off. And that is my main criticism of this disc. Such an organ deserves to be recorded - the music is interesting enough in its own right, but the marriage doesn't quite work.