Mascioni, op. 498 (1937), Este, Italy

The Church of Santa Madonna delle Grazie in Este contains a medium-sized organ from the leading Italian firm of Mascioni. It was made in 1937 as their opus 498. The organ has two manuals, pedal and 28 registers. The organ consists of two parts (left Grande Organo and Pedal) and (right Recitativo) on either side of the altar. The organ console is located behind the altar.

The description of the original church, built in 1489 by the Conventual Dominicans, already mentions an organ installed in the choir. However, there is no indication of the supplier, nor of what kind of organ it might have been.

In 1717, construction began on the current basilica, larger than the previous church. Here too we find references to an organ; the most explicit information is found in an 1885 note referring to the construction of the staircase leading to the revered icon of the Madonna.

The current organ was built in 1937 by the organ builders Mascioni di Cuvio, a company that has existed for many generations. In 1980 it was restored by the Ruffatti firm. A second change was the replacement of the keyboards and modification of the electrical system, carried out in 2006 by the organ builders Scarparo and Vecchiato.

The instrument is a fine example of the Italian Cecilian organ culture. It was a reorientation to the polyphony of 16th century composers such as Palestrina, Lassus and Victoria. The versatile symphonic characteristics are remarkable, notwithstanding the limited number of registers. The registers mix extremely well and the glorious church acoustics (the reverberation time of up to 7 seconds) contribute to the spectacular result. Both manuals have full choirs crowned with polyphonic mixtures.

There are the typical solo voices Viola, Dulciana, Flute 8 (which is a Flute harmonique), colorful reeds Clarinetto and Trompeta. There are two floating registers, very characteristic of the Italian repertoire. The first, the Coro Viole on the Recitativo, is intended to be combined with the Viola 8'. The Coro Viole is a register with strings of three strong, where one row is made to float in relation to the other. It sounds beautiful like a singing choir.

The second floating voice is the Voce Umana on the Grande Organo manual, which is traditionally combined with the Principale 8' of the Grande Organo to produce a spacious and fast beat that is indispensable for Italian music such as the Elevation of the wafer. A tip: try reducing the beat of the Voce Umana by about -5 cents (at the top of the Hauptwerk voicing screen) and combine it with the Flute 8 to experience a mystical beauty of the floating flutes.

 Grande organo C-c4
1. Principale                  16’
 2. Principale                   8’
 3. Flauto                        8’
 4. Dulciana                     8’
 5. Ottava                       4’
 6. Flauto                        4'
 7. Sesquialtera          2 2/3'  
 8. Ripieno  2 file             2'
 9. Ripieno                     1'
 9. Tromba                     8'
10.Unda Maris zweving    8'

     Pedal  C-g1

 1. Contrabasso                 16'
 2. Subbasso                     16'
 3. Principale                      8'
 4. Basso Armonico             8'
 5. Bordone                       8'
 6. Tromba                       16'
 7. Tromba                        8'
 8. Trombina                     4'
Recitativo (enclosed) C-c4
1. Principale                   8’
 2. Bordone                     8'
 3. Viola                         8'
 4. Ottava                      4'
 5. Flauto Camino            4'
 6. Cornetto               2 2/3‘
 7. Ripieno                     1'
 8. Clarinetto                 8'
 9. Coro Viole zweving    8'


Special Sound Colors

Organs from the Renaissance and Baroque periods have been rediscovered as organs with the most beautiful sounds, in which Gravität, Clarity and Poetry (Loveliness) are present in good proportions. Today's organ builders make organs with sounds in the same style. I prefer to use sample sets with this inspiring sound idiom and that excludes the romantic organ. The style of Witte and the last generation of Bätz are not attractive as a church organ, but they are completely unsuitable as a sample set for a house organ.

Italians have always built organs that deviated strongly from the Northern and Central European style. The wind pressure there was extremely low (less than 50 mmWC) for a cathedral 135 meters long; the San Petronio in Bologna. The beautiful acoustics ensured that it was clearly audible to the back of the church.

Mascioni is a family of organ builders, where the sixth generation is now building organs of a high musical level. The organ of Este dates from 1937, so it is from the Romantic period, but cannot be compared with the Northern European style.

I immediately ordered the sample set and it is a great pleasure to discover the beautiful timbres. Obviously I only use the DRY samples and IR reverb.

Loading the set takes some time, because the sounds are fully transferred. It is the hallmark of a good sample set. I have absolute hearing and with that I can judge the quality.