The organ built by Dom Bedos for the abbey church of Sainte-Croix of Bordeaux and restored in 1996, is considered as one of the most splendid organs in use today. Gustav Leonhardt brings out the beauty and richness of this organ in a varied and eclectic programme.Gustav Leonhardt, orgue
Orgue Dom Bedos - Pascal Quoirin de l'abbatiale Sainte-Croix de Bordeaux
Enregistre en juin 2001 a Bordeaux
Francois de Bedos de Celles (1709-1779), described as a "monk of notable erudition," was also a highly trained and supremely talented builder of organs in eighteenth century France. The greatest of his organs was Dom Bedos, built for the abbey of Saint-Croix in Bordeaux - a glorious instrument with rich blends and subtle colors, with nuanced balances and stark contrasts, with whispering pianissimos and roaring fortissimos. Leonhardt's chosen program opens with the organ extracts from Francois Couperin's Messe propre pour les couvents, deeply devout music that Leonhardt performs with absolute command and complete dedication. The remainder of the program is a collection of works by better - and lesser-known composers, ranging from three Voluntaries by John Blow and two Toccatas by Georg Muffat to a Fantasia by Abraham van den Kerchkoven and a Chaconne by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, but Leonhardt performs all of them with total commitment and rapturous ecstasy. Alpha's sound is once again the omega of recorded sound.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
1. Dom Francois Bedos de Celles
Francois de Bedos de Celles was born in Caux, into a noble family of the diocese of Beziers, on 24 January 1709, and studied at the Oratorian college in Pezenas. He entered the Benedictine order at the monastery of La Daurade at Toulouse on 7 May 1726. We know nothing of his years of apprenticeship as an organ-builder except for the fact that he became friendly with Jean-Francois l'Epine I'aine, and was to keep in close contact throughout his life with the latter's two sons Jean-Francois and Adrien, both of whom also entered the profession. He was already known for the quality of his work when he was called to the abbey of Sainte-Croix at Bordeaux in the early 1740s by its prior Dom Joseph Goudar. Elected secretary of the abbey chapter in 1745, he began around that time to build a 16' organ with five manuals which was finished in 1748. As a recognised builder, he was often invited to build, repair, or give expert opinion on other organs, or to advise their builders: thus he visited Clermont-Ferrand, Sarlat, Le Mans, Montpellier, Dijon, Pezenas, Toulouse, Tours, Narbonne and Paris, amongst other towns.
As a monk of notable erudition, Dom Bedos was elected to membership of the Academie Royale des Sciences of Paris in 1758 and admitted to the Academie Royale of Bordeaux the next year. In 1760 he wrote and published a treatise entitled La Gnomonique pratique ou l'Artde tracer les cadrans solaires avec la plus grande precision (Practical gnomonies or the art of plotting sundials with the greatest precision).
In 1763 he retired to the abbey of Saint-Denis, where in 1766, in response to a commission from the Academie Royale des Sciences of Paris, he began to write a treatise on the theoretical and practical aspects of organ-building which was to take up the last years of his life. Published from 1766 to 1778, L'Art du Facteur d'Orgues is a monumental survey of the French classical organ of the eighteenth century, which is still accepted as the authoritative work by today's organ-builders. Dom Francois died on Thursday 25 November 1779, and was buried in the abbey cloisters the next day. In his memoirs, Ferdinand-Albert Gauthier, organist of Saint-Denis from 1763 to 1793, speaks of him in these terms:
He was a man of exceptional merit, who did honour to the abbey of Saint-Denis by his great talents. [...] This artist excelled in several spheres. A man so precious and refined is but rarely encountered, and it is difficult to imagine the full extent of his qualities. He was' a learned mathematician, and made all his own tools and instruments. He used to say that he would not have found workmen of sufficient skill to make them for him. In sum, he was one of those men who are useful to Society, and to this he added the qualities of a good monk: gentle, affable, obliging and very hard-working, esteemed by the erudite and enjoying a reputation well earned through the superiority of his talents, on which he never prided himself.
The Dom Bedos organ of the former abbey church of Sainte-Croix, Bordeaux 1. The Great organ of an abbey at the peak of its prosperity The construction of the instrument by Dom Bedos is authenticated by an inscription specifying the date of 1748 and the name of the prior at the time, Dom Joseph Goudar. Until the recent restoration of the instrument, its stop-list was not known with absolute certainty, . owing to the fact that the inventories by Bordonneau (1756) and Lavergne (1795) contradict each other on several important points. It was known that the instrument was a large 16' one with five manuals and a 32' Bourdon on the Grand orgue, and that it comprised 44 or 45 stops. Lavergne, whose task was to value the property confiscated from the monastic congregations and the clergy, also specifies that the case was 'painted green, with all its mouldings and decorations gilded'. When he finished this instrument, Dom Bedos was aged thirty-nine, and he was perhaps putting his name to the finest achievement of his whole career as an organ-builder, and certainly, in any case, the most important organ by him that has come down to us: it stands comparison with the greatest instruments of the kingdom, thanks in particular to the richness of its grand plein-jeu, unique in France today. Indeed, the instrument that attracts visitors and music-lovers to Sainte-Croix appears somewhat out of proportion to the relatively modest dimensions of the abbey church.
2. The vicissitudes of the nineteenth century: exile and dilapidation
The Dom Bedos organ came through the torments of the revolutionary period without suffering too much damage: despite the lack of maintenance, Lavergne estimated its value at 100,000 livres in 1795! At the cathedral of Saint-Andre, on the other hand, the monumental organ by Valeran de Heman, built in the seventeenth century, had been totally destroyed. In the early years of the nineteenth century the Archbishop of Bordeaux, Mgr Daviau, in order to avoid costly reconstruction, decided to requisition from his diocese an instrument capable of sustaining the pomp of the archiepiscopal church. His initial choice settled on the Micot organ of Saint-Pierre de La Reole, which boasted some thirty stops. It was dismantled and reassembled in an enlarged case at Saint-Andre in 1804. Unfortunately the result did not meet expectations, since the sound of the organ was lost in the immense nave of the cathedral. After this disappointment, the prelate then started to demand the Dom Bedos organ from Sainte-Croix from 1811 on. Despite opposition from the parishioners, the soundboards, action and pipework were dismantled and exchanged with those of the Micot organ by the builders Isnard et Labruyere in 1817, whilst Dom Bedos' case remained at Sainte-Croix. This exile ushered in a long period of dilapidation of the Benedictine monk's masterpiece. A restoration conducted by the Bordeaux organ-builder Henry in 1837 revealed the deterioration of the instrument, and also the poor quality of the work carried out in 1817. The newly modified organ, inaugurated in 1840 maintained by Henry until 1853, was not long in falling once more into decrepitude. In 1877 it was again restored by another Bordeaux builder, Georges Wenner, whose main contribution was to build a Romantic Recit of fourteen stops to replace Dom Bedos' Recit and Echo. At this time both the case and the workings of the organ took on the form in which they would remain until they were dismantled in 1973. The organ now had three manuals and 56 stops, which made use of 2,200 original pipes by Dom Bedos. According to Canon Lacaze, organist from 1947 to 1964, the instrument possessed at this period'one of the clearest and most sonorous voices in France'.
3. The restoration (1985-1996)
In the 1960s the decrepit state of the organ led to extensive restoration being considered. But what was to be done with the material from the time of Dom Bedos that could still be reused? The first project was to build a large instrument in the neo-classical style. This provoked a reaction from supporters of a restoration of the masterpiece on historical principles and its return to Sainte-Croix. The ensuing controversy saw the interested parties divided into two camps. The organist Francis Chapelet, who advocated a restoration faithful to the spirit of Dom Bedos, secured public support in 1967 from such personalities as Vladimir Jankelevitch, Emile Leipp, Charles Munch, Gustav Leonhardt, not to mention Claude Levi-Strauss. After three years of argument, the Commission des orgues et Monuments histo-riques announced its decision in 1970: a new organ was to be built at Saint-Andre, and the Dom Bedos material that had been conserved there was to be refurbished and brought back to its original organ loft. In 1973 the Saint-Andre organ was dismantled and the Dom Bedos material was reunited at Sainte-Croix. The new organ at Saint-Andre, consisting of seventy-eight stops on four manuals, was finished by the firm of Gonzalez-Danion and inaugurated in 1982.
In 1985 agreement was reached with the Carpentras firm of organ-builders headed by Pascal Quoirin to restore the Dom Bedos instrument in its initial case. There remained of the original instrument four soundboards from the Grand orgue, three from the Positif and two from the pedal, as well as 2,200 pipes, which constituted the essential elements of the material. It was necessary to reconstruct the missing pipes, restore them to the original pitch (A=392 at 18°), rebuild the missing soundboards for the Recit and the Echo, reconstruct the action and the console with its five manuals, rebuild the seven wedge bellows, and restore the case by getting rid of the dark coating that had been applied to it in the nineteenth century in order to uncover the splendour of the initial colours, celadon and gold. Over the eleven years necessary for the work, a process of deduction, observation of the remaining traces of the original condition of the case and soundboards, and utilisation of the information available in L 'Art du Facteur d'Orgues, resulted in the rediscovery of the precise stop-list and original pitch, the compass of the manuals and pedal-board, and the sumptuous decoration of the 48 painted labels naming each stop, which had been concealed by nailed planks at the time of Wenner's restoration. The instrument is tuned in adjusted mean-tone temperament.
The end result, inaugurated in 1997, has received unanimous praise from organists from all over the world. The thirty-two-foot Grand plein jeu, whose opulence and majesty are unique in France, is combined with a grand jeu of exceptional vigour. There can be no doubt that this restoration marks the culmination of the movement of rediscovery and restoration of French classical instruments that began in the early twentieth century. In addition to the inherent quality of the restoration work, the very name of the builder responsible for the original organ guarantees it a place as one of the most fascinating instruments in the whole of Baroque Europe.
- JeanBarraud (translation: Charles Johnston)