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Millennium makeover for 18th century organ

Switzerland's largest and most important late medieval church, the Berne cathedral has unveiled its newly-restored 18th century organ. It was heard again on Thursday during an inauguration concert by the Berne Symphony Orchestra.

This content was published on December 28, 1999 - 08:01

Switzerland's largest and most important late medieval church, the Berne cathedral, or Münster, has unveiled its newly-restored 18th century organ. It was heard again on Thursday during an inauguration concert by the Berne Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Dimitri Kitayenko. Music by Bach and Händel shook the organ out of its two year sleep.

The Baroque instrument was built in the first half of the 18th century after the town council decided to go against the ban on organs imposed 200 years earlier as part of the reformation by Zwingli. The last bastion of the ban did not fall until 1876 when an organ was installed in Zurich's Grossmünster.

Organs like the one in Berne's cathdral need renovating every 60 years. The Berne organ was last renovated in 1930, when the craftsmanship of Baroque organs was being rediscovered. The existing internal workings of the organ date from this restoration.

One innovation from the 1930s allowed an electric impulse to open the pipes when the organist played a note. By the time restorers got round to the organ two years ago, this system no longer worked. In its place, they installed a traditional mechanical system. The instrument was also repositioned during the latest restoration, revealing a previously-hidden balustrade.

The inauguration concert featured the music of Georg Friedrich Händel, Willy Burkhard, Johann Sebastian Bach and Francis Poulenc.

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