About Pipe Organs in Argentina
Almost 200 pipe organs are possible to find in Argentina (100 in Buenos Aires the Capital City)
and the remaining instruments inside the country (cities of Rosario, Cordoba, Santa Fe, Salta,
Jujuy, San Juan, Corrientes).
Most of them arrived between 1870 and 1930 from Europe (France, Germany, Italy, and Great
Britain). Very few belong to the XVIII century and a couple was purchased in the second
half of the XX century. These last arrivals are quite exceptional because is not common to
buy this expensive instruments in our country.
The most representative organ builders who sent instruments to Argentina (between 1870 and 1930)
are the following:
From France: Cavaillé-Coll / Merklin, J.
From Germany: Walcker, E.F. & Cie. / Steinmeyer, G.F. & Strebel /
From Italy: Vegezzi Bossi, Carlo / Tonoli, Giovanni / Locatelli,
Giacomo / Serassi, Fratelli
From Great Britain: Forster & Andrews / Bishop / Bryceson
From Austria: Rieger Gebrüder
According to the number of speaking stops these are the most remarkable:
Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento (San Martín 1039, Capital)
by Mutin Cavaillé-Coll
Parroquia de San Patricio (Ciudad de Mercedes, prov. Buenos Aires)
Colegio Nacional Buenos Aires (Bolivar 263, Capital) by Laukhuff
Basílica Nuestra Seńora de Luján (Luján, prov. Buenos Aires)
by Mutin Cavaillé-Coll
Auditorium "Juan Victoria", Universidad.de San Juan (ciudad de San
Juan) by Walcker
Basílica de Nuestra Seńora de la Merced (Reconquista 207) by Walcker
Basílica de María Auxiliadora y San Carlos (H. Yrigoyen y quintino
Bocayuva) by Vegezzi Bossi
Other smaller instruments are of course very important due to their historic value
(like the Colonial Organ at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Buenos Aires), or just because
their beautiful tone color, or due to the acoustic which surrounds them. But it would be too
long to mention them at this preliminary point of our work.
A good number of them still are in quite good state of function thanks to proper care and
maintenance but unfortunately a large number of organs have fallen into inactivity due to
different reasons: lack of care, unqualified technicians, stolen pipes, damage due to water,
dust, rats, etc.
Some of these instruments show a big degree of destruction which makes extremely expensive
to restore them. But the main problem is as always the big deal of indolence among the
responsible people in charge of the places where the organs are located.
This is why David Merello (Organist at the Congregacion Evangelica Alemana in Buenos Aires)
and Rafael Ferreyra ( Organist at the Basilica del Sagrado Corazon , Buenos Aires) have
decided to create this Web Site in order to show the argentine organ patrimony, which is
no doubt the most relevant of Latin America. Every day we will try to add more instruments,
documentation, photographs and audio samples to the already existing files. We hope that
people interested in this subject from our country and abroad may have access to these historic
and aesthetic wonders and who knows.....perhaps something shall be possible to do to rescue
several of them from a dark future threat, a sad perspective in which ignorance has performed
the most remarkable roll.....
Organs in Argentina, some case considerations
Once a very rich country during the first decades of the 20th century, Argentina slowly
started its way down due mostly to a big deal of political corruption which slowly but
permanently deteriorated the basic stones of the argentine society: economy and education.
The final result was that in terms of musical concerns, organs and organ music were step
by step put apart from the popular culture.
In our personal point of view, there has been never in Argentina a strong connection between
the organ music and the popular culture. Even if we consider that our country is mostly catholic
and 99 percent of the instruments are located in churches, there is no evidence that those
instruments have been played by professional organists in the regular services. A few exceptions
of course always have existed and still exist. They are in the hands of the accomplished
musicians who always have known how to extol the music for the religious service. These
professional artists are also responsible for the divulgation of the vast musical organ
repertoire at its highest level.
No more than 10 very rich families were the owners of Argentina one hundred years ago.
They recreated in Buenos Aires the architectural landscapes they discovered when they
traveled to Europe. The city turned out to be sophisticated, eccentric. And then, we can
still see today incredible buildings, avenues, parks, churches in perfect Italian, French,
Spanish, German, British style.
But there have been never a correlation between these wonders and the feelings of the middle
and low class people who struggled all day long trying to build a better future for
theirselves, a future which is quite uncertain even today.
Wonderful buildings, but no qualified people or money to restore them. Beautiful organs
inside churches, but no professional organists to play them, nor professional technicians
to take care of them. In addition, the church authorities (either catholic or from other
religions) almost never gave contracts to any organist in Argentina.
The result of all this is a big degradation of the musical level in churches with the
subsequent proliferation of non organist keyboard players working
almost for free or "just for the pleasure" with no knowledge at all concerning how to
give care to the instrument: NO MORE THAN 10 PROFFESSIONAL ORGANISTS, AS AN AVERAGE IN THE
LAST 50 YEARS working in a city which houses more than 100 instruments!
If we add to all this the drama of the misunderstanding of the ideas of the Second Vatican
Council with respect to the music inside the churches in the big cities, then we shall
be able to understand the present situation of the organ music and the poor condition in 90
percent of the organs only in Buenos Aires.
Inside the country we will find very few pipe organs, mostly because the only city intended
to be a little Paris or a little Madrid was just Buenos Aires.
Having said this, we should conclude that pipe organs are almost out of context in Argentina.
Well, it is a kind of sad conclusion.
However these instruments are now the "Last Frontier" in the organ world, and I think they
deserve a great deal of research and all the support of the International Organistic
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Authors: Rafael Ferreyra & David Merello
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Last update: October 8th, 2003