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 / Laukhuff, August
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) by Steinmeyer

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 Community.

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Authors: Rafael Ferreyra & David Merello
Send your Mails to ** rafaelinusa@hotmail.com ** davidmerello@arnet.com.ar **
Last update: October 8th, 2003