The great organ Cavaillé-Coll

The Organ of Charles Tournemire

A first, substantial, change of the instrument of Cavaillé-Coll was realized in 1933 under the direction of the titulaire, Charles Tournemire, both in terms of stops and reharmonisation and in terms of mechanics. The works were carried out by the Beuchet-Debierre firm (Joseph Beuchet), in fact the continuation of the Cavaillé-Coll-Mutin company.

The works included:
- Conservation of the original traction, including the two Barker machines
- Installation of a pneumatic stoptraction
- Extension of the manuals to 61 notes (C-c4), and the pedal to 32 notes (C-g1), requiring the placement of supplementary windchests for Great, Pos and Swell; the extension of the pedal was realized within the existing windchest
- Enlargement and deepening of the Swell by adding a new windchest (with six stops) behind the original
- Installation of a Barker machine for the swell
- Changes in the stoplist:
. Great: + cornet V (on a small additional windchest); Octave 4' replaced by a Flûte 4' (perhaps realized during the 1962-works)
. Positif: + Tierce 1 3/5' + Piccolo 1' (on the place of the Clarinette which had been moved to the Swell); the Unda maris was tuned equally and called Salicional; the Flûte octaviante 4' was transformed into a Flûte 4'.
. Swell: + Quintaton 16' + Nasard 2 2/3' + Tierce 1 3/5' + Plein Jeu IV + Bombarde 16' + Clarinette 8' (of the Positif)
. Pedale : + soubasse 16' + Quinte 5 1/3 (on a new windchest in front of the Swell); Basse 8' transformed into a Flûte 8’; Octave 4' transformed into a Flûte 4'
- Reduction of the wind pressure of the Positif. According to Marie-Louise Langlais (source: video), Tournemire wanted to achieve a significant difference between the GO and the positive (which was originally louder than GO). The result was a change in the balance between the GO and the Positif compared with the organ known by Franck and Tournemire (before 1933).

- Installation of a new console with various new functions. The layout of the new console was very well organized: the ‘jeux de fonds’ left and the ‘jeux de combinaisons’ right, the same as the ‘Pédales de combinaisons’ *.
- Modification of the original harmonisation of Cavaillé-Coll by Michel Merz.

The mechanical works (restoration and enlargement) were carried out by Berthelot and Thiemann.
The costs were approximately 250,000 franc. The inspection took place on June 27, 1933, in the presence of Albert Alain, Joseph Bonnet, Paul Brunold, Alexandre Cellier, André Marchal and Félix Raugel. The inauguration was on Friday 30 June in the presence of Cardinal Verdier, Archbishop of Paris. The program of Tournemire: Tiento VII of Cabanilles, Buxtehude's Toccata (BuxWV 156), the third Chorale by Franck, a first performance of the first two of his three poems opus 59, Communion of the sunday in the octave of the Ascension of the ‘Orgue Mystique’ and an improvisation.

Tournemire praised the work as "balanced according to all rules of the art”. He said that the peculiarity of this instrument was that it had great homogeneity and was incredibly balanced (both in the crescendo on the basis of the Cor de Nuit with the closed Swell until the strongest fortissimo, as in the decrescendo). According to his widow, the only thing Tournemire was not very happy about was the fact that the keyboards were not quite playable (very hard, despite the Barker machines). Also B. Miramon Fitz-James (the president of the Société des Amis de l’orgue) was generally exalted, with some reservations about the many super- and suboctaves couplers.
Against these positive messages, there is the personal testimony of André Fleury who played and listened to the instrument before and after the changes. He said that the sound had become less attractive.

Probably just after 1945, a part of the roof of the organ case was taken away and replaced by a sound board placed approx. 1 meter above the case to improve to sound of the Swell in the church.


* The pastor of Ste.Clotilde gave Tournemire the old console and his widow gave it to her friend Flor Peeters.
He donated it to the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp and they gave it on loan to the Vleeshuismuseum, Antwerp, Belgium.
** source: Marie-Louise Langlais (video)


Stoplist 1933

Console 1958 (Jean Langlais)

Langlais: Te Deum (1955)