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Famed Swiss organ unveiled in Koper cathedral

Koper, 6 November - The Koper cathedral will inaugurate its new organ at Saturday's mass, which is to be attended by Apostolic Nuncio to Slovenia Jean-Marie Speich and President Borut Pahor. The organ, which came from the famous Tonhalle concert hall in Zurich, is the second largest in Slovenia and will sound in a concert for the first time in the country on Sunday.

Koper
The Koper church unveils the new organ, which used to sound in the famous Tonhalle concert hall in Zurich.
Photo: Mitja Volčanšek/STA

Koper
The Koper church unveils the new organ, which used to sound in the famous Tonhalle concert hall in Zurich.
Photo: Mitja Volčanšek/STA

The organ, a donation from Tonhalle to the Koper Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, weighs 16 tonnes and includes more than 5,500 pipes. It was designed by acclaimed French composer, organist and adviser to organ builders Jean Guillou (1930-2019).

It is the second biggest organ and the biggest church organ in Slovenia, so it is fitting that it will now adorn one of the biggest churches in the country.

After time-consuming works to set up the instrument, including the complete renovation of the choir loft, the organ will be formally handed over to the Koper church and blessed at today's mass at 5pm that will be said by Koper bishop Jurij Bizjak.

The event will feature church choirs of the Slovenian Istria. The organ will be played by Mirko Butkovič, whom the Koper Diocese named titular organist.

On Sunday, the first concert featuring the instrument in Slovenia will be held with Pier Damiano Peretti, an Italian professor of organ at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, playing the new organ.

Another six concerts will take place from mid-November until New Year as part of the organ presentation season, including a 21 November performance featuring compositions of contemporary Slovenian sacred music that have been written specifically for this instrument.

The head of the Koper Diocese organ commission Martin Šuštar believes that the organ now has an even better sound quality than in Switzerland, as some mechanical and intonation tweaks have been made.

The volume in the choir loft and throughout the rest of the church has been equalised, he said, adding that the organ was a "wonderful instrument that will play an important role in the cultural and religious spheres in the coming years".

The EUR 650,000 renovation project involved a donation campaign that will continue into 2022.

Tonhalle decommissioned the organ after less than three decades because the old organs, built by the firm Kleuker-Steinmeyer, had never quite fulfilled the expectations of the venue that prides itself on being acoustically one of the best halls in the world.

Instead of simply throwing the old organ away, they decided to donate it, and the Koper cathedral was then picked from six applicants across Europe to get the instrument.

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© STA, 2021