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Having been treated some years ago to an architectural walking tour of Melbourne by John Maidment, I was very taken with the surviving 1880 International Exhibition building in Carleton. This vast space gives some impression of how the building for London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 must once have appeared. It housed a 70-stop organ with a 32ft front by George Fincham, designed to speak into a building 500ft long. The pipework was eventually stolen and vandalised; the remains were sold in 1948. This new book, compiled by three distinguished Australian organologists – Geoffrey Cox, Kelvin Hastie and John Maidment – describes the loss of this instrument as ‘the greatest tragedy in Australia’s pipe organ history’.

My own journeys around Australia have made me realise what a rich vein of English and native organs is to be found there. This book charts both lost imports from England (Lincoln, Gray, Holdich, Bevington, Forster & Andrews, Brindley, Brindley & Foster, Courcelle, Jennings, Bryceson, Walker, Hill, Gray & Davison, Hunter & Son, Norman & Beard, and Whiteley) as well as by those organ builders who made Australia their home, or were born there (Fincham, Anderson, Fuller, Jackson, Wolff, Mackenzie, Whitehouse, Fincham & Hobday, Gore, Davidson, Smith, Dodd and Roberts), and one by Walcker of Ludwigsburg. This guide is a fascinating round-up of instruments which no longer exist. Some have been lost due to sheer carelessness; others destroyed by fire, or been broken up, or simply rebuilt beyond recognition. Published to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Organ Historical Trust of Australia, it is not meant to be comprehensive and there are no specifications, but there are interesting images of the instruments – most with good-quality casework.

WILLIAM MCVICKER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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