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This important book, in convenient A5 format, is well presented, with 119 photographs (mostly in colour) and a very interesting and concise introduction by Alan Buchan. The book boasts a few thousand organs, recording around 250 organ builders from England and Scotland (roughly a fifth are Scottish) and from overseas. Here, from many centuries and differing backgrounds, we meet celebrated English builders such as the Dallams, the Smiths, John Byfield II, John Snetzler and the organs of notable Scottish firms: the Hamiltons, the Rentons, and not forgetting the outstanding James Bruce.

More grandiose English organ exports arrived in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many being partly financed by the wealthy Scottish steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Notable among the builders of these organs were the Hills, Thomas C. Lewis, Harrison & Harrison, and Henry Willis. Builders from mainland Europe included E.F. Walcker (Germany), who built an astonishing 90 organs for Scotland. The wider European tradition continued into modern times with the masterpieces of such builders as Ahrend, Aubertin, and the longer established firms of Flentrop, Frobenius, and Rieger.

In recent years, a small group founded the Scottish Historic Organs Trust, whose aim was to preserve and list organs in Scotland. Such prudence was timely, and has played its part in the development of a wide knowledge of Scottish organs, though the huge endeavour of David Stewart and Alan Buchan over a period of some 45 years is really exemplary.

NICHOLAS PLUMLEY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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