The publications of Charles-Marie Philbert on the Paleis organ

by Victor Timmer en Ton van Eck | Het ORGEL | Year 118 | (2022) | Issue 1

Two years after building a large concert organ in Sheffield (in 1873), Aristide Cavaillé-Coll was commissioned to deliver a large organ for the Paleis voor Volksvlijt in Amsterdam.  One of the driving forces in that project was the French diplomat Charles-Marie Philbert, who had earlier been involved with the building of the Adema organ in the Mozes &Aäron church in Amsterdam.  He was active on many fronts in the preparations as well as during and after the building of the organ in 1875.  An important part of his activities in this project was the accountability for and recording of the result in two publications:  a relatively concise brochure in Dutch, probably already published at the time of the inauguration, and in 1876 an extensive book in French that was clearly intended for an international market.  This article discusses the contents of both, the positive reception of the brochure in the Netherlands and the book in France, and their circulation in the Netherlands and (for the book) abroad.  Thanks to a list of addresses belonging to Cavaillé-Coll, we know also addition who in Belgium, England, Italy and the Netherlands received copies of the book sent from Paris (where most of the copies of the book were sent).  These recipients were primarily people with whom the builder had been involved in recent organ projects or people who might be able to influence the realization of new plans.  Belgian addressees were at the top of the list, apparently because of the plans for an organ in the conservatory in Brussels.  Several possible reasons are given for the relatively small circulation, so far as is known, of the book in the Netherlands, such as a difference in musical taste, the language problem, and the fact that a fire at the printer’s (Binger, Amsterdam) destroyed the undistributed copies.  Relatively little is known, as well, about the circulation of the book from Paris, both then and later.  Thanks to their collaboration on the book, the personal bond between Philbert and Cavaillé-Coll will have grown considerably.  Philbert’s book is, together with the later study by Pierre Veerkamp L’Orgue à tuyaux, still an important primary source of knowledge about the thought and work of Cavaillé-Coll.