Historical background of the instrument
The magnificent case of the main organ in Saint Laurent’s Church dates back to the second half of the 17th century, but the builder of this work of art in typical Louis XIII style, as well as the year of construction, are unfortunately unknown to us. The three Positif towers, capped by scaled domes, harmoniously mirror those of the main case. We may also admire the elegance of the two angels who sound trumpets while seated on either side of the central dome, which in turn is adorned with a cartouche within which are intertwined the initials of Saint Laurent.
In the course of rebuilding from 1682 to 1685, thr organbuilder François Ducastel and his son Hipolyte provided the organ with an exceptional 41-note pedalboard.
In 1766 a further rebuild was undertaken by the celebrated organbuilder François-Henri Clicquot. The instrument, most highly thought of by the era’s organists (among them Balbastre, Séjan and Raison), henceforth comprised 37 stops on four manuals and pedal.
In the mid-19th century the church came to be judged too small. In 1864 the nave was extended by two bays, and the main entry thus was realigned to be flush with the new boulevard. A new organ loft was built, reusing the old paneling, and housed the instrument as rebuilt by Merklin-Schütze, who retained a significant portion of the Clicquot pipework.
Following various modifications in the firth part of the 20th century, work was once again carried out under the supervision of Jean-Louis Coignet, consultant for the City of Paris. This restoration having been completed in 1995, the Positif pipework, heretofore dispersed within the main case, is now reinstated in its own case, and the original divisions have thus been reconstituted. The instrument has thereby recovered its unity.
The unusual character of the main organ of Saint Laurent derives from the balance of the various elements that the course of its history has brought together. This instrument’s fundamental traits remain those of Clicquot, whose Grand Jeu à la française imparts a distance hint of Grand Siècle splendor, but the organ also bears the stamp of Merklin, whose skill in creating a tonal palette enabled him subtly to merge together all this input from successive eras.
Ann Dominique Merlet
Translation Kurt Lueders