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the history of the english organ

Stephen Bicknell
Cambridge University Press, 1996
ISBN 0 521 55026 2 (hardback)
ISBN 0 521 65409 2 (paperback)
407 pages

Stephen Bicknell's extensive and considered volume became the most complete work on this subject as soon as it was published. As the organ reform movement swept England in the 20th century, contemporary scholars readily dismissed the native English organ as irretrievably "decadent". This blinkered approach ignores the fact that the English organ can trace its roots to pre-Norman times, and has its own distinctive history with a unique sound to match. Recently attention has been turned to the historical English organ, and its sweet timbre is now inspiring modern organ-builders.

Stephen Bicknell's superb book is therefore timely as well as comprehensive in its history of the instrument and its builders. From the earliest surviving fragments, through the alternating influences of continental builders and insular tradition, to recent new organs, the book is lavishly illustrated and laudably referenced. Even the comparatively recent return of an export market for good British organs is covered. Reasonably priced in paperback, it is only a shame that all the photographs apart from the cover are in monochrome.


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