The Anglican Church of the Ascension, Cadenabbia

The Organ

 History of the Organ

The following are extracts from the brochure "Music and the Organ", written and published by the church organist.

An organ loft was incorporated in the original design of the church by the well-known architect Giorgio Brentano, so we can safely assume there was an instrument before 1939 (fees to the organ blowers were mentioned several times in the church registers from 1892 right up to 1929, while the presence or absence of the organist also received a mention, e.g. 29/04/1923 "collection for the organist". Other interesting entries are: 18/3/1906, a sum of 75 centimes was paid "for extra organ blower"; 12/6/1906 "electric current for organ fused"; September 1908 "for organ deficit after paying expenditure".

We have no records in the church archives concerning the builder of the original organ but it is more than likely that it was William George Trice of Genova (1848-1920), who studied under Aristide Cavaille Coll and established an organ building facgtory at Quarto al Mare, now Quarto dei Mille, part of Genova. Later he sold the factory to Carlo Vegezzi Bossi. He was appreciated for his diapason, eufonio and dulciana stops.

Since the first edition of the booklet further proof of this earlier instrument has emerged, after careful examination of the front principale pipes: two are stamped with "Davison Genova 1892". So the church indeed had a pipe organ very soon after its consecration in 1891 but what happened between 1929 and the consequent rebuilding in 1939 still remains a mystery. While church records show regular payments to the organist right up to 1938, there was no further mention of the organ blower after 1929 (there is a harmonium in the church ...)

The current fine two manual pipe organ was built in about 1939 by Balbiani Vegezzi Bossi of Milan, shortly after the one in Como Cathedral. Indeed it seems to be a miniature replica of it, at least as regards the console. It was installed in the church that very same year and in this connection there is quite an interesting anecdote (if one can believe village gossip!). Apparently the Bishop of Gibraltar was visiting the area in the 1930s and was very impressed by the organ in the Roman Catholic Church of Griante (above Cadenabbia), saying that an instrument by the same builders must be installed in our church. After the works had terminated, the local parish priest demanded his commission (and was furious when he did not receive it!). This story was told by the former manager of the Hotel Victoria where Luigi and Celestino Balbiani stayed while actually installing the instrument).


1st manual (great): 61 notes

Fugara 4' (metal); Principale 4' (metal); Principale 8' (metal) Chimney flute 8' (wood); Bordone 8' (wood); Dulciana 8' (metal).

2nd manual (swell): 61 notes

Oboe 8' (reed); Viola 8' (metal); Voce Celeste 8' (metal); Eufonio 8' (metal); Flute 4' (wood); Bordone 16' (wood);

Full pedal board: 32 notes

Dolce 16' (wood, partially derived); Subbasso 16' (wood); Cello 8' (metal)

Full complement of couplers

super/sub octaves - couplers between manuals and pedalboard

combinazione libera - swell pedal - general crescendo pedal

Electropneumatic action

Organ builder: Balbiani Vegezzi Bossi of Milan, 1939

The chimney flute is particularly beautiful while the fine reed stop (oboe) is quite powerful and renders the instrument suitable for the French school.  The foundation stope (principal 8' and 4') provide a firm basis for accompanying the congregational singing (i.e. the purpose for which the organ was designed).

The organ builders

Lorenzo Balbiani (1798-1876), founder of the renowned family of organ builders in Lombardy, started off by opening a factory in Lecco.  He was followed by his son Natale (1836-1912) who moved to Milan where two sons were born: Celestino and Luigi. Celestino married Alessandria, daughter of Carlo Vegezzi Bossi (1858-1927), one of the greatest organ builders of his day.  The two brothers, besides building the organ in Cadenabbia, were responsible for several fine instruments both in Italy and abroad, e.g. in the USA, Alessandria (Egypt) and Sao Paolo (Brazil).

Maintenance and restoration

In 2012/13 the organ was fully restored as a result of generous donations for which we are most grateful. Our very special and valued Organ requires constant care and maintenance in order for Organists to enjoy and delight in playing it for Services and concerts.