Saturday, December 31, 2016

Aruba, music box

The Caribbean nation of Aruba declared independence from the Netherlands in 1986, shedding the name "Netherlands Antilles" in the process. Their post office issued a set of regular issue stamps that year, and a follow-up set in 1987 filling out missing denominations. The stamps features simple images of items related to Aruban life. Mysteriously this included this small musical instrument. Scott 11 has a deep red background and is denominated 75c. Scott calls it a music box; it has been on the organ topical list since its inception. But I cannot, looking at the stamp closely, agree that it is an organ. The interior parts look remarkably like the innards of a piano: tuning pins and strings, and the (steel) resonator. I had once imagined the strings were pipes, but the pins belie that possibility. The hand crank on the left-front of the instrument is curious, but not in itself indicative of this being an organ of any type. Hans Timmerman includes this stamp in his database, FWIW. He names it a draaiorgel, or barrel organ. These are popular in the Netherlands. But again, looking at that mechanism, I'm just not sure it's an organ. I am including this stamp here for the sake of completeness, but not with any sense that it truly belongs.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Stockerau, Austrai: Pfarrkirche


This cover is interesting for the special postmark. It includes a representation of the organ in the Pfarrkirche in Stockerau, Austria. In 2000 the church celebrated the 275 anniversary of the church tower. Said tower is the tallest, at 88 meters, in Lower Austria. Anniversary celebrations took place in late 2000, culminating according to the postmark on December 1.


The postmark features the organ, the tower, some choristers and a Christmas tree along with stars. This cover has two imprints of the postmark, one each for the postage stamp and for the meter stamp covering additional postage costs. The cover is addressed to someone in Spain. The cover contains the additional notation "drucksache" which means simply "printed matter."

The stamp on the cover is a fairly common stamp of Austria. Part of a set of ten, Scott 1601 is from a set of 10 stamps featuring art from various monasteries in Austria. The present stamp has a sample of stained glass from the Mariastern-Gwiggen monastery in Voralberg. The glass depicts St. Benedict of Nursia. There is in the lower right corner a small rendering of the monastery itself. The stamp was issued in 1993. I can determine no specific relationship between any element of the stamp and the postmark.

The organ was built in 1888 by Johann M. Kauffmann. It is a fairly modest instrument of 25 ranks over two manuals and pedal. The registry does not indicate if and when any repairs, rebuilds or restorations have been done on the instrument.


Also among the items given me by Mark Jameson was this postmark "sampler." It seems to be a 1/2 shilling postage label that has been cancelled by the same postmark. Perhaps one has to pay a token amount for a copy of the postmark; or perhaps it cannot be provided unless tied to a postage indicia of some type. Anyway, another example of the postmark.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Guinea-Bissau: Bach


Guinea-Bissau issued a mini-sheet and a souvenir sheet to commemorate the 260th anniversary of the death of JS Bach in 2010. The mini-sheet featured five stamps, and the souvenir sheet a single stamp in a large selvage. The souvenir sheet stamps feature various renderings of the composer with different (several modern) instruments in the background. The souvenir stamp shows the familiar Bach/console image (reversed) with a silhouette, and a modern piano in the background. The West African nation of Guinea-Bissau issued these (and several other stamps) on 31 January 2010.


Valvasone, Italy: Duomo organ restoration


The organ in the Valvasone, Italy Dom was built by Vincenzo Colombi in the 16th century. It was restored in 1972-1974 by Alfredo Piccinelli. This cover includes a postmark that commemorates the 30th anniversary of that restoration. The postmark shows most of the facade, with the left being occluded by an image of a treble clef. The date given in the postmark is 8 May 2004. I have not determined what that specific date may specify: perhaps concerts, perhaps the date of re-dedication 30 years earlier.


Interestingly, the organ was apparently worked on significantly in again 1999 by Francesco Zanin. While the present cover would include that time frame, this second period of restoration work is omitted. One suspects then that the work completed in 1974 was of such a scale and scope as to somehow eclipse that of 1999.

The organ was begun in 1532, installed in 1533, while painting of the interior and exterior of the protective doors continued through 1535 (exterior) and 1537 (interior). The artist himself died in 1539 with the work only partially complete; it fell to his son to complete the paintings by 1544. To read some accounts, the paintings  by Giovanni Antonio da Pordenone are at least as important as the organ itself.

This site includes good details about the instrument. The instrument is rather small (relatively few ranks, and a short compass) but seems to be a very typical instrument f the Italian Renaissance. This site dealing with music in the region gives more information about the instrument.

Tied to the cover by the postmark is Scott 2590, a stamp depicting Santa Maria Assunta Church in Pragelato, Italy. The stamp was part of a set of 4 marking the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin. The stamp is thus most likely coincidental to the postmark, aside from the "church" unifying factor.

This cover was a gift from my friend, Mark Jameson in Reading.

Villareal, Spain: St James Cathedral

This cover is notable for the postmark. It was created to mark the third Religious Music and Poetry Week held at the St James Cathedral in Villareal, Spain.The drawing shows the "organ at the main altar of the church." The pictures I could find of the altar area of the cathedral show an organ, but it is an instrument installed in a gallery, not like the one pictured. I was able to find information that Gerhard Grenzing did restoration work on the instrument, but the site doesn't include a date, and the instrument restored is the altar gallery instrument, again not the one shown in this postmark.


In this picture above, on the right side, high up on the wall one can see the organ. Below is Grenzing's image of the instrument.


I also found this image (at a tourism site) of an organ in what seems to be a rear gallery in the cathedral. Again, it does not look like the instrument shown in the postmark.


The stamp shown on the cover is Scott 2365, issued 11 April 1984. As such it was issued just prior to the beginning of the conference referenced in the postmark. The stamp shows da Vinci's Study of Man, and the stamp is called, "Man and the Biosphere" in the Scott catalog. The relationship between the stamp subject and the postmark is thus murky at best, and perhaps doesn't actually exist in any meaningful way.

This cover below shows the same postmark, but also includes an image of the gallery organ shown above. One is curious then if the organ in the postmark is really one in the cathedral, or merely emblematic of church organs in general.



I am thankful to my friend Mark Jameson in Reading, GB for the gift of this cover and the enigma of the organ in its postmark.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Gambia: Goofy 60th (Disney)


Many small nations have produced "wallpaper" stamps to generate income (sales of collectible topical stamps to dealers and collectors). Gambia is among those nations, and "Disney" is one of the most highly regarded of topics. This stamp (Scott 1295) is a prime example. I am fairly certain it exists only to generate income for the Gambian postal authority. The stamp is part of a set of eight issued around the time of the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the "Goofy" character in Disney films. Each of the eight stamps includes this cartoon dog's image in a scene from various films. The current stamp is from "Mickey's Amateurs" from 1937. Goofy appears at about 5:50 into the 8:40 film, pulling a menagerie of instruments, including a collection of pipes. Goofy's is the last of a series of musical acts offered by various familiar characters.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Austria: Musikfreunde


Austria issued this stamp 1 January 2012 commemorating the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien (Association for the Friends of Music in Vienna) and its 100th anniversary. The round stamp is striking for its gold-colored central image sharply contrasting with the red border. The stamp was issued as a single stamp in a mini-sheet, denominated 90c. The stamp shows the organ in its gallery in the Musikverein in Vienna, the organ facade and a nude female figure from the casework. This instrument has been on Austrian stamps before. This then would be the new Rieger instrument installed within the original case in 2011-2012. This article discusses the instrument in detail. Rieger gives some additional information and pictures here.

Burundi: Bach, 2013

The African nation of Burundi issued this pair of items in 2013. They are part of a larger set that included Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, Schubert, and Verdi. For each composer there is a mini-sheet of a set of 4 stamps, plus a souvenir sheet that includes a single additional stamp. These composers had no direct relationship with the issuing nation. As such their relevance to Burundi is non-existent. Therefore, they fall into the category of "wallpaper," postal items issued simply to make money for the postal administration from collectors who feel compelled to gather items according to their philatelic interests. In my case it's the organ on the stamp from the mini-sheet of 4. The stamp is denominated 1190 francs. It shows Bach at the console of an un-named instrument, a reference to the common image found purportedly at the British Museum.  The other stamps show the composer at various stages of life, in one case playing a stringed instrument. These are so new that my Scott catalog doesn't include them yet.


Russia: Moscow Cathedral



Russia issued this stamp 12 July 2001 as part of a set of 14 stamps featuring houses of worship of various denominations and faiths. In addition to a central image of the facility the stamp includes half-tone images of key features of the facility to the left and right and at the top. In this case a crucifix and a rose window are at top and right. The left image is another window but also the organ. Scott 6649 is interesting for its orientation. The stamps presents as a diamond rather than a square or rectangle; it's denominated 2.5 rubles.


The cathedral was begun in 1901 and was completed in 1911. An organ was installed during that early history, but was cryptically "taken by the state in 1938." An electronic organ was installed in 1999. One is left to wonder if the cathedral did without an organ for the intervening 6-year period. In 2002 momentum began to build for a new pipe organ for the cathedral.

The cathedral's pipe organ was built in 1955 by Orgelbau Kuhn AG of Männedorf, Switzerland, for the Reformed Evangelical Basel Münster Cathedral in Basel, Switzerland. The Swiss cathedral donated the organ, dismantled it in 2002, and all pipes but without the largest — Nr. 65 principal bass 32 '​, 10 m (32 ft) long — were transferred to Moscow. The pipes were transported wrapped in new garments donated by the people of Basel, which were later distributed to Moscow's poor. The installation of the pipe organ in Moscow was performed by the Orgelbau Schmid company from Kaufbeuren, Germany, headed by Gerhard Schmid, who refused payment for his work. During the work, Schmid was killed in a fall from a scaffold on 9 September 2004; his son Gunnar finished the work (The single pipe remained in Switzerland and was incorporated into that cathedral's new organ; a replacement was made for the installation in Moscow.)


The Peter and Paul parish was formally dissolved by the communist government in 1929, and celebrating mass was forbidden. The church lost much of its surrounding gardens in 1935—a school was built there the following year—and the church was finally closed on 30 July 1938 (the St. Peter and Paul church had met the same fate nine days earlier). The church was plundered after its closure, and many items, including the main altar and the organ, were irretrievably lost. The church was used for several months as a vegetable store, and was then reconstructed as a hostel and its interior divided into four floors.

Pictures of the Kuhn organ in Moscow Cathedral make it clear that this instrument is not the one shown on the stamp. I have been able to find no information on the earlier pipe organ other than the tantalizing tidbit recorded above. One wonders about its manufacture but also about its fate.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Sweden: Christmas 1980

Sweden issued this stamp for Christmas on 18 November 1980. It shows a form of artistic representation of an angel blowing a horn.Scott 1339 was issued as a booklet stamp, not the more common coil format.

For years I have heard that this stamp's design is based on case decoration on a specific pipe organ in Sweden. At this point I don't remember who has said such, or where I might have read it. I have never found any confirmation of this however. I would love to know the details behind the stamp's design. I think I will try to determine who designed the stamp and see if it's possible to contact them. I am willing to concede that the decoration may not be organ-related at all.

Mexico: University (UNAM)

The Universidad Nacional de Mexico (UNAM) celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 2010. The postal service commemorated the celebrate with the issuance of a six-stamp mini-sheet showing various historical and contemporary aspects of the university. First among these is a stamp showing the Simon Bolivar Auditorium at the inauguration of the school. Obvious at the rear of the stage is a pipe organ. Very little is known about the instrument. Through some international sleuthing Mark Jameson has come up with the following information (from his OCJ article (#11) covering organ/stamps from Mexico):

With the help of a number of members of OHS, and an appeal on the Facebook page of Organs of Mexico, I had a response from Jesús Bernal of the University of Mexico: “You are seeing [above] a superimposed fake facade over the real organ behind. It was a 1902 Schlag organ bought for the National Conservatory because the Amphiteater was used for many concerts as a second Conservatory auditorium. This organ was unfortunately destroyed in the 1980s.” As the organ builder went out of business in 1923 we are not likely to find what the covered organ was, unless someone has a specification. It was a long search that led to the making of many contacts and finding out a lot more about Mexican organs.

Sadly unless one can find a concert program perhaps, we are likely to never know the specification of this instrument. The sheet of six stamps is SCN 2695, the individual stamps are a, b, c and on the second row, d, e, f. All of the stamps are denominated $7.

I found this image for the music department at the university. One wonders if the arched opening in the wall is the very one shown in the stamp, with the non-speaking facade filling most of it?



The Mexican post office also issued a 100-label charity pane showing many of the same elements from the postal-use pane. The funds raised were designated to tuberculosis relief.

The sheet is quite large, not quite fitting on my scanning device.

Sweden: Church art


 Sweden issued this group of five stamps 8 May 2014 to commemorate one thousand years of church art. The set includes illuminated text, an organ, a light fixture, a clock works and a baptismal font. All of the stamps are denominated 7 kroner. They were issued in booklet format. The stamps appear in the booklet in one long strip of 10, two copies of each stamp. A postal bulletin from 2014 says this about the organ stamp:

Music is a natural part of the cultural heritage in churches. Organs are traditionally associated with church interiors, and the 18th century organ from Askeryd Church in the Diocese of Linköping is depicted on one of the stamps.

The church is quite old, parts dating from the 13th century. The organ on the stamp is one of two in the facility. It was built in the 18th century by Johans Wistenius. It was located on the west end of the church. Setterquist installed a new organ in 1907 intended to take the place of the older instrument. In the 1960's Frobenius restored the Wistenius organ and situated it in the north transept of the building. I have not been able to find any contemporary images of the church interior.


Here is the specification of 1760:


Manual C-c3
Gedackt 8’
Qvinta Dena 8’
Principal 4’ (façade)
Gedackt Fleut 4’
Qvinta 3’ (2 2/3’)
Octava 2’
Spits Fleut 2’
Rausqvint II chor
Mixtur III chor
Trompet 8’
Trompet 4’ (D)
Tremulant
 
And the stoplist after the Frobenius work in the last century:


Manual C-c3
Gedackt 8’
Qvinta Dena 8’
Principal 4’ (façade)
Gedackt Fleut 4’
Qvinta 3’ (2 2/3’)
Octava 2’
Spits Fleut 2’
Rausqvint II chor
Mixtur III chor
Trompet 8’
Trompet 4’ (D)
Tremulant