An 1827 pipe organ built by Sicilian Felice Platania for the Balzan parish church has just been restored by Robert Buhagiar.
The only other Platania organ on the island is in St Paul's Shipwreck church, in Valletta.
The restoration job will be inaugurated tomorrow with a concert at 7 p.m. at the Balzan parish church. As the organist for the evening, Mr Buhagiar, the restorer himself, will play works by Bach, Buxtehude, Boyce, Galea, Zipoli among others. He will be accompanied by soprano Marita Bezzina.
"I think this has been one of the most challenging restoration projects I have undertaken to date," Mr Buhagiar, who has restored the organs of the parish churches in Siggiewi, Naxxar, Qrendi, Nadur, Fontana and at the Mdina Cathedral, said.
In 1898 Giovanni Felter, a Maltese organ builder, practically rebuilt the organ, significantly changing its workings but thankfully much less its tonal structure.
"Felter's work was not very professional and the performance of the instrument was definitely not optimal. After Felter's rebuild it, the only Platania parts left were the main windchest and most of the pipes," Mr Buhagiar said.
The organ was in a very bad condition not just due to the passage of time but also due to the difficulty in restoring and attaining optimal performance from the mechanical parts installed by Felter. The pipe work was damaged and several pipes missing.
"I proposed to restore the Platania-Felter organ with as much fine-regulation to the Felter mechanisms as possible in order to render the organ as efficient as could be. Going back to the original Platania organ would have meant discarding Felter's work. Hence the decision to restore the organ as it was after Felter's intervention and basically as it had reached us.
The work started last year and included the restoration and fine-regulation of all the organ's mechanical action parts. This included two pedal windchests, the keyboard and the pedal board. Reconstructed parts include the rack board, missing pipes and some wind conduits.
An electric blower was installed while restoring Felter's manual pumping system. All the original pipes were restored, regulated and tuned.
A very interesting feature was the Flutta stop, the pipes of which are built in a different manner than usual giving a very full fluty sound.
The organ has 622 pipes of which 187 are new. The organ was tuned in a historically consistent tuning scheme - Tartini Vallotti that gives a mild key flavour while allowing the organist to play in all keys, Mr Buhagiar explained.