Tuesday 15 August 2006

Snetzler in Cobham

On Sunday afternoon we took a trip out to Kent to see Cobham Hall. The home of the Earls of Darnley up to 1957 and now a well known girls school. Out of term time they arrange tours of the historic parts of the house on Sundays. One of the major attractions is the late 17th century gilt hall in a wing attributed to Inigo Jones or John Webb. The hall was re-configured as a music room in the 18th century and acquired a Snetzler organ. This organ remains, sitting high up on a balcony and was restored in 2002.

Snetzler (born Johannes Schnetzler) was Swiss. He seems to have come to England in the 1730's; his first documented English organ dates from 1741 though there may be one from 1731. Initially he built organs for the immigrant community. But then built 27 stop organ with a Roccoco case for St. Margaret's Church, King's Lynn. This made his reputation. From then on he made chamber/house organs and church organs, becoming an English citizen in 1760 and retiring back to Switzerland in 1781.

Few of his church organs survive in anything like their original state. Whilst his chamber organs are rather better preserved, only 2 survive in their original location. That at Lodge Canongate, Edinburgh, which dates from 1756 and has been altered and that at Cobham Hall which is rather larger (its a house organ rather than a chamber organ) and is uniquely well preserved mechanically. A very similar organ is now owned by the National Museums of Wales having been commission by Sir Watkin Willams Wynn and having a case designed by Robert Adam. This organ, dating from 1774, was rebuilt in 1864 but has been put back to its original state.

The Cobham Hall organ is played occasionally. The Friends of Cobham Hall arrange Events which include organ recitals. Though I think it deserves to be better known. Can't someone organise a CD of a recital there please!

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