Notre Dame de Metz

The church "Notre Dame" from Metz, a charming city from the East of France located 20 miles from the German border, was built during the 17th century by the Jesuits. The first organ built for Notre Dame seems to date from 1721, but that disappeared during the time of the French Revolution in 1789. 

The case that exists today dates mainly from the organ builder Nollet. This organ was built in 1730 for the Saint-Siméon church of Trier and was transferred and put together again in Notre Dame in 1803 by a local carpenter. But this organ was considered to be insufficient for the nave and did not give full musical fulfillment, so it had many modifications and enlargements by various organ builders during the 19th century.

At the time of the inaugural concert of the Mutin organ of Saint-Eucaire (a parish located very close to Notre Dame), which took place the August 18, 1902, parishioners of Notre Dame were so impressed by the new instrument that they signed a contract the very same evening with Charles Mutin for the construction of a new organ at Notre-Dame.

Charles Mutin was trained and worked as an apprentice in the Cavaillé-Coll firm. He headed the direction of this company in 1898, a little before the death of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. This explains why the production under the direction of Mutin is well in the line and the spirit of Cavaillé-Coll, in particular during the first years and why the organs nameplate is worthy of the Cavaillé-Coll name. It is in every sense a true Cavaillé-Coll French Symphonic organ.

In 1903 the new instrument by Charles Mutin was delivered. The case of Nollet was re-used and widened by two large side pedal towers. The new instrument of 38 stops and 3 keyboards was inaugurated by Widor himself on August 17, 1903 with pieces of Bach, Handel, and Widor's own compositions.

After its construction, the organ underwent very few modifications. We can note the addition of wooden ornaments in 1904 to hide the pipes of the pedal division. The Mürkens factory transformed the Basson of the Positif into a Clarinette in 1927, and Joseph Albert modified the composition of the Plein-Jeux and converted the Violoncelle of the pedal to a Flûte 4 in 1955. A project of transforming the organ to a neo-baroque style was considered in 1968, but fortunately was not realized. Thus the organ of Notre Dame crossed the “critical years” without major changes. The Clarinette 8 has been changed back to the original specification of Basson 8.

In 1983, the firm of Bernard Aubertin from Courtefontaine restored the instrument in a great concern of respect to its original asthetics. The Plein-Jeux was modified to bring back a greater cohesiveness with the organ. Norbert Pétry re-inaugurated the organ on October 9.

This organ has been played by the greatest organists of this period, including Charles-Marie Widor, Marcel Dupré, Maurice Duruflé, Jean Langlais, Gaston Litaize, Jean Guillou, Michel Chapuis, and Marie Claire Alain to name only a few, and is regarded today as one of the most authentic remaining organs of the French symphonic school of organ building. Many recordings have been made on this instrument, in particular from Philippe Delacour, the current organist of Notre Dame.