The Cahman organ and the music collection

By Karin Monié. Translation: Aidan Allen

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The church organ, built by Johan Niclas Cahman in 1728. photo: Gabriel Hildebrand, 2015.

After the Russian incursion of 1719 Lövstabruk was quickly rebuilt. No cost was spared for the church and its interior. The great organ, built by Johan Niclas Cahman and completed in 1728, was for a time one of the largest organs in the country. Its 28 stops are divided between a Hauptwerk, Rückpositiv and pedal towers. The highly eloquent facade, adorned with many sculptures, gives an impression of the rococo. Yet the instrument is a baroque organ of North German type, on which music by Buxtehude and Johann Sebastian Bach is often played. Listeners can hear how this baroque music was originally meant to sound.

The Lövstabruk organ is the sole remaining large Cahman instrument. It survived the great renovation craze of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when many others suffered a cruel fate. The mechanism of the Rückpositiv was removed and stored in the church attic. Yet it remained undamaged and was reinstalled in the early 1930s. Two restorations, in 1933 and 1964, were not entirely successful. The latest renovation, in 2004–2006, aimed to restore the organ, as far as possible, to its original condition.

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Lövstabruk boasts one of the finest late baroque churches in the country. photo: Gabriel Hildebrand, 2015.

The organ is a very popular concert instrument. Göran Blomberg is among the organists who for some time have helped to bring the Cahman organ to the attention of a greater number of listeners. Various high-quality recordings of music played on the organ are now available.

Each year the Association of the Friends of Leufsta and the Cahman Organ organise Cahman Days, when music is played on the instrument. In addition, for the past couple of decades the Cahman organ has been the focus of an international organ academy.

Charles De Geer first came to Lövstabruk in 1739, becoming lord of the manor two years later. A musician himself, he brought manuscripts from Amsterdam publishers when he came to Sweden. He now provided the manor house with music of a more secular nature than the church normally offered. The comprehensive collection that accumulated included famous names such as Vivaldi, Telemann and Tartini, and many others less well known. Swedish music was represented too. Moreover, musical transcripts provide insight into the types of music that would have been played at the manor house. These include music for harpsichord as well as for operas, minuets, symphonies and other orchestral works, all of which formed part of the elegant social life.

Three 18th-century instruments survive in the manor house today: a harmonium of Dutch type, a harpsichord from Hamburg and a Swedish clavichord. None is in a playable condition.

Folk music played a vital role in the cultural life of the area, the most prominent musicians being those who played the nyckelharpa, or keyed fiddle. The earliest of these to be associated with Lövstabruk is Olof Hellstedt (1745–1819). He played when the baron entertained Gustav III at the manor house, performing the king’s toasting song. Hellstedt’s tune is sometimes played on the Cahman organ today. Especially popular was the virtuoso “Byss Calle” (1783–1847) from Älvkarleby, whose Walloon name Boussard had been thoroughly Swedified.