Parques de Sintra is now embarking on the conservation and restoration of the historical organ of the Royal Chapel of the National Palace of Queluz, considered one of the greatest and finest of all national organs.
Following a series of interventions designed to preserve and improve the monument, which involved the restoration of the roofing and façades and the return of the building’s original colour of blue, the company now plans to rehabilitate a set of the features defining this Palace and including the Chapel organ.
Decorated in carvings carried out by António Ângelo, the master at the House of the Infantado, the instrument, which is believed to have been built for the Bemposta Palace, would have arrived in Queluz in 1778. In 1803/1804, the organ underwent broad restructuring by António Xavier Machado e Cerveira.
Various vicissitudes have afflicted the instrument over the course of the years, including needs for space and a restoration process that ended up requiring the dismantling of the organ. A project for a summary inventory and partial pre-assembly took place in 2014 and returned a better understanding of the instrument and confirmed that not only had a large proportion of its constituent pieces not been lost but also that in some cases they remain in a good state of preservation. In this initial project, the pre-assembly took place in view of visitors within a temporary structure mounted inside the Palace Chapel.
We correspondingly know that the organ contained four windchests (a type of box in which the rows of pipes are mounted), of which only three survive. The organ is estimated to have a total of 2428 pipes, 1471 in the main organ (the most sonorous section of the instrument, encompassing the pipes which produce the medium and lower pitches) and 957 in the positive organ (the section producing the higher pitched notes).
Taking into account the results of this research, this intervention aims to restore the initial position of the organ in the chapel, which is at the centre of the upper choir stalls. This option from the outset gains support from the resulting acoustic benefits enabling a better projection of sound over a wider distance.
Prior to the conservation and restoration phase advancing, a complete inventory is to be drafted with the recording of every existing piece of the organ. This shall provide crucial information for defining the future procedures for implementation.
Both this work of surveying and analysing the content produced by this study phase and the decisions taken in relation to the restoration actions, as well as the choice of organ builders to carry out the work and the full scope of the intervention are to be fully supervised by the Consultation Commission for Organ Restoration, chaired by Professor Rui Vieira Nery. Also sitting on this Commission are the musicologists and organists, João Vaz, Gerard Doderer, Marco Brescia and Rui Paiva.
Parques de Sintra has also launched a Limited Pre-Qualification Tender for the implementation of the organ conservation and restoration project with proposals due for submission by 8 September.
The choice of this tender process derives from the specific characteristics of the intervention on this instrument and thereby guaranteeing qualified candidates able to meet the pre-defined criteria ensuring the final quality of the restoration work on this highly important historical organ.