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The History, Evolution, and Legacy of Les Facteurs d’Orgues Théodore Puget, Père et Fils, Part 2

June 18, 2024
Puget gallery organ, Notre-Dame de la Dalbade, Toulouse
Puget gallery organ, Notre-Dame de la Dalbade, Toulouse

John Joseph “JJ” Mitchell is a musician and scholar from Arlington, Virginia. He is director of music at Saint John Neumann Catholic Church in Reston, Virginia, where he oversees several musical groups and accompanies liturgies. JJ graduated summa cum laude from Westminster Choir College with a bachelor’s degree in sacred music. He then earned his Master of Sacred Music degree in organ performance from the University of Notre Dame, where he attended on a full-tuition scholarship. He also studied at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régional de Toulouse, France, where he practiced and studied on the organs of the Puget family. JJ then earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ performance from the University of Houston (UH). During this time, he worked as a teaching assistant in the UH Music History Department and served as musician in multiple churches. The article published in this magazine is a cut of his dissertation on the Puget family, which was finished in May 2023.

JJ has served as organist on the music staff of churches such as Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, Texas; the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More, Arlington, Virginia; and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, South Bend, Indiana. He has performed in these churches and various other churches and concert halls in the United States, Canada, France, and England. In July 2024, JJ will give a lecture recital on the Puget family at the location of one of their instruments in Sydney, Australia. He is the winner of the Nanovic Grant for European Study for Professional Development and was a finalist for the Frank Huntington Beebe Grant. He also won second prize in the graduate division of the Hall Pipe Organ Competition in 2022. JJ’s research on César Franck and his musical influences was published in the Vox Humana organ journal. In September 2020 he was a guest on Jennifer Pascual’s Sounds from the Spires SiriusXM Radio program in which his organ recordings were broadcast. He has played liturgies and concerts for international television audiences on the Salt + Life and EWTN networks. JJ is a member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) as well as the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM), from which he has received several scholarships. A leader in the field, he has served on NPM’s national publications committee and will serve on the board of the Northern Virginia AGO chapter beginning later this year. He is a member of The Diapason’s 20 Under 30 Class of 2021. JJ’s career goal is to teach sacred music to the next generation. For more information: 

Editor’s note: Part 1 of this series appeared in the May 2024 issue, pages 12–18.

The progressive era, 1892–1922: Jean-Baptiste Puget

Unlike his older brother Eugène, Jean-Baptiste, the youngest of Théodore’s children, was more interested in science and technology than musical aesthetics. He was a gifted visual artist who designed organ façades such as that of Notre-Dame de la Dalbade and the choir organ of Notre-Dame du Taur, both in Toulouse. He was also different from Théodore and Eugène because he did not study music and had not been tasked with voicing pipes.103 Though Jean-Baptiste’s skills were a major asset to the family, he did not have much authority until he assumed leadership of the business following Eugène’s sudden passing in 1892.104 He married Zélie-Augustine Raynaud, and together they had three children: Maurice, Louis, and Germaine.105

Enamored with innovation, Jean-Baptiste introduced progressive changes to the company’s organ building style. For example, he favored zinc bass pipes instead of tin due to practicality and low cost.106 This choice in materials, which was controversial at the time, resulted in a robust sound without having to use as much metal.107 The use of zinc reflects Jean-Baptiste’s knowledge of English organs, particularly the work of Henry Willis. Eugène’s metal pipes were mostly constructed with tin.108

Another significant change under Jean-Baptiste’s tenure was the shift from mechanical action to tubular-pneumatic action.110 Organbuilders of the Romantic era through the early twentieth century wanted to modify actions to make their instruments easier to play, employing wind-based solutions to do so.111 The Barker lever, which was common on French symphonic organs, was a wind-activated mechanism to lighten mechanical action. Eugène and Jean-Baptiste used Barker levers when building their instruments. The two brothers traveled together to London to study tubular-pneumatic action, in which a pneumatic tube connection takes the place of a tracker in conveying the key action from console to windchest, thereby lightening the key action.112 Eugène typically maintained the status quo of mechanical action with Barker levers, but Jean-Baptiste embraced the new tubular-pneumatic technology.113

Jean-Baptiste’s professional connections attracted new attention from the scientific community. One prominent ally of the company during Jean-Baptiste’s reign was Dr. Gabriel Bédart, a medical doctor who had an advisory role at the Puget company.114 Penning an opinion in a Toulousian newspaper in 1895, Bédart discussed the benefits of turn-of-the-century advances in organ technology and advocated for the implementation of tubular-pneumatic systems. He praised the work of Jean-Baptiste by citing recently constructed Puget organs.115 Much of what is known about Jean-Baptiste’s organbuilding philosophy comes from Bédart’s writings.

Jean-Baptiste connected with other professionals differently than Eugène, whose relationships with masterful Parisian organists had elevated the family’s status. Jean-Baptiste maintained these connections while devoting much attention to fostering friendships with other organbuilders around the world. At a conference of organbuilders held in 1895 in Paris, Jean-Baptiste established professional relationships with other prominent constructors of the time, including Henry Willis, Samuel Casavant, and Charles Mutin. In 1899 Jean-Baptiste became a member of the jury of the Exposition Internationale Paris-Neuilly.116 Through his professional correspondences and promotion from colleagues, Jean-Baptiste elevated the reputation of the Puget family both nationally and internationally.117 This fame was expanded further when the Pugets constructed an organ at la Cathédrale de Sainte-Cécile d’Albi, hereafter referred to as Albi Cathedral.118

La Cathédrale de Sainte-Cécile d’Albi

Albi is located about fifty miles northeast of Toulouse on the Tarn River. This picturesque city, the home of painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, has a distinguished artistic history.120 The cathedral, considered to be the largest brick building in the world, is easily identifiable in Albi’s cityscape. The fortress-like structure was constructed in the thirteenth century to suppress the Albigensian heresy and assert the Catholic Church’s dominance. Albi Cathedral’s thick walls, buttresses, and tall windows tower over the surrounding streets.121

The 1736 Moucherel instrument that preceded the Puget organ at Albi Cathedral had been in disrepair for decades.122 In 1841 the Claude brothers, two organbuilders from Mirecourt, tried to romanticize this French Classical organ cheaply. The result was described as a “mutilation” upon its reception, according to one listener.123 Jean-Baptiste was familiar with this instrument since the Puget family had repaired it and made slight adjustments to its specifications in 1875.124 In 1902 Jean-Baptiste wrote to the rector of the cathedral and described a proposal for a new instrument. Jean-Baptiste was both persuasive and persistent, arguing for his project to clergy members in Albi four times within one year.125 The clergy signed a contract for a new Puget organ in March 1903 and amended it in October of the same year, paying the Pugets 31,650 francs.126

Jean-Baptiste designed a gargantuan organ with four manuals and seventy-eight ranks for Albi Cathedral.127 He preserved some of the existing pipework while adding much of his own.128 Forty-two of the stops were placed behind shades, making it the only organ in France to have so many pipes under expression.129 The tonal scheme was diverse, featuring orchestral stops such as a Euphone.130 There was also a Clarabella, an English stop that was unusual for a French symphonic organ.131 The Great division boasted seven stops speaking at 8′ pitch, which provided a plethora of foundational tone for the upperwork. Upon completion, Albi Cathedral contained the largest French symphonic organ outside of Paris. Only two organs exceeded its size in France at the time: the Cavaillé-Coll instruments of Notre-Dame de Paris and l’Église Saint-Sulpice.132

Jean-Baptiste and his team of technicians devised solutions for the challenges of making an instrument of such magnitude to function. Three enormous bellows and four pairs of blowers installed in the cathedral tower powered the Albi organ.133 The entire organ was on tubular-pneumatic action.134 This manner of construction allowed the resistance in the keyboards and pedalboard to remain consistent regardless of how many manuals were coupled.135 This instrument also featured a crescendo pedal with a dial that indicated which stops were added based on the position of the shoe.136 Though the Pugets did not invent tubular-pneumatic action or the crescendo pedal, the builders demonstrated originality in applying these innovations to such a large organ. There was no existing prototype or precedent for constructing a French symphonic organ of this size with these technological innovations.

Adolphe Marty, who was the organ instructor at Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles in Paris at the time, dedicated the instrument on the feast of Saint Cecilia, November 22, 1904. The performance date was significant as Saint Cecilia, the namesake of the cathedral, is also the patron saint of music.139 This premiere program by Marty, a former student of César Franck, included works by Bach, Buxtehude, and a new composition of his own specifically for the inauguration of the organ. It was called Sonate héroïque Sainte Cécile and had four movements: “Extase,” “Chant d’Hyménée,” “Entretien et Conversion,” and “Triomphe et Apothéose.”140 This piece is significant as it represents a contribution to the French symphonic organ repertoire inspired by a Puget organ.

The organ in Albi Cathedral was judged to be the Puget family’s masterpiece. In a review of this concert, the cathedral rector wrote the following week in a local publication that only two organs exceeded the greatness of that in Albi: Notre-Dame de Paris and l’Église Saint-Sulpice.141 A prominent Parisian organist of this era, Albert Perilhou, echoed the sentiment of this review with even more praise. He declared in a message to Puget that the Albi organ was a “deserving rival” of the two massive Paris organs.142 These testimonies demonstrate awe and respect for Jean-Baptiste’s work ranging from local members of the Albi religious community to two of the most distinguished French musicians at the turn of the century.

In addition to pleasing mid-career professionals at the turn of the century, the Albi instrument also inspired young organists. Léonce de Saint-Martin was born in Albi in 1886 and was the deputy organist at the church by age fourteen in 1900. Four years later, while he still served in this position, the cathedral organ was inaugurated by his teacher, Marty.143 In the years after Saint-Martin had moved to Paris, Jean-Baptiste received a letter from him. He described that he spent his holiday vacations playing the Albi organ and told the builder: “I bless the Lord one hundred times to have been so well privileged.”144 Saint-Martin went on to succeed Louis Vierne as the organist of Notre-Dame de Paris in 1937.145

For fifty years, the Puget organ filled the expansive nave of Albi Cathedral with music and rarely required maintenance. However, the instrument did not survive into the modern age. Following a recital given by André Marchal in May 1954, musicologist and organist Norbert Dufourcq, who was in the audience, declared that the organ was in disrepair. Speaking metaphorically, he described the organ as having a “vocal illness” and in dire need of a “remedy.”146 He was describing problems in the instrument’s winding system and the failing tubular-pneumatic action. Dufourcq also bemoaned the organ’s tonal palette, crying for more mixtures and upperwork rather than reeds and 8′ tone.147 He was a major proponent of Victor Gonzalez’s neo-Classical organs and tended to besmirch the Pugets.148

A restoration of this instrument would have involved hundreds of hours of meticulous work on the organ’s tubular-pneumatic systems. This type of organ technology had fallen out of style by the 1930s because the thin leather membranes had aged and needed to be replaced.149 Air leaks that had developed over time impaired the pneumatic system. In 1971 the Puget organ was dismantled and would ultimately be replaced by 1981 with an organ in the neo-Baroque style.150

The Puget instrument of Albi Cathedral represents both desirable and unpreferable aspects of organbuilding at the turn of the century. One could perceive Jean-Baptiste poorly for choosing low quality materials that risked unsustainability over time. Others may be tempted to pass judgment on Dufourcq’s criticism and Albi Cathedral’s governance for choosing not to restore the Puget organ in the latter part of the twentieth century. Regardless of opinions, the organ of Albi Cathedral was ultimately a product of its time.152 Jean-Baptiste could not have known the long-term sustainability problems of tubular-pneumatic systems because his decisions were cutting-edge at the time of the organ’s construction. The French Culture Ministry and its commission of Albi Cathedral acted practically when electing to replace the Puget organ.153

The neo-Classical era, 1922–1960: Maurice Puget

During the tenures of Théodore, Eugène, and Jean-Baptiste, the family business operated under a rapidly changing French political landscape. The company endured the separation of church and state (1789–1905); the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871); the Expulsion of the Congregations (1880); the civil unrest following the assassination of the charismatic socialist orator Jean Jaurès, a native Occitanian (1914); and the numerous inefficacious post-Napoleonic governing systems that rose and fell in nineteenth-century France.155 The Pugets also survived competition against Cavaillé-Coll and managed to establish themselves in the south of France. Though technology had evolved during these years, the family’s instruments up to the 1920s were French symphonic organs indicative of the Romantic era. The external factors of political turmoil, new competition, and changing artistic aesthetics all were challenging factors in Maurice’s career.

Life and works

In his youth, Maurice attended the Toulouse Conservatory and took organ lessons with Georges Debat-Ponsan. During these years, he was awarded medals for his proficiency in solfège, piano, and organ while learning from his father in the family workshop. Young Maurice was the chief voicer of his father’s Albi Cathedral organ, ensuring all seventy-four stops sounded harmoniously.157 To continue his study in organ performance, he left Toulouse and joined the studio of Adolphe Marty in Paris. After two years he came back to Toulouse to work again with his father and married Elia-Jane Desmons in 1912. His organbuilding career was interrupted when he was conscripted in World War I.158

During the war, Maurice put his training as an organ technician to use. To trace enemy planes flying in the night sky, a French military captain, René Baillaud, designed a primitive sonar that he named the “Parabaloïde Baillaud.”159 In order to operate this echolocation device, the user needed to have a keen ear, which Maurice had developed from his years of musical training and labor in the family workshop. He was directed by the French military’s general headquarters to help Baillaud develop the tool further.160 For his successful work, which helped keep French soldiers and civilians safe during the war, Maurice was awarded the Croix de Guerre.161

Maurice officially took over the family business from his father in 1922, though Jean-Baptiste likely transferred responsibilities to his son gradually in the years prior.162 The same year Maurice and his wife had a son, Jean, whose descendants are alive today.163 Maurice had several apprentices, the most famous of whom was Robert Boisseau.164 However, neither his son nor any other apprentice succeeded Maurice after his sudden stroke in 1960.165 By 1965 a central heating company had taken the place of the Puget workshop on Rue de Négreneys.

As Maurice assumed his role as head of the Puget workshop, organbuilding aesthetics in France were shifting. In the early twentieth century, Norbert Dufourcq and André Marchal spearheaded a movement to create eclectic organs. These instruments would have the foundation tone of a French symphonic organ but would also have sounds common to French Classical and German Baroque organs, such as brilliant mixtures, lustrous mutation stops, and soft reeds. Spanish organbuilder Victor Gonzalez, a former employee of both Cavaillé-Coll and Merklin based in Paris, constructed instruments in this style. This type of organbuilding became known as the neo-Classical movement. Shortly after his business was established in 1929, Gonzalez dominated the market with the help of his powerful allies, who included Dufourcq, Marchal, and German organbuilder Rudolf von Beckerath.166 The Puget family faced more difficulty competing against the Gonzalez firm in post-war France than they did against Cavaillé-Coll at the height of his business’s power.167

Maurice was aware of the rapid changes occurring in the organ industry and started constructing instruments in the neo-Classical style at least seven years before Gonzalez’s firm was founded. He was a gracious man who made concessions to his clients, though some scholars argue that his acceptance of customers’ neo-Classical demands damaged the reputation of the family. For example, Maurice made modifications to the organ in the Salle Franklin, the opera house in Bordeaux, by adding an 8′ Bourdon made of zinc; a three-rank Mixture, two ranks of which were made with spotted metal and the third plain metal; and a Voix humaine, also made of zinc.168 After World War I, tin, oak, and other durable materials became even more expensive and scarce than they had been previously. Many critics decried Maurice’s work and reminisced about the organs of Eugène’s tenure.169

Three notable reconstructions from Maurice’s first decade as head of the workshop include the organs of la Cathédrale Saint-Just et Saint-Pasteur in Narbonne in 1927, la Cathédrale de Perpignan in 1930, and la Collégiale Saint-Salvy d’Albi in 1931. These projects are defined by their Stentor stops and plethora of mutations.170 Maurice also installed electro-pneumatic systems in his instruments throughout his career, and he altered mechanical blowers by adapting them to electricity. By using the electro-pneumatic system, Maurice was able to create extended and borrowed stops that shared the same rank of pipes. For example, on the organ at Saint-Salvy, there are sixty stops for forty ranks of pipes.171 Maurice constructed his instruments with strong foundation stops, similar to the robust 8′ tone his father designed at Albi Cathedral as well as other French symphonic organs by the family. By voicing his instruments to produce a vigorous sound, Maurice differed from Gonzalez, whose foundation stops were quieter.172

World War II wreaked havoc on the Puget dynasty.174 Materials that were already rare and expensive in France after World War I became even more scarce during the 1940s, which affected organbuilding as well as numerous other industries. The country’s economy was in shambles due to soaring inflation. The Puget family’s net worth was depleted, and clients for new organs were few and far between. French clergy were also lacking money after the separation of church and state, and Gonzalez snatched up whatever major organ projects were available at the time.175 Cavaillé-Coll’s workshop, which had been succeeded by Charles Mutin and Auguste Convers after Aristide’s passing, closed its doors during this war. The once formidable giant of French symphonic organbuilding throughout the nineteenth century fell victim during these difficult years.

Despite dire circumstances, Maurice had some advantages to keep the family business afloat. First, he had a thorough understanding of organs throughout Occitania. He was a desirable restorer because he had an encyclopedic knowledge of many organs in the south of France. He always approached restoration projects respectfully, voicing organs from different eras in an appropriate, tasteful manner. Maurice also had influential Parisian contacts, continuing in Eugène and Jean-Baptiste’s tradition of professional correspondences.176 Thanks to his friendships with prestigious organists such as Marcel Dupré, Alexandre Cellier, and Xavier Darasse, he was able to win contracts despite Gonzalez’s grip on the French organ scene. Three of Maurice’s most notable restorations were in the cathedrals of Toulouse in 1947, Monaco in 1953, and Nice in 1958.177

In both Maurice’s time and the present day, one finds critics of France’s neo-Classical movement. Oftentimes, when builders tried to create eclectic organs with the versatility to perform multiple kinds of repertoire authentically, they produced instruments that could not interpret any single style well. Maurice’s organs were controversial because of their electrification, specification, and materials.178 However, Maurice’s proficiency in technology, music, and history was never questioned. He brought artistry to neoclassicism with the resources that were available to him.

Maurice was adaptable, enduring several challenges in his environment. Before he succeeded his father, he was forced to sacrifice years of his early career to serve his country in World War I. He built with cheaper materials because those were what was available to him at a price the business could afford. Maurice prioritized his customers’ preferences in his work, which some critics perceived as a detriment. He treated each organ that he restored with a sensitivity to its history and its original construction.179 Ultimately, by navigating through uncertain, turbulent cultural shifts with minimal resources, Maurice brought honor and prestige to the Puget family. After Maurice passed away, Marcel Dupré wrote a letter of condolence to the family: “I had not only the highest esteem for his value and talent as an organbuilder, and the deepest admiration for his courage and dedication to his art, but a deep friendship for him.”180


Of the twenty-five largest Puget organs, fifteen were destroyed, typically replaced by neo-Classical instruments of other builders.182 Of the remaining ten large instruments, three are not functioning but are well preserved; another three are playable but are in need of restoration; and four have been restored.183 Over the course of roughly 120 years, the Puget family constructed 350 organs and worked on 742 in total.184 These instruments were found in churches, salons, theaters, conservatories, and concert halls not only in France but also in other European nations as well as in Asia, Africa, and Australia.185 The Pugets built thirteen organs in Paris, a city defined by the work of Cavaillé-Coll.

The international demand for Puget organs was a result of the instruments’ caliber. For example, the Taur organ was durable and designed for the comfort of the performer. The Albi Cathedral instrument astonished onlookers with its five tubular-pneumatic systems. With seventy-four stops, there were limitless possibilities of combinations. The organs of the Taur and Albi Cathedral encapsulate the Pugets’ work as masterful technicians and artists.

Puget organs represent the best of Toulousain culture. A historic city, Toulouse has a rich musical heritage that can be traced as far back as the troubadours in the Medieval era. Toulouse also displays a distinct architectural style that, like many European metropolises, contains a variety of buildings both ancient and modern. By choosing local materials and constructing in the symphonic style, the Pugets created a distinct Toulousain organ sound that balanced normative French trends at the national scale with unique developments, such as voicing in a darker tone and consistently placing multiple divisions under expression. Puget façades tastefully reflect the architectural styles of the rooms in which they reside, maintaining aesthetic consistency. In perfecting aural and visual aspects of their instruments, the Pugets created a distinct Toulousain organ identity.186

The Pugets were unique because of the culture of their workshop in which each of the four heads of family constructed organs differently from one another. They did not feel pressure to always build instruments in a prescribed manner and were quick to make changes. For example, Eugène made radical innovations at the Taur just after assuming control from his father, and Jean-Baptiste stopped building with mechanical actions immediately after he succeeded Eugène in 1892. Though Théodore likely apprenticed with Moitessier and abided by Bédos’s treatise, he was largely self-taught and instructed his sons in the craft of organbuilding. When asked why he preferred Puget organs to those of Cavaillé-Coll, Jean Daldosso said that every Puget organ is a new revelation since the family did not fear unorthodox experimentation.188

By studying organs of the Puget family, performers can create better informed interpretations. For example, organists may be surprised to learn that on Puget organs, the Hautbois-Bassoon and Voix humaine were both activated by the reed ventil, unlike a Cavaillé-Coll instrument. Though Widor’s Symphonie V was written for his instrument at l’Église Saint-Sulpice, which had a single expressive division, one could deliver a historically informed performance of his work by manipulating the shades of an expressive Positif division like the Puget organ of Notre-Dame de la Dalbade. Jean-Claude Guidarini argued that timbres of mystic organ composers such as Louis Vierne, Charles Tournemire, and Olivier Messiaen are easy to produce on Puget instruments because the composers’ registrations feature somber 8′ foundations with tastefully balanced upperwork.189 If Cavaillé-Coll’s and Gonzalez’s organs are the sole instruments upon which performers conceive their interpretations, the possibilities for artistry and creativity are constrained. The many testimonials in which generations of formidable French organ composers expressed respect and honor towards the Pugets indicate the validity of the family’s works, which allowed for tasteful interpretations of symphonic organ repertoire. Some compositions inspired by Puget organs include Georges Debat-Ponsan’s Elévation and the aforementioned sonata by Adolphe Marty, written for Albi Cathedral.190

Organ builders also can benefit from learning about the Puget family. Each head of the family was attuned to the history of instruments, the desires of their clients, current trends in organ building, and how to voice organs in a tasteful manner. As a result, their numerous technical innovations, voicing styles, and materials were always calculated risks. The engineering details of their instruments, such as scalings, pneumatic system components, and façade blueprints are a worthy area of study that can inform organbuilders on different types of approaches to French symphonic organbuilding. Théodore, Eugène, and Maurice were especially considerate of the needs of performers since they were organists themselves.

Musicians and scholars are still seeking further information on the Puget family. For example, little is known about Jean-Baptiste’s organ in the prestigious Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. It was constructed in May 1913, and the façade is still visible today above the proscenium.191 Léonce de Saint-Martin was appointed as the theater’s organist.192 At the inauguration of this fifty-two-rank instrument, which had an array of percussive stops, an orchestra was conducted in turn by Claude Debussy, Vincent d’Indy, Paul Dukas, Gabriel Fauré, and Camille Saint-Saëns.193 Though some details of the organ’s history are known, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées did not keep many records on the instrument, and in 2020 the theater petitioned the general public to provide information about the organ so that they could begin a restoration.194

Many questions about the dynasty puzzle Puget experts today. For example, one wonders if the organ of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées provided prelude music to audience goers at the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, an infamous disaster in which the performance by the Ballet Russes resulted in a riotous uproar from the audience.195 There are many questions surrounding Théodore’s life, especially concerning the exact year of his company’s founding. In addition, one wonders when did Eugène discover the possibility of having two expressive divisions, and what organ, if any, inspired him to implement this organbuilding technique at the Taur. For many of the Puget instruments, both surviving and lost, there is a need for further research. I hope that this essay will serve as a springboard that inspires future study of the Pugets and their instruments.

The organs of the Puget family remain relevant in the modern age. Annually, thousands of organists flock to southern France for the festival of “Toulouse Les Orgues” to hear instruments such as the Puget organs of Notre-Dame du Taur and Notre-Dame de la Dalbade in concert. Students at the Conservatoire à Rayonnement Régionale de Toulouse come from around the world to study and perform repertoire on these organs. Many people can describe a Puget instrument they have experienced, but few are able to share information they have learned about the builder.196 If the Pugets’ legacy is to be celebrated and their organs are to survive, further scholarship is needed. The priceless, masterful works of the Puget family deserve more recognition from the international organ community.


103. Guidarini, “La Dalbade France 1888, Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin, Saint-Saëns. . .,” page 74.

104. Bachet, page 17.

105. Guidarini, page 74.

106. Rohan, pages 19, 76.

107. Delmas; Rohan, page 19. Delmas read a letter by Jean-Baptiste saying that zinc pipes were more expensive than tin, but that the organbuilder sought after the material for the sound it produced. Other evidence from Rohan suggests otherwise.

108. Bachet, page 10; Delmas.

109. Archives of the Musée de Lavaur, shared by l’Association Jean-Claude Guidarini.

110. De Lasala, “The Eugène Puget Organ Is Reborn,” page 10.

111. Shannon, page 8.

112. Comments made by Katelyn Emerson, April 26, 2023; Shannon, page 177.

113. Hamilton, page 56. One instance in which Eugène did use the pneumatic system was in the pedalboard of the Dalbade, as previously mentioned.

114. Rohan, page 19. It is unclear just how involved Bédart was with the Puget company. Rohan describes his role as “éminence grise,” which means “gray eminence.” He was influential in the philosophy of the company and its direction without having an official title.

115. Gabriel Bédart, “Les Orgues Tubulaire à Membranes de M. Puget,” L’Art Méridional, July 1, 1895.

116. Rohan, page 19.

117. Guidarini, Les Puget, Une Dynastie de Facteurs d’Orgues à Toulouse, page 4.

118. Albi is a town located northeast of Toulouse in Occitania.

119. Archives of the Musée de Lavaur, shared by l’Association Jean-Claude Guidarini. White-bearded Jean-Baptiste is standing in the center of the image with his arms folded.

120. Justin Postlethwaite, “Albi: The Birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec,” France Today, August 3, 2022, https://francetoday.com/travel/travel-features/city-focus-albi/.

121. “Albi Cathedral,” World Monuments Fund, December 2020, https://www.wmf.org/project/albi-cathedral.

122. Gérard Terrissol, Les orgues de la Cathédrale Sainte-Cecile d’Albi (Albi: Éditions Grand Sud, 1992), pages 8–16. Several other builders had made minor adjustments to Moucherel’s organ, which was built in 1736.

123. Terrissol, pages 20–22; Chris Van Doodewaard, “Pipe Organs: Albi Cathedral France 1736 Christophe Moucherel,” Pipe Organs (blog), October 20, 2010, http://mypipeorganhobby.blogspot.com/2009/01/albi-cathedral-france.html.

124. Terrissol, pages 20–22; “Composite of Sainte-Cécile,” Organa Reginae Caeli, November 18, 2019, https://organareginaecaeli.wordpress.com/composite-of-sainte-cecile/.

125. Jean-Claude Guidarini, “Le Grand Orgue Jean-Baptiste Puget de La Métropole d’Albi,” Le Dermogloste, March 17, 2009. Accessed January 25, 2022, http://dermogloste.viabloga.com/news/le-grand-orgue-jean-baptiste-puget-de-la-metropole-d-albi.

126. Terrissol, pages 20–22.

127. Guidarini. See Figure 8 for an image of the console.

128. Terrissol, pages 20–22.

129. Guidarini.

130. Guidarini.

131. Brown.

132. Guidarini. In 1932 the organ of Saint Eustache in Paris was expanded significantly, making the Puget organ the fourth largest in all of France.

133. Delmas; Guidarini. The wind pressure on the Albi organ was much higher than a typical French symphonic organ of this time.

134. Guidarini.

135. Shannon, page 72.

136. Guidarini; Terrissol, pages 20–22.

137. Reprinted from Guidarini.

138. Reprinted from Guidarini.

139. J. Lapeyre, “Variétés: Un Orgue et Une Sonate d’Orgue,” La Semaine Religieuse Du Diocèse d’Alby, November 26, 1904, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k6390560d. November 22 was also the anniversary of the Dalbade organ dedication.

140. Lapeyre; Adolphe Marty, Sonate Héroïque de Sainte-Cécile (Paris: A. Nöel, 1905); Poliquin.

141. Lapeyre.

142. Guidarini.

143. Jean Guérard, “Leonce of Saint-Martin,” Musica et Memoria, 2016, http://www.musimem.com/st-martin.htm.

144. Ibid.

145. Philip Andrew Smith, “Léonce de Saint-Martin: Organist and Composer” (Doctor of Musical Arts dissertation, Hamilton, New Zealand, The University of Waikato, 2018), https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12116, 82.

146. Delmas; Guidarini; Terrissol, page 22. Dufourcq was a staunch political opponent of the Puget family. He championed organs built by Gonzalez.

147. Guidarini.

148. Delmas.

149. Delmas; Shannon, pages 66–67. Delmas says that pneumatic membrane decay, lead tube corrosion, and lack of maintenance were likely the sources of the problems.

150. Guidarini; Terrissol, pages 20–22; Timothy Tikker, “Albi Cathedral–Moucherel Organ,” Mander Organ Builders Forum, September 3, 2005, https://mander-organs-forum.invisionzone.com/topic/182-albi-cathedral-moucherel-organ/.

151. Neither the Pugets’ organ nor the 1981 instrument altered the existing casework, so Jean-Baptiste’s organ would have looked identical to this one.

152. Guidarini.

153. Delmas; Guidarini. Dufourq’s critiques were not the only red flags concerning this instrument’s condition. Delmas describes a report in the French Ministry of Culture in Paris from 1958, which states what organists Alexandre Cellier and Pierre Cochereau found when they were sent to evaluate the instrument. They claimed that a lack of maintenance and drastic temperature fluxes made the organ unplayable, especially in warm weather. The two recommended electrifying the action, moving the Echo into the Positif case, and swapping one or two stops. Regrettably, no action was taken following this report. At French cathedrals, decisions such as organ projects are made by the French Ministry of Culture and the commissions they assemble for their restoration projects.

154. Mitchell, reprinted from Guidarini, “Compositions Du Quelques Instruments Construits Ou Reconstruits Par La Manufacture Puget de Toulouse.”

155. B. S. Bennet, “19th Century French Politics,” University of Botswana History Department, September 11, 2000. http://www.thuto.org/ubh/ub/h202/fr19p1.htm; Musée protestant. “The Law of 1905.” Accessed April 12, 2023. https://museeprotestant.org/en/notice/the-law-of-1905/.

156. Reprinted from “Histoire et Anecdotes,” Toulouse Les Orgues, accessed April 12, 2022, https://toulouse-les-orgues.org/orgues-2/histoire-et-anecdote/.

157. Guidarini, “La Dalbade France 1888, Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin, Saint-Saëns. . .,” pages 74–75.

158. Rohan, page 37.

159. Guidarini, Les Puget, Une Dynastie de Facteurs d’Orgues à Toulouse, page 6. Paraboloïde Baillaud was a precursor to flight radar.

160. “L’Inauguration du Grand Orgue,” Le Cri de Toulouse, December 1921, 11ème Année, No. 47 edition.

161. Guidarini, “La Dalbade France 1888, Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin, Saint-Saëns. . .,” page 75. “Croix de Guerre,” which is a military medal, best translates to “War Cross.”

162. Évrard, page 8.

163. Delmas; Guidarini, Les Puget, Une Dynastie Toulousaine de Facteurs d’Orgues, page 37. Jean, who passed away in 2018, was a career pharmacist. His daughter, Françoise, was born in 1953. She and her son, Nicolas, are living descendants.

164. Vincent Hildebrandt, “Boisseau–Cattiaux–Chevron,” Organs of Paris, accessed April 9, 2022, https://www.organsparisn.vhhil.nl/boiscat.htm. Boisseau and his apprentices built several organs. His son, Jean-Loup Boisseau, restored the organs of la Basilique Saint-Denis, Notre-Dame de Paris, la Cathédrale de Poitiers, and la Basilique Saint-Sernin in Toulouse.

165. Rohan, page 37.

166. Vincent Hildebrandt, “Gonzalez-Danion-Dargassies,” Organs of Paris, accessed March 19, 2023, https://www.organsparisn.vhhil.nl/gonzalez1.htm.

167. Guidarini, Les Puget, Une Dynastie Toulousaine de Facteurs d’Orgues, page 36; Rohan, page 28. One reason Dufourcq wrote scathing critiques about the Albi Cathedral organ when its tubular-pneumatic systems failed was he saw the Pugets as competitors of Gonzalez, with whom he was aligned. Dufourcq did complement the Pugets on their restorations, citing their remarkable knowledge of instruments throughout the south of France.

168. Bachet, page 18.

169. Delmas; Guidarini, “La Dalbade France 1888, Beethoven, Berlioz, Chopin, Saint-Saëns. . .,” page 75. Another struggle Maurice faced came in 1936 when the French government instituted paid holidays. This law did not help organbuilders generate profit.

170. Bachet, page 18; Edward J. Stauff, “Stentor Bombarde,” Encyclopedia of Organ Stops, 1999, accessed March 20, 2023, http://www.organstops.org/s/StentorBombarde.html. Stentor stops were loud stops common on organs in the early twentieth century. A Stentor stop may refer to a Stentorphone, Stentor Octave (sounding at 4′ pitch), or a Stentor Bombarde, which is a penetrating reed.

171. Bachet, pages 18–19.

172. Hamilton, page 62.

173. Joseph Rivel, “Bénédiction & Inauguration Solennelle du Grand Orgue,” Le Bourdon de la Basilique Saint-Just & Saint-Pasteur Narbonne, October 23, 1927, 6ème Année, No. 11 edition, in Organ Historical Society Library and Archives, Villanova, Pennsylvania.

174. World War II was a particularly dark period for pipe organs and organbuilders. Across Europe, thousands of organs were dismantled so that metal pipes could be melted down to make ammunition. Many historic organs were bombed and lost forever. The Pugets were fortunate since their most famous instruments were not destroyed as a consequence of the war.

175. Delmas.

176. Guidarini, Les Puget, Une Dynastie Toulousaine de Facteurs d’Orgues, page 40.

177. Bachet, page 19.

178. Bachet, page 19.

179. Bachet, page 18.

180. Rohan, page 26. Translation by Mitchell.

181. Rohan, page 26. Translation by Mitchell.

182. Guidarini, Les Puget, Une Dynastie Toulousaine de Facteurs d’Orgues, page 40. The dismantling of large organs was common in the neo-Classical era of organbuilding. The instruments of Merklin and other notable builders were also destroyed in similar fashion in the latter part of the twentieth century.

183. Guidarini, “Les Puget, Une Dynastie Toulousaine de Facteurs d’Orgues,” page 40.

184. “Histoire de l’orgue et Concert Lyrique: le Public Conquis,” La Dépêche, March 4, 2015, https://www.ladepeche.fr/article/2015/03/04/2059782-histoire-de-l-orgue-et-concert-lyrique-le-public-conquis.html; Guidarini, Les Puget, Une Dynastie Toulousaine de Facteurs d’Orgues, page 40. It is unclear exactly how many organs were built for their homes outside of France and how many were moved there later. One of the Pugets’ instruments in Sainte-Marie College in Toulouse, built in 1875, was supposed to be transferred to Madagascar. Since Théodore could not oversee its completion in Africa, the organ remained in France and was later moved to Saint Barthélémy Church in Montastruc-la-Conseillère.

185. Delmas; Le Cri de Toulouse; Pastór de Lasala, “A Puget Organ in Sydney: A Fortunate Historical Accident,” OHTA News 44, no. 1 (October 4, 2018): pages 14–21. There was a single cinema organ constructed by the Puget family at Le Royal Cinéma in Toulouse.

186. Rohan, page 17. Because of their unique elements regarding aesthetics, some scholars such as Rohan argue that Puget organs are not comparable to Cavaillé-Coll’s instruments.

187. Reprinted from Guidarini. Addressed to the Pugets, the perimeter of the image lists all the family’s organs that Marty had dedicated up to 1901.

188. Hamilton, page 62.

189. Hamilton, page 62.

190. Rohan, page 30.

191. Delmas.

192. Smith, page 80.

193. Guidarini, Les Pugets, Une Dynastie de Facteurs d’orgues à Toulouse, page 6.

194. Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, “Le Saviez-Vous? L’Histoire de l’Orgue du Théâtre N’Est Pas Évidente à Retracer,” December 2020, YouTube video, 2:41, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxvUGQV3NC8.

195. Delmas. The Puget organ was examined and accepted exactly one week before the Rite of Spring premiere.

196. Simon Thomas Jacobs, “In the Organ Lofts of Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Paris,” The Diapason, volume 105, number 8, whole number 1257 (August 2014), pages 20–24.




BNF=Bibliothèque National du France, Paris

OHS=Organ Historical Society Library and Archives, Villanova, Pennsylvania


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Radio Présence. “Immersion à Notre-Dame Du Taur.” Recorded by Jean-Claude Guidarini and Radio Présence in 2012 in Toulouse. YouTube video, 26:12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy69JOvYnsE.

Ramackers, Robert. “Les Orgues de L’Abbé Clergeau,” February 2015. https://rmcks.pagesperso-orange.fr/orgue/orgues_clergeau/les_orgues_de_l_abbe_Clergeau.pdf.

Religiana. “Church of Notre-Dame de La Dalbade, Toulouse.” Accessed March 21, 2023. https://religiana.com/church-notre-dame-de-la-dalbade-toulouse.

Rivel, Joseph. “Bénédiction & Inaugration Solennelle du Grand Orgue.” Le Bourdon de la Basilique Saint-Just & Saint-Pasteur Narbonne, October 23, 1927, 6ème Année, No. 11 edition. OHS.

Rohan, Henri de. Th. Puget: Une Famille de Facteurs d’orgues à Toulouse, 1834–1960. Bibliothèque Municipale de Toulouse, 1987. Exhibition catalog, Bibliothèque Municipale de Toulouse, October 1–31, 1987. https://orguesaintantonin.fr/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Puget-Rohan-catalogue-expow.pdf.

Rumsey, David. “Norman Johnston, 1917–2012.” Organ Music Society of Sydney, April 28, 2012. Accessed March 1, 2023. https://sydneyorgan.com/Norman.html.

Rushworth, G. D. “Richardson, Charles (1847–1926).” In Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, 2006. https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/richardson-charles-8200.

Shannon, John R. Understanding the Pipe Organ. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2009.

Smith, Philip Andrew. “Léonce de Saint-Martin: Organist and Composer.” DMA diss., The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2018. https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12116.

Stauff, Edward J. “Stentor Bombarde.” Encyclopedia of Organ Stops, 1999. http://www.organstops.org/s/StentorBombarde.html.

Terrissol, Gérard. Les orgues de la Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile d’Albi. Albi: Éditions Grand Sud, 1992. OHS.

Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. “Le Saviez-Vous? L’Histoire de l’Orgue du Théâtre N’Est Pas Évidente à Retracer.” Filmed in December 2020 in Paris, France. YouTube video, 2:41. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxvUGQV3NC8.

Théodore Puget Pére et Fils 1834–1960, Une dynastie de facteurs d’orgues. Lavaur: Musée du Pays Vaurais, n.d. Exhibition catalog. https://orguesaintantonin.fr/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/plaquette-Lavaur.pdf.

Thomas, Louis. Rapport de la Commission de Réception du Grand-Orgue de la Cathédrale de Montauban. Montauban: Imprimerie Catholique Jules Prunet, 1917. OHS.

Tikker, Timothy. “Albi Cathedral–Moucherel Organ.” Mander Organ Builders Forum, September 3, 2005. Accessed February 6, 2022. https://mander-organs-forum.invisionzone.com/topic/182-albi-cathedral-moucherel-organ/.

Toulouse Les Orgues. “Grand Orgue de l’Église Saint-Barthélémy.” Accessed March 16, 2023. https://toulouse-les-orgues.org/instrument/grand-orgue-de-leglise-saint-barthelemy/.

———. “Histoire et Anecdotes.” Accessed April 12, 2022. https://toulouse-les-orgues.org/orgues-2/histoire-et-anecdote/

​Vallas, Léon. César Franck. Translated by Hubert J. Foss. New York: Oxford University Press, 1951.

Van Doodewaard, Chris. “Pipe Organs: Albi Cathedral France 1736 Christophe Moucherel.” Pipe Organs (blog), October 20, 2010. http://mypipeorganhobby.blogspot.com/2009/01/albi-cathedral-france.html.

Widor, Charles-Marie. The Symphonies for Organ: Symphonie V. Edited by John Near. Volume 15. Recent Researches in the Music of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries. Madison: A-R Editions, Inc., 1993.

Weigle, Carl G. “Nouvelle construction pneumatique pour les tuyaux d’orgues, d’églises, et de concerts. Paris, 1890.” Archives of the Musée de Lavaur, shared by l’Association Jean-Claude Guidarini.

World Monuments Fund. “Albi Cathedral,” December 2020. https://www.wmf.org/project/albi-cathedral.

Appendix A: Finding aid to selected topics


Albi Cathedral (la Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile d’Albi): Bachet; Deschamps; Guidarini; Lapeyre; Organa Reginae Caeli; Orgue Aquitaine; Poliquin; Postlethwaite; Rohan; Smith; Terrissol; Tikker; Van Doodewaard; World Monuments Fund.

The Taur (l’Église Notre-Dame du Taur): L’Association Orgues Meridionales; Amann; Bachet; Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse (Site officiel); ECHO-Organs; Guidarini; Guilmant; Gullet; Hamilton; Jacquin; Le Journal de Toulouse: Politique et Littéraire; Poliquin; Masson; Micot; Nayrolles; Radio Présence; Rohan; Théodore Puget Pére et Fils 1834–1960, Une Dynasty de Facteurs d’Orgues; Toulouse Les Orgues.

Puget family

Eugène Puget: Bachet; Évrard; Guidarini; Hamilton; Rohan; Théodore Puget Pére et Fils 1834–1960, Une Dynasty de Facteurs d’Orgues; Toulouse Les Orgues.

Jean-Baptiste Puget: Bachet; Bédart; Évrard; Guidarini; Hamilton; “L’Inauguration du Grand Orgue;” Les Orgues de Paris; Rohan; Théâtre des Champs-Elysées; Théodore Puget Pére et Fils 1834–1960, Une Dynasty de Facteurs d’Orgues; Toulouse Les Orgues; Weigle.

Maurice Puget: Bachet; Évrard; Guidarini; Hamilton; “L’Inauguration du Grand Orgue;” Rohan; Rivel; Théodore Puget Pére et Fils 1834–1960, Une Dynasty de Facteurs d’Orgues; Thomas; Toulouse Les Orgues.

Théodore Puget: Les Amis de l’Orgue Puget Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val; Les Amis de l’Orgue de Seysses; Art Lyb; Bachet; Cicchero; Dufourcq; Évrard; Guidarini; Hamilton; Les Orgues de l’Abbé Clergeau; Orgues en France et dans Le Monde; Ramackers; Rohan; Théodore Puget Pére et Fils 1834–1960, Une Dynasty de Facteurs d’Orgues; Toulouse Les Orgues.

Appendix B: Discography


Avot, Lionel. Franck: Pièces pour orgue. Toulouse: Hortus, 2011. http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2011/Mar11/Franck_organ_Hortus083.htm.

De Miguel, Matthieu. Symphonic Acclamations and Gregorian Paraphrases. Toulouse: Priory, 2019. https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/products/8716922--symphonic-acclamations-and-gregorian-paraphrases.

Ensemble Vocal Les Élements, Frédéric Desenclos, and Joël Suhubiette. Alfred Desenclos: Requiem. Toulouse: Hortus, 1997. http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2005/oct05/Desenclos_hortus009.htm.

Ensemble Vocal Les Élements, Michel Bouvard, and Joël Suhubiette. Duruflé: Requiem. Toulouse: Hortus, 1999. http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2005/may05/Durufle_requiem_hortus018.htm.

Monin, Virgille. Mulet: L’œuvre pour orgue. Toulouse: FY & Solstice, 2015. https://www.resmusica.com/2015/11/08/lorganiste-henri-mulet-revele-par-virgile-monin/.

Ormières. Clair-Obscur. Toulouse: Priory, 2021. https://www.prioryrecords.co.uk/Ormieres-St-Vincent-Church-Carcassonne-Puget-Franck-Vierne.

Rechsteiner, Yves. Organ recital: Rechsteiner, Yves–Beethoven, L. van, Berlioz, H., Chopin, F., Saint-Saens, C. (L’univers de l’orgue–La Dalbade, France 1888). Toulouse: Alpha, 2011. https://uh-naxosmusiclibrary-com.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/h5/catalogue/ALPHA652.


Bach, Johann Sebastian. Erbarm’ dich mein, O Herre Gott, BWV 721, performed by Mary Prat-Molinier, Albi. 5:52. YouTube, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoB0t59V6O0.

Bélier, Gaston. Toccata in D Minor, performed by Pastór de Lasala, Sydney. 4:21. YouTube, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27dtjo2asj4&ab_channel=tormus1.

Boëllmann, Léon. Élevation in E-flat Major, performed by Titus Greyner, Sydney. 3:08. YouTube, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzHK6ES-saU&ab_channel=PepOrgan.

Franck, César. Chorale in E Major, performed by John J. Mitchell, Toulouse. 15:43. YouTube, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae-EC8S2J3Y.

Lemaigre, Edmond. Prelude et Cappricio, performed by Pastór de Lasala, Sydney. 3:20. YouTube, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27dtjo2asj4&ab_channel=tormus1.

Vierne, Louis. “Final” from Premiere Symphonie, opus 14, performed by Mary Prat-Molinier, Albi. 6:34. YouTube, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri6wJB65d4w&ab_channel=EricCord%C3%A9.

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