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North German Baroque Organ

Purpose

The monumental organs built in the Hanseatic cities of northern Europe in the seventeenth century represented a pinnacle seventeenth-century music, architecture, and engineering. Though much music from this milieu is extant, no north European Baroque city organ is wholly preserved, and the material that remains has often been altered and degraded. The old pipes, however, even those that are much changed, still sound better than modern copies according to many musicians. The North German Organ Research Project began with the provocative but simple question, “Why do old organ pipes sound better?” This simple question evolved into a complex project: the reconstruction of a Baroque organ, without compromises and based on scientific research, and the development of a new model for historically informed instrument building. 

The most important northern European builder of the Baroque period was Arp Schnitger, who built nearly 140 organs for churches all over Europe during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The rather well-preserved Schnitger organ in the Jacobikirche in Hamburg became the point of departure for the North German Organ Research Project. The ultimate vision for the project was to re-create the musical and aesthetic experience of the Baroque organ—to experience how the music of famous Baroque organists such as Reincken and Buxtehude actually sounded in their time, by building a new organ as Arp Schnitger himself would have created it. The resulting instrument would be placed in Örgryte New Church in Gothenburg.

 

North German Baroque Organ: Console

Process

The project began with study trips to smaller preserved Schnitger organs, to take measurements and document the sounds of the organs. The material collected was analyzed and compared with historical source material—earlier documentations, organ building contracts, and congregational account books. The model for the façade of the North German Organ was the Schnitger organ in the Lübeck Dom, reconstructed using pre-war photographs and measurements. The Jacobikirche organ became the model for the pipework.

After an initial period of information-gathering, an organ research workshop, a kind of organ-building laboratory, was set up at the University of Gothenburg. The Swedish organ builder Mats Arvidsson led the building of the case and all the other wooden parts of the organ, while Dutch organ builder Henk van Eeken carried out design and drafting work and Japanese organ builder Munetaka Yokota led the pipe research and manufacturing. They were joined by more organ builders, pipe makers, wood carvers, and other skilled craftspeople.

Throughout the project, the builders collaborated with scientists from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg to analyze both historical and newly-produced material, and the original question about the sound quality of historic pipes remained a central one. Researchers specialized in material sciences, acoustics, and fluid dynamics investigated more detailed questions: Was it really true that the historic pipes sounded different than modern copies? Was there a measurable difference in the sound quality? And if that was the case, what caused the difference?

One of the most important tasks of the research workshop was to reproduce the kind of pipe metal originally used in the Schnitger pipes. This required, for example, learning to cast pipe metal on sand, a technique that had largely fallen out of use after the first half of the eighteenth century, as well as how to thickness the metal using only the hand tools that seventeenth-century organ builders would have used. In fact, the hand tools themselves had to be researched and reconstructed. A similar approach was taken to building the organ.North German Baroque Organ: Facade Left

Results

The North German Organ was inaugurated on August 12, 2000. The organ is a unique tool for students and musicians researching the music and performance practice of the Baroque period. The subsequent publication of a book documenting the organ and its construction provided valuable information to organ builders and other scholars.

The project also led to another important, and unforeseen, result: the development of a model for what may be termed research building: a process of documenting original material, followed by a so-called process reconstruction, which then may lead to restoration or conservation of the original object. 

For example, casting sand on metal makes it harder, and this affects its acoustical properties, so sand casting is an important part of producing new pipes that sound the same as the old ones. However, the sand-cast metal may be more or less hard, depending on such factors as the type of sand, the proportion of impurities in the metal, and the casting temperature. How hard is too hard? Pipemakers in the research workshop found that using historical hand tools to work the metal after casting provided vital feedback about the correctness of the casting procedure. If the metal cast was too hard, it could not be planed to thickness with hand tools. 

North German Baroque Organ - Action Parts

Similarly, casting as close to the desired thickness as possible made the subsequent hand-planing faster and easier. The tools and skills of the builders worked in concert with the materials to create a functioning reproduction of a historical work process. The results of this work process, in turn, were continually re-evaluated against documentation and scientific analyses of historical material.

This kind of process reconstruction has the potential to produce a closer reproduction of an original instrument than other ways of copying. Even undocumented or unnoticed characteristics of the original material can be naturally reproduced in this way. Process reconstruction also generates new knowledge about the historical material that can be invaluable in future restoration or conservation work. The three fold path of documentation, process reconstruction, and restoration developed during the North German Organ Research Project has become a foundation of GOArt’s research methodology.

 

Specification

I: Rügpositiv (CDE-c3)

Principal 8
Quintaden 8
Gedact 8
Octav 4
Blockfloit 4
Octav 2
Quer Floit 2
Sieffloit 1 1/2
Sexquialt 2fach
Scharff 6.7.8fach
Dulcian 16
Bahrpfeiff 8

II: Werck (CDEFGA-c3)

Principal 16
Quintaden 16
Octav 8
Spitzfloit 8
Octav 4
Super Octav 2
Rauschpfeiff 2fach
Mixtur 6.7.8fach
Trommet 16

III: Ober Positiv (CDEFGA-c3)

Principal 8
Hollfoit 8
Rohrfloit 8
Octav 4
Spitzfloit 4
Nassat 3
Octav 2
Gemshorn 2
Scharff 6fach
Cimbel 3fach
Trommet 8
Vox Humana 8
Zincke 8 (from F)

IV: Brust Positiv (CDEFGA-c3)

Principal 8
Octav 4
Hollfloit 4
Waltfloit 2
Sexquialter 2fach
Scharff 4.5.6fach
Dulcian 8
Trechter Regal 8

Pedal (CD-d1)

Principal 16
Subbaß 16
Octav 8
Octav 4
Rauschpfieiffe 3fach
Mixtur 6.7.8fach
Posaunen 32 (from F)
Posaunen 16
Dulcian 16
Trommet 8
Cornet 2

- Couplers:
OP/W, BP/W
- Cimbelstern
- Vogelgesang
- Trommel
- Sperrventiele:
W, RP, OP, BP, Ped.
- Hauptsperrventiel
- Tremulant
- Tremulant RP
- Tremulant Pedal
- 12 bellows of 4' x 8'
- 1/4 syntonic comma meantone Subsemitones in all manuals:
eb/d#, g#/ab, eb1/d#1, g#1/ab1, eb2/d#2
In addition, RP has: bb/a#, bb1/a#1, g#2/ab2
Pedal: eb/d#, g#/ab
- Interchangeable wind systems

Page Manager: Erik Bernskiöld|Last update: 4/21/2011
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