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The Craighead-Saunders Organ

The aim of the project is really to create a new artifact from a previous era, in the hope that the research organ will be as good a teacher about the aesthetics of the late Baroque as the original instrument was when it was new.

Speerstra, Joel. “Opening a Window on the Enlightenment: A Research Organ for the Eastman School of Music.” Keyboard Perspectives: The Yearbook of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies 1 (2007): 1-24.


In 2004 the GOArt Research Workshop began work on a careful reconstruction of the 1776 organ by Adam Gottlob Casparini in the Holy Ghost Church in Vilnius, Lithuania for the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. The completed instrument was installed at Christ Church in Rochester and inaugurated in 2008.

Casparini Vilnius

Casparini (1715-1788) belonged to a family of organ builders active across Europe since the sixteenth century, and built at least forty-four organs in Königsberg and several in Lithuania. His style shows broad European influences, perhaps most notably ties to the German builder Heinrich Gottfried Trost, a contemporary of J.S. Bach. Casparini’s instruments thus have relevance for the performance of the music of Bach and his students and the transition from mid- to late-eighteenth century musical aesthetics.

The Vilnius instrument is one of the best-preserved organs from the eighteenth century and the only large organ by Casparini that has been preserved intact to the present day. It was not well-known in the West until the iron curtain fell in the early 1990s. It has two manuals and pedals with 31 stops, of which all but three are original. The wind system, especially, is unusually well-preserved, with the entire original bellows system intact in a room behind the organ.

Like the North German Organ, which is based on early Baroque models, the Casparini reconstruction is meant to serve as a tool for investigating the musical practice of its time. Reconstructing the Vilnius instrument offered a way to learn about how Casparini’s organ behaved and sounded when it was new, while still making it possible to preserve the original instrument in its current state.


The Casparini Organ Project put into practice the research building methodology that grew out of the North German Organ Research Project. Ideally, a project should follow three steps: documentation, process reconstruction, and finally restoration. Whereas the North German Organ Research Project had used several historical organs as models, the Casparini Project carefully reconstructed a single instrument, and the knowledge gained during the process can support the subsequent conservation of the original instrument.

The first phase of the Casparini organ project, the thorough documentation of the Vilnius organ, was completed by a GOArt team in 2000. GOArt’s builders used the documentation, along with firsthand observations of the organ, as the basis for a “process reconstruction” of the instrument: that is, an attempt to reconstruct the substance of the original instrument by copying the work processes originally used to create it.

For example, the case was hand-planed and assembled using bolts, wooden plugs, and the same kinds of glue joints as the original instrument. The large beams of the case were allowed to crack and then painted over, preserving the lively visual aesthetic of the original. The metal for the pipes was cast both on cloth and on sand, since there was no way to determine which method Casparini used, and scraped to thickness by hand. Following discoveries made during the North German Organ Research Project, the voicing of the pipes was guided by a principle of minimal alteration, allowing the pipes to speak, as much as possible, as they came from the pipemaker. Recordings were made at regular intervals to document the progress of the voicing.

A large and active reference group made up of leading builders from the United States (Steven Dieck, Bruce Fowkes Paul Fritts, Martin Pasi, and George Taylor) and professors from the Eastman School of Music (Hans Davidsson, David Higgs, William Porter, and Kerala Snyder) in addition to the GOArt team (Mats Arvidsson and Munetaka Yokota), oversaw the reconstruction and made decisions about the work by consensus about design and construction, including occasional decisions to depart from the original model—for example, some small details of the construction of the windchests were changed to help compensate for the harsher climate in Rochester.


The most visible result of the Casparini Organ Project is a new large organ that, in many ways, can answer our questions about the organ music of the late Baroque better than an original instrument. For example, the pipework on the Vilnius organ was heavily nicked during the nineteenth century, an alteration that dramatically changes the sound of the pipes and is not easily reversible—nor, perhaps, is it desirable to do so, since even undesirable alterations are part of the history of a historical object. With the new reconstruction, we have an instrument that comes closer to telling us how Casparini’s pipes originally sounded. The case structure and layout of the Casparini organ are dramatically different from the North German organ: where the North German Organ consists of more or less discrete boxes, each containing its own set of pipes, the Casparini organ is more like one large box with more blending between the divisions and a single back wall that may play a role in amplifying or reflecting the sound of the pipes. The reconstruction will make it possible to explore the aesthetic of Casparini’s tradition in new ways.


The documentation and reconstruction also produced knowledge that informs the ongoing conservation of the organ in Vilnius. Most notably, perhaps, experimentation during the reconstruction has shed light on the original construction of the manual and pedal keyboards and their placement relative to one another at the console. The analysis of the case painting that was required for the reconstruction has also provided valuable information for the conservation of the original case. During the initial documentation of the organ, enough surviving material from the missing Vox Humana stop was discovered that a scaling could be reconstructed, and the stop could be re-created, not only for the Eastman instrument but also for the Vilnius organ. The strategy of process reconstruction as a guide to restoration as seen in the Casparini project also represents an important contribution to the conservation and preservation of cultural heritage.

The results of the Casparini Organ Project, as well as the new global networks of collaboration established during the project between eastern and western Europe, and between Europe and North America, should be of lasting value to builders, scholars and musicians as well as conservators and cultural historians.


Claviatura Prima

Principal 8'
Borduna 16'
Hohlflaut 8'
Quintathon 8'
Flaut Travers 4'
Octava Principal 4'
Qvinta 3'
Super Octava 2'
Flasch Flöt 2'
Tertia 1 3/5'
Mixtura IV-V
Trompet 8'

Claviatura Secunda

Principal 4'
Iula 8'
Principal Amalel 8'
Unda Maris 8'
Flaut Major 8'
Spiel Flöt 4'
Flaut Minor 4'
Octava 2'
Wald Flöt 2'
Mixtura III-IV
Dulcian 16'
Vox Humana 8'


Principal Bass 16'
Violon Bass 16'
Ocatava Bass 8'
Flaut & Quint Bass 8'
Full Bass 12'
Super Octava Bass 4'
Posaun Bass 16'
Trompet Bass 8'

- Two tremulants
- II/I Shove Coupler
- 1/Pedall coupler
- Gwiazdy (Cymbelstern)
- Vox Campanorum (Glockenspiel g0 - d3)
- Bebny (drum stop)
- Calcant

- Pitch: A4 = 468 Hz
- Temperament: Modified Neidhart 1732, Dorf

Page Manager: Erik Bernskiöld|Last update: 11/10/2011

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