The Pipe Organ, Queen of Instruments!

>> Monday, November 2, 2009

The late Mozart biographer, Wolfgang Hildescheimer, claimed that Mozart hated the pipe organ, most likely due to the fact that when Mozart was young, one of his primary duties while he was in service to Salzburg's Archbishop Colloredo was that of Cahthedral Organist. This duty required that he be at the Cathedral several times a day for an hour or two each time to play for morning, noon, and evening services, cutting into the young composer's day and interrupting any and every activity in which he might be engaged. However it was Mozart himself who wrote to a friend that the pipe organ was "die Königin der Instrumente" (the Queen of instruments), indicating that it wasn't the organ that Mozart despised so much as the schedule that was imposed upon him to play it.

Today I begin a series of posts entitled, The Queen of Instruments, featuring the world's most famous composers for the organ from Bach & Buxtehude to Saint Saens & Durufle, starting off with the final movement from Charles-Marie Widor's Toccata from Symphony No 5 Op.42 on the Klais organ in Wurzburg Cathedral, played by German organist, Hans Musch.

The Klais organ was built in 1969 and was completely new, since the last Klais organ (built in 1937) was destroyed in 1945 when the cathedral sustained heavy damage. The choir and transcepts were rebuilt to their baroque splendour but the nave was rebuilt into a more Romanesque style with a flat wooden ceiling. As you can see from a few photos in the video, the console is a five manual beast modelled on Cavaille-Coll's great examples in Notre Dame and St Sulpice but totally finished in black, even to having black naturals on the keyboard with white sharps. It contains 6,654 pipes and 86 speaking stops. There is a small 'swallows nest' choir organ of 20 stops, but this is to be joined by another choir organ of 52 stops to be built by Steinmeyer in 2010! To me it has a characteristic Klais sound, although nowhere near as overbearing as its organ in Cologne Cathedral with its unusual mixtures and recent bombastic reeds.


Kathy Handyside November 2, 2009 at 7:50 PM  

Very powerful! I think that's the first organ I've ever seen with 5 manuals. Amazing.

One of my favorite organ pieces is a concerto by Handel which is also sometimes played on the harp. I'll try to get the specific title/opus number.

Kathy Handyside November 2, 2009 at 7:56 PM  

The Handel concerto I was thinking of is the organ concerto in B-Major, opus 4 no. 6, HWV 294. The first movement is my favorite movement. It's wonderful on both organ and harp!

Jasper November 2, 2009 at 11:53 PM  

No info on the piece/composer?


Kathy Handyside November 3, 2009 at 12:01 AM  

I think Nettl means for this series to be focused on the instrument itself.

Lynette November 3, 2009 at 9:27 AM  

Jasper, I apologize for not having the composer's information, but as I am currently in the throes of the final stages of publishing my book, I have not had the time nor the energy to devote to the extensive research on each composer, choosing instead, for this particular post to focus on the organ on which it the piece is performed. However, here is the link to the Wikipedia page on Widor. It seems to be quite detailed.

Anonymous December 29, 2009 at 3:47 PM  

Bravo, you were visited with simply brilliant idea

rallentanda January 4, 2010 at 8:42 AM  

If I ever marry again I'm only doing it in a Cathedral walking down the aisle to this music!


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