The political fragmentation of Central Germany (with the exception of the Electorate of Saxony) into small and micro states by various divisions of inheritances also led to a very diverse organ landscape. The unifying element, which nevertheless sets Central Germany apart from other areas, was the reformation, which gave these Lutheran heartlands their denominational, but also church music unity.
A large number of slightly different personal styles of the organ builders in the individual territories had to meet a uniform and very ambitious goal: to create instruments, on which the specific Lutheran organ chorale could be presented as well as solo concerts, but also the accompaniment and complement of larger vocal and instrumental ensembles. An organ builder had to compose gravitic and penetrating overall sounds as well as lovely and graceful individual voices and those that were suitable for accompaniment of soloists or ensembles as well as for the replacement of missing orchestral instruments. The profile of the organs was therefore shaped by a variety of musical requirements that did not always seem compatible at first glance.
This had many effects on the design and construction of the organs. Many even smaller instruments had two or more manuals, and often its divisions were to be combined in one large case (including the pedal registers). Building separate parapet positives, or pedal towers based on North German models was controversial, as the space on the galleries was needed for singers and instrumentalists. Therefore, the second manual pipes were placed in a upper or (more rarely) a chest positive; the organ cases therefore often required a lot of space upwards and their sounds seem literally to descend from "heaven".
In many respects, Central Germany as an organ landscape is also a reflection of its geographical position between north and south, east and west. South German and Old Austrian influences (especially via Bohemia and Silesia) such as the preference for certain colours and mixtures including thirds encountered North German elements such as the expansion of the pedal with high solo stops, also suitable for solo use.
In Saxony, the Silbermann workshop dominated organ building in the 18th century with its particularly close family relations to Alsace. Thus many French features (Cornett following the French model, 4' reeds in the pedal, free rank of thirds) entered Saxon organs. The sound of the Silbermann organs, for example in Freiberg or Dresden, formed again a model for direct and indirect Silbermann students.
The organs of Central Germany are of particular interest to posterity. In the search for the "Bach organ", many of the important instruments were discussed as models for the interpretation of Bach’s works. But it should not be overlooked how diverse and different in detail the works of those masters were, whether by Silbermann, Hildebrandt or Trost, and that it was precisely for this diverse organ landscape that they established such a rich range of musical possibilities. Therefore, the well-intentioned search for the ideal and typical Bach organ is probably in vain in the future as it was in the past.
© Greifenberger Institut für Musikinstrumentenkunde | email@example.com