TOWARDS A RATIONAL TONAL DESIGN was originally prepared as a lecture for the National Convention of the American Guild of organists in Los Angeles in 1962. The original version was in a quite informal style, in the manner of a travelogue using a selection of stop-lists as illustrations.

In the months following the Los Angeles events, abbreviated versions were prepared for lecture presentations for various groups, including local AGO Chapters and regional Centres of the Royal Canadian College of Organists.

In May 1965, a completely revised version in which the material was divided to make a series of shorter lectures, each on a particular historical period, was presented in its entirety to the annual organ Symposium in Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. This served as the background for a discussion of the “Tonal Design and Voicing of a Contemporary Church Organ”. Since then, the Minneapolis version has been presented as a lecture series several times and it is essentially this text which follows here, changed only here and there in the interests of clarity.

Although, in some aspects, the section on Modern Practice is now somewhat dated as a result of a continuing search for better solutions to contemporary tonal design problems in my organ building practice, I have chosen to leave this unaltered as a record of my unfolding thought. The further illumination of some of these points I feel is best handled in subsequent writing rather than by changing the text of this work.

The main problem which progress in practical tonal design has served to clarify is the seeming incompatibility of the North German and French Classical concepts of the organ. At one time, I was primarily interested in the North German Werk-principle concept because I felt it represented the only logical scheme for building the tonal fabric of an organ with suitable polyphonic clarity. However, I have discovered through my growing interest in the French Classical approach to tonal design that, through proper scaling, voicing and structural design, what is essentially a new type of instrument can be produced which in fact does equal justice to both of these great schools of organ literature. As a very welcome by-product, I found that, with only very slight modifications to an otherwise strict adherence to Classical principles, such an instrument also performs the Romantic works in a manner much more appropriate to their nature than has been possible with any other formula conceived in this century. This, however, is a matter for additional discussion which may at some time be added to the present work to make a more complete summary of tonal design practice including our own time.

Since organ building is a continuously unfolding endeavour, it is not likely that the last word on tonal matters will be written in this century, as it was not written in any previous century. Please keep this in mind as you read and as you think through tonal design problems not yet conceived.

Lawrence I. Phelps

February 1969

The Transition from Gothic to Renaissance 1 - 11
Development of the Classic Tradition in France 12 - 26
Development of the Werk Principle in Northern Europe 27 - 43
The Changing Scene
The German Decline 44 - 56
The Romantic Tonal Design of Cavaillé-Coll 57 - 61
Modern Tonal Design Practice 62 - 77
Concluding Remarks 



The subject of tonal design embraces every aspect of the design of an organ and of the room it is to serve that influences the effectiveness of the performance and the sound of the instrument in the ear of the listener. We will, of course, only be able to scratch the surface of the problems involved in this brief review. We will have to be content with restricting ourselves generally to tonal design in the very narrowest sense, the composition of a stoplist, and we will broaden only widely enough to mention or summarize some of the more important of the other considerations.

Those who are acquainted with my work and writings will know that I have long held that the design of any organ should be based on the specific literature which it is expected will be played on it most often. In our complete professional experience, most of us will be dealing almost exclusively with the literature for the organ as it exists now, at this very moment. The church organist today in America is no longer essentially a creative artist, the composer and improviser that tradition had demanded that he be in the past. Organists of today are largely interpretive performers, drawing their material from the existing literature and from such new compositions as may deserve a hearing or as may serve some special need. Organ building, in the general case at least, is no longer preoccupied with providing instruments to be used in the spontaneous composition of an organ voluntary or to serve the needs of a continuously evolving musical style intent upon the fulfillment of its destiny. Of course, we certainly hope that the instruments we are now building and those we will build in the future will so lucidly embody and impart the image of the organ, in the ideal sense, that the finest composers of the day will be sufficiently inspired by them to be moved to produce a truly modern, truly organ-like literature. However, the challenge of organ building in our time is to provide instruments that meet the requirements of the interpretive artist in bringing to today's listeners and today's worshippers the worthy literature as it exists, and all of this primarily to meet the musical needs of the church. If we divide the existing literature for the organ into three main categories - contemporary, Romantic and pre-Romantic - we find that most of the music composed for church use, that is for use expressly for services of divine worship, lies in the pre-Romantic period, a period which came to a rather abrupt end around the year 1750.

Under the classification of pre-Romantic as I am using the term here, I include the works of all the various periods from the Gothic to the High Baroque. Since developments in the Baroque period were so vastly different in France from those in Germany, it is always necessary to make the further distinction, when discussing the period, as to whether we are talking about French or German concepts. For sake of simplicity in the remainder of our discussion, we will refer to both the musical compositions and the organ concepts of all these pre-Romantic periods, in their idealized form, as “Classical” and the principles which evolved during this period as “traditional”.

It was in the 200-year period from 1450 to 1650 that the organ developed and came into its own as the church instrument par excellence. The 100-year period from 1650 to 1750 was a period of relative stability culminated by the works of Bach and Schnitger in Germany, and the Couperins and Clicquots in France. The organ music of the period was primarily for church use. It is interesting to note that the use of the organ to accompany hymn singing dates from only about 1685 in Holland.

Most of the organ music of the Romantic period was composed with no religious significance really intended. Because it was written by men whose careers revolved around the Church, some of this music has a certain religious or churchy feeling, but, in general, it is not what we can call music of the Church or of the liturgy.

In the early stages of negotiations for the design and purchase of a new organ, we often meet a committee member who says something like this: “We don't want an organ to play that baroque stuff, we just want a nice romantic church organ”. In the presence of the growing liturgical reform movements in several of our leading denominational groups, this approach is on the wane. It has far from disappeared, however. It is an approach born out of ignorance, and it could hardly be more mistaken in its interpretation of the meaning and purpose of the organ literature and of the organ and its use in the Church. It is indicative of the I-know-what-I-like or I-like-what-I-know approach so often encountered in the Church. It is really an entertainment approach to organ design rather than a liturgical, historical or traditional approach. Such a short-sighted point of view is certainly completely wrong for any church except one which has virtually no ties whatever with the great traditions of religious music of the past.

There is, of course, a growing literature of contemporary organ music suitable for church use. Much of this makes no specific demands upon the instrument and is playable on any organ with a respectable tonal design. However, a considerable amount of contemporary compositions for organ is definitely created for modern instruments constructed along more or less classical lines. This is particularly true of many recent German compositions for the Reformed and Lutheran Churches.

Now, when we propose that the tonal design of an instrument should be based on the literature it is to perform, we do not mean that the key to an appropriate organ design lies in the literature itself, but, rather, that it is revealed through a careful study of the instruments for which this music was written. While we are interested in providing instruments that have meaning today in the performance of a literature which was largely created in the past, we must not lose sight of the fact that the character of the music existing for the organ owes a great deal, if not indeed everything, to the nature of the instrument for which it was written, for, in almost every case, the instrument itself predates its literature.

It makes no real difference what period we decide to investigate to prove this point. The larger and more pretentious the instrument, the more certain we can be that no literature existed for it at the time of its construction. While the works of Vierne and Widor, for example, certainly exploit fully the resources of the great Romantic French creations of Cavaillé-Coll, the works of these composers came a long time after the instruments themselves. The same is true of the works of the Couperins with relation to the Classical French organ. As we will see later, no one seems to have actually composed in the French classical manner to the extent which we imagine would best take advantage of the vast resources of the large French instruments as they existed at the end of the 18th Century, nor did any German Baroque composer offer a composition which really seems to exploit to the full extent any of the large four-manual creations of Arp Schnitger. In many instances, the creative resources of the organ builder often surpassed the real requirements of the literature of his period. We must therefore assume that these larger instruments were heard to best advantage only in the hands of a resourceful improviser whose spontaneous compositions, we must suppose, were inspired by the magnificence of these great tonal edifices to greater and greater heights, heights escaping capture by mere pen and ink.

I think it is also very interesting to note that, while Bach, to his last days, continued to write in a rich contrapuntal texture, which to us today seems to be only successfully presented on instruments in the North German high-Baroque style, the “forward-looking” organ builders of his time were actually creating instruments which began to stray from many of the basic principles of this earlier style and which were, in fact, beginning to show many characteristics which in retrospect we recognize as outrightly Romantic.

In the case of the French classical literature for the organ, it is impossible to have any idea of what this music is about without first knowing something about the organ for which it was written and the registrational traditions engendered by the unique tonal design of these instruments. Indeed, I must admit that, in my days as an organ student, I found the French classical literature exceptionally dull and stayed away from it as much as possible. A trip to France completely altered this view, and I now take as much pleasure in listening to this music as I do in listening to that of Bach and his precursors. I have, since that time, spent much effort in attempting to reconcile these sharply contrasting tonal concepts into a unified theory of tonal design for situations where nearly equal amounts of both French and German classical literature will be played. The church musicians of the Province of Quebec certainly lead North America in their demands in this respect.

I am sure that, by now, you all realize that I am, in a sense, a traditionalist in that I am very much dedicated to an historical approach to the problems of contemporary tonal design. Let us therefore turn now from these vague generalities to a study of specific examples of various tonal concepts of the past with a view to reaching a few meaningful conclusions applicable in outlining tonal concepts for today. We will trace the modern organ from its beginnings in the low-land countries of Europe through to the development of the most ideal classical concepts in France and Germany around the year 1700. We will trace briefly the degeneration of these concepts of the organ's “golden age” through the 18th and 19th Centuries, and then look at a few of the outstanding examples of the Romantic symphonic organ and the deplorable decadence which followed it at the beginning of the 20th Century. We will then skip to the consideration of modern tonal designs which embody many of the principles we will have discovered along the way. Needless to say, we can hit only the high spots as time will not permit us to dwell long on subtleties.

Before beginning our 500-year journey in the pursuit of tonal truth, I would like to point out that the first 30 years of the organ reform movement in North America, or more specifically in the United States, has actually developed along a path which, with the aid of a little generalization, we can say has merely traced backward, in a sort of reverse evolution, the steps which brought the art to the sorry state which reached full bloom in the first 20 years of this century. I think it might be well to review briefly what has taken place.

Looking back out of the deep decadence in which our early reformers found themselves, it is not surprising that the first attempts in the late 1920s and early 1930s were in the nature of a general brightening up by way of using more and stronger upper work and through the use of voicing and scaling techniques contrived to give a brighter sound. These early reformed instruments were really little more than denials of much that had happened in organ building between 1900 and 1930 and represented little more than a return to practices which were roughly equivalent to what was being done in America before the tonal crash brought about by the arrival of Robert Hope-Jones on our shores. The best of these efforts, I am sure, compared quite favorably with equivalent examples of the best of Victorian English organ building.

We then passed into the period of the “clarified ensemble” and what has been called the “American Classic” instrument. This era, from which we are only now beginning to emerge, began with a subjugation of overtly English values. The terms “Baroque” and “Romantic” were tossed about without any real understanding or meaning, but the American classic ideal was generally defined as the combining of the best elements of both the Baroque and the Romantic, both German and French, in a manner possible only through the benefits of advanced American technical innovations. The heroes at the outset of the American Classic adventure were Gottfried Silbermann and Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

The latter was perhaps worthy of this adoration for his work showed a consistent pattern of development which finally culminated the Romantic utterance in organ building. Silbermann, on the other hand, at least from a tonal design standpoint, was a degenerate, for it was his innovations and those of his artistic compatriots which brought about the decline of the Baroque tradition and paved the way to a concept of the organ that robbed it of its integrity as a unique instrument and ultimately led to the complete loss of its identity in the surge of heightening Romanticism that saw the crowning of the symphony orchestra as the chief medium for musical expression. Although the Silbermannish model was an unfortunate one for the American scene, it was an understandable one because of its obvious “middle-of-the-road” appeal to those in quest of a universal instrument. A deeper grasp of the essentials involved was probably not possible at that time due to the essentially English influence in American organ building that prevented a real penetration into these matters because of its intuitive rejection of everything too far removed from that with which it was familiar.

The many fine instruments which American Classicism has produced are, for the most part, not in any sense Classic but in the very finest sense, purely Romantic, and essentially they are neither French nor German, but what we might call neo-Anglo-American. The voicing techniques used have been generally the same as those of best Romantic usage. Even in their very eclecticism these instruments are essentially Romantic, reflecting, for example, the air of mysticism with which the Romantics regarded Bach.

The real shortcomings of the American Classic approach to date lies not in its essential eclecticism, nor in the lurking remnants of Victorianism often to be observed, but in the simple fact that because it has attempted to bridge a gap between both ends of the Romantic, between Silbermann and Cavaillé-Coll, its concept really spans a period for which no important literature exists. As a result, it actually does not do much for either the Classical or the real Romantic literature. The rather lukewarm, compromised approach which it offers is still considered by some organists and churches communities to be the ideal instruments for church use. This will probably continue to be so for some time. However, it will be more true for some liberal and fundamentalist church groups having no liturgical background or tendencies, and, therefore, no deep-rooted ties with musical traditions. In the liturgical Churches and in certain reformed churches having rich musical heritages and a growing accumulation of good contemporary music, there is a strong tendency away from compromise, away from music not of the Church, and away from what we might call unchurchly sentiments.

This trend toward purification, plus a growing awareness of the virtues of traditional values on the part of an ever increasing number of our organists, has encouraged what now really amounts to a second organ reform in America. Although this movement has roots going back to the late 1920s, a real motion in this direction began only about 1950 and it has only taken on the proportions of a genuine movement in the past ten years. This new movement embraces wholeheartedly the tenets of traditional organ building and the full utilization of the inviolable principles of the art as practised by the great masters of the organ's “Golden Age” in the construction of truly modern instruments to meet the musical needs of today. These tenets are virtually the same as those adopted by the German “Orgelbewegung” which began at a conference in Freiberg in 1926. So far as I know, the ideals of the German organ movement were set down for the first time in the English language in the organ Institute Quarterly for Winter 1954 in my article entitled “Perspective”, and they are the same as those outlined by Mr. D. A. Flentrop in his excellent discussion of traditional principles and their use in modern Dutch organ building at the New York Convention of the American Guild of organists, in 1956. (Mr. Flentrop's remarks on that occasion are recorded in the November and December issues of The Diapason for that year.) Since they now represent a considerable segment of contemporary American thinking, re-reading his remarks is very worth-while.

So now we find, after three decades, that we have worked our way back to a concept of the organ which we were not able to accept at the beginning of our reform movement in America, and which we would probably not now accept if the American Classic idea had proved to be the panacea it was hoped to be. We are now embracing a concept which returns historically to the point where the organ was last constructed and understood as an independent expressive entity of vital importance in the musical life of the people it served. Our new approach returns to that point where the clear concept of the organ as a responsive keyboard instrument had developed to its fullest, before polyphony went out of fashion and before those subtle eroding influences began their work that eventually turned the King of Instruments into a clumsy symphonic machine. Let us hope that, with this fresh start, the development and evolution that is ahead of us will not see us making the same mistakes that were made before. With a firmer grasp of the principles involved and without the pressures and passions of rapidly changing and evolving notions of musical expression that caught up and engulfed our ancestors, we may at last succeed in restoring and maintaining the “King” in his throne. We may again produce instruments in our churches with which the community can once more identify as it did in the past.

With this end in view, let us now examine together some examples of tonal design from the past.


The organ from very early in its appearance in the modern world was an ensemble instrument, that is, its tone was produced by the simultaneous sounding of many pipes. By early Gothic times, the organist had perhaps two choices: he could play the Praestant, a principal en façade, alone, or he could play it with the Hintersatz, a colossal mixture usually composed of dozens of octave and quint sounding ranks. Praetorius tells us that the instrument in the Halberstadt Cathedral finished by Nicholas Faber in 1361 had a Hintersatz composed of 32 to 56 ranks. Dr. M. A. Vente in his excellent book on the development and influence of the Brabant organ tells of a one-manual organ built in 1445 for the Chapel of the Seminary at Louvain that consisted of one undivided big mixture called, in Dutch, a “Blockwerk”. This instrument had a stopped 8' and 4' Praestant on top which was a mixture which progressed from five ranks in the bass to ten in the treble.

Dr. Vente goes on to tell us that bigger instruments had a Great organ and a Rückpositiv as far back as the middle of the 15th Century. The Great consisted exclusively, as in the Louvain organ, of an undivided mixture, an “indivisibility of sounds”. The Rückpositiv, on the other hand, had a “divisibility of sounds”, the precursors of the stops. This divisibility was obtained not by sliders but by giving the Rückpositiv two small wind-chests; the one being set with stopped flute (“Hohlpfeife”), the other with a mixture. This second wind-chest could be put off and on by a ventil, so that the most simple Rückpositiv had two possibilities, the “flutey work” and the “strong work” (the flute and the mixture). Some Rückpositivs of the period had as well a second higher pitched mixture or Scharff, also on a ventil controlled chest. The large instruments also had an independent Pedal of ten open Bourdon pipes which spoke one octave lower than the foundation rank of the Great. Thus, since the lower pitched rank of the Great was usually at 16', these pedal pipes were almost always lower than 16' pitch and were known to go as low as 32' as far back as the second half of the 15th Century. The pedal keys were coupled to the Great.

So, a typical two-manual organ in the low countries of, let us say, 1480 might have a tonal design something like that given in ITEM 1 in the list of examples.

Dr. Vente gives us a composition of a Blockwerk from 1480 as shown in ITEM 2.

My reason for starting at this point to develop a modern theory of tonal design is to show that already the Gothic organ had at least three characteristics which remained typical of the organ through two and a half centuries of evolution and refinement. The first of these is a conception which is essentially oriented toward the production of ensemble sound composed of octave and quint ranks. Secondly, we notice that already the divisions of the organ are clearly differentiated one from the other with regard to pitch. Then, we see the Rückpositiv by this time firmly established in Northern Europe as the second and completely independent manual division. I might also mention that the Gothic organ had one great advantage over the organ of any other period that must have made it virtually fool-proof from a registrational point of view. Inasmuch as the Great-Blockwerk was indivisible and the foundation stops of the Rückpositiv and Pedal were permanently on, it was impossible to play the upper work without the proper supporting ranks designed to go with it. What a blessing such an arrangement might be today! However, the great inventive spirit of the Renaissance, not recognizing this Utopian situation, lost little time in liberating the organist through the development of “registrational aids” for controlling more of the ranks independently. The “Schleiflade” and the “Springlade”, slider chest and spring chest, gradually replaced the Blockwerk, and the modern organ started to take shape.

Two specifications of 1505 given by Dr. Vente, ITEMS 3 and 4, serve to show the rapid progress that was being made not only in the concept of the tonal design of the organ but also with regard to the rapidly developing art of registration. The contracts for these organs contained lists of the possible stop combinations. For the five stops of the Oberwerk of St. Michael's in Zwolle, twelve combinations are given. Noteworthy among these are: Prinzipal 8' and Mixtur; Prinzipal 8', Oktave 2' and Mixtur; and Oktave 4', Oktave 2' and Scharf. These show clearly that the mixture was considered to be of the 8' family while the Scharf was thought of as completing the 4' series. The Oberwerk “plenum”, of course, consisted of all five stops drawn together.

For the three-stop Brustwerk of the organ in the Cathedral in Antwerp, consisting of a Krummhorn, a Trompete and a Zimbel, six combinations are given which include all of the possibilities except the Zimbel alone. Other interesting suggestions in the Antwerp contract are:

for the Hauptwerk:  Flöte 4' and Scharff;
for the Rückpositiv:  Prinzipal 4' and Flöte 4';
Prinzipal 4', Flöte 4' and Mixtur; 
Flöte 4' and Mixtur.

These indicate that, in 1505, the practice of mixing the wide and narrow stops, the flutes with the principals and mixtures, was not forbidden as it was in later years. However, none of these registrational suggestions indicate the use of the flutes in either the plenum of the Hauptwerk or the “klein” plenum of the positiv.

We are again indebted to Dr. Vente for the specification of a one-manual instrument with Pedal - ITEM 5 - which stood in the Church of St. Andreas in Worms in the year 1510. I am including this stoplist because I was quite taken by its remarkable completeness even by standards much more sophisticated than those of its own time. Indeed with the addition of a 16' Subbass in the Pedal, an instrument designed along this line would be found useful in many of today's smaller churches, although I think we might not find much use for the drum (“Trommel”). Note the manual and Pedal have their principals and octaves apart in pitch. Notes concerning registration for this instrument suggest several combinations mixing principals and flutes, and the tremulant is suggested for several combinations, some including the principals.

The dispositions for St. Michael's, Zwolle, and for the Lady Chapel of the Antwerp Cathedral - ITEMS 3 and 4 - both of the same year, also serve to illustrate that while the use of the Blockwerk was already being abandoned in favour of individual stop control in Brabant organ building, it was still in use in middle Holland at the beginning of the 16th Century. Brabant was the former duchy whose territory is now divided among the Belgian Provinces of Antwerp and Brabant and the Dutch Province of North Brabant. Actually, the Blockwerk remained the favorite form for the Hauptwerk by the builders of the area around Utrecht for most of the 16th Century and became perhaps the most unique characteristic of their work. We find a Blockwerk of 16' used for the Hauptwerk as late as 1570 for the Cathedral in Utrecht, and the Church of St. Pankratius in Leiden had an 8' Blockwerk in a small three-manual organ in 1572.

The most outstanding builders of the Utrecht school were Hendrik and Nicolaas Niehoff. In the years 1548 to 1550, Hendrik built an instrument of some considerable size in St. Petri, Hamburg - ITEM 6 - with a Hauptwerk composed only of a 16' Grossmixtur. I have not been able to confirm the number of ranks on this Blockwerk, but it is not unreasonable to suggest that it had 30 to 35. Note the extensive use of reeds in the Hamburg instrument and that the Trompete is on the third manual. This latter is a practice of the entire 16th Century, the Trompete appearing on the Rückpositiv only on a two-manual instrument and on the Hauptwerk not at all. Although by 1550, both the Utrecht and Brabant schools seem to have been about equally diligent in the use of reeds, the Brabant builders seem to have led the way also in this innovation as demonstrated by a comparison of the Zwolle and Antwerp dispositions, both from 1505. However, neither school used reeds on the Great, and this does not seem to become a general practice until the close of the 16th Century. However, in the years 1579 to 1584, a remarkable instrument was built in El Escorial near Madrid by a Brabantish builder from near Antwerp - ITEM 7. This organ not only had reeds on the Hauptwerk, but it is the earliest example I know of with a complete set of reeds at 16', 8' and 4' pitch by other than a Spanish builder. It is the more remarkable because, in nearly all other respects, the disposition is fairly typical of the Brabant work of the period. Except in Spain, 16', 8' and 4' reeds were not used together on the same manual for nearly 100 years and then, when they were used, they did not occur as a family of trumpet type but as a loosely related chorus of the Schnarrwerk or regal type.

Next we have three dispositions by the builder Nicolaus Maas covering the period 1592 to 1615 - ITEMS 8, 9 and 10. I have included these because I think they serve as a suitable summary of the work of the 16th Century and as a fine introduction to the developments of the 17th Century. Note the remarkable completeness of these stoplists. Note also that, whereas the earlier organ, that built for Stralsund just before 1600, had a good complement of reeds on the secondary manual divisions and in the Pedal, the Hauptwerk remained reedless, but both of the other instruments built just after 1600 by the same builder had a reed on the Great. This is typical of the use of reeds in the North. It appears almost as if organ builders of the area had universally decided to celebrate the new century by putting reeds on their Hauptwerks. This is an over-simplification perhaps, but the only notable exception found with reeds on the Hauptwerk to which a definite date could be attached is the large organ of 1591 in St. Petri in Lübeck - ITEM 11. Note both Hauptwerk reeds are at 16' pitch.

The purpose of this portion of this discussion is to develop the foundations of what has become known as the “Werkprinzip”, the Werk-principle concept of the organ, a conception in which each section of the organ is a completely independent development and referred to often as a “work”, a term which in itself suggests completeness. Aside from the independent completeness and integrity of each division, the other characteristic of Werk-principle tonal design is the pitch differentiation by the interval of an octave between the “works” as indicated by the pitches of the Principal of each division. The earliest allocation of pitches was Hauptwerk 16', Rückpositiv 8' and Brustwerk 4'. Later, of course, we also find smaller organs with this relationship transposed one octave higher. In these three examples by Mass - ITEMS 8, 9 and 10 - we see the fundamentals of the Werk-principle already well developed, and this remained the consistent pattern through the evolving purity of style for the next 100 years throughout all of Northern Europe.


Now that we have arrived at the threshold of the period in which the organ reached full tonal maturity, I would like to take a brief detour to examine the development of organ tonal tradition in France.

As we have already said, there developed in the 15th Century, in an area called Brabant, an area not much larger than greater New York, two distinct schools of organ builders. These are now called, for purposes of simplification the North Brabant and the South Brabant schools. We have seen that the Northern school, known perhaps more generally as the Utrecht school, was slower to accept the idea of separate control of individual registers, especially with regard to the Hauptwerk, that they led in the development of the independent Pedal, that they were at first slow to accept the idea of the use of reed voices, and that when they finally did accept them and made otherwise rather elaborate use of them, they still did not use them on the Hauptwerk, the year 1600 seeming to mark the end of this abstinence. As we will see later, it was the North Brabant school and its derivative schools which eventually influenced organ building throughout Northern Europe. The bulk of the evidence clearly indicates that it was the South Brabant builders, particularly certain members of the Langhedul family, who actually developed what we now know as the Classical French organ. By late in the 16th Century, South Brabant builders were well advanced in the use of reeds, and while their Pedal organs were practically nonexistent, the pedals being usually permanently coupled to the Hauptwerk with only one or two actual independent Pedal ranks, they built well developed manual divisions - particularly were their Hauptwerks well developed. These characteristics, together with the use of a tierce sounding rank in a compound stop of three to six ranks but normally five ranks, mark the beginning of the French tradition. ITEMS 12 through 19 cover the transitional phase as South Brabant style evolved into the purest French Classical style.

ITEMS 12 and 17 are both by Jan Langhedul and both were built in Paris. Notice that the earlier organ - ITEM 17 - which was apparently a completely new instrument, has the Cornet VI placed on a separate manual whereas the slightly later instrument - ITEM 12 - has the Cornet on the Grand Orgue. ITEM 13 is the first organ for St-Gervais in Paris “The Church of the Heavenly Couperins”. The organ was built completely new by Mathijs Langhedul, son of Jan. This instrument became the nucleus of the organ that served this church at the hands of the Couperin family for many generations. The stoplist given here differs in several respects from stoplists given by others for the 1601 St-Gervais instrument. However, our source is the archives of the church of St-Gervais.

ITEMS 14 and 15 are interesting because they imply in the name given to the cornet that this type of stop had a German origin, a fact that I have not been able to establish, and my own impression is that this use of the tierce may have originated in Spain. The Corneta VII-XIII on the second manual division in the organ of 1549 by Juan Gaytan in the Cathedral in Toledo seems to me to indicate this possibility. Carlier's Namur instrument - ITEM 14 - has two additional points of interest: it has two 2' stops, the second being a flute and thus the forerunner of the traditional Quarte de Nasard or Quarte 2', and it has the reed complement - 8' Trompete, 8' Vox Humana, 4' Clairon - which also became a tradition. It is interesting to note that, while Carlier was of the Langhedul school, these two points which soon became features of French tonal design apparently do not appear in instruments by any of the Langheduls until a little later. The St-Gervais instrument, three years later, had two 2' stops in the Grand Orgue. Carlier was a friend of Jehan Titelouze, and this may account for his work being more prophetic than that of the Langheduls.

The organ by Bauwens for St. Nikolaus, Gent - ITEM 15 - is rather interesting for its several eclectic tendencies. It uses a tierce in a compound stop in both divisions. Thus, in the use of a Kornett on the Hauptwerk it gives homage to Southern usage while in its Terz Zimbel on the Rückpositiv, it is carrying a Northern custom into the Southern regions. In his use of a stopped rank for the lower pitched register of each division, Bauwens is foreshadowing here a later usage not at that time popular anywhere.

In 1623, the construction of St-Gervais was completed and the 1601 Langhedul instrument was moved in 1628 to its final position in the tribune. The organ also underwent several tonal changes at that time, the more important of which were the increasing of the pedal range to 25 notes, the addition of a Pedal 8' Trompette, the addition of a 8' Voix Humaine to the Grand Orgue, and the replacing of the 1' Flageolet with a 1 3/5' Tierce. The latter is described as “narrow, of tin”. The narrowness may have been necessary due to the small space afforded by the position formerly occupied by the 1' stop. In the nature of these changes, we see French tradition beginning to take a firmer shape. By this time, the original builder of the St-Gervais organ had himself started to include an independent tierce on the same manual with the Cornet, as witnessed by his small instrument of 1627 for the Brothers of the Holy Sacrament in the Antwerp Cathedral - ITEM 16.

ITEMS 17 and 18 are interesting primarily because they indicate the very early use of the Cornet as a separate entity. The Paris instrument probably had a separate clavier for the Echo Cornet, but the Récit of the Gent organ played from the Hauptwerk clavier. This pre-French usage of the term “Récit” is the only justification I can find for the use of the term “Cornet de Récit” which I have seen in the Great of a recent American design. Tradition, as we will soon see, places the “Cornet de Récit” on its own manual and reserves the term “Cornet” or “Grand Cornet” for the use on the Grand Orgue. This early Flemish Langhedul use of the term “Récit” to signify the solo nature of the cornet effect was directly in line with the then newly forming tradition which became well established by the middle of the 17th Century.

ITEM 17 is rather curious in that it is one of the very few examples of instruments of the period without a 2' stop in a manual division. They are lacking here in both the Grand Orgue and the Positif, which makes it doubly curious.

ITEM 18 is curious in that the 2' registers of both divisions are composed of stopped ranks. More interesting still, the 2' of the Hauptwerk, the Gedeckt Querflöte, is a harmonic rank of the type we might today call a Zauberflöte or a Flûte Allemande. The use of stopped flutes where the manual range was only 47 notes, as in this case, is perhaps more practical than with a 56- or 61-note range, and the use of the harmonic Gedeckt Querflöte makes especially good sense as these pipes would be three times longer than normal stopped pipes. Normal stopped pipes, being only half as long as normal open pipes, cannot be used at high pitches. You may have noticed the 8' Querpfeife in the Brustwerk of the 1594 organ by Mass - ITEM 8 - and 4' Querflöte in the Rückpositiv of the 1608 organ, also by Maas ITEM 9. These were probably both open ranks harmonically voiced, that is, overblown, to speak the octave. Since this was the period when open-toe, nickless, low-pressure voicing was the order of the day, one wonders how the misconception developed, often expressed in the literature on the organ of a few decades ago, that Cavaillé-Coll could not voice harmonic pipes until he worked out a way of getting a high wind pressure.

Next, we have the stoplist of an organ which is the source of much embarrassment to anyone trying to prove that all that is good in tonal design descended from a Brabant or Dutch heritage. ITEM 19 is an organ built in the church of St-Gervais et St-Protais, Gisors, which is roughly half-way between Rouen and Paris, in 1580, by one Nicolas Barbier. This design which predates any work by the Langhedul school in France is certainly as worthy a claimant to the position of father of the French tradition as any by a Brabant builder, and, at least insofar as it predates their work and anticipates the traditional use of the three reeds on the Grand Orgue, it would seem to have excellent credentials. Confronted by this mystery, Dr. Vente, who is otherwise quite scholarly, takes the only course left to a loyal Dutchman and suggests that Barbier may also have been of Dutch origin. Since the case of the organ at Gisors seems to be the only exception, perhaps we can close the matter with the simple statement that this is “the exception that proves the rule”.

The 1628 revisions of the St-Gervais organ really established the pattern for things to come so completely that I think we need confess no real surprises with the design of the next two examples, ITEM 20, an organ by Joly of 1675 for St-Spire, Ile-de-France, and ITEM 21, the stoplist of St. Gervais as it stood about 1690. Indeed, by this time, the tradition is so well established that the only principle left as a method for expanding the tonal resources is that of repetition. Certainly, the concept never reaches greater clarity of design as to the relation between the divisions and the respective functions of the various elements than in the St-Gervais instrument of 1690. It is certain also that the French organists never developed a style of composition or a method of registration that went beyond what was possible at St-Gervais at that time. Subsequent developments only served to break down the clear-cut function of the components. We soon see abstract theory taking over and dictating to art. If the endless redundancies of later developments served any useful purpose, it may have been that they made registration easier by making it possible to duplicate many effects, especially those of solo Cornet, Trompette, Cromorne and Voix Humaine, on virtually every keyboard. As further evidence of the standardization that existed by 1690, consider ITEMS 22 and 23 which are Alexandre Thierry's organ of 1687 for St-Louis des Invalides, in Paris, and Robert Clicquot's organ of 1689 for the Cathedral of Rouen. To aid comparison, the stop names which coincide in both instruments are arranged side by side on the page.

The logic of the 1690 St-Gervais instrument - ITEM 21 - to me marks it as the virtually ideal model for the classic French tradition. If the Cornet Séparé had included a Petite Trompette, the design would have indeed been perfect. From a study of French composition and registrational practice, it is easy to understand and to explain its tonal scheme completely. As it stood in 1690, the instrument was largely the work of Pierre Thierry and his son Alexandre, and was the accumulation of a succession of alterations following the original changes in 1628. However, in their work before 1700, the Thierrys had built several instruments almost identical to St-Gervais in concept. Alexandre's instrument for St. Louis des Invalides is in fact very close, the only differences being that it has in the Grand Orgue a Grosse Tierce and two more ranks in the Cymbale; in the Positif, a Petite Voix Humaine and an additional rank in the Fourniture; on the third manual, a Petite Trompette; on the Echo, the top four ranks of the Cornet are on one draw; and in the Pédale, the 4' Flute is omitted. It is interesting to note that the presence of a Grosse Tierce on the Grand Orgue does not seem to be dictated so much by the presence of a 16' Montre on the Grand Orgue as by that of the 8' Montre on the Positif. This indicates that certain characteristics of the Werkprinciple, which we have discussed with respect to North European design, were also present in the planning of French instruments of this period. At least there was clear concern that the octave relationship between the basic pitches of the two chief divisions be definitely established. If the Positif Montre was an 8', then the 16' of the Grand Orgue was considered to be the Montre and the big Tierce was included, but if the Positif had only a 4' Montre, the 16' of the Grand Orgue was considered as a double, the 8' being the basic foundation, and no Grosse Tierce was used in the tonal scheme. I know of no exception to this.

However, in spite of these limited indications of a Werk-principle like influence, we certainly must say that the differentiation as to content of the divisions, even in the best French examples, was certainly never so clear as in Northern non-French usage. As we shall soon see, the idea of maintaining a strong contrast between the divisions by a disciplined approach to tonal design eventually all but disappeared in France.

The beginning of the breakdown in the purity of the form can be glimpsed in the Rouen design of Robert Clicquot where the second Cromorne is placed on the Grand Orgue, thus weakening the position of the Positif in the scheme of things. Also, the use of only three ranks in the Cornets of the third and fourth divisions, without the presence of the 8' and 4' ranks, indicates that these Cornets were not intended for solo use, the raison d'être of the Cornet since its very beginning. It is clear that the intention here was that these Cornets should serve only in the traditional secondary cornet role, that of providing a reinforcement for the trebles of the reeds.

In 1733, François Thierry, son of Alexandre, built an organ for Notre-Dame in Paris - ITEM 24 - which carried the French concept to its ultimate form and at the same time foreshadowed the end of the Classic distinction between the Grand Orgue and the Positif. We now see the Positif equipped with a 2' Quarte de Nasard, a Cornet V, a Trompette and a Clairon, all of which heretofore were reserved for the Grand Orgue. In order to top all this, the Grand Orgue is provided with a Fourniture of 16 ranks and an additional Trompette. We might explain the use of this second Trompette on the Grand Orgue as a necessity rising out of the monumental proportions of the interior of Notre-Dame de Paris, but in 1768, we find François-Henri Clicquot resorting to exactly the same thing in his new instrument in St-Gervais - ITEM 25. As Paris churches go, St-Gervais is not a large one. Furthermore, in 1781, this very same Clicquot built an organ for St-Sulpice in Paris - ITEM 26 - in which he not only doubled the Grand Orgue Trompette but also the Grand Orgue Clairon, as well as the Bombarde and Trompette of the Pédale. This Pédale, by the way, was still without upperwork. Certainly these excesses did not grow out of any really musical considerations. They were on the one hand a result of pressure from theorists and organologists, such as Dom Bédos de Celles, for example, and on the other hand the result of 18th-century French status seeking. New there is certainly nothing wrong with a big church having a big organ. Indeed a really large church demands a large organ, but when one can think of nothing else to do but go on doubling and repeating, it surely is time to stop.

Clicquot's 1768 instrument for St-Gervais also showed certain other symptoms of a degenerating tonal concept. First of all, as in his later instrument in St-Sulpice, the number of manual 4' stops is reduced to two, one Prestant each on the Grand Orgue and Positiv, manual 4' Flutes being completely eliminated. Next, the Cymbales of both Grand Orgue and Positiv, by 1768, a tradition of more than a century and a half, are omitted along with the Fournitures in favour of a single Plein Jeu in each division, of six and five ranks respectively. Not only is the Positif equipped with a Trompette and Clairon, but the situation is further confused by the addition of an 8' Basson-Clarinette. To anyone acquainted with the considerable breadth of tone of the French Cromorne of the period, this new development must continue to remain a mystery. The Récit reed is an Hautbois and the Echo has no Cornet at all, and consists only of an 8' Flûte d'Echo and an 8' Trompette. Indeed, from a dispositional point of view, the only improvement in the St-Gervais instrument of 1768 over that of 1690 is the addition of the Bombarde clavier with its single 16' Bombarde and the completion of the Pédale to three flutes and three reeds. Fortunately, most of the innovations anticipated by this later St-Gervais instrument did not enter into general tonal practice for another half century. However, in Clicquot's St. Sulpice instrument, we find four 8' reeds in the Positif. These are a Trompette, Cromorne, Basson and Clarinette. This most certainly is an indication of a surprisingly early trend toward orchestralism.

Today, we hear a great deal about what we now call chorus reeds and of how impossible it is to play French music without one or even two complete sets of 16', 8' and 4' Trompettes. Please note that Notre Dame in 1733 had only a single 16' manual reed and this was on a keyboard all by itself and was in no way part of any chorus. So far as I know, not until 1781, and then only in the largest organ in France, did a French organ have a complete 16', 8' and 4' reed chorus, and even here, it was not on the Grand Orgue but on a separate keyboard which it shared with a Grand Cornet of seven ranks. We will again look into the matter of complete reed choruses a little later when we take up the tonal events of the 19th Century.

Before laying aside the tonal affairs of France for the moment, it should be pointed out that, in every organ we have examined in this section, the Positif played from the lowest clavier and the Grand Orgue from the second, and that when the Bombarde division was introduced, it displaced the Récit as the third manual division, with the Récit and Echo then becoming the fourth and fifth divisions respectively. The notion that the Grand Orgue should be on the lowest clavier comes entirely from 19th Century practice after almost every trace of the Werk principle in French organ building had vanished.

Also, we should note the original definition of the term “Plein Jeu” when used as the name for a compound stop, as established or at least demonstrated by Clicquot's precedent at St-Gervais - ITEM 25. The term was not intended to be just an alternate name for the Fourniture but rather to indicate a stop of five or more ranks combining the functions of both the Fourniture and the Cymbale. It should be remembered that, in Classical French usage, the mixtures were usually lower in pitch than their German equivalent. The Fourniture was usually at 2 2/3' or 2' and the lower rank of the Cymbale was seldom higher than 1'. Theoretically, therefore, a single Plein Jeu of seven ranks at 2 2/3' could cover the entire pitch range of the typical spectrum of the combined Fourniture and Cymbale. In actual practice, however, this idea was rarely developed to this extent until the height of the Romantic expansion, when it became rather common in large instruments.


We will now skip back 200 years to the point where we left the fundamentals of the Werk-principle concept well established in Northern Europe and trace the development of this idea in the hands of the North German builders from the beginning of the 17th Century.

As we have already seen, the influence of the North Brabant school had already reached North Germany by 1550 mainly through the work of Hendrik Niehoff, and we have examined the design of his instrument for St. Petri, Hamburg - ITEM 6. The Dutch influence was continued in the area by many Dutch, or Dutch-trained, organ builders who continued to work there throughout the rest of the 1500s. Many of the organists of the area were actually pupils of Sweelinck. But the most active and eventually most influential organ builders in North Germany during the period from about 1545 to 1630 were those of the Scherer family of Hamburg.

The influence of Niehoff's work on the first of the important Scherers, Jacob, is undeniable, and the work of the Scherers up to 1600 does not show any marked advance over those Northern tonal schemes of that period that we have already examined, ITEMS 8 to 11.

By 1606, Hans Scherer, the elder, had finished the 53-stop organ - ITEM 27 - for St. Jacobi, Hamburg, which he had begun in 1588. While this instrument has seven reeds in the manual divisions, none of these is in the Hauptwerk. Other organs by the same builder, St. Maria, Bernau, finished in 1573, and St. Martin, Kassel, also have reedless Hauptwerks. However, the organ for the Brüderkirche in Kassel, reputed to be a Scherer, has both an 8' Trompete and an 8' Zincke, but this scheme is generally more logical and we can assume it is a later instrument, possibly by Hans Scherer, the younger. It appears that Jacob Scherer may have been one of the first to regularly include a 2' reed in the Pedal.

I have chosen not to examine other Scherer organs in this discussion because I have found no other indication that their work formed a clear-cut link in the development of the Werk-principle concept. In this connection, note that the Scherer St. Jacobi instrument, while at first appearing to have well developed structures in each division, actually does not have a complete family of principals anywhere. The lack of a Pedal 8' flue stop of any description is certainly curious, considering the Pedal is otherwise quite complete.

Heinrich Compenius was a contemporary of the Scherers. In 1604, he built an instrument for the Cathedral at Magdeburg - ITEM 29. This instrument does not have reeds on the Great, but, from many other standpoints, it is a very carefully worked out scheme. The absence of the 2' from the Great should not, at least from a Werk-principle point of view, at this period be considered to be a weakness, for, since the division is at 16' pitch, this omission is logical even though it leaves the two stops of 2 2/3' pitch uncovered. Unfortunately for the logic, however, the Rückpositiv does not have a clearly defined 2' of principal tone. From this period on, Renaissance organ building, of which Praetorius was the chief scribe, became very conscious of the difference between wide and narrow scaled pipes and a conscious effort was made to recognize this difference not only in terminology but also in registrational practice. The use of the term “Nasat” in the Magdeburg Hauptwerk to differentiate the wide scaled or flutey quint from the narrow scaled principal-tone quint, which in this case is called Kleine Quinte since it is an octave above the 5 1/3' Grosse Quinte, is an example of this refinement in terminology. The absence of a 2' of principal tone in the Rückpositiv may well have been intended to heighten the effectiveness of the 2' Principal in the Brustwerk. Notice that this 2' Brustwerk is more carefully developed than the Scherer Brustwerk at Hamburg, which was comprised only of Flutes of 4', 2 2/3' and 2' pitch and an 8' Krummhorn. The Magdeburg Brustwerk has its own mixtures and a 4' reed.

In 1624, Heinrich Compenius built an organ in the Church of St. Moritz, Halle, where Samuel Scheidt was the organist - ITEM 30. The design of this instrument, although it is a small one, is very clear-cut and shows a definite advance in the development of the Werk-principle concept. The 8' pitch of the Hauptwerk and the 4' pitch of the Rückpositiv are very well defined. Indeed, the general plan of this specification is so neat that if we did not know it was by Compenius, who is generally considered to be a Renaissance builder, we would most certainly attribute it to a builder of the Schnitger school.

Next we have three transitional specifications which show a remarkably fine development of the werkprinciple concept. The first of these, the 1613 Kröger organ at Wismar - ITEM 31 - is a very complete instrument. It is rather unfortunate for the logic of the scheme that the Spielpfeife of the Hauptwerk is not at 4' pitch instead of 8', and for such an otherwise well developed Pedal it is regrettable that there is no Pedal mixture. The octave relationship between each division is clearly defined. The use of the term “octave” for the 4' principal of the Brustwerk is a rather common usage of the period in situations where some portion of the principal was not in the façade. It was not a fast rule by any means, and it certainly does not interfere with our recognizing the principal pitch of the division. Note the use of the term “Scharff Quinte” to signify that this is a quint of principal tone. The Rückpositiv has both a narrow and a wide 2' stop. This becomes a characteristic of later instruments, though usually occurring in the Brustwerk or Hauptwerk rather than in the Rückpositiv. The Sesquialtera in this Rückpositiv is the earliest occurring in these examples and seems to anticipate somewhat the solo register containing a tierce in North German usage. In fact, this Sesquialtera makes such an early appearance as to cast some doubt on the authenticity of either the specification or the date. However, since the source for this information is a usually reliable one, it must be accepted as reasonably correct.

ITEM 32 is an anonymous specification of 1629 in the Church at Langwarden. This design represents a good realization of the Werk principle in a small organ. The Hauptwerk is at 4' pitch while the Brustwerk is at 2'. The Pedal is clearly established as an 8' division. Anticipating the trend in the typical practice later in the century, we might ask why, in this specification, the 1 1/3' quint is on the Hauptwerk instead of in the Brustwerk. The answer, of course, comes from the logic of the period which fairly consistently dictated the use of the 1 1/3' Quintflöte on the same manual that contained the 8' Quintade, its tone being the natural octave complement of the strong 2 2/3' harmonic inherent in the sound of the Quintade. This specification demonstrates again the use of the term “Scharfquinte” to indicate a quint of principal tone. The use of the term “Nasatquint” to indicate a quint of flute tone is not uncommon in well known stoplists and comes from a usage in which the term “Nasat”, like the term “Nachthorn”, indicates a type of pipe construction and the resulting tone without reference to pitch. Indeed, both these terms, “Nasat” and “Nachthorn”, have in fact the same origin. The original term for wide scaled, narrow mouthed pipes of this general type was “Nachsatz”, which was a term like Hintersatz referring to the location of the pipework at the rear of the organ. Later, this term, or its Dutch equivalent Nasat, was used for pipes of this type of construction, regardless of their location in the instrument, and still later, the term “Gemshorn” was also applied to cylindrical pipes of similar construction. It seems quite likely that the Nachthorn eventually evolved as a result of combining “Nachsatz” and “Gemshorn”. The existence of a transitional form - “Nasshorn” - which appeared sporadically tends to support this. The consistent use of the term “Nasat” to designate a single rank at quint pitch was a comparative late development. Note the 2' Nasat in the Brustwerk of the 1594 Stralsund instrument of Nicolaus Maas - ITEM 8.

The next specification - ITEM 33 - is another Kröger organ, this one of 1641 in the Boizenburg parish church. The 4' Flute missed in the Hauptwerk of his earlier instruments is present here, but this Hauptwerk is devoid a reed. Here again, there are two 2' stops in the Rückpositiv, which is obviously a characteristic of this builder. There is a breach of logic here in the presence of the Spitzquinte in the Oberpositiv at 2 2/3' (3') pitch, since this division is really a 2' conception. The use of quint ranks lower in pitch than the Principal is unusual, even in Kröger's time.

Before turning to the works of Schnitger, let us look for a moment at the disposition of the Marienkirche organ in Lübeck as it stood at the time of Buxtehude - ITEM 34. By that time, the organ represented the accumulated work of many builders. Jacob Scherer made major repairs and alterations and other Scherers probably also worked on the organ. I have no information as to who worked on the instrument immediately before Buxtehude became responsible for the music in this church, but a study of the specification indicates that it represents a point of transition midway between the large Scherer concept as indicated by the St. Jacobi organ in Hamburg and the Schnitger concept as indicated by the organ of nearly a hundred years later in St. Jacobi - ITEM 28 - and also by the Schnitger organ in St. Nicolai, Hamburg - ITEM 35 - where Vincent Lübeck was organist. Notice in the Marienkirche specification that the Hauptwerk has some of the same characteristics as the St. Jacobi Scherer - ITEM 27 - but here the 4' octave is present and we find also three reed stops. The rest of the instrument is much closer to the Schnitger concept for large instruments and indeed the Stuhlpositiv of this instrument is very close to the tonal design of the Rückpositiv of the St. Nicolai Schnitger - ITEM 35. The Pedal also is very close to a typical Schnitger design. The Brustwerk in several respects is quite similar to the Rückpositiv of the St. Jacobi Schnitger.

It is more difficult to see the ideas of the werk principle at work in the larger Schnitger instruments because the great size of the buildings for which they were conceived required the use of a much broader concept. For example, in Schnitger's St. Jacobi instrument in Hamburg - ITEM 28 - the Hauptwerk is clearly established as a 16' division, but the other three manual divisions all have their Principals at 8' pitch. Therefore, it takes careful study to analyze just how the contrast between the divisions, required of all good Werk-principle designs, has been developed by the builder. In St. Jacobi, for example, we see that each of the three secondary divisions also has a 4' octave. Only the Oberwerk, however, has a 2' octave. The 2' stops on the Brustwerk and Positiv are both Flutes. We note also that the Oberwerk has a 2 2/3' Nazard whereas the quint on the Rückpositiv is a Sifflöte at 1 1/3'. There is, of course, a good contrast so far as the naming of the reeds is concerned, but anyone who has heard Schnitger reeds will realize that, in this respect, there is more contrast in theory than in practice. Also, we should not overlook the great aid to contrast that is furnished by the spatial differentiation brought about by the considerably greater differences in the elevation of the various divisions of a large instrument in a big church. Of course, in Schnitger's larger work, the main means of contrast between the divisions was always that of the difference in scaling.

I find the St. Nicolai dispositions, one which we seldom hear very much about, much more interesting from a tonal design standpoint than the St. Jacobi instrument, and with the Brustwerk at 4' pitch and the imagined great difference in height between the Hauptwerk and the Oberwerk, it seems a little easier to me to accept this instrument as simply an amplification of the crystal-clear concept evidenced in most of Schnitger's smaller instruments.

I have chosen six of his smaller dispositions ranging in size from 22 to 46 stops to illustrate certain typical features of the Schnitger philosophy of tonal design.

Before turning to these, let me say that, while Arp Schnitger was one of the most logical and systematic men to ever practice organ building, at least so far as his tonal designs are concerned, his is not the logic of the mathematician nor of the engineer. His was the intuitive type of logic which we often see systematizing the work of great artists in every field and in every age. It is almost impossible to generalize about his work in anything but the broadest of terms. For example, not only do I know of no two Schnitger instruments which are exactly alike, but I know of no two instruments which share identical designs for any of their divisions. I know his work well enough, however, to know that even this was possible, and maybe someone who has a larger collection of Schnitger's dispositions than I do can show that even this generalization is unwarranted. Still, throughout his work, there is a chain of consistency, as there is throughout the work of most creative artists, which we may call his style. There is a considerable variety in the result, however, and we recognize his work more by an intuitive feeling gained from long familiarity than by any conscious reasoning process. Still, he was the most rational and practical of practitioners, and he was ruled by an instinctive self-discipline which was reflected in the design of every instrument that he built, and it is this that won him the recognition, not only in his own time, but also in ours, as the greatest of all organ builders, and which inspired such a large school of followers that his influence was still being felt in the work of Dutch organ builders over a hundred years after his death. His tonal design was impelled by a basic conviction in the integrity of the organ as a musical instrument reflected directly from the integrity of the individual division. No instrument which he ever built had a single division which was not in itself a complete concept. This is true even for what I consider to be the strangest and most atypical of his instruments, that at Altenbruch, which is an instrument of 35 stops in which the Rückpositiv is really the major division of the organ, having three 8's, two 4's, a 2 2/3' and three 2', as well as a Sesquialtera, Mixtur, Dulzian 16' and Krummhorn, whereas the Hauptwerk has only one stop each at 16', 8', 4' and 2' pitch and the Brustwerk and Pedal are perfectly “normal”.

The work of Schnitger teaches us, as indeed does the work of almost any great artist, that while we must maintain the flexibility of approach that will allow us to meet the needs of the varying situations in which we must work, we must never allow ourselves to have a flexibility of standard. An artist with a flexible standard is no artist. A compromise in which the quality of the art suffers is not a compromise - it is a defeat.

The 22-stop instrument which Schnitger built at Ganderkesee in 1699 - ITEM 36 - is a remarkably complete little instrument. one could play a considerable amount of music before exhausting its resources. Note how well it solves one of the problems raised by the French literature, that of playing a duet on a “cornet” against a Krummhorn, by placing the Sesquialtera on the Hauptwerk. It is much more common in both historical and contemporary North German practice to place the Sesquialtera on the same manual as the Krummhorn. It might at first seem unfortunate that the Hauptwerk of this instrument has no 4' Flute, but after hearing a small Schnitger instrument one must agree that, in spite of the old rules which frown on the mixing of Flutes with Principals, the Schnitger 4' octave, because it is neither overly strong nor overly brilliant, works very well as a 4' above the 8' Flute. Note the preference in the Pedal for a 2' reed instead of one at either 4' or 8' pitch. Our purist friends would undoubtedly raise objection to the 2' in the Brustwerk being a Spitzflöte instead of a Principal. This objection, however, is solved in the next disposition - ITEM 37 - the 1711 instrument of Pellworm. Here we find both a 2' octave and a 2' Flute in the Brustwerk, remembering that the Gemshorns of this period, and indeed even today, in most of Northern Europe, are, for all intents and purposes, Flutes. The Pellworm Oberwerk has a 4' Flute, so the 2 2/3' is also a Flute instead of a narrow principal toned stop as in the previous disposition. Rauschpfeifen have been made both wide and narrow, and if this one is of the narrow variety, this Oberwerk would then contain both a wide and a narrow quint. However, the Rauschpfeife was usually made wide when the 2' of a division was narrow. So here we raise a question which could only be solved by an examination of the actual pipes. This Brustwerk has a Dulcian instead of a Krummhorn as did the Brustwerk of the previous case. The Sesquialtera is returned to the Brustwerk. The Pedal is remarkably complete for such a small instrument. With the preoccupation we have in America today with 16' stops in the Pedal, it is difficult for us to achieve such perfection in only 24 stops.

In the 28-stop instrument at Steinkirchen - ITEM 38 - we see the Krummhorn again on the Oberwerk, with the Sesquialtera on the Hauptwerk. The occurrence here of the 2 2/3' Quinte where the Principal is at 2' is quite rare in Schnitger's work and this, indeed, may be the only example. Notice that both manual divisions have two 2' stops. Actually, this specification would seem to have resulted from the combining of the features of the two previous instruments. The Pedal 16' flue stop is here a Principal and a 5 1/3' Quinte has been added. But, note that the Mixture has been omitted from the Pedal in favour of a Rauschpfeife.

Neuenfelde is the town in which Schnitger lived and had his workshop. The instrument which he completed for the local parish church in 1688 - ITEM 39 - after a period of construction lasting five years, is one of the most complete and beautifully built instruments for its size to be found anywhere. Anyone seeing it could not doubt that it was a labour of love. In fact, much of the pipework is made from a metal of a much higher tin content than is to be found in instruments which he built for the surrounding towns. Here, however, we find the Sesquialtera and the Krummhorn on the same manual, a situation which would certainly frustrate our French friends. Note that the only duplication of pitch in the Pedal is through the addition of a 4' Flute. The Vox Humana appears on the Hauptwerk of this organ, a position common though not invariable in Schnitger's larger instruments. The stop was a favorite of his and he placed one in nearly every instrument of more than 30 stops. Although there is quite a difference between the French and German Vox Humana, both are relatively strong, often as strong as the Trompete and seldom softer than the Krummhorn.

It is a peculiarity of Schnitger that although the 2 2/3' pitch is used very sparingly in his large German organs, it is far from rare in his smaller instruments. Note that, at Neuenfelde, there is one on each manual and that both are of flute tone. However, in the larger three-manual instrument at Ludingworth - ITEM 40 - there is only one 2 2/3', the Nasard on the Hauptwerk. This design seems to have developed as a natural result of combining the features of the three previous instruments. The Pedal includes all of the features we have already seen, and the Rückpositiv seems a natural adaptation from the one at Neuenfelde. Note the similarity of the Hauptwerk with that at Neuenfelde, the chief points of difference being that one of the 2' stops and the Vox Humana have been contributed to the Rückpositiv. While this three-manual conception is only one stop larger than the two-manual Neuenfelde disposition, each division is still completely developed.

The 46-stop, four-manual instrument at Norden in 1688 - ITEM 41 - again reflects the same completeness, but it offers some surprises. For example, the Hauptwerk here has both a narrow and a wide quint, while the Pedal is lacking a 2' flue stop. The design of the Brustwerk for this instrument is virtually a prototype for Brustwerks for all times. In this instrument we see the Sesquialtera firmly settled down in the Rückpositiv, which was really Schnitger's favorite place for it. The Terzian, which is quite common in his small instruments, does not appear in the dispositions for the larger instruments. While the Hauptwerk in this instrument does not have a 16' Principal, the presence of the 16' Trompete would seem to indicate that the division was thought of as being of lower pitch than the Rückpositiv. We may assume that the Mixture has two ranks more than is usual for his smaller instruments in order to accommodate one or two ranks of lower pitch.

These six dispositions show the Werk-principle concept in the purest form as it was left to the world at the hands of its greatest advocate and exponent, Arp Schnitger. However, several of his contemporaries and successors were quite adept at handling the principle and produced many noteworthy instruments.

It is not known whether the Scandinavian Heinrich Cahman knew Schnitger personally or not, but there is some indication that he may have been trained in Hamburg. In any case, his instrument of 1698 for the Cathedral at Uppsala - ITEM 42 - is remarkable for its fidelity to the Werk-principle ideal. Indeed, its design is stricter and more lucid than any of the larger Schnitger organs. The appearance of the Salicional on the Hauptwerk should not be taken as a sign of creeping Romanticism, for we find this also in the Schnitger organ for St. Nicolai in Hamburg. It might possibly represent Southern influence, but, at this early date, even this seems unlikely. Furthermore, it should be noted that, in its original use in organ building, the term “Salicional” referred to a scaling only slightly narrower than that of a small Principal. The orchestral connotation which the term acquired in the 19th Century was many years in developing.

A rather late example of the pure Schnitger tradition is by the Danish builder, Lambert Daniel Kastens, in his very fine design of 1740 for Holmens Kirke, in København - ITEM 43. The one flaw in logic of this otherwise excellent specification is the absence of an 8' octave on the Hauptwerk. The disposition is otherwise so fine one may justly wonder if possibly this apparent omission may be only a printer's error. We know of many other fine examples of smaller instruments built in good Schnitger-like Werk-principle fashion up to as late as 1740. The chief change in the design of the smaller instruments in this area during this period seems to have been the omission of the 2' reed from the Pedal sometimes in favour of a 2' Flute. Otherwise, the tradition seems to have remained fairly constant. Occasionally, the Hauptwerk will have no reed, or sometimes the Brustwerk may not have one, but in the North German area during this period, the deterioration which spread up from the South seems to have been virtually unknown.

At this point, we see the Werk principle developed to its fullest. With the development of this concept in North Germany, we see not only a maturing of tonal design practice in the disposition of stops but we also meet, in full bloom, the understanding and realization, in practice, of all of those considerations of placement, acoustics, physical design, and voicing techniques which make for successful, responsive, expressive instruments. In the past 200 years, every one of these traditional principles has been violated, and, unfortunately, they are still being violated, with results that have seldom been other than musically disastrous. All attempts to prove otherwise have simply strengthened the evidence that these principles are inviolable for good musical effect. Although they are not the matters with which we are primarily concerned in this discussion, it is appropriate for us to list them here because of their universal application and, in truth, because most of them are much more important to the overall musical effectiveness of an organ than any of the dispositional considerations to which this discussion is generally directed. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that, while there is far from unanimity on dispositional and scaling matters, the leading quality organ builders of the world are virtually in accord in their acceptance of, and their insistance on, the more or less strict adherence to these principles in their work. The following is a brief summary of these traditional principles:

  1. The organ must stand completely within the space it is to serve.
  2. The only voicing techniques permissible are those which preserve the natural articulate speech of the pipe and the natural transparency of the tone.
  3. The pipework of each division should be functionally arranged with the Principal in the façade and the upperwork behind.
  4. Each division should have its own case or box to give projection and amplification and, through the coloring effect of the resonance of the enclosure, to give additional differentiation to the sound.
  5. The organ should preferably be freestanding in an elevated position on the central axis of the room.
  6. The scaling of the pipework should be worked out intuitively for each instrument, using empirically derived variable progressions.
  7. The wind-chest construction should be of the barred or keychamber type so that all the pipes of each note of a division stand on a common channel winded by a common valve.
  8. The various elements of an organ should be grouped closely together but they should be so placed as to add the quality of spatial differentiation to the sound of the individual division. In this connection, a vertical arrangement for the manual divisions with the Pedal divided on each side is preferred.
  9. Preferably the keys should be directly connected through a mechanical action to the valves of the wind-chest.
  10. As a point of good functional architectural design, the tonal composition of the organ should be reflected in the façade and case design.
It is interesting to note that this functional aspect of organ case design developed early and reached its full glory at the same time as the Werk-principle concept. Traces continued in instruments that followed this high period, but the visual appearance gradually became more muddled as the tonal concept broke down. Actually, since this muddled tonal thinking was reflected in the atrocious Victorian case designs of the 1900s, it might be said that a kind of functional case design continued even up to the beginning of the 20th Century when the organ finally disappeared entirely behind a pipeless screen.


In studying subsequent tonal developments, the Werk-principle ideal must be held firmly as a standard, for it was during the flowering time of this concept that the organ had its brightest hours and immediately this concept was altered or abandoned the organ declined in esteem. It was the loss of this clear-cut and purely keyboard oriented concept of the organ that is the most regrettable event in the organ's long history. It was here that the chain of thought and musical evolution that would have given real meaning to much that followed was broken.

While J. S. Bach was still turning out polyphonic keyboard masterpieces and while Arp Schnitger and his pupils were still producing fine examples of Werk-principle tonal design, the seeds were being planted that soon brought about the downfall of the prevalent system of musical composition, and, along with it, the downfall of the system of organ tonal design which it had fostered.

The 80 years of musical transition which saw the passing of both Bach and Beethoven, saw also many rapid changes in the musical scene; the end of polyphony as a dominant style, the development of symphonic style, the decline of the importance of the Kappelmeister, the rise of the Konzertmeister and orchestral conductor, the transition from the church and chapel royal as the chief seats of musical activity to the salon and concert hall, the obsolescence of the harpsichord and the organ and their system of terraced dynamics as the chief keyboard instruments, the rise of the piano-forte and of dynamic crescendoism as the accepted mode of expression, and, also, the general decline of church music. None of these things are causitive. They are only symptomatic, symptomatic of the rising Romanticism that was caused by the restlessness of spirit of the growing impulse toward individual freedom and the quest for new means of expressing this freedom that was everywhere. Looking back at this, it should not be difficult to understand that, with Northern polyphony on the wane and with Southern lyricism and its monophonic style creeping throughout Europe, the polyphonic concept of music and its approach to the keyboard, and especially to the organ as a keyboard instrument, gradually ceased to meet the need. The organ and the polyphonic style had grown together side by side for centuries. Without the one, the other had no meaning. It was the decline of the polyphonic style that brought about the decline of the interest in the organ. It was the reawakening, in this century, to the beauties of the polyphonic heritage that has caused a return to the first principles of polyphonic organ building where they were left by their last great exponents, as a basis for the construction of significant instruments in our time.

The characteristics of Werk-principle tonal architecture in its highest form unfortunately did not survive the first half of the 18th Century. Although at first the decline was gradual, it picked up speed rapidly. There developed in place of the werk-principle concept an integrated arrangement - a sort of trinitarianism - which really resulted in a tonal design reduced to a one-manual concept in which the predominant idea was an ensemble composed of all the manual divisions coupled together. It is really this idea that dominated organ building from the first few decades of the 18th Century up to the beginning of the European reforms of the 1920s. In North America, it is still a dominant force. It is all important to the future of organ building in North America that the essentials of the conflict between these two concepts of the organ be understood.

In the discussion that follows, the degeneration of the organ is traced from the point of its highest glory as a keyboard instrument of real integrity composed of individual divisions of equal functional integrity through the various changes which eventually developed the one-manual notion of the multi-division organ. Then, in a rather spotty manner, the developments of the 19th Century and the evolution of the orchestral or symphonic organ are outlined. As the discussion moves through these various stages, the polyphonic tradition and the Werk-principle concept should be kept clearly in mind, and it should be remembered that by the beginning of the 18th Century, the organ was firmly established as an instrument by, for, and of the Church and that it played an important role in the lives of the people. By that time, even Calvinist areas were accepting an increased use of the organ in worship services. With a real appreciation of the organ as a keyboard instrument and of what it really stood for at that time in the life of the Church and the people, one is less apt to regard every change that followed as a blessed improvement. As a matter of fact, in retrospect, it is clear that it was the gradual and subtle changes of the 18th Century that led to the more drastic changes of the 19th Century in a continuous unbroken degeneration which led to the mire of the 1920s. All history teaches that change is not necessarily progress.

It should also be kept in mind that the keyboard instrument par excellence of the Romantics - the piano - was in no sense more orchestral or more symphonic than the harpsichord. Why then was the organ turned into a “one-man orchestra”? Of course, it was not necessary, for this was not required by the spirit of Romanticism. If this catastrophy had been somehow avoided, and if more of its integrity as a true keyboard instrument had been preserved, the organ might well have enjoyed a popularity in the hands of the Romantics equal to that accorded to piano. While its being an instrument primarily of the Church no doubt had considerable to do with its having been ignored by an age of musicians whose chief interests were centered elsewhere, certainly it was not the manipulative clumsiness of the instrument so much as the musical clumsiness of its synthetic orchestralism that repulsed those who might otherwise have greatly enriched its literature.


Earlier in this discussion, it was seen that the development of the pure French style ripened to maturity at just about the same time as did the pure North German style, at the beginning of the 18th Century. This is a very interesting coincidence since after the first influence of the Brabant builders in both areas, there was no connection whatever between the French and German schools, and there can be no doubt of the complete independence of the two distinctly different tonal concepts.

The gradual deterioration that took place in the 18th Century in the French tonal design practice has been investigated earlier in this discussion. This, however, was not a change in concept so much as it was a clouding or veiling of the concept by confusing the function of the various divisions. Through the duplicating of traditional features of the Grand Orgue in the Positif, for example, the integrity of both divisions suffered, but basically the tonal structure was not changed because these departures from tradition were always through duplication, not by borrowing or displacement. The traditional Positif was still there, only in its later form one had to search beneath the surface of the design to find it. In other words, in French practice, the breakdown of the integrity of the division was one caused by augmentation and redundancy, by an overlapping of office or function, rather than one caused by a conceptual disintegration.

In Germany, however, the situation was quite different. The influences were very subtle, and in the early years of the 18th Century, not even the best informed and most clairvoyant of observers could have predicted the impending disaster.

Eugen Caspar was born in Saran, Germany, in 1624. At about the age of 20, he went to Padua, Italy where he worked as an organ builder for a considerable period of time and italianized his name to Casparini. He became a very well known builder of instruments in the “Italian style” and gradually worked his way back through Austria to his homeland. In the year 1697, at the age of 73, he undertook the building of what has become known as his greatest work, the large organ for the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Görlitz, Germany - ITEM 45 - with the aid of his son and a young man named Andreas Silbermann.

Andreas Silbermann stayed in the employ of Casparini until 1701. He then set up shop for himself in Alsace and soon after took his younger brother Gottfried to work with him. The ideas of Casparini are considered by most organologists to have made a considerable impression on both the youthful Silbermann brothers. If this is true, then Andreas sublimated this influence immediately after the departure of Gottfried, about 1709, to set up his own shop at the place of their birth in Saxony. Some of the smaller instruments which they built together show tendencies in the direction of Casparini, but their larger works show an unmistakable devotion to the pure French tradition. This is even more true of the work of Andreas Silbermann after 1709.

Certainly, there is none of the Italian influence in the voicing of Andreas. To most discriminating listeners, it is purely in the French style of the period. However, Andreas established his own system of tonal design in which reeds were only considered suitable for large organs, and this re-assessment of the importance of reeds is the only Casparini trait that can be detected in his work. ITEM 44 is an analysis of the Andreas Silbermann system of tonal design. Note that the basic two-manual organ would have a four-stop Positiv and a seven-stop Hauptwerk. The Positiv would have to have seven stops to contain a Cromorne. The Hauptwerk would have to have nine stops to contain a Montre 8', ten stops to contain a Bourdon 16', and eleven stops before containing a reed, a Voix Humaine 8'. Here is a departure from French practice, since the first reed in classical French usage would certainly be a Trompette. However, when the complete ten-stop Positiv and thirteen-stop Hauptwerk is reached, the conception is surely pure French. Andreas had an occasion to build his complete Pedal of the eight stops indicated on only a very few occasions. His use of a Pedal Fourniture or a 2' Cornetto, and his use of Principals instead of Flutes for the open Pedal ranks, is also a departure from the strictest French usage and might possibly be attributed to Casparini influence.

Of the two, it was certainly Gottfried who was the most impressed by Casparini's tonal concepts. ITEM 45 is the disposition of the Casparini organ at Görlitz. It is included here only to give an idea of the influences that shaped Gottfried Silbermann's work. Note first of all that this does not represent a large departure from the Werk-principle concept. Indeed, it clearly indicates, as do many other examples of the time, that a fairly well developed form of the werk principle also extended well into Southern Europe at the beginning of the 18th Century. The Görlitz organ shows a well established pitch reference at octave intervals for each division and an adequate development of each of the family of Principals. But, note the lack of manual reed development. The large Oberwerk has none. Note the very sparsely populated Mixtures. The low pitched Cornette of the Oberwerk was obviously intended to give this division the reed color otherwise lacking. The pitch of the three ranks of this stop were 5 1/3', 4' and 3 1/5'. The compositions of some of the other compound stops are also interesting; the pitches of the two ranks of the Hauptwerk Zinck were 2 2/3' and 1 3/5', the Bauernflöte II and the Helle Cymbel II had the same starting pitch for their two ranks, these being 1 1/3' and 1', but the scale of the Bauernflöte was probably much larger than that of the Helle Cymbel and the method of breaking back or repeating was undoubtedly different in the two stops. Note the beginning of the developing of a family of stops narrower than the Principals indicated by the Viola di Gamba 8' and the Salicet 4'. Note also the labial Vox Humana, which must also have been a very narrow scale, and the Ondamaris, a céleste, in the Oberwerk. However, the most important point to be observed is that this is the first large organ we have seen in our study of 250 years of tonal design practice where the second division is not a Rückpositiv placed at the front of the gallery rail, but a division placed inside the main case. This is the first indication of amalgamation of the various divisions of the organ into a unified whole. This is such a subtle point as to be easily overlooked, but its importance is particularly indicated by the fact that, whereas Andreas Silbermann never used anything but a Rückpositiv in his major instruments, Gottfried Silbermann never placed the Positiv anywhere but inside the main case. There were some cases where in rebuilding an organ Gottfried left the original Rückpositiv casework standing empty. As an additional symptom of the direction of thinking, it was about this time that the cases and façades of organs ceased to reflect the constituent sections comprising the tonal design and began to take on the appearance of a more or less uniform wall of pipes.

The reason for the down-grading of the importance of Mixtures as indicated in the Görlitz organ is that one of the Casparini preoccupations was the quest for an ideal principal which was bright and silvery in character. Therefore, he theorized, Mixtures need not contain so many ranks. In this respect, Casparini's tonal ideas foreshadowed the abuses of Robert Hope-Jones which were to have such a disastrous influence 200 years later. A generally brighter and stronger principal tone was a feature of Gottfried Silbermann's work. Gottfried's larger instruments always had both a Mixture and a Cymbal on the Hauptwerk, where usually there was also an 8' Trompette and, in his two largest, also a 16' Fagott, but none of his two-manual instruments had any reed on the Hauptwerk and seldom did they have a reed on the Oberwerk.

ITEM 46 is the disposition of Gottfried Silbermann's first major work, the organ for the Domkirche in Freiberg in 1710. ITEM 47 is his last major work in the Hofkirche in Dresden in 1754. ITEM 48 is a comparison of five two-manual dispositions ranging between 20 and 23 stops and built over the period 1718-1741, which seem to indicate that Gottfried, like his brother, also had a system. Note the complete absence of manual reeds in these smaller instruments. The lacking Hauptwerk Cymbal in the last three dispositions of ITEM 47 indicates, perhaps for the first time in the work of an outstanding organ builder, a dependence upon the use of couplers for the tutti, since there is a Cymbal in the Oberwerk of each of these instruments. Note also the lack of a 4' Principal in the Oberwerk of these three instruments indicating a slacking of devotion to the tenets of the Werk principle. If it were not for the retention of the Nazard, the lack of the 4' Principal might be excused as an indication that the Oberwerk of these instruments had been moved up to a 2' pitch reference. The omission of the Terz at Langhennersdorf indicates that the Nazard was not necessarily retained for “corneting” purposes. The lack of Pedal upperwork in all five dispositions of ITEM 47 is also an indication of a down-graded Werk-principle concept. Note, however, that the 16', 8' and 4' pitch separation for the Principals of the manual divisions was never abandoned. The use of three 8' stops for the Hauptwerk in four out of five of these smaller organs is attributable to the general strengthening of the tone of organs at the hands of Gottfried Silbermann. The strengthening and brightening of the Principal tone, in particular, tended to contribute a disquieting effect requiring the addition of a softer 8' stop. Although the beauty of the Silbermannish principal tone is undeniable, its usefulness in the Church service is certainly not to be compared with the more reposeful North German Principal.

Since, today, we think of decadence in organ building as being closely associated with a dull, colorless tone, it is difficult for us to realize that the decline of the organ began with a series of tonal changes chief among which was a brightening of Principal tone. It is even more difficult for us to understand that the decline began at the time when the tonal design of the organ, the composition of music for the organ and organ playing itself, were at the height of their bloom. This was the peak of the organ's Golden Age. J. S. Bach was in his prime, Arp Schnitger was at the height of his career. The organ was truly king among instruments. But, as was noted earlier, the Casparini-Silbermann epoch was characterized by an active quest for an ideal tone, a crusade in pursuit of an auditory vision, a search for the realization of a sound that at first existed only in the minds of its creators. It is right here that we see the birth of the Romantic approach to the organ. We see the beginning of a preoccupation with the sound, with the tonal beauty of the individual pipe without any particular end in view other than the production of a beautiful sound - sound for the sake of sound. The presumption was that a more beautiful sound must produce more beautiful music. Here is one of the basic differences between the Classical and the Romantic points of view.

The Classical approach may be stated as one which, although it certainly acknowledges the value of tonal beauty in the individual pipe, realizes this is not in itself the end to be striven for but recognizes this as only a means to the end of producing a spontaneously alive and moving musical image. The classical approach is filled with admiration for beautiful sound, but only in its functional, utilitarian aspects. The sound of the organ must not be such as to draw one's attention to itself and away from the movement of the music. Its components must not in themselves possess such individuality as to render the tone of the instrument incapable of yielding to shaping by the musical line. The sound must possess an articulate speech and a transparency that makes it the perfect medium through which to see the musical thought. It is this idea of functional utility which shaped the Werk-principle concept from its very beginning, that gave the organ its integrity as a collection of related but independently developed keyboard entities. So far as the organ is concerned, the Romantics forgot that music is a living art and not a frozen image in sound. As a result, the organ died.

The tonal daring awakened by the work of Silbermann caused the traditional division of the flue stops into wide and narrow groups and of the reeds into families according to the tapered or cylindrical shape of the resonator to be abandoned gradually. Scales narrower than those at the time known as narrow, and wider than the accepted limits of width, and everything in between, were experimented with. The placing of the component parts of the organ all in one case reflected a change in concept in which the division as such eventually lost much of its individual meaning as it became integrated into the ensemble of the instrument as a whole.

Since the Silbermann organs still reflected some of the Werkprinciple traditions, it is not easy to see the harm in the other concepts they developed from the Casparini ideal, but in turning to the disposition of the large organ Johann Gottfried Hildebrand built for St. Michael's in Hamburg in 1768 - ITEM 49 - the seeds of decay already germinating be seen more readily. Although the Hauptwerk is clearly established as a 16' division, the pitch level, and indeed the complete tonal structure of the Oberwerk and Brustwerk, are virtually indistinguishable one from the other. Since we can assume that they were probably not conceived to be identical in effect, the main means of contrast left to the builder is that of contrast in volume level. Each manual division has a 16' flue stop: four 8' stops, two 4' stops, one 2 2/3' stop and one 2' stop. Each also has a tierce represented in some fashion, the Hauptwerk in a Cornet, the Oberwerk in an Echo-Cornett and the Brustwerk has an independent Terz. We also see a bona fide string in the Hauptwerk, a céleste in the Oberwerk, and a genuine attempt to imitate an orchestral-type flute in the Brustwerk.

Tonally, things developed rapidly in this direction and less than 30 years later, in 1792, Johan Nepomuk Holzhey built an organ in the Monastery in Neresheim at Ulm - ITEM 50 - which had definitely passed into the Romantic era. Indeed, it was not far from orchestral. The Hauptwerk, Manual I, still had a complete development and in the choice of reeds showed a slight French flavor. We note the number of 8' stops now increased to five on the Hauptwerk, and to six on the Positiv, although there is only one 2' stop on each division. Note also the divisions are now given numbers and are no longer called by the traditional Werk-principle names. Manual III has no Principal of any description, the Fugara being more nearly a string. The Pedal has no upperwork and there is only one separate mutation stop. The Clarinet in Manual II is the first use of this name seen in our German examples. This is true also for the Hoboi.

And now by way of adding a little comic relief, let us look briefly at the efforts of the first of a rather extensive list of 19th Century organ consultants. Abbé George Joseph Vogler who W. L. Sumner described as a “Virtuoso on the organ, composer of music in many forms, acoustician, writer, traveller, inventor, theoretician, priest and teacher”, was among the first to become aware of what are called difference tones, sounds, created because of the non-linearity of the ear when two or more tones of different but harmonically related pitches are sounded together. This is the phenomenon which causes the effect of the 32' resultant or acoustic bass. It is fortunate for the organ world that Vogler was such a busy fellow in so many fields, for if he had turned his efforts to organ building exclusively we shudder in thinking of what might have happened. He worked out a system for the “simplification” of the organ and made a series of proposals to “reduce the cost of organ building”. Again quoting from W. L. Sumner:

“His chief proposals for the simplification of organs were: 1. To limit the number of large, expensive pipes; 2. To use free (harmonium type) reeds instead of reed pipes; 3. To arrange pipes in a semitonal order on the chests and not in the usual symmetrical manner; 4. To cut down the number of multi-rank mixtures.”
He actually managed to get his ideas tried out and he built an organ or two himself. Shortly after 1800, a “fine” instrument was built in the parish church of St. Peter in München - ITEM 51 - according to his ideas. We can all give thanks that his ideas had no immediate acceptance.

However, the 19th Century had many theoreticians who devoted themselves to the “scientific” systematization of organ building practice but most of these were more interested in methods of reckoning scaling progressions and in chest design and voicing techniques than in matters of tonal design. Johann Gottlob Töpfer, the state organist at Weimar, was perhaps the chief among these, and he undoubtedly made many worthwhile contributions. His writings ranged over a 50-year period in the middle of the century and accurately chronicled organ building as practised by the leading German builders of the time such as the Schulzes, Eberhard Friedrich Walcker, Friedrich Ladegast, and Wilhelm Sauer. He was a strong advocate of mathematically correct and regular scaling progressions for all types and classes of pipe construction and for all of the component pipe parts.

By the year 1883, tonal degeneration had set in for fair. In that year, Ladegast built an organ in St. Andreas Kirche in Braunschweig - ITEM 52 - in which Klavier I still presented a well developed 16' Principal family and upperwork, while the other divisions showed an elementary orchestral plan. In Manual II, the 8' Geigenprincipal and 8' Viola are complemented at the 4' level by a Fugara and the 8' Rohrflöte and 8' Flûte Harmonique, by a 4' Flautminor. Note the eclectic use of French and Italian for naming stops in a German organ. In Manual III, the Schwellklavier, we find Salicionals at 8' and 4' and, with a Viola d'Amour, a Flaut Amabile and a Harmonic Aetheria, the stop-list reads more like a poem than a tonal design. Here we see the Principal family, which only a hundred years before was considered the narrowest of stop groups, now regarded as wide scaled and divisions II and III are scaled progressively narrower, II having the mid-range and III by this time composed fundamentally of a real family of strings. The absence of a céleste from this stop-list is somewhat strange considering the size of the instrument.

The organ Wilhelm Sauer built for Peterskirche, Leipzig, in 1889 - ITEM 53 - shows a little less nonsense design-wise. Both the Hauptwerk and Positiv have a Principal group developed through the Mixtures - Hauptwerk at 16', Positiv at 8'. However, each of the three manual divisions has two 16' stops and five 8' stops and a Quint at 2 2/3'. Each has among its 8' ranks one Principal, one open Flute, one stopped Flute, one string, and one soft stop. Strangely, the greatest contrast in color, or at any rate in construction, seems to have been on the softest level. We see here the arrival of the Aeoline (without which, I was told not so long ago, no organ is suitable for church use.) It is safe to say that the céleste is present in all but the smallest organs from this point on.

The situation got rapidly worse. As testimony to this, look at the disposition of the organ of 1895 for Peterskirche, Frankfurt on Main - ITEM 54. In spite of a disproportionate number of 8' stops, Manual I still has a well developed Principal group and a Mixture, but the other two divisions no longer have anything above 2', and notice the high pressure solo Flute and string in the Schwellwerk.

Things got still worse. In his book “Architekt und Orgelbau”, Walter Supper gives a disposition of 1909 from an unnamed church in Berlin by an unnamed builder - ITEM 55 - which I wish we could say beats anything we ever saw in America for decadence, but it does not. Witness ITEM 56, the 1915 specification of an instrument from somewhere in Ohio, again an unnamed church and builder. Other than to say that it is unbelievable to me that this latter was still in use as recently as the year 1963, I think there is no need to discuss either of these instruments.


The decline of the organ in Germany had its parallel in France during the 19th Century. We left our investigation of the 18th Century developments with the François Clicquot organ of 1781 - ITEM 26 - in St-Sulpice, Paris. You will remember that there was no change in the basic concept of the organ in France during this century. All the tonal features present in the organ at the close of the 17th Century were still present in the designs of the end of the 18th Century, but the clarity of the design pattern had been confused by the duplicating of stops and overlapping of the divisional functions. The great scribe of late 18th Century organ building practice in France, Dom Bédos de Celles, gave his blessing to, and indeed encouraged, these redundancies which destroyed the purity of the French tradition. Although the trend continued in the same direction, little of importance happened on the French scene until the advent of the first major instrument by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. This was for St-Denis in Paris, in 1841 - ITEM 57. Comparing this stop-list with that of the St-Sulpice Clicquot - ITEM 26 - shows the degree of departure of the Cavaillé-Coll conception from the basic French concept which was at that time of some two hundred years standing. Note the disappearance from the Grand Orgue of not only the Tierce, which had been a feature of French Grands Orgue since the 1' Flageolet in the Langhedul organ for St-Gervais was replaced by a stop at 1 3/5' pitch in the 1620s, but also the disappearance of the Cornet which was already a feature of the Grand Orgue of the Barbier organ at Gisors in 1580 - ITEM 19. About the only remnants of the Classical tradition are the Nasards in each division, the sole surviving Tierce in the Positif, the Fournitures and Cymbales of the Positif and Grand Orgue and the Cromorne in the Positif. We might suppose the absence of a 16' reed on the Grand Orgue was also a traditional symbol. However, all of the points of confusion introduced toward the end of the 18th Century were present in the St. Denis instrument. Some were multiplied several fold. The idea of doubling the reeds within the Grand Orgue and Pédale was now carried into the Bombarde division. Every division was well equipped with Trompettes at 8' and 4' pitch. Except for the Salicional and Hautbois on the Positif and the “Basson et Cor Anglais” on the Grand Orgue, the presence of Harmonic Flutes everywhere, and the enclosure of the Récit, we cannot say that orchestral tendencies were very strongly developed at this stage. However, this was the first organ to which Cavaillé-Coll had successfully applied a Barker lever pneumatic stack, and the fact that all divisions could be coupled to the Grand Orgue and Pédale clearly indicates that the Romantic French conception of the symphonic full organ as all stops drawn with all divisions coupled had already been born.

In 1862, Cavaillé-Coll performed what was called a reconstruction of the Clicquot organ of 1781 at St. Sulpice - ITEM 58. However, what he left there except for the abundance of reeds certainly bore very little resemblance to the original instrument. For the first time in well over 200 years, we see a large French organ without a Cromorne in the Positif. The placing of this stop in the enclosed Récit, as well as the very large size of the Récit, is an unmistakable sign of growing orchestral “expressionism”. Also, here for the first time we see a French Positif without a 4' Prestant. This is the first organ in which we have seen 16', 8' and 4' reeds in every division. There are no less than ten ranks of strings, two celestes and at least eight Harmonic Flutes - two on each manual. The two octavins may also be harmonic. Four 16' and seven 8' stops in the same division seems somewhat excessive, even for the largest organ in France. The most peculiar and indeed the most disturbing thing about this organ is the separation of the Grand Orgue at the 4' level into two sections played from two keyboards. For the first time, we see a coupler playing an indispensable part in the planning of a tonal design. In spite of the magnificence of the sound of the organ, this particular feature marks it as absolute rock bottom from a dispositional point of view.

This design was considerably improved upon in the Cavaillé-Coll instrument built in 1868 for Notre Dame de Paris - ITEM 59. Here the Grand Choeur and Grand Orgue at least have logical compositions, although the separation of the Mixtures from the major reeds of the Grand Orgue does not look very intelligent on paper. But once one has heard these particular reeds, it becomes clear that they have no respect at all for Mixtures. However, making the full ensemble of the Grand Orgue dependent upon a coupler can be justified only by very special economic circumstances which certainly did not exist in this case. Still, the design of this instrument is on several ways an improvement over those for St-Denis and St-Sulpice. It has a definite pattern that reveals itself easily. Each division is complete except the Grand Orgue, as already noted. There are fewer strings and Harmonic Flutes. It is a little difficult, in light of French tradition, to accept a mutation-less Positif. Note that, in spite of the large size of this instrument, it still has only two célestes and one enclosed division. The only Cavaillé-Coll insruments that had more that one enclosure were built for concert halls or salons. On the strength of this, we can say that the greatest Romantic of them all did not consider an instrument with more the one “expressive” division appropriate for church use.

For sake of completeness, we will examine next two of Cavaillé-Coll's smaller instruments. The church of the Madeleine in Paris has had Saint-Saens, Dubois, Fauré, Boulanger and Dallier as its organists. The four-manual instrument Cavaillé-Coll built there in 1846 - ITEM 60 - shows many of the same features that we have seen in the larger instruments. This one seems to have more than its fair share of Harmonic Flutes, considering its size. Note the Voix Celeste is not enclosed and the Grand Orgue does not have a 16' or 4' reed. There are no mutations, no Cornets and only the Grand Orgue has a Mixture, a Plein Jeu of ten ranks. Here again, the full ensemble of the organ is absolutely dependent upon the use of at least one coupler since the major reed chorus is on the Bombarde. It would appear that in spite of his pretentions, Cavaillé-Coll's notion of an organ was really basically oriented to a three-manual concept for when he goes beyond three divisions, he always divides the Grand Orgue, in effect at least.

The three-manual Cavaillé-Coll at Ste-Clothilde in Paris, where César Franck and Charles Tournemire have presided - ITEM 61 - has a complete set of reeds on the Grand Orgue. The only mutations are 2 2/3' Quints of the Grand Orgue and Positif, and the Plein Jeu of the Grand Orgue is the only Mixture. The organ has 45 stops, one-ninth of which are strings, another ninth Harmonic Flutes and two-ninths chorus reeds. To me it is amazing that César Franck could have had this instrument in mind when he wrote the three chorals. They certainly represent a much higher standard in musical composition than the plan of this instrument represents as an example of tonal design. It would be next to impossible to play any of the traditional French literature on this instrument.

There is no point in pursuing the design of the French Romantic organ into the 20th Century. Although the quality grew steadily worse, the tonal scheme did not pass much below the standard of the two stoplists we have just examined. The smaller instruments had less reeds and less upperwork, but were otherwise along the same lines.


Let us now turn to the problem of tonal design for today. Since we have just discussed Cavaillé-Coll, why not begin by outlining some of the things we think we might have done had we been in his place and if we had been really concerned with preserving the integrity of the organ as a unique keyboard instrument. First, we must set a few ground rules. We must keep the Romantic literature in mind, but we must rule out all that is purely orchestral in nature, and we must reach beyond the literature and attempt to capture the essence of Romanticism in its best sense. Since, for the moment, it is the French picture we are trying to revise and set straight in our own thinking, we must stay within a French context and we must not turn our backs on the French Classical heritage. We, therefore, will say that any French Romantic scheme should play French music of all periods omitting only that which is of the more purely orchestral type. We should also keep in mind that it was the confessed opinion of the French Romantics that every organ should play Bach well.

Before going further, let me say that I believe most emphatically that no organ, for whatever imagined reasons, should ever be built today employing voicing techniques other than those producing articulate speech and maximum transparency of tone. Therefore, it should be understood in all that follows that the voicing is to be carried out with the lowest possible wind pressure, the absolute minimum of nicking and the largest possible opening in the toe of the pipe, consistent with the most effective results within the circumstances of each project.

ITEM 62 is a design for an instrument in a modern manner, which makes an attempt to incorporate not only the salient features of both traditional and Romantic French tonal schemes, but to capture the spirit of the two concepts as well. Notice that, while this disposition has several of the prime Romantic mannerisms, that is to say, several of the prime Cavaillé-Coll mannerisms such as Harmonic Flutes, complete reed chorus on the Grand Orgue and Récit, 8' foundation tone on each manual, a 16' stop on each manual, a string in the Positif, and an Hautbois in the Récit, it also has some of the important requirements of the French Classical tradition, which were not always present in Cavaillé-Coll organs of this size. These include a Cornet on the Grand Orgue, complete mutations and a Cromorne in the Positif, and a separate Fourniture and Cymbale in both Grand Orgue and Positif. There are also a few overlapping features, such as 8' and 4' reeds in the Grand Orgue, an 8' Trompette in both Récit and Pédale and the Voix Humaine, although traditionally this stop should be on the Grand Orgue. Although the presence of a comparatively complete Pédale suggests Cavaillé-Coll more than traditional French usage, the use of Principal tone and stopped Flutes rather than the large scaled open Flutes used in France over a period of more than 300 years, as well as the presence of the Fourniture, are modern corrections aimed at making the instrument more useful in polyphonic playing. The completion of the Récit through Mixtures is also a modern innovation for as we have seen in ITEMS 60 and 61, even the organs of 45 to 50 stops by Cavaillé-Coll did not have particularly well equipped Récits. The reason for insisting on the completeness of the Récit in this minimum-size Romantic design is not just to carry out a theoretical scheme. Actually, except for the chorals and perhaps three or four other pieces by César Franck, and maybe a half a dozen “lollipops” by Louis Vierne, there is virtually no literature for small Romantic organs that people of good taste, even Romantic good taste, would want to play or listen to. An instrument such as that in Ste-Clothilde might be considered a small organ by Romantic standards. The bulk of the playable Romantic literature was conceived for large organs, specifically those in St-Sulpice, Notre-Dame or the Trocadero. All of these had very complete Récits. Therefore, even the minimum instrument conceived to play this repertoire must have a well equipped Récit, one at least as complete as the Grand Orgue and Positif. We shall not go into the matter of this music's not having been written for church use, since there are still many situations in America where this is not even of the slightest consequence. Thus, we arrive at the conclusion that if an instrument is to fill the requirement for a modern instrument in a comprehensive French style, it cannot be much smaller than 56 stops. It seems unnecessary to add that the instrument must be situated in a really reverberant room, for even the best of the Romantic music is unbearable under dry acoustical conditions.

ITEM 63 is a continuation and expansion of the same general design as that just outlined. As a further step in the direction of completing the traditional requirements, this Récit has a Cornet. As a concession to the late developments of the 18th Century, when we must admit some very fine music was still being written, and as a step toward the completion of the Cavaillé-Coll three-manual plan, we have added a Trompette and Clairon to the Positif, but I simply cannot bring myself to add a Harmonic Flute to this division. The Voix Humaine is still in the Récit where it is required by Romantic practice instead of on the Grand Orgue where traditional practice requires it to be along with a separate Nazard and Tierce, which we have also omitted from this scheme. However, we now have a string in every division, including the Pédale, and we have that second Céleste without which so many Americans still believe a stoplist cannot even begin. The chief features branding this as a modern design are the very complete Pédale, the comparative efficiency of the plan and the exclusion of outright orchestral effects. Note that, while there is a considerable amount of redundancy, this is kept well below the level common to the 19th Century French conceptions.

ITEM 64 is a scheme conceived for what in more poetic times would have been called a church edifice of the first magnitude. To me, it summarizes whatever there may have been in French Romantic practice worth recalling, and it does so in a manner completely consistent in an evolutionary and historical sense, Also, inasmuch as in their more monumental forms German and French 19th-Century organ building more closely approached a common concept, this design may be thought of as a summary of the best elements of a universal Romanticism. Although it will play all the literature, it is really, like any of the great statements in organ building, an instrument without a literature of its own. It takes a step beyond what exists and waits for someone to accept the challenge it offers. It was created for a situation where I felt there was such a person, one capable of meeting the boldness of the tonal design with a musical creativity of real stature, but unfortunately those who advised the authority in charge were not equal to the challenge, and so I must look for another home for this idea.

The design is logical and consistent with points we have already discussed and, while these points have every-day application, the design as a whole certainly does not, so I will not take the time to discuss its details other than to indicate the composition of the three compound harmonic stops for those who may be interested. The Harmoniques VIII of the Grand Choeur consist of all of the pitches of the 16' series beginning with 5 1/3' but omitting the 4', thus the top rank begins at 1 5/11' pitch, or a sharp F above middle C on an 8' rank. The Harmoniques VIII of the Bombarde consist of all of the pitches of the 8' series, beginning at 2', and thus the top rank is one octave above that in the Grand Choeur, or 8/11'. The Harmoniques Graves VI in the Pedal are similar to those of the Grand Choeur, except that the 2' is to be omitted so the top rank is at 1 3/5'.

ITEM 65 is a disposition in the traditional French manner, with a modern Pedal. Although it is only 38 stops, it will handle at least three centuries worth of French Classical literature with ease. It was designed as a proposal for a church in Canada, where there is great interest in the French Classical tradition. The plan required a comprehensive instrument for a minimum cost that would also handle Bach without undue apology. This latter requirement was especially provided for in the design of the manual Mixtures, which are about an octave higher than in traditional French practice, and in the addition of a Mixture to the Pedal - something not required in the French practice of any period. Of course, the disposition could be expanded without harm to the integrity of the concept, by the addition of an Echo division with a very small scaled Cornet divisé and a Cromorne and/or Voix Humaine, by the addition of a Bombarde division with a complete set of Trompettes at 16', 8' and 4', by the addition of an 8' and a 4' Flute to the Pedal, and by the addition of a Cymbale to the Positif. However, the expense of these additions would be quite disproportionate to the amount of breadth they would add to the instrument, so far as coverage of the existing literature is concerned. The type of additions which are not permissible are those which do not expand the scope of the instrument at all but only contribute to the breakdown of clarity of the concept. We discussed this sort of thing in connection with the three 18th-century Paris instruments, the Thierry for the Notre-Dame and the Clicquots for St-Sulpice and St-Gervais. Typical of additions of this harmful sort would be the placing of Trompettes or a Cornet on the Positif, or the placing of a Cromorne on the Grand Orgue.

The French Classical literature is played by so few organists in America and played well by such an even smaller number that I am sure many of you are wondering why I have devoted so much space to it. One reason is that it was necessary to trace the development of the traditional instrument in order to show how the decline toward Romanticism took place. But, aside from that, the ceaseless efforts on behalf of the literature and its traditions by my good friend, the late Dr. Melville Smith, awakened my interest in the traditions of French organ building many years ago and my interest has been further heightened by the challenge of providing suitable instruments to meet the needs of the organ renaissance in the Province of Quebec, where my activity is now centered. There are many fine young organists in the Province and, although their repertoires are very broad, they naturally play more of the French Classical literature than can be heard anywhere outside of France. In particular, I have been much impressed with the excellent playing of the Montreal group known as the “Ars Organi”. Their playing, as well as that of Dr. Smith, plus my experiencing this music played on comparatively unaltered historical instruments in France, has made me realize that we are missing much in America by not being better acquainted with this tradition. While I do not agree with Dr. Smith that we play too much Bach in America, since for me too much Bach is impossible, I certainly agree that we play too little of the Classical French literature. However, before we can do much to correct this lack in our culture, we must have appropriate instruments, for no portion of the organ's vast literature is so meaningless away from its proper vehicles. It is to further this end, therefore, that I have made a special effort to outline the features of traditional French tonal design.

We turn now to that area of tonal design in which I must admit primary interest and in which a greater number of North Americans are becoming interested each year - the construction of modern polyphonic organs according to the inviolable traditional principles as evidenced in the work of the great Masters of the Art. This inevitably means a tonal design worked out in accordance with a practice known today as the Werk principle, a practice which, as we have seen in our earlier discussions, matured in North Germany during a period of about four decades centered around 1700. To review, the chief considerations of this type of tonal structure are: the integrity of the individual division through a complete development within itself, and the development of maximum tonal contrast between the divisions of the organ within a logical and carefully integrated overall scheme.

Before going on to examine the examples prepared to illustrate this principle at work giving shape to a modern tonal scheme, we should define the words “complete” and “contrast” as they apply in this context, for we are now dealing with a type of formal organ building which, like sonata allegro form, developed to maturity long before the rules were recorded, but for which, unlike the various traditional musical forms, the rules are still not clearly set down anywhere. “Complete”, in the Werk-principle sense, refers to a composition of the individual division in which there is a representative distribution of both Flute and Principal tone with a suitable development of upperwork and in which, as the scheme expands, reeds are added. In this concept, the development is always vertical. For example: if there are two Flutes in a division, they will be separated in pitch by at least one octave, if there are two stops of Principal tone, they will be separated by not more than one octave and the lower pitched rank will always be called the “Principal”. Duplications of a tone group, at the same pitch in the same division, are not permitted. This vertical logic differs fundamentally with the horizontal development of the typical Romantic tonal scheme and from a purely tonal design point of view this is perhaps the most basic difference between the two approaches. “Contrast”, in the Werk-principle sense, as it applies to the relationship between divisions, refers primarily to the differentiation in the pitch between the divisions as indicated by the pitch and relative scaling of the Principal in each division and its complement of upper-work. For example: in a three-manual tonal structure, if the Principal of the chief division is at 8', then the Principals of the other divisions will be at 4' and 2'; the Mixtures for the three divisions will be Mixtur, Scharf and Zimbel respectively and there will, of course, be suitable development in between; the scaling will be progressively small from division to division, all being reckoned from the scale chosen for the 8' Principal. Where reeds are concerned, the Werk-principle ideal is primarily contrast in kind rather than contrast in pitch or contrast by omission. For example: if a Trompete is introduced in the Hauptwerk, there will usually be a reed elsewhere of a different type of construction, perhaps a Krummhorn, or a Regal.

ITEM 66 represents just about the smallest two-manual design that is economically practical and still musically useful. The 2' Prinzipal of Manual I not only represents the Principal family on Manual I, it also in effect provides the upper-work. Because of the small size, we compromise a bit with the ideal on Manual II and omit Principal tone as such. The choice between a Zimbel and a Sifflöte would be dictated by use and personal taste. For purely accompanimental purposes, the Pedal Choralbass could be omitted but the scope of the instrument is so greatly increased by this solo voice that it really becomes a necessity in a minimum instrument. How useful such an organ would be for a church would depend entirely upon the circumstances, but in the right situation, it could serve a congregation of up to about 250. As a practice instrument, it would be very successful, and it would also serve well as a continuo instrument or in solo use with a small ensemble.

ITEM 67 is just about the smallest instrument that can make any pretense at being complete. It shows perhaps better than some of the larger examples just what we mean by a vertically-developed tonal scheme, since each stop within a division is at a different pitch. This would be an ideal instrument for a church of between 150 and 350 seats. It would also serve well as a teaching instrument since it embodies the basic features of good tonal design and thus would serve well to develop the basic principles of registration. Of course, the Pedal is still just about the bare minimum with one bass stop and one solo stop.

ITEM 68 represents the ideal scheme of the previous example carried through to completion. Each division is now complete with its own Principal, upper-work and reed, and there is also a good complement of Flute tone in the manual divisions. The Hauptwerk is a 4' division and the Brustwerk is a 2' division, as in ITEM 67, but now we have the beginnings of an 8' Pedal and the werk-principle ideal is really beginning to take shape. Note also the three contrasting reeds. In such a small instrument, some might prefer a Sesquialtera on the Brustwerk to the Fagott in the Pedal. Certainly, the next stop to be added would be a Sesquialtera. An instrument of this general type and size would serve a congregation of 400 to 500.

ITEM 69, a 23-stop design, shows the two-manual Werk principle nearing completion. The Hauptwerk is at 8' pitch and we now have a 4' Flute and a 16' Quintaden, so that all that is missing to round out this division is a 2 2/3' Quint and a 2' octave. The Brustwerk, with the addition of the Sesquialtera and the Sifflöte, is now completed as a 2' conception, so in the next example, for illustrative purposes, we abandoned this for a 4' division. To complete the Werk-principle ideal in the Pedal, the Principal should be at 16' since that of the Hauptwerk is at 8', but this instrument is still a small conception and, with the second manual division at 2', the 8' Pedal is not inconsistent with traditional practice. Note the Pedal Mixture is at 2', which is the preferred pitch for a 16' Pedal division. Note also that the 8' Trompete of the Pedal has been left out in favor of the 4' Schalmei which is infinitely more useful because of its solo possibilities for the cantus firmus in choral preludes. We have already seen that Schnitger often passed over both the 8' and 4' reeds in the Pedal in favor of the 2' Kornett, a solo effect much preferred in his time. If we were to add all of the stops we have discussed, a 2 2/3' and 2' to the Hauptwerk and a 16' Principal and two reeds to the Pedal, we would have a completely filled out two-manual and Pedal ideal Werk-principle scheme with 28 stops.

ITEM 70 is a two-manual scheme which is somewhat more than complete. Indeed, I would say it represents just about the ultimate in a two-manual design and could easily meet the requirements of a congregation of up to about 1,000 if properly placed in a good acoustical environment. Since it is the strict fulfillment of the ideas we have already discussed, there is no need to go into it more deeply. However, for those who may not know, the Terzian 4/5' in the Positiv is the upward inversion of the Sesquialtera and is, therefore, in the major position of its range, a 1 3/5' topped by a 1 1/3', but, in its best form, it usually breaks or repeats twice in the tenor and bass, thus the 4/5' pitch indicated in the stop-list.

ITEM 71, a three-manual design of 23 stops, is the smallest conceivable three-manual scheme that presents a complete Werk-principle design in each division and in the instrument as a whole. All the design requirements we have mentioned are included here. Although this instrument could conceivably serve a church congregation of exquisite taste very well, it would be most useful as a studio or teaching instrument, or as a recital instrument in a small concert room.

ITEM 72, a three-manual design of 32 stops, represents, in a three-manual scheme, about the same degree of completeness as did ITEM 69 in a two-manual arrangement. Note the pitch of the Principal and the pitch and name of the Mixture in each manual division.

ITEM 73 is a completed three-manual design of 44 stops. This leaves virtually nothing to be desired. It would take a very active imagination indeed to add to this scheme without committing a redundancy, a superfluity, or an inconsistency. The next step in expanding this conception would be a four-manual design. To take this step without disturbing the Werk principle would really mean moving the pitch of the Hauptwerk to 16' and then the Pedal to 32'. This would make room for a secondary division at 8' pitch. Several possibilities would then be open. One scheme would be 32' Pedal, 16' Hauptwerk, 8' Rückpositiv, 4' Oberwerk and 2' Brustwerk. Another possibility would be to leave the general scheme as outlined in ITEM 73, but add an expressive Oberwerk or Schwellwerk where it might also be possible to add a mild Céleste of some description, but, now we are getting into Americanisms which are probably best resolved in another manner.

We turn now to a brief discussion of a much younger tonal tradition than those we have been considering. ITEM 74 is the specification of the first instrument, the prototype, of the type of tonal design that since its inception in the early 1930s has been referred to as “American Classic”. In this stop-list, we see many influences, most of them decadent or indicative of a tendency toward decline in their original use, and some of them inherited from the American organ of the 1920s. I have far too much respect for those who created this particular instrument to pick it apart point by point, but I would like to point out what I consider to be the chief faults of the tonal design philosophy it represents. First of all, it is quite obvious that the design places a great deal of stress on coupling for the composition of the full ensemble. There are no reeds on the Great. The primary reed chorus is in the Swell, and there is a climactic reed on high pressure in the Choir. Thus, full organ consists of the full Principals and Mixtures of the Great, plus the full Principals, Mixtures and reeds of the Swell, plus the Trompette Harmonique of the Choir, all coupled together.

My second point of criticism is that of the pitches of the Mixtures which, except for the Great Cymbal, are all too low to produce the clarity they are supposed to. They are all of the power-creating type as developed first in the late Classical French instrument and brought to their full maturity by Edmund Schulze, whose work in England in the latter half of the 19th Century had such a lasting effect upon English organ building. Although this type of Mixture produces a glorious sounding ensemble, it is not a functional sound. Although it has brilliance, it is thick and opaque, frankly, Romantic. Add to this an overall design that is more passionate than rational, and the term “classic” is in no sense applicable.

The last three items on the list are designs of a type which I nominate as giving real meaning to the term “American Classic”. They are American in that they were designed to meet specific needs of specific American churches, needs existing nowhere else in the world. Indeed, these designs meet these requirements so specifically that they would not be acceptable anywhere outside of North America. Yet, each of these designs has a traditional Classic Werk-principle scheme consisting of two manual divisions and a Pedal as its nucleus. Each instrument would still be complete and capable of handling the bulk of the traditional literature even if the enclosed divisions were entirely omitted. Thus, they are essentially Classic in concept.

The first of these instruments- ITEM 75 - was designed for a church without a choir and where its chief use, other than providing a medium for high-quality performances of the finest of the organ literature, is in the accompanying of a soloist and the hearty singing of the large congregation. The design of the Great, Positiv and Pedal is in accord with the best Werk-principle ideals, even though the Positiv has been “jazzed up” a bit by the addition of a Céleste. The Swell combines two functions, that of a typical accompanimental division and that of a traditional 2' division such as is normal to a Brustwerk. The traditional portion consists of the 8' Quintadena, 4' Nachthorn, 2' Principal, 1 1/3' Quintflöte, Sesquialtera, Zimbel and 4' Regal, but these are scaled and voiced so as to serve well in filling out the ensemble of the division for full Swell effects when required. We might say that this division adds Franck and Brahms to the Classic repertoire.

ITEM 76 is an instrument designed for the choir gallery of a new Presbyterian church in contemporary style. This church has an elaborate choir program and accompanying the various choirs is a major part of the work for this instrument. The plan is quite clear, so there is no need to analyze it carefully. My only regret in this design is that funds were not available to provide the Great and Positiv with a more extensive development of their upper-work.

ITEM 77 is a design for the chancel of a large Methodist church. Here, the Great, Positiv and Pedal are completely developed and would stand very well on their own. The Swell and Choir are equally well developed along their respective lines. All of this is carried out with a minimum of redundancy. Thus, we see that the American classic tonal design does not really come into its own as a complete concept until the number of stops passes 60. Note that the Mixture of the Swell starts at rather low pitch compared with those in some of my other schemes, but note also it has seven ranks, thus it is really working like a French Plein Jeu, combining the range of both a Mixture and a Scharf. Also, the Oboe is not in the usual Swell position, but is placed as part of the Choir reed chorus. The Choir Kleinmixtur is composed of three ranks.


There are some who call themselves “modern” who will argue that a return to past practices limits the growth of the field and reduces organ building to a dead art. While in nearly every branch of the now virtually universal organ movement one meets a certain element that seems to have little other than an antiquarian interest in the great literature and instruments of the past, on the highest level, development has been in the hands of devoted workers who have maintained the artistic integrity of the organ as a truly living thing, accepting the great traditions of the past as a body of principles upon which to build instruments truly of today and not simply slavish copies or resurrections from the past. The so-called modern who disrupts the flow of tradition in our art with his tangential experiments leaves us without a frame of reference and thus produces only absurdities. Rational creativity formed and disciplined by a deep background in the origins and traditions of the organ will rapidly bring organ building in America to the point where we need no longer look longingly across the sea!