In developing a tonal scheme for the performance of either the German or French Classical literature,
the location of the traditional stops within the scheme is as important as the actual choice of stops. In
other words, “where” becomes as important as “what”.
The organ is essentially a polyphonic keyboard instrument. Therefore, the requirements of the North
German polyphonic literature must be of primary concern in shaping the tonal resources of any
instrument. Of course, the foundation of the design is a well developed principal chorus on each of two
or three manual divisions with an equally well developed pedal division. Each of the several choruses,
with its complement of flute and reed stops, must be complete enough to stand alone with integrity in
the scheme, and the contrast between the various divisions must be well established in respect to pitch,
tonal color and dynamic level. This is best accomplished by the method known as the “Werkprinzip”
which emerged in North Europe in the work of the Master builders of the 17th century. Each division
of the organ thus has a different basic pitch, Hauptwerk 16' or 8', Positiv an octave higher, and the
third division an octave higher than the Positiv, etc., and the tonal composition of the instrument is
reflected in its physical arrangement and clearly visible in the visual design.
Compromise with traditional placement of the stops and divisions should be made with great caution
if the requirements of the literature are to be met effectively. For example, a secondary chorus placed
under expression is not really an adequate substitute for a proper Positiv in filling the expectations of
the polyphonic repertoire.
Once the polyphonic requirements have been fully realized in the tonal structure, those special
features demanded by the French Classical literature can be considered. It is in designing for this
important body of organ music that the location of the various timbres becomes especially important, in
order that the overall scale, perspective and shape of these works be preserved in present day
performances. It is impossible to begin to create anything like the tonal perspective required for the
French literature with the only Cornet or Trompette located in the swell box, or when the only Cornet
effect must be obtained from the Positiv mutations, as is so common in North American instruments.
Therefore, when it is required to do justice to this extraordinarily colorful music, I place all of the basic
stops of the French tradition in the positions this tradition requires. When this has been worked out,
and incorporated into the basic Werkprinzip design, we need only work out suitable compositions for
the mixtures, resolve to use classical voicing techniques for all flue and reed stops, and to keep the wind
pressure as low as possible, short of being ineffective; the clarity and transparency of texture required
for the German polyphonic music, plus the timbres and disposition essential to the French school, is
then guaranteed. Once an instrument has been built in this manner, one need only select his
registration according to the traditions dictated by choice of music, and the organ does the rest.
Two interesting secondary effects result from this way of working. Instruments of this type do not
suffer so much in a reasonably dry acoustical environment, although they cannot survive in a really
dead situation any better than any other organ. And, this type of tonal design and scaling produces an
ensemble that serves most of the major romantic works so well that, when listening to this music played
on it, we are likely to forget the essentially classical inspiration of the instrument,”
the general nature of this organ, Mr. Phelps has this to say:
During the meetings with Mr. Charles Rathgeb which I was privileged to have during the early
stages of planning the new Deer Park United Church instrument, I was impressed with his frequently
emphasised concern that this organ should be not only a fitting memorial to his wife, Eileen, and a
useful and beautiful adornment of his church, but also a contribution to and enrichment of the musical
life of the City of Toronto.
His interest in his munificent gift by no means ended with the expression of it; rather, he had taken
great pains before the final decision was made, to acquaint himself intimately with the modern organ, to
listen to a considerable number of different Instruments, and generally to seek to make his decision on
as well-informed basis as was possible.
It was his express wish, for example, that the organ be a mechanical-action instrument, and he was
well aware of the completeness of the tradition which he was adopting in stipulating this - its
encasement, its effective placement and so on - and the enormously varied possibilities for music-
making of the highest and most diverse order, of which an organ of this concept is capable.
His forward looking attitude made collaboration with him a privilege and doubly a pleasure, and it is
my hope that the instrument will in fact be used in as many ways as this generous-hearted and far-seeing
man so much wanted.
For my part, I have made every effort to produce an organ which, reflecting Mr. Rathgeb's own
achievements, as well as his hopes concerning this particular project, represents the highest “state of
the art” at this time.
Our new instrument for Toronto is actually a new type of organ, being one of a series that will be
culminated in a 73-stop instrument to be completed in about 18 months in a large church in Southern
New England. Because it really makes no attempt to imitate anything from a former period but the
effectiveness of the old instruments in accomplishing their purpose, it should not be compared with
previous instruments except in the actual performance of music. Nevertheless, because the existing
literature and registrational traditions require that the stops and the divisions of the organ be named
and composed according to certain time-honored standards, comparing the composition of this
instrument with older and historical instruments and practices is probably inevitable. So, the use of
German nomenclature in this organ will trigger a predictable series of reactions. Careful scrutiny of
the Hauptwerk, Oberwerk and Pedal will reveal that, so far as the stoplist is concerned, the
compromises with the North German “Werkprinzip” brought about by accommodating to the requirements
of good French practice are minor. For example, the Sesquialtera is placed in the Schwellwerk and the
Positiv (Oberwerk) has a full complement of independent mutations. The Schwellwerk combines to
some extent the typical offices of the German Brustwerk and the French Classical Recit. A minor
compromise with classical practice is the addition of a pair of string stops - an essential element in the
romantic Recit and the English Swell. The classical Recit and Brustwerk were mainly solo sections and
the Schwellwerk certainly preserves this tradition. The choice of reeds is perhaps a little
unconventional. The “expressive shutters” with which the Schwellwerk is fitted are truly a romantic
concession if they are used for the usual so called expressive effects, but when used either fully opened
or fully closed, they enable this division to serve a dual role, substituting also as a completely enclosed
Echo - a cherished French Classical feature. The French Echo was a solo division like the Recit and
often duplicated the sounds of the Recit. Thus, even this feature, normally thought of as a romantic
device, serves to broaden the classical scope of this instrument.