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Wisdom an d Be au t y T h e Gr eat Orga ns of Za c ha r ias Hildebr a nd t

Project created by Glenn A. KnicKrehm Introduction by: William Porter Text by: George Taylor Art direction and design by: Burt Sun Photography by: André Costantini and Robbie Lawson Text and Image Editing by: Burt Sun and Susan M. Cole Special thanks to: Taylor and Boody Organbuilders, Kathy Wittman and Arup Acoustics

ConstellationCenter 161 First Street Cambridge, MA


Tel 617.939.1900 Fax 617.939.1911

© 2008 Constellation Productions, Inc., all rights reserved.

This book is dedicated to the Ellis L. Phillips Foundation for their generous support of the project.


It is a special experience to walk into the Wenzelskirche in Naumburg and look up at one of the most beautiful organ cases of Europe; it is a heavenly concert for the eyes, and its elegant proportions compel one’s eyes to look not only with admiration, but also with attention and curiosity, with a view towards understanding what makes it so persuasive. It invites us to pay attention. The sound of this instrument does the same thing to our ears: we are first struck by its beauty, but then we are invited to listen carefully to its complexity, to its idiosyncratic way of speaking, to the way its rich tonal palette can make the music of Bach sound somehow just right. If one then plays this organ, the experience deepens: here is an instrument which, far from simply being a tool for the player to realize an already formed musical idea, has its own distinctive personality, a specific behavior which challenges and leads the player to new perspectives.

The organ in the little parish church of Störmthal, near Leipzig, was built by the same person who built the Naumburg organ, Zacharias Hildebrandt. Despite its diminutive size – it has only one manual – it has a peculiar capability to arouse much the same kind of response as its larger and younger brother in Naumburg. Although this organ has only fourteen stops, its tonal world is both varied and complex. When listening to this organ, one can become even more aware of the three-dimensional character of a single set of pipes: here the sound of a single pipe has not only length (a pronounced beginning, a sustained sound that seems to be in motion, and an elegant release) and height (a balanced structure of harmonics reinforcing the fundamental tone), but also depth: the sound has a physical character to it, as if it were a column of sound that you could wrap your arms around. It is this sense of the third dimension that distinguishes superior instruments from those which are merely fine, and at Störmthal one gets the impression that the organ is in a real sense a living organism.

It is neither nostalgia for the past nor the aural equivalent of rose-colored glasses that account for such r e a c t i o n s . T h e i n s t r u m e n t s o f H i l d e b r a n d t , t h e w o n d e r f u l l y i n c i s i v e i n s t r u m e n t s o f h i s m e n t o r, G o t t f r i e d Silbermann, and a host of other organs from the same period are indisputably alive, and their specific character and behavior have an almost magical way of animating the music played upon them. Such instruments are also in a curious way democratic: one does not need to be among the most skillful players in the world in order to make memorable music on these organs. They respond both to the seasoned artist and to the village organist, and everyone who plays them sounds better than they would sound on most organs. These are not organs only for the specially gifted, but rather they are organs of such surpassing quality that they allow a transcendent musical experience to be the norm instead of the exception.

S u c h m u s i c a l i n s t r u m e n t s w e l l r e f l e c t t h e o v e r a l l g o a l s b e h i n d t h e c o n c e p t o f t h e C o n s t e l l a t i o n C e n t e r, where the quality of the musical environment – its proportions, materials, visual and acoustical propert i e s , a l o n g w i t h t h e i n s t r u m e n t s p l a c e d i n i t – i s t o b e g i v e n h i g h e s t p r i o r i t y. T h e s e o r g a n s w i l l a l s o s h o w u s t h e w a y t o b u i l d n e w i n s t r u m e n t s o f c o m p a r a b l e q u a l i t y, i f w e p a y a t t e n t i o n a n d l e a r n f r o m w h a t t h e y have to say to us. They will be our guide, and they will help us achieve the vision of realizing in instruments yet to be born the qualities that move us so at Naumburg, Störmthal, and in other places where Johann Sebastian Bach worked and – one may dare to say – was similarly moved.

William Porter

The Zacharias Hildebrandt Organ in the Stadtkirche St. Wenzel in Naumburg, Germany (1746)

The Zacharias Hildebrandt Organ in the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Stรถrmthal near Leipzig, Germany (1723)

The Gottfried Silbermann Organ in the Katholische Hofkirche in Dresden, Germany (1754) built under the direction of Zacharias Hildebrandt

The Zacharias Hildebrandt Organ in the Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Langhennersdorf near Freiberg, Germany (1722)

ABOUT THE FOUR ORGANS The four organs shown in this book are representative of the work of Zacharias Hildebrandt (1688-1757) and his influential teacher Gottfried Silbermann (1683-1753), the two most important organbuilders in 18th century Saxony. Silbermann was the more famous of the two, remembered for his highly productive career and the bold style of his instruments, which, combined with his larger-than-life persona, eclipsed the work of all previous builders in that region. Hildebrandt, his pupil, was not so well known or successful as an entrepreneur, but he was arguably the more significant artist, for it was he who earned the praise and support of Johann Sebastian Bach. The story of the professional relationship between these two builders is intriguing and warrants telling here, as it provides valuable background in understanding the choice of a historical model for the new organ at the ConstellationCenter. Silbermann learned organbuilding in his brother Andreas’ shop in Strasbourg, France. In 1710 he returned to his homeland and established his own business in Freiberg, near Dresden. His first commission was to build a large and impressive three-manual organ in the Freiberg Cathedral, a project which took three years to complete. During that organ’s final year of construction it was Silbermann’s good fortune to have Zacharias Hildebrandt, five years his junior, approach him about serving an apprenticeship. The request was accepted on the condition that once he had learned the trade, Hildebrandt would never compete with his master in Saxony. From the beginning of his tenure, Hildebrandt showed exceptional talent for organbuilding and quickly proved himself invaluable to the success of the fledgling company. After only three years’ training his skills had advanced to the point that Silbermann entrusted him with the design, construction and voicing of a two-manual organ in the village of Langhennersdorf. The completion of that instrument did not occur until six years later due to a lack of adequate funds. This was a highly productive period for Silbermann, during which the two builders worked together closely. It is difficult to know which of the refinements which appeared in the organs built at that time should be attributed to the master and which to his inventive young journeyman. The year 1722 was a pivotal one in the life of Hildebrandt. On June 4th, the second Sunday after Trinity, the Langhennersdorf organ was dedicated to great acclaim. The success of that instrument proved Hildebrandt’s skill and earned for him the rank of master builder. This meant that he was officially entitled to open his own organ shop and train apprentices, anywhere that is, except in Saxony, which right he had surrendered in signing his contract with Silbermann nine years before. On August 26th he was granted citizenship in the city of Freiberg, and three weeks thereafter married Maria Elisabetha Dachselts. The wedding took place in the idyllic setting of Langhennersdorf accompanied by the groom’s masterpiece. The couple’s initial happiness was soon to be overshadowed, however, for within a week of the wedding Silbermann summarily dismissed Hildebrandt from his employ. The cause of this sudden rupture in their relationship has never been definitively explained. It is not hard to imagine that Hildebrandt wished to be free of the overbearing style of his mentor. It is also possible that the younger man had secretly made overtures for building a new organ in a small country church in Störmthal, where Silbermann probably had connections and thus felt betrayed by his apprentice. Whatever the case, in the heat of the moment Silbermann lost his most valuable colleague, and Hildebrandt found himself cut off from the right to practice his trade without breaking his contract. As he chose not to leave Saxony, his only recourse was to appeal to Silbermann, who understandably drove a hard bargain. Henceforth, he was forced to accept organ commissions only with Silbermann’s permission and upon promise to return 4% of the proceeds to his former master.

Soon thereafter Hildebrandt moved to the Leipzig area where he was selected to build the Störmthal organ. This modest instrument of only one manual and pedal would establish him as a builder of exceptional talent. While it clearly bore the imprint of Silbermann’s style, the organ was unmistakably the product of a craftsman with fresh ideas of his own, expressed through its ingenious tonal design and technical layout. Its outstanding qualities were quickly recognized by none other than Johann Sebastian Bach, who had just taken the position of choirmaster and organist at the Leipzig Thomaskirche in May of 1723. On November 2nd of that year the church folk invited the great master to bring his choir to Störmthal for the dedication of their new organ, and to write a special cantata for the occasion.

Bach, who was never close to Silbermann, was greatly impressed by the instrument and by its young builder,

whom he promised to endorse enthusiastically thereafter. Unfortunately for Hildebrandt, the tension with his teacher would plague him far into the future. While Silbermann’s fame and business continued to grow, Hildebrandt, even with Bach’s support, rarely found it easy to obtain contracts, and had a difficult time making ends meet throughout his career. The quality of his work, however, was never compromised by his circumstances. We have no record of the contact between the two builders for a period of twenty years until 1746 when Hildebrandt finished his great organ for St. Wenzel’s church in Naumburg. This monumental project was on a much larger scale than any he had attempted before and represented the full flowering of his genius as both craftsman and artist. In a peculiarly interesting turn of history, the people of Naumburg chose Johann Sebastian Bach together with Gottfried Silbermann to examine the completed organ and judge its quality. The instrument won the hearty approval of both experts, following the correction of a few minor details. The occasion of the meeting in Naumburg led to a long overdue reconciliation between the builders, from which both would happily benefit in the future. At that time it is likely that Silbermann sensed his declining powers and was searching for a competent organbuilder to eventually take over the direction of his many demanding projects. When the old master became seriously ill in the summer of 1750, he signed a contract with his former pupil to lead the construction of a magnificent organ for the new Hofkirche in Dresden. This would be Silbermann’s Magnum Opus, which he would not live to see finished. Hildebrandt directed the project until Silbermann’s death in 1753, when the position was given to Silbermann’s nephew, Daniel. Hildebrandt was then free to turn his attention to his own organ for the Dreikönigskirche in Dresden-Neustadt. Hildebrandt lived until 1757 when his sons, took charge of the family business and continued with success in the footsteps of their father until 1775. Each of the organs included in the following photographic essay are in remarkably original condition today, despite the intervening changes of fashion and the ravages of war. The instruments offer valuable insights into the development of two exceptional men who lived and worked at a time when the organ and its music reached heights which many consider to be its zenith. It is therefore with the greatest respect for these monuments to the skills of both Gottfried Silbermann and Zacharias Hildebrandt that we approach the task of building a new organ for ConstellationCenter.

George Taylor Taylor and Boody Organbuilders


Specifications Rückpositv

Pedal (front chest)

Principal 8’ Viol di Gambe 8’ Prestanta 4’ Quintadehn 8’ Rohr-Floete 8’ Vagara 4’ Rohr-Floete 4’ Nassat 3’ Octava 2’ Rausch-Pfeife II Mixtur V Fagott 16’

Principal Bass 16’ Octaven Bass 8’ Violon Bass 8’ Octaven Bass 4’ Octava 2’ Mixtur Bass VII Trompet. Bass 8’ Clarin Bass 4’


Naumburg Organ The completion in 1746 of the new fifty-two stop organ for St. Wenzel’s church in Naumburg placed Zacharias Hildebrandt among the foremost organbuilders of his time. Here he forged a synthesis of the best of the Silbermann tradition and design elements of the north German school with unprecedented success. It is unusual to find a Rückpositiv on an organ built in Central Germany in the middle of the 18th century. Since Hildebrandt retained the existing case of the former Thayssner organ, he was required to work within its constraints and he solved his problems with his customary skill. Thus, the Rückpositiv with its 8’ Principal chorus and 16’ Fagott was given a significant role in the tonal design and provided a third major division in this lavish organ. Also his asymmetrical placement of the largest pedal pipes behind the right side of the organ, making room for a great stack of seven bellows on the left, was a daring departure from tradition. The resulting instrument with its great variety of tonal colors has a breadth of musical character which is unmatched for its period. It is most probable that Johann Sebastian Bach recommended his friend Hildebrandt for the Naumburg contract, and that he was also involved in planning its design. Bach always regretted that he never had an organ of a size and disposition commensurate with his talents in the posts that he held. In Naumburg he would have found a rare opportunity near the end of his life to work with his favorite organbuilder in designing Hildebrandt’s Magnum Opus. For this reason the Naumburg organ has been selected as a primary source for research in planning the new Bach organ for the ConstellationCenter. Sadly, the Naumburg organ suffered numerous invasive changes over the years, culminating in the replacement of its tracker action with electro-pneumatic windchests in the 1930s. Plans for the organ’s restoration to its original form required extensive investigation before the work was begun in 1993 by a skilled team from the firm of Eule in Bautzen. The resulting beauty of this monumental instrument, so rich with voices from the past, attest to the skill and uncompromising devotion of its restorers.

Principal 16’ Quintadehn 16’ Octava 8’ Spitz-Floete 8’ Praestanta 4’ Cornet IV Gedackt 8’ Spitz-Floete 4’ Octava 2’ Quinta 3’ Weit-Pfeife 2’ Mixtur VIII Bomba rt 16’ Trompete 8’

Pedal (back chest) Posaune Posaune Violon Bass Subbass

16’ 32’ 16’ 16’

Manual Compass: C, D – d’’’ Pedal Compass: C, D – d’ Manual Couplers: Oberwerk/Hauptwerk Rückpositiv/ Hauptwerk Pedal Coupler: Hauptwerk/Pedal Tremulant affecting Hauptwerk & Rückpositiv Cymbelstern Seven wedge bellows Pitch a’ = 464 Hz Temperament: Neidhardt I 1724

Oberwerk Bordun 16’ Principal 8’ Hohl-Floete 8’ Principal und. mar. 8’ Praestanta 4’ Gemshorn 4’ Quinta 3’ Octava 2’ Wald-Floete 2’ Tertia 1 3/5’ Quinta 1 1/2’ Sif-Floete 1’ Scharff V Vox humana 8’

William Porter playing the organ at Naumburg

Organist William Porter and Organbuilder George Taylor

Specifications Cornet: (c’ – c’’’) 2 2/3’

Manual (C, D – c’’’) Principal Gedackt Quintadena Octava Rohrflöte Nasat Octava Tertia Quinta Sifflöt Cornet Mixtur

8’ (1934) 8’ 8’ 4’ 4’ 2 2/3’ 2’ 1 3/5’ 1 1/3’ 1’ III III

Mixtur: C 1 1/3’ c 2’ c’ 2 2/3’ c” 4’

2’ 1’ 1 1/3 ‘ 2’ 2 2/3’

1 3/5’ 2/3’ 1’ 1 1/3’ 2’

Two wedge bellows in the tower behind the pedal windchest *lost in the 19th century

Pedal (C, D – c’) Subbaß 16’ (Posaune)* 16’ Principal 8’


Windkoppel (Tremulant)*

Störmthal Organ

The ConstellationCenter Research Team

The plan of the Störmthal organ is brilliant in every sense. Here Hildebrandt was dealt a difficult hand, having to fit the workings of the instrument into the church tower between two giant masonry pillars. He wasted no space in its ingenious design. With a deft sense of proportion he developed a unique façade, which is at once vibrant with baroque energy and yet perfectly suited to a simple village church. Within the limits of a single manual and pedal using only 14 stops we find a broad palette of elegantly voiced tonal resources which have continued to charm musicians and audiences alike ever since Johann Sebastian Bach first played there nearly three hundred years ago.

William Porter and Glenn KnicKrehm, President of ConstellationCenter

Alban Bassuet of Arup Acoustics with Glenn KnicKrehm

Of the few remaining examples of Hildebrandt’s work, the Störmthal organ is the closest to being in original condition. With the exception of the Posaune 16’ which was lost during the 19th century and the tin façade pipes of the Principal 8’ and Praestant 4’ sacrificed to the war effort in 1917, the remaining pipes speak today much as they would have when they were first voiced. The existing front pipes were skillfully made by the firm of Hermann Eule in 1934. Despite these changes, the Störmthal organ remains a cultural artifact of incalculable worth.

Specifications Hauptwerk


Principal 16’ Bordun 16’ Principal 8’ Rohrflöt 8’ Viol di Gamba 8’ Octava 4’ Spitzflöt 4’ Qvinta 3’ Tertia Cornet (c’) V Mixtur IV Zimbel III Fagott 16’ Trompet 8’

Gedackt 8’ Principal 4’ Rohrflöt 4’ Nassat 3’ Sesquialtera Octava 2’ Qvinta 1 1/2’ Sufflöt 1’ Mixtur III Chalumeau (go) 8’


Dresden Organ In 1738 Elector Friedrich August II, King of Poland and son of August the Strong, commissioned the construction of a new Hofkirche (Court Chapel) next to his royal residence in Dresden. Nothing would be too costly in building this impressive monument to the return of the Saxon monarchy to the Catholic Church. Because of his fame, Gottfried Silbermann was the only builder considered for the new organ. With forty-seven stops and three manuals it would become his Magnum Opus. In keeping with Silbermann’s reputation for quality, only the finest materials were used in building the organ. Its opulent baroque case, elaborately carved and ornamented with burnished gold, echoes the 18th century Dresden fascination with porcelain and presents a dazzling sight. As in all Silbermann organs the Hofkirche instrument speaks with a commanding voice, filling the huge church with a mighty sound. Its design and voicing are thoroughly consistent with the principles Silbermann followed throughout his career, with one exception. Unlike his earlier instruments which he insisted on tuning in a strong temperament approaching the pure intervals of meantone, this organ was apparently tuned in a nearly equal temperament, which had become increasingly fashionable at the time for organs used with other instruments. It was also tuned 1/2 step below modern pitch. In 1944 the pipes and workings of the organ were taken out of its case to protect them from possible damage. Unfortunately, the case was destroyed in the tragic firebombing of Dresden on February 13 1945. Restoration of the church, now known as the Dresden Cathedral, began soon thereafter. The organ did not return to its home until 1971, when a copy of the original case was built to house it. Since then much new information has come to light about the history of the instrument, so that by 2001 a thorough restoration to its original pitch and condition became possible. The work was shared between the Dresden shops of Kristian Wegscheider and Jehmlich Orgelbau. Their careful restoration has breathed new life into Silbermann’s last organ and returned it to its former glory.

Quintadehn 16’ Principal 8’ Gedackt 8’ Quintadehn 8’ Unda maris (go) 8’ Octava 4’ Rohrflöt 4’ Nassat 3’ Tertia Octava 2’ Flaschflöt 1’ Mixtur IV Echo Cornet (c’) V Vox humana 8’ Schwebung

Organist Andreas Hetze

Pedal Untersatz Princ. Bass Octav Bass Octav Bass Ped. Mixtur Posaun. Bass Trompet. Bass Clar. Bass

32’ 16’ 8’ 4’ VI 16’ 8’ 4’

Manual Compass: C, D – d’’’ Pedal Compass: C, D – d’ (originally c’) Manual Couplers: Brustwerk/Hauptwerk, Oberwerk/Hauptwerk Pedal Coupler: Hauptwerk/Pedal Pitch: Kammerton 415 Hz Temperament: Equal (original unknown)

Neill Woodger of Arup Acoustics and Organist Andreas Hetze

Neill Woodger of Arup Acoustics

Organist Andreas Hetze

William Porter

Glenn KnicKrehm

Specifications Manuals (C, D – c’’’) Hauptwerk Principal 8’ Rohrflöthe 8’ Quintadena 8’ Praestant 4’ Spitzflöthe 4’ Cornet III Quinta 3’ Octava 2’ Mixtur III Cymbeln II

Cornet: (c’ – c’’’) 2 2/3’ 2’

1 3/5’

Mixtur: C 1 1/3’ c 2’ c’ 2 2/3’ c” 4’

1’ 1 1/3‘ 2’ 2 2/3’

2/3’ 1’ 1 1/3’ 2’

Cymbeln: C 1’ c 1 1/3’ c’ 2’ c” 2 2/3’

2/3’ 1’ 1 1/3’ 2’

Hinterwerk Gedackt 8’ Rohrflöthe 4’ Nasat 3’ Octava 2’ Waldflöthe 2’ Quinta 1 1/3’ Sufflöth 1’ Cymbeln II Manual shove coupler Tremulant

Neill Woodger of Arup Acoustics

Organist Andreas Hetze

Glenn KnicKrehm

Three wedge bellows in tower

Langhennersdorf Organ The design and construction of the Langhennersdorf organ were granted by Silbermann to Hildebrandt as a reward for his outstanding performance as an apprentice. The organ is in many ways a prototypical model of the two-manual and pedal instruments built in the Freiberg shop, which were the mainstay of its prolific productivity. Silbermann was notably conservative and resistant to change in the design and disposition of his instruments, always using the same pipe dimensions, for example, and making only minor variations in wind pressure and other technical details. It is therefore instructive to note several innovations that Hildebrandt introduced in planning this organ. This is the first time that we find not a 4’ Principal, but a 2’ Octave as the basis of the plenum in the secondary manual of a Silbermann organ. Also the inclusion of a 2’ flute was a departure from custom. While in most aspects Hildebrandt followed his master’s example in the choice of materials, he did choose wood instead of metal for the resonators of the Pedal Trompete and also for the bass octave of the Hauptwerk Rohrflöthe. We cannot be certain that Hildebrandt designed the façade, but it does show a pleasing upward curve to the line of treble pipe mouths, which was not found in Silbermann’s organs up to that time. The striking simplicity and efficiency of the arrangement of pipes on the windchests is especially noteworthy. Recently the Langhennersdorf organ has been lovingly restored to excellent condition by Kristian Wegscheider in Dresden.

Wisdom an d Be au t y The Great Org a ns of Zacharias Hildebrandt


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