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The Casparinis

Pierre Lauwers

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It is customarily believed the quickest evolution of the organ took place during

the 19th century, with Cavaillé-Coll, Walcker, Father Willis etc.

But the 18th century in Central Europe was even more of a breaktrough period.

This was Bach's time, and from about 1700 to 1750 the organ changed more than

from that date to nearly the end of the 19th Century -I mean, in central Europe,

though the changes were not that bad in Britain as well-.


This rapid evolution took place, like with living species, after a cross-fertilization process

between two differing genetic stocks.

The Renaissance organ, which emerged from the medieval Blockwerck (i.e. a huge Diapason chorus

without slides so you could not isolate a rank), had actually two centres:


- The Brabant, a (relatively!)vast area in southern today's Netherlands and northern Belgium, which

we can summarize with the Niehoffs of 'S Hertogenbosch;


- Northern Italy, where the "Ripieno" kind of organ emerged at about the same time.


While the brabanter organ essentially applied the new possibilities to isolate ranks in stops

on the newly-found Rückpositiv, with Flutes, mutations, Cornets and reed stops -with a variety

one cannot imagine-, the Hauptwerk remaining a kind of Blockwerk with a few foundation stops

and huge Mixtures, the italian organ had all its ranks isolated -but not by slides, since the common

windchest there was the Springlade-.


The brabanter organ had many followers, on a kind of wide semi-circle trough western Europe;

the flemish baroque organ, from which the french and the spanish baroque organ descend , and

the northern german type, which dominated an area from the Netherlands to the Baltic states

-at least up to a time-. From Gibraltar to Tallin also.

The italian organ was much restrained -apparently-; it gained room in Provence, and we find it,

we do not sufficiently know how -through Burgundy in all probability- in pre-Cromwell Britain,

complete, though somewhat simplified, with all ranks seperate, duplicated ranks, and numbers

as stops-names.


It seems the italian organ rapidly percolated somewhat in central Europe. We find italianisms

in Austria, Poland, etc, already in the 17th century.

But -at least from a western european point of view- the real breaktrough happened with

Eugen Casparini coming back in Germany after decades of work in northern Italy, precisely

the core of the italian organ also.


(Sorry, will be continued on a next post, since the electric power is very unreliable in my village!)

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Eugen Casparini was born in 1623 in Sorau, Silesia.

He was the son of a mathematician, and, probably, organ-builder.

He -again, as far as we know!- learnt the craft by his father, then began

wandering while 17 years old trough Regensburg to Italy.

There, he adopted the roman catholic faith.

We find him in Trieste, Isola, Venice, then he settled for a long

time in Padua, from where he built organs, among others, for the german-speaking

Süd-Tirol area.

He also worked for the austrian emperor, Leopold I, for whom he built a famous

chamber organ with cardboard pipes.

He went back to Silesia in 1697 to build the quite famous Görlitz, Sankt Peter und Paul Kirche

organ, an organ which was, at least, again, from a western european viewpoint, but also

for central Germany at that time, a revolution akin to the 1841 St-Denis Cavaillé-Coll organ:




Prinzipal 16'

Prinzipal 8'

Vox humana 8' (a flue celeste, actually a "Voce umana"!)

Viola di Gamba 8'

Rohrquinte 5 1/3'

Superoctave 4'

Salicet 4'

Offene Flöte 4'

Gedacktpommer 4'

Decima nona 2 2/3'

Plockflöt 2'

Zink 2r 2 2/3'-1 3/5'

Rauschpfeife 2r

Mixtur 3r

Bombart 16'




Quintaden 16'

Prinzipal 8'

Ondamaris 8'

Octave 4'

Gedeckte Fleut 4'

Spitzflöt 2 2/3'

Sedecima 2'

Glocklein-Thon 2'

Super-Sedecima 1 1/3'

Cornetti 3r : 5 1/3'- 4'- 3 1/5'

Scharf 2r

Cymbel 2r




Gedackt 8'

Prinzipal 4'

Octave 2'

Nasat 1 1/3'

Sedecima 1'

Scharf-Mixtur 2r

Hautbois 8'




Gross Prinzipal 32'

Octave 16' (ext?)

Quintaden 16'

Bordun 16'

Quintaden 8' (ext)

Tubalflöt 8'

Gemshorn 8'

Gross Quinte 5 1/3'

Tubalflöte 4' (ext)

Jubal 4'

Super-Octave 4'

Bauernflöte 2r 1 1/3'

Helle Cymbel 2r 1 1/3'

Scharf 2r

Mixtur 12r (!)

Mixtur 5r

Posaune 16'

Fagotti 16'

Krummhorn 8'

Tromba 8'

Jungfernregal 4'


Besides the abandon of the Rückpositiv, this organ also signifies the end of the

-all too very famous- "Aequalverbot", that is, the use of only one stop at a time

belonging to the same height.

If you take a northern german 8' Prinzipal, and an italian Principale, and then you place

them on the same soundboard, you get something like an Open Diapason I (not a leathered

one, agreed, but well relatively "big", and dark), and an Open Diapason III, soft, refined,

and richer in harmonic development (smaller scale and delicate voicing).


From there on, a rapid evolution process took place, which lead in a little more than (only!)

100 years, to the romantic organ.

The soft stops emerged from this italian-german hybridization, stops like those Dolce, Dolkan,

early Gambas which arrived in Britain through builders like Snetzler.

This "Differenciation" of the stops, not only by height and tone, but also by strenght and delicate

nuancies, was born.

And note also the celestes -two, like in a 1930 organ-, the ancestors of our well-known Voix céleste,

an invention of the Renaissance italian organ.


The Görlitz organ was destroyed by the neo-baroque tribe, as early as 1926.

How could it go otherwise ?

Nothing was more contrary to their ideas as a Casparini organ, so they, helped by the wars,

eliminated them with rage.

To be honest, it must be added the Görlitz organ never worked very well. Bach named it

a "Pferdeorgel", an organ for the horses, so heavy its action was.

So it is certain the organ already was modified several times by 1926.


BUT....If Bach criticized Görlitz, it wasn't for stylistic, or musical reasons, since he liked

very much a Scheibe organ which specification was drawn by a son of Eugen Casparini:




Gross Principal 16'

Gross Quintatön 16'

Klein Principal 8'

Fleute allemande 8'

Gems-Horn 8'

Octav 4'

Quinta 3'

Quint-Nassat 3'

Octavina 2'

Wald-Flöte 2'

Grosse Mixtur 5-6r

Cornetti 3r

Zinck 2r

Schalmei 8' (en bois!)




Lieblich Gedackt 8' (wood)

Quinta-tön 8'

Fleute douce 8'

Principal 4'

Quinta decima 4'

Decima nona 3'

Holl-Flöte 2'

Viola 2'

Vigesima nona 1 1/2' (1 1/3')

Weit-Pfeiffe 1'

Mixtur 4r

Helle Cymbel 2r

Sertin 8' ( aRégal)




Principal 8'

Viol di Gamb naturell 8'

Gross Gedackt 8'

Octav 4'

Rohr-Flöte 4'

Nassat 3'

Octav 2'

Sedecima 1'

Schweitzer-Pfeiffe 1'

Largo 1 1/3' (Larigot)

Mixtur 3r

Helle Cymbel 2r




Gross Principal-Bass 16' (Borrowed HPTW!)

Gross Quinta-Tön-bass 16'(HPTW)

Sub-bass 16'

Octav-bass 8' (HPTW)

Jubal-Bass 8'

Nacht-Horn-Bass 8'

Gross-Hell-Quintbass 6'

Octav Bass 4' (HPTW)

Quint-Bass 3' (HPTW)

Octav-Bass 2'

Holl-Flöten-Bass 1'

Mixtur-Bass 6r (HPTW)

Posaunen-Bass 16'

Trompeten-Bass 8'



The organ was received by a certain Johann Sebastian Bach in 1717, who wrote the organ was "without any defect, and so well done one could not praise it enough, particularly in regard of its rare stops one would not find in many organs".


This was the Scheibe organ of the Paulinerkirche, the University of Leipzig's church.

(another one the neo-baroque never talked much about).

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Eugen Casparini founded a dynasty of organ-builders, whose scope went as

far as Vilnius:


-Eugen Casparini died in 1706.


-Georg Adam was his brother. Worked in Silesia, 1623-1682.


-Adam Horatio, son of Eugen, 1676-1745, worked in Silesia, author of the Leipzig's specification.


-Georg Sigismund; son of Georg Adam, 1693-1741 or 1749, worked in Ostpreuss (today the russian

enclave of Kaliningrad, then Königsberg)


-Adam Gottlob, son of Adam Horatio, 1715-1788, worked in Ostpreuss and Lithuania; his Vilnius

organ is the only notable Casparini organ we still have. This organ is being in the course of

a restoration now, but it is impossible to have any information about the work done to one

of the most important historic organ worldwide......I am rather preoccuped with that one...


So the area in which the Casparini had much inflence went from central Germany to the baltic states, through

Poland, a country much interesting to investigate also, and whose importance in the history of the organ

has been grossly underrated up to now. Of course, some political reasons helped, but I guess the

baroque organ of the 18th century in Germany and central Europe was not everyone's cup of tea

during the "Reform" period....


I stop here for the moment, with a link to a very interesting Website with history, specifications

and pictures. Very, very worth a somewhat long visit, with many internal links, all of which extremely interesting:





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