Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Chestorgan - Truhenorgel - Kistorgel


heva
 Share

Recommended Posts

In the Mattäus-passion days, like myself, many of us may be playing on a 'chestorgan' (is that the correct translation for the 'truhenorgel'?).

 

Just wondering: in a baroque orchestra, where does this organ fit in? Is it an acurate copy of a baroque instrument or is it (as I suspect) in fact a 20th century (neo-baroque) invention? I know of only two examples (seen on photo) of 'real' baroque organs-like-a-box, but these were actually normal organs in a different housing (quite large in fact).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

ust wondering: in a baroque orchestra, where does this organ fit in? Is it an acurate copy of a baroque instrument or is it (as I suspect) in fact a 20th century (neo-baroque) invention? I know of only two examples (seen on photo) of 'real' baroque organs-like-a-box, but these were actually normal organs in a different housing (quite large in fact).

There are historical organs, especially manufactured for processions, which, concerning space economy, even surpass today's tightest-packed examples. An example is the Gottlieb Näser positive (1734) at the Germanic National Museum, Nürnberg, which is really tiny (and for that sake leaves out the note D, starting C E F F# ...). There are, as well, many baroque positives of three to five stops which, while not meant to travel in an estate car, were not that much different from their mobile great-great-grandchildren. They were placed in chancels, on choir lofts etc. Thorough bass created a market for this kind of instrument.

 

Best,

Friedrich

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the Mattäus-passion days, like myself, many of us may be playing on a 'chestorgan' (is that the correct translation for the 'truhenorgel'?).

 

Just wondering: in a baroque orchestra, where does this organ fit in? Is it an acurate copy of a baroque instrument or is it (as I suspect) in fact a 20th century (neo-baroque) invention? I know of only two examples (seen on photo) of 'real' baroque organs-like-a-box, but these were actually normal organs in a different housing (quite large in fact).

 

I would suggest 'box organ' as the obvious literal translation of 'Truhenorgel', though 'chamber organ ' is often the preferred, and slightly misleading, term on record sleeves and concert programmes etc.

 

The Archiv CD of JS Bach's Epiphany Mass was recorded in a village church in Saxony, with the organ continuo provided by a substantial 18c. organ of 23 stops. James Johnstone's programme note includes the following interesting comment :-

 

"The demands of present-day concerts and recordings are such that we are used to hearing Bach's concerted music with small chamber organs. It has therefore been a fascnating experience to capture on CD the sound of a relatively large organ at the core of Bach's ensemble, supporting the small numbers of instruments in concerted ensembles, and creating a much more colourful background to the recitative."

 

This seems to be more in line with performance practice in Bach's time than the typical, slightly anodyne sound of the 20c. 8-4-2 box organ.

 

JS

JS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest Hector5
I would suggest 'box organ' as the obvious literal translation of 'Truhenorgel', though 'chamber organ ' is often the preferred, and slightly misleading, term on record sleeves and concert programmes etc.

 

The Archiv CD of JS Bach's Epiphany Mass was recorded in a village church in Saxony, with the organ continuo provided by a substantial 18c. organ of 23 stops. James Johnstone's programme note includes the following interesting comment :-

 

"The demands of present-day concerts and recordings are such that we are used to hearing Bach's concerted music with small chamber organs. It has therefore been a fascnating experience to capture on CD the sound of a relatively large organ at the core of Bach's ensemble, supporting the small numbers of instruments in concerted ensembles, and creating a much more colourful background to the recitative."

 

This seems to be more in line with performance practice in Bach's time than the typical, slightly anodyne sound of the 20c. 8-4-2 box organ.

 

JS

JS

 

My wife and I have a true 'Truhenorgel' built by a German organ builder. There appears to be a distinct difference between the 20thc 'anodyne' organs, as John Sayer so aptly puts it. We simply did not like the first organ (8, 4, 2) that we had, as it had no definition and feather-light key action. What we have a is a much more full-bodied instrument which sounds really quite big. However, it has proved extremely popular in recent hires where they have chosen this instrument, and the clients have found the instrument a revelation - with a firm key action and a good big broad tone too. I think the 'chamber' description of English organs is extremely apt - implying a gentler sound and feel altogether. For information, our organ has the following stops:

 

8 Copula

4 Gedackt

2 Principal

1 1/2 Quinte

1/2-1 Piccolo

 

The 1/2-1 Piccolo breaks back giving the cunning impression of a Mixture.

 

Well - we like it!

 

Hector

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My wife and I have a true 'Truhenorgel' built by a German organ builder. There appears to be a distinct difference between the 20thc 'anodyne' organs, as John Sayer so aptly puts it. We simply did not like the first organ (8, 4, 2) that we had, as it had no definition and feather-light key action. What we have a is a much more full-bodied instrument which sounds really quite big. However, it has proved extremely popular in recent hires where they have chosen this instrument, and the clients have found the instrument a revelation - with a firm key action and a good big broad tone too. I think the 'chamber' description of English organs is extremely apt - implying a gentler sound and feel altogether. For information, our organ has the following stops:

 

8 Copula

4 Gedackt

2 Principal

1 1/2 Quinte

1/2-1 Piccolo

 

The 1/2-1 Piccolo breaks back giving the cunning impression of a Mixture.

 

Well - we like it!

 

Hector

 

Most interesting - I meant to add that John Eliot Gardner preferred a rather fuller and more varied continuo sound in his European 'Bach 2000' recording odyssey of the complete church cantatas. The instrument specially built by Robin Jennings has the following stoplist:-

 

Principal 8

Gedackt 8

Oktave 4

Rohrflöte 4

Superoktave 2

Sifflöte 1/Quinte 1 ⅓

 

JS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the Mattäus-passion days, like myself, many of us may be playing on a 'chestorgan' (is that the correct translation for the 'truhenorgel'?).

 

Just wondering: in a baroque orchestra, where does this organ fit in? Is it an acurate copy of a baroque instrument or is it (as I suspect) in fact a 20th century (neo-baroque) invention? I know of only two examples (seen on photo) of 'real' baroque organs-like-a-box, but these were actually normal organs in a different housing (quite large in fact).

 

Hi

 

Although, as others have pointed out, there is some historical precedent, I suspect that the modern "Box Organ" is at heart a 20th century invention, and that most Bach performances in his lifetime would have used the main instrument in the church - or maybe an "orgue de Choer" to sue the French term. it seems to me that the primary design criterion of the modern box organ is that it fits in an estate car, which effectively rules out open 8ft stops - at least in the bass, and also decrees a restricted range of stops. Perhaps a case of practicality triumphing over historical accuracy? Even if the small stop list is comparable to period examples, the placement of pipework almost at floor level is bound to compromise to some extent the projection of the organ sound.

 

Much the same consideration as to suitability apply to the Handel oratorios, etc - and contemporary descriptions of some of these performances leave it in no doubt that somewhat larger and more versatile organs were used.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi

 

Although, as others have pointed out, there is some historical precedent, I suspect that the modern "Box Organ" is at heart a 20th century invention, and that most Bach performances in his lifetime would have used the main instrument in the church - or maybe an "orgue de Choer" to sue the French term. it seems to me that the primary design criterion of the modern box organ is that it fits in an estate car, which effectively rules out open 8ft stops - at least in the bass, and also decrees a restricted range of stops. Perhaps a case of practicality triumphing over historical accuracy? Even if the small stop list is comparable to period examples, the placement of pipework almost at floor level is bound to compromise to some extent the projection of the organ sound.

 

Much the same consideration as to suitability apply to the Handel oratorios, etc - and contemporary descriptions of some of these performances leave it in no doubt that somewhat larger and more versatile organs were used.

But I presume the organ component of the Claviorganum made for Handel must have been very similar to the modern box organs, with the pipes in a similar position.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is there any evidence that the claviorganum was ever used as a continuo instrument? I understood that the practice of having recitatives and arias accompanied by the harpsichord and choruses by the organ has been identified as an unhistorical neobaroquism, and consequently abandoned by most early music specialists - as it would have been impossible to keep the harpsichord in tune with the organ throughout a 2-3 hour performance.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is there any evidence that the claviorganum was ever used as a continuo instrument? I understood that the practice of having recitatives and arias accompanied by the harpsichord and choruses by the organ has been identified as an unhistorical neobaroquism, and consequently abandoned by most early music specialists - as it would have been impossible to keep the harpsichord in tune with the organ throughout a 2-3 hour performance.

I understood Handel used the organ bit for concertos between the sections of his oratorios.

 

The harpsichord would go out of tune no more with the organ than with the rest of the instruments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...
Is there any evidence that the claviorganum was ever used as a continuo instrument?

 

I came across one of these instruments just last week at Hanbury Hall near Droitwich-

NPOR link and photograph.

 

Having never encountered one before, and being told that it was one of c.30 still extant globally, it was good to be able to play it -with a handily placed copy of OUP 'Old English Organ music' left on the console (I do find that National Trust properties are very happy for you to play their instruments- I enjoyed a good half hour on the Killerton House organ in Devon, "as played by S.S.Wesley" last year.).

 

The room guide didn't know a huge amount about the instrument, though his guide's pack had a little more detail. The organ part was straightforward enough- an electric blower or raise the bellows by a foot lever, and a delicate but sweet tone- but we couldn't for the life of us work out how to switch it to harpsichord mode- no obvious lever, or shift on the manual. Was I being obtuse and ignoring the blindingly obvious, or how do you in fact 'engage harpsichord'? If anyone happens to know this instrument, I'd love to know!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I came across one of these instruments just last week at Hanbury Hall near Droitwich-

NPOR link and photograph.

 

Having never encountered one before, and being told that it was one of c.30 still extant globally, it was good to be able to play it -with a handily placed copy of OUP 'Old English Organ music' left on the console (I do find that National Trust properties are very happy for you to play their instruments- I enjoyed a good half hour on the Killerton House organ in Devon, "as played by S.S.Wesley" last year.).

 

The room guide didn't know a huge amount about the instrument, though his guide's pack had a little more detail. The organ part was straightforward enough- an electric blower or raise the bellows by a foot lever, and a delicate but sweet tone- but we couldn't for the life of us work out how to switch it to harpsichord mode- no obvious lever, or shift on the manual. Was I being obtuse and ignoring the blindingly obvious, or how do you in fact 'engage harpsichord'? If anyone happens to know this instrument, I'd love to know!

 

Hi

 

Another perhaps more common term for these instruments is "Claviorgan" or "claiviorganum" or various variations on these names. I have a link to a web site - www.claviorgano.com - but this appears to be dead today. A quick web search reveals http://www.harpsichords.co.uk/claviorganum.html. There is an entry in Wikipedia, but it seems to be somewhat questionable on a quick look.

 

I've heard of a handful of these instruments, but not yet had the opportunity to play one, so I can't help you with the issue of activating the harpsichord - I would have expected stops or small levers.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, there are many examples of historic box organs (they were larger (higher) than modern ones as they needed bellows, which consumed more space than a blower), but...

 

Typical scenario:

 

A very specialized Early Music Ensemble has to tour to make its money - and in the concerts they want to be seen by the audience and they want not to struggle with local instruments (pitch, temperament etc.), if available at all.

So they need their mobile thing.

 

Second typical scenario:

 

The very specialized Early Music Ensemble has decided to make another recording - so they make their selection from abandoned abbeys in France, or nice churches in Tuscany (for the acoustics, not for the catering....!).

 

There are no instruments at all on location, so another need for a small thing....

 

Check the cd market!

Most 8' stops recorded are stopped wooden ones! There are very few examples of choosing a "real" pipe organ. Think of the wonderful recordings of GOArt musicians (Gothenburg, Sweden), or the Friedemann Immer Consort accompanied by timpanies and the powerful Silbermann of Ponitz, Saxony. That's all I have in my collection.

And why is there so much hesitation to use proper instruments? For early "German" music, the "Chorton" pitch would give a' at 460 to 480 Hz, a semitone or more higher than standard. Early Music Groups usually run their instruments on 415, which is proper for music based on french traditions (using oboes/hautbois), but only for that!

Italian music boasts different pitch traditions, so a dulcian or bassoon player would have to own 2 or 3 different instruments! String players can make it with "detuning" the strings, I know such a very gifted player (and her gifted violin) here in town.

 

So I would like to point out, that the use of the box organs, as we experience it in our days, is definately a development of the 20th century.

 

Some purchasers try to get mobile instruments which can give an imagination of a larger instrument. Some have been mentioned above. Here is a special one, by Kristian Wegscheider for the Dresden Kreuzkirche. The pipes are tilted 45 degrees to make it possible to look over the organ. Music desks allow singers to surround the instrument and make it the center of a small choir.

Open Wegscheider's opus list and open the "Details" button on entry nr. 77.

(The Subbass is in the "cupboard" at the back and is detachable).

So this is more the Rolls Royce of box organs, but I like the approach to excape this eternal Gedackt 8' rumble.....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, there are many examples of historic box organs (they were larger (higher) than modern ones as they needed bellows, which consumed more space than a blower)

<snip>

So this is more the Rolls Royce of box organs, but I like the approach to excape this eternal Gedackt 8' rumble.....

The point about the height needed for bellows before the invention of the (almost silent) electric blower is surely a crucial one in the development of the modern box organ.

 

I think William Sumner observed that organ sound falls better than it rises. One of the main keyboard continuo players of the British original instrument movement of the 1970s and 80s once opined that box organs "make choirs sing flat". So maybe pipe mouths more than a metre above floor-level will be more effective and musical than ones less than 30cms above the floor. But from a practical point of view (pun intended) I'd rather be in the cluster of continuo musicians for a performance of eg a Bach Passion than at the edge of the stage with my back to the conductor and the other performers. There used to be a very compact oldish chamber organ in Christ Church, Oxford (maybe NPOR index number C00944) of a similar height to modern box organs and with a single metal foot pump operated by the player which was musical and functional.

 

Were the single-manual English chamber organs by eg Snetzler and Samuel Green, often to be found in odd corners of cathedrals and college chapels, intended to be used as continuo instruments or were they more for playing solo?

 

And whilst thick low chords on a stopped 8' will rumble a bit, there is sometimes a musical place for that, and there are many other, lighter, brighter, sparer, textures available to the continuo organist. I have been known to use the (open) 4' on its own, down the octave, where there is a strong enough texture on the bass line (eg cello, violone, bassoon). And if I could only have one stop on a house organ I think it would probably be a stopped 8'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The point about the height needed for bellows before the invention of the (almost silent) electric blower is surely a crucial one in the development of the modern box organ.

 

I think William Sumner observed that organ sound falls better than it rises. One of the main keyboard continuo players of the British original instrument movement of the 1970s and 80s once opined that box organs "make choirs sing flat". So maybe pipe mouths more than a metre above floor-level will be more effective and musical than ones less than 30cms above the floor. But from a practical point of view (pun intended) I'd rather be in the cluster of continuo musicians for a performance of eg a Bach Passion than at the edge of the stage with my back to the conductor and the other performers. There used to be a very compact oldish chamber organ in Christ Church, Oxford (maybe NPOR index number C00944) of a similar height to modern box organs and with a single metal foot pump operated by the player which was musical and functional.

I am thinking of ordering a small continuo instrument for our church. I could imagine to leave the traditional box design for two reasons: First to get a better blower/reservoir situation (a 2nd box maybe to sit on), and to make the thing higher than usual, so that one could stand while playing it. One could then stand beside the double bass/violone, or one could stand and play while conducting a small group (of course possible from sitting, too) or even join a vocal ensemble (needs standing).

 

And if I could only have one stop on a house organ I think it would probably be a stopped 8'.

My favourite practice stops I have encountered so far are the Viola 8' by Mathis of Klagenfurt Cathedral Organ in Austria - a superfast but also light and clear voice - and the Gemshorn 8' of my current Sauer organ, sadly standing on a chest with the muddiest action of the instrument. Both preferable to a stopped voice, for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think this is one of the most interesting topics on this discussion board for a long time.

 

A lot of the small cabinet organs built in the 18th century found their ways into private houses of well-to-do people, such as merchants, lawyers, etc. It's interesting to investigate the work of builders like Hess, Manderscheidt, etc - and all these small organs were found in domestic situations. There is a problem that these small organs haven't survived as well as their larger brethren in churches - because they are less conspicuous and private property, they are more at risk from their owners' whims or neglect. And of course, being in private situations, there is not the same level of archives or records to consult. However, many of the chamber organs we find in churches today were originally built for domestic situations.

 

It is a bit difficult to know what these organs would have originally been used for. These households would have been highly cultured and of course religion was far stronger than it is today. They may have been used to accompany other musicians on other instruments or to accompany household members singing songs and psalms. However, many of the Dutch Bureau organs have split stops between bass and treble so there is the possibility of playing duets with two registrations at the same pitch: sometimes in the work of Hess the lowest pitched stop in the bass will be a 4ft stop, suggesting this practice.

 

These instruments became less popular with the rising dominance of the piano in the late 18th and 19th century but it is interesting to consider the French school of harmoniums, like Debain, Alexandre and later Mustel. In some ways they are the spiritual successors to these bureau organs. Here, once again, we find stops split between bass and treble and the possibility of a duo of voices at the same pitch, which composers like Franck, Vierne and Karg-Elert exploited.

 

The winding of these bureau organs is an interesting feature rarely replicated in today's box organs. Typically there would be a large single-rise reservior fed by a feeder bellows operated by the player's foot. There is usually a bellows indicator in the shape of a wood rod coming out of one of the slips at one end of the keyboard. It takes a certain knack to keep an eye on the bellows, pump the feeder when required and play music but with practice I'm told it is possible.

 

You can see an example of the winding system in this photo here (https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/wtVgWtqHtmmFj-AXCvdXbQ), which shows a new bureau organ built by Rini Wimmenhove with the wind system. Although new, this organ is built closely along the lines of an 18th century Dutch Bureau organ. Those of you who are organ builders will know that as the single rise bellows inflates there is a pressure drop, for which the usual British solution is a double rise reservior with an inverted fold. However here Rini has used a wooden spring on top of the bellows to maintain the pressure as the bellows inflates to counteract this effect and keep the pressure constant. It's clever stuff.

 

Rini has also built a chest organ with this winding system - more details can be seen here: http://www.huisorgelbouw.nl/page/Fotopagina_22/, along with much other information on cabinet, bureau and chest organs. He has restored many period house organs and has made a great study of small organs from an historical perspective so his site repays careful reading.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...