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John Robinson

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So refined was the taste in England at the time that there was quite a lot of dislike of those "coarse and uncouth instruments" they had on the continent, like Haarlem, for example.


Wasn't the term "Werkprinzip" coined in the 1920s and 1930s at the beginning of the organ reform movement?


I love the simplicity of aesthetic the Werkprinzip idea brings and I love the concepts of it - like Peter Williams assertion of the Innsbruck Hofkircke illustrating the difference of pitch being more important (?) than tone or dynamic between divisions of the organ.


So, is the Jacobikircke werkprinzip? Or do we just see some elements of the style we invented in the 1920s which we can apply to something made in 1694?




I'm sure Colin is quite right, that the term "werkprinzip" was invented by scholars such as Schweitzer to fill a gap. The scholarship was a double-edged sword of course, for although organ-architecture was restored, it also brought the slavish adherence to Schnitger and Silbermann and the big, bright sound.


If I have learned one thing during my many sojourns to Holland, it is the fact that baroque organs are as varied as the buildings in which they stand, and range from the sweetest, gentlest instruments to those which blow one's socks off. One of the tiniest sounds I ever heard was an 18th century chamber organ in a Dutch living-room, with black pipes and all the refinement of Green enclosed in an exquisite walnut cabinet.


Wasn't it Charles Burney who found the Bavo orgel not to his liking?



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Indeed, the very concept "Werkprinzip" dates back from the

Orgelbewebung, and not before that.


Why would have the ancients named something they did not know

of something else?

So this word was intended to differenciate a "structural principe" against

the other: the Werkprinzip against the Abschwächungsprinzip, the second

having emerged 1829 in the Walcker organ of the Paulskirche Frankfurt.


The Abschwächungsprinzip was latent since Casparini:


-Differenciation between stops and divisions by loudness, not pitch


-Integrated whole, not gathering of several little organs, so the organ is

conceived like a huge division splitted between claviers (but with couplers),

without repetition of the same stops and choruses on the different divisions.


This is the famous "terraced dynamics".


(By the way, I explain this more lenghtly in my "dictionnaire des jeux de l'orgue",

due in December 2005 or January2006 in french by Delatour France editions).


I guess the origin of all this -the Abschwächungsprinzip and the romantic organ- is the italian organ, with its lonely manual and its soft, singing, cantabile, amabile "Principale" -with a celeste rank!-. This "simple" (in appearance!) instrument, combined with german practice by Casparini, a german builder who spent

20years+ in Italy , gave rise to the Görlitz organ.


To me the Werkprinzip is perfecly suited to the north european baroque organ and its repertoire, no doubt.

Moreover, it provided a discipline to modern builders -not to cram pipes anywhere

no matter how etc-. But in a modern organ I find it out of place, because it implies

so many rigid rules there is no place left for innovation. I see no point in an organ that needs three Prestant (or Oktav or Principal) out of say thirty stops. This leaves

so many interesting stops systematically out!

It is time to forget a little these middle-20th century's ideas about "function before

tone", "texture", "the true organ" etc. The organ needs to be beautiful and original,

appealing to anyone who happens to hear it, and diverse. Not a standardized

academic thing to the point the organist needs only to register "after the good

ancient manner" to be sure to get the predicted result even without hearing it

correctly......Remember who wrote that?


Best wishes,


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