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Can anyone shed some light on the history of Auguste Gern?

 

As I understand things, he was works superintendent for Cavaille Coll, he came to UK to work on some CC commissions, then the Franco Prussian war broke out and, being a descendant of Berlin, he couldn't return home, nor could he return to France to work, so he stayed in the UK and set up his own organ works.

 

I would appreciate any pointers on where I could find further information about Gern, and books or studies etc. that are published about him. I've tried Googling him and not a lot turns up.

 

Many thanks in advance for any information offered.

 

Phil

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Can anyone shed some light on the history of Auguste Gern?

 

As I understand things, he was works superintendent for Cavaille Coll, he came to UK to work on some CC commissions, then the Franco Prussian war broke out and, being a descendant of Berlin, he couldn't return home, nor could he return to France to work, so he stayed in the UK and set up his own organ works.

 

I would appreciate any pointers on where I could find further information about Gern, and books or studies etc. that are published about him. I've tried Googling him and not a lot turns up.

 

Many thanks in advance for any information offered.

 

Phil

 

Paul Joslin (via BIOS) knows most of what there is to know about Gern

 

A

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I can't add much more to what you alrerady know, other than to post this link (which you may have already seen) to his entries on NPOR:

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/ESearch.cgi?

 

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/NPORSearch.cgi?

 

There is an excellent small example of his work local to me at West Buckland, Somerset

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=B00126

 

N

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Did not John Compton in his early days acquire Gern's workshop facilities Nottingham? Or am I way off track?

 

 

============================

 

 

You're about 120 miles off track Barry, to be precise!

 

The August Gern workshop was in Turnham Green, London, and John Compton acquired the premises when Gern vacated them; thus establishing himself in the London area, prior to the move to the very much larger premises in North Acton.

 

MM

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Can anyone shed some light on the history of Auguste Gern?

 

As I understand things, he was works superintendent for Cavaille Coll, he came to UK to work on some CC commissions, then the Franco Prussian war broke out and, being a descendant of Berlin, he couldn't return home, nor could he return to France to work, so he stayed in the UK and set up his own organ works.

 

I would appreciate any pointers on where I could find further information about Gern, and books or studies etc. that are published about him. I've tried Googling him and not a lot turns up.

 

Many thanks in advance for any information offered.

 

Phil

 

========================

 

 

I don't do French by and large, but even I recognise a German in disguise!

 

I don't profess to know a lot about Gern, but the fact that he trained with Bucholz is interesting, because Bucholz had worked with Cavaille-Coll among others, during his journey years, when he seemed to have tramped all around Europe working for this organ-builder and that organ-builder, wherever the fancy took him. He eventually ended up in Romania. One could write a book about Bucholz, but I can't be bothered.

 

However, it does mean that Gern would have been aware of two important traditions....that of Cavaille-Coll, and that of Ladegast and his fellow German organ-builders. (I sem to recall that Bucholz was a fairly typical Berlin (?) organ-builder).

 

The bit about Gern being a foreman to A C-C is well known, and holds few surprises. The fact that the poor sod was unable to return to France due to his German origins and the Franco-Prussian war, might have spelled his demise; but no, he somehow stayed in London and became a respected organ-builder, as we know.

 

I've never heard or played a Gern organ, so I cannot vouch for anything, and most of those which remain may well have been altered beyond tonal recognition.

 

His main claim to fame was in the invention of what we would now recognise as the Pitman-chest, but in a cruder and slightly less well engineered way.....more Peugeot than BMW, shall we say?

 

There is an extensive discussion of Gern's action in Audsley's "The art of organ-building," of which I think I have a copy.

 

Of course, other organ builders had experimented with these sorts of actions; the Belgian firm of Annessens having patented, in company with "Schmols" (of Beglium & America), an early form of sliderless electric-action.

 

Apart from this, I know very little about the man, other than the fact that he must have been quite multi-lingual.

 

MM

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========================

 

 

I don't do French by and large, but even I recognise a German in disguise!

 

I don't profess to know a lot about Gern, but the fact that he trained with Bucholz is interesting, because Bucholz had worked with Cavaille-Coll among others, during his journey years, when he seemed to have tramped all around Europe working for this organ-builder and that organ-builder, wherever the fancy took him. He eventually ended up in Romania. One could write a book about Bucholz, but I can't be bothered.

 

However, it does mean that Gern would have been aware of two important traditions....that of Cavaille-Coll, and that of Ladegast and his fellow German organ-builders. (I sem to recall that Bucholz was a fairly typical Berlin (?) organ-builder).

 

The bit about Gern being a foreman to A C-C is well known, and holds few surprises. The fact that the poor sod was unable to return to France due to his German origins and the Franco-Prussian war, might have spelled his demise; but no, he somehow stayed in London and became a respected organ-builder, as we know.

 

I've never heard or played a Gern organ, so I cannot vouch for anything, and most of those which remain may well have been altered beyond tonal recognition.

 

His main claim to fame was in the invention of what we would now recognise as the Pitman-chest, but in a cruder and slightly less well engineered way.....more Peugeot than BMW, shall we say?

 

There is an extensive discussion of Gern's action in Audsley's "The art of organ-building," of which I think I have a copy.

 

Of course, other organ builders had experimented with these sorts of actions; the Belgian firm of Annessens having patented, in company with "Schmols" (of Beglium & America), an early form of sliderless electric-action.

 

Apart from this, I know very little about the man, other than the fact that he must have been quite multi-lingual.

 

MM

 

 

French Church, Leicester Sq. Not too sure how much of this instrument is original.

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I believe Gern came to London to install the Cavaille-Coll organ (destroyed in the Blitz) at the Carmelite Church in Kensington. While he was there, the Franco-Prussian War broke out, making it inadvisable for him, as a German, to return to Paris. He set up on his own, and his early organs are very much in the French style. The later ones were more prosaically British. He built a fair number of residence organs as well as church instruments. There is one in St. John's, possibly the only Gern organ in Canada, across the road from our Cathedral in the Masonic Temple:

 

Great: Open Diapason, Lieblich Gedact, Dulciana, Flauto Traverso 4

Swell: Open Diapason, Hohl Flote, Gamba, Gemshorn 4, Oboe, Tremulant

Pedal: Bourdon, Bass Flute

3 unison couplers

Bellows (drawstop)

2 composition pedals to each manual

Reversible G/P

Compass: 58/30

 

A completely ordinary small English organ, but the case is palatial (mahogany?) with French-mouthed tin front pipes. It looks like something Captain Nemo might have had installed on the Nautilus. The organ is divided, with the conole in the middle. It previously stood in at least two residences in St. John's, one of which is now an hotel. Unfortunately, it has Gern's rather unsatisfactory pneumatic action and is completely unplayable. One can get notes out of it, enough to assess the tone quality, but nothing as complicated as a tune or a chord. The pedal board has gone. The Order moved to smaller premises a few years ago and the building was leased by a dinner-theatre group. They would like to see the organ decently rehoused, but I know no details of its present state.

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http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N08628

 

 

This looks most interesting. Does anyone bhave any first-hand experience?

 

 

This is exactly the reason I'm asking, I live in Birchanger and have first hand experience.

 

A very good friend of mine who's a far better organist than me played for a wedding when I couldn't do it. Within an hour of the wedding finishing (he lives 45 minutes drive away!) I received an email describing the organ as a little gem, it was just like climbing in to a Paris organ loft. To say he was excited was an understatement!

 

The strings are quite definitely French in sound, and the voicing of the trombone adds a Fench reed rasp to the pedal section that makes full organ sound really wonderful.

 

The most wonderful thing about the organ is it's in as near as possible original condition from when Gern built it.

 

At the moment the pistons don't work. The mechaism is under the seat and I've spoken to the tuner about getting the pistons working - he's suggested that there should be work done on the pedal board as well, so we need to find £10,000 or thereabouts. I'm in discussion with the Church Wardens over this and we'll see how things turn out.

 

It's a real privilege to be involved with this organ, and while I live in the village I'm going to enjoy playing it!

 

Phil

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========================

 

 

I don't do French by and large, but even I recognise a German in disguise!

 

I don't profess to know a lot about Gern, but the fact that he trained with Bucholz is interesting, because Bucholz had worked with Cavaille-Coll among others, during his journey years, when he seemed to have tramped all around Europe working for this organ-builder and that organ-builder, wherever the fancy took him. He eventually ended up in Romania. One could write a book about Bucholz, but I can't be bothered.

MM

 

 

=========================

 

 

Horror of horrors, I made a mistake, and realised it an hour or two later. The chap who drifted and tramped his way around Europe was the Czech organ-builder Josef Angster, and not Karl Bucholz.

 

However, (I'm going from semi-distant memory due to the theft of a computer containing my notes), Bucholz did, I think, pre-date Cavaille-Coll in the provision of enclosed reed choruses, which are still there in Romania more or less as he left them.

 

Bear with me, and I'll re-check the facts about "Mr Greenwood".......(Bucholz)

 

MM

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=========================

 

 

Horror of horrors, I made a mistake, and realised it an hour or two later. The chap who drifted and tramped his way around Europe was the Czech organ-builder Josef Angster, and not Karl Bucholz.

 

However, (I'm going from semi-distant memory due to the theft of a computer containing my notes), Bucholz did, I think, pre-date Cavaille-Coll in the provision of enclosed reed choruses, which are still there in Romania more or less as he left them.

 

Bear with me, and I'll re-check the facts about "Mr Greenwood".......(Bucholz)

 

MM

 

 

It might help to get his name right first - Buchholz (beech-wood). As far as I know the major part of the family's work was in Berlin and North Germany (Mecklenburg).

 

JS

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Many years ago I had a brief play on a Gern organ in Frant parish church, just outside Tunbridge Wells. I can't remember much about it now apart from the fact that it made a very nice sound. The late Leonard Lazell was organist there at the time.

 

Malcolm

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It might help to get his name right first - Buchholz (beech-wood). As far as I know the major part of the family's work was in Berlin and North Germany (Mecklenburg).

 

JS

 

============================

 

 

Yes John, I made a bit of a mess in my haste, relying on memory from about eight years ago. I've always thought it was Book Wood, but Beechwood sounds a lot more plausible. Perhaps the most famous surviving instrument is that at the "Black Church".....Negrous something or other.....in Brasov, Romania.

 

Stephen Bicknell used to say that this organ pre-empts the style of Cavaille-Coll, in having an enclosed reed section which can be coupled up, against a separate enclosed division, but with fairly limited dynamic change due to the swell doors rather than shutters.

 

There are a few examples of the organ on You Tube.

 

MM

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Many years ago I had a brief play on a Gern organ in Frant parish church, just outside Tunbridge Wells. I can't remember much about it now apart from the fact that it made a very nice sound. The late Leonard Lazell was organist there at the time.

 

Malcolm

 

 

Leonard Lazell had the organ rebuilt by Wood Wordsworth (including his signature 32' pedal cornet and a new Positif division). Did you play it before or after the rebuild (c.1969), cos I reckon it was more WW than AG afterwards!

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============================

 

 

Yes John, I made a bit of a mess in my haste, relying on memory from about eight years ago. I've always thought it was Book Wood, but Beechwood sounds a lot more plausible. Perhaps the most famous surviving instrument is that at the "Black Church".....Negrous something or other.....in Brasov, Romania.

 

Stephen Bicknell used to say that this organ pre-empts the style of Cavaille-Coll, in having an enclosed reed section which can be coupled up, against a separate enclosed division, but with fairly limited dynamic change due to the swell doors rather than shutters.

 

There are a few examples of the organ on You Tube.

 

MM

 

Yes - die Buche = beech-tree.

 

I'm sure Stephen Bicknell was right about the pre-emption. Aristide Cavaillé-Coll was born 15 years after Carl August Buchholz and would have been only 25 or so when Buchholz was working on the organ for Kronstadt (now Brasov). This organ, with its French-looking third manual of strings and reeds, seems to have been a one off.

 

More representative of his big instruments, and still extant, are those at the Nikolaikirche, Stralsund, recently restored by Klais/Wegscheider, and the Marienkirche, Barth on the Darß peninsula on the Baltic coast. In both the third manual is very much subordinate to the other two, as one would expect of German romantic organs of the period, and with a Fagott/Hautbois 8 as the only reed.

 

See Stralsund.

 

JS

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