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St Stephan's Cathedral, Vienna


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Internally, the organ is laid out quite interestingly. The arch under which the instrument sits has another connection about 5 ft behind the main façade of the organ, a diaphragm arch 5 ft deep and 10 feet high where it connects to the pillars on either side (scroll down on this page to see it during construction of the new organ). This arch, hidden by organ cases for centuries, posed severe acoustical problems for the 1960 organ, as most of the pipework was placed behind it. The arch, needless to say, is indispensable for the statics of the building.

Rieger, however, managed to get their 22-stop Great organ between the façade and said arch. They divided it in two major divisions, each on two levels.The basses of either section, C to h, are placed on C and C# chests running front to back on the level of the cornice of the façade. On top of each pair of bass chests sits a treble chest, starting at c' and running sides to centre. The infamous connecting arch sits just behind the treble chests. So the overall layout, left to right, is: Cornice level: basses of Gt I, C / Gt I, C# / Gt II, C / Gt II, C#; upper level: Gt I, trebles / Gt II, trebles.

On either side of this six-chest, 22-stop Great are the chests for the smaller pedal ranks, just behind the 32-foot towers (which, incidentally, belong to the Great).

On top of the arch, behind the 32-foot towers, are the two Solo boxes, divided C—C#; on either side of the tower space, behind the Solo boxes and equally divided, those of the Swell. Behind the arch, inside the tower space, a large pit houses the larger Pedal ranks. On top of the arch are the horizontal reeds, speaking right across the Great. 

In the middle of the parapet, there is the Rückpositiv; in the North and South aisles, there are two more parapet façades, masking two additional enclosed divisions.

All best wishes,
Friedrich

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Well, St Stephen’s is a very large and acoustically difficult space, in fact quite cavernous, built from rather porous limestone that tends to swallow up much of the sound energy. kropf knows it intimately, perhaps he could provide some more specific insight. I think it is exactly the kind of space that needs an awful lot of organ, and especially a Great division that can sing out from pole position, if you want to arrive at anything approaching a satisfactory musical experience. I am quite sure that this was the rationale for massaging the huge Great into that very narrow space. I wish I could hear the result as soon as possible – for now, travelling is quite impossible.

To me, additionally it is interesting, as I wondered how to “organ” that space from the instant I laid eyes on this organ’s impressive architecture. Back around 1987, I listened to a recital by then cathedral organist Peter Planyawsky. Wonderful façade, ingenious playing, but a sound that was so utterly dull that one wanted to scream.

Best wishes,
Friedrich

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Thanks for this.  We were there in March last year and, of course, visited St Stephan's.  I wondered at the time, looking at the no-longer-functioning console, what the rebuild might turn out like.
It does look like the previous organ facade but, reading the information provided, the contents seem to have been enlarged and the description of the internal layout is particularly interesting.
I, too, look forward to hearing it at some time in the future.

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Thanks for posting the link to the documentary: I watched it last night. So good that they didn't leave the Cathedral as a ruin after that catastrophic fire. I hope to do a cruise at some point of which Vienna is a call and I will hope to get into St. Stephen's.

Dave

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  • 1 month later...

This has little to with the thread topic but has reminded me of an incident many years ago when I was staying at the Hotel Kaiserin Elisabeth which looks out onto the Stephans Dom.

I was about to pitch into bed a bit after midnight when, through the opened window, wafted the Schubert B flat major Sonata from a piano somewhere within the hotel. The building was almost deserted but in one of the reception rooms I found a few retirees in their pyjamas and dressing gowns with a uniformed member of staff listening, spellbound, to the exquisite performance. The small audience rose to attention in absolute silence after Clifford Curzon finished, closed the Bösendorfer and quietly walked off to bed.  

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