Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1977
Hofkirche St. Leodegar
Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1977
A world-famous organ
After the Lucerne «Hofkirche» had been devastated by fire in 1633 it was newly built in Baroque style. Following two choir organs (1637-1642) a large and, for those times, monumental organ with two manuals, pedals and 42 sounding stops was built on the west gallery (1640-1652). It was constructed by Master organ builder Johann Geisler from Salzburg. The design for the case was made by a man of the same surname, but from Lucerne, Niklaus Geisler. Ever since, the showpiece has been its largest front pipe, the low C of the Principal 32 ' (length 970 cm, diameter 57 cm).
Besides work on the instrument and a number of modifications, between 1857 and 1862 there followed substantial alterations by Friedrich Haas. He transformed the Baroque instrument into a romantic concert organ. The Rückpositiv was removed, the slider windchests were replaced by cone-chests, the new mechanical action was fitted with Barker machines and an Echo organ was built up in the roof space of the cathedral. Only the impressive main case with its front pipes and about fifteen further stops remained. Amongst the new stops were, most importantly, strings, harmonic pipes and all the reeds. The «Re-builder» of the organ was celebrated as triumphantly as Master Geisler had been over 200 years before.
The biography of the organ was, however, soon to be continued. The instrument was made pneumatic in 1895 by Goll Organ Builders and in 1945 it was fitted with electric systems. The organ movement saw to it that experts could no longer take much pleasure in the instrument and the traditional organ concerts were replaced more and more with the famous «storm fantasy» using the instrument's unique «rain machine». As a result, in 1970 plans were made for substantial changes to be made to the instrument, although this caused in a bitter dispute over the direction to be taken. One party wished for a reconstruction of the instrument of 1652 whilst another favoured the Haas version. Others wished for the current instrument to be repaired. Finally the argument was won by the majority, who simply wanted a new, contemporary organ, albeit with the complete incorporation of the remaining Baroque material and part of the «usable» material from the 19th century. This plan also found favour with the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments.
Our task was now to realise these basic ideas and wishes in a project which was also practical from the technical point of view. The Rückpositiv was reconstructed, although the balustrade of the gallery was not able to be changed back to its original size. The placing of three manual divisions and the pedal organ in the main case was not strictly according to historical guidelines, but more defined by the space required by the new slider windchests with the mechanical action. The 5th manual (Fernwerk - echo organ in the roof)) was handled in the manner of a restoration. The cone-chests remained, but the action was made electric. The most difficult task was, besides the scaling of the pipes, their voicing. A wholly unified sounding instrument needed to be formed out of the Baroque pipes of 1652, the Romantic pipes of 1862 and the new stops of 1977.
In 2001 there followed an expansion of the Fernwerk. Three ranks of free reed pipes which had been stored away since 1977 and which originated from the Friedrich Haas organ of 1862 were reincorporated into the spacious echo chamber of the Fernwerk: a Physharmonica 8 ', a Clarinette 8 ' and a Fagott 16 '. These stops stand on a newly built cone-chest in a separate swell box which functions parallel to the main swell box of the Fernwerk. The action of the additional windchest is also electric. The Fagott is playable by the pedals (30 notes) and the other two stops on the 5th manual. Further ranks and part-ranks from both Geisler and Haas which were removed in 1977 are still stored in the roof space of the cathedral.
Friedrich Jakob, 2006
Die Grosse Orgel in der Kirche zu St. Leodegar im Hof Luzern, zur Einweihung der restaurierten Orgel im Jahr 1977, published by the Roman-Catholic Parish of Lucerne.