Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1979
Switzerland, Saint Gall
Ref. Kirche St. Laurenzen, Hauptorgel
Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1979
The Neo-Gothic re-valued
The restoration of the Church of St. Laurence marks a turning point in the history of the restoration of Swiss monuments: the creations of the Neo-Gothic period were no longer sneered at and dismissed as worthless but were recognised as a valuable testimony of their time and deemed worth protecting. One of the main protagonists of this change of viewpoint was Albert Knoepfli, who, in this context, described himself as a «convert». Therefore, during the outer and inner renovations of the church there were no attempts to eliminate the Neo-gothic modifications and sift out the «old» Gothic features of the building. The aim was more to let both stand alongside each other. Valuing the Neo-gothic did, naturally, have consequences for the interior design of the church. As a result, the new organ planned for the church was to stay on the east gallery and the Neo-gothic case of 1856 had to be re-used in some form.
The Baroque organ of 1762 (II/P/27) built by Johann Jakob Bommer (the first after the Reformation) had already taken into account the large central window in the east choir of the church. The bass towers stood on the left and right flanks of the instrument and only the Rückpositiv in the centre concealed the lower edge of the window. For the new organ built by Martin Braun from the year 1856 the architect Johann Christoph Kunkler designed a Neo-Gothic case. In accordance with the fashion of the time, a Rückpositiv was not included. The large bass towers remained at each side of the window. A low bridge including 49 dummy pipes linked both sides together. The instrument was a mechanical cone-chest organ (III/P/36).
During 1907 and 1908 there followed substantial alterations to the instrument carried out by Goll Organ Builders, Lucerne. To all intents and purposes it was actually a new organ (IV/P/51) into which the old case and many old ranks were incorporated. The organ was given membrane chests and a tubular pneumatic action. Apart from a few repairs in 1940, this instrument remained unchanged until it was dismantled in 1975.
A number of options were considered for the new organ which was to be built in keeping with the interior restoration. The final project was approved by all parties concerned. The stop-list (III/P/45) of the mechanical slider windchest organ was shared between the various divisions as follows:
- For the Hauptwerk and the Pedal organ both of Neo-Gothic side cases were restored and reused. Each rank was divided into a C-side and C-sharp side, with the Hauptwerk in front and the Pedal organ behind.
- For the Positiv it was decided to return to Bommer's idea of building a Rückpositiv. The stylistic orientation, however, leaned more towards the main Neo-Gothic cases. The Neo-Gothic ornamentation (up until a short time ago described as «frippery») was faithfully copied.
- The large romantic Swell was placed below the gallery. To enable the sound to emanate out of the case, the previously closed front panelling was opened and replaced by a simple grille.
- The console was made free-standing and was placed in the middle by the Rückpositiv. It was decided not to shape it in Neo-Gothic style.
Friedrich Jakob, 2006
Hansjörg Gerig: Die Orgeln der Kirche St. Laurenzen in St. Gallen, St. Gallen 1979