Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1988
Kath. Justinuskirche Höchst
Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1988
Historical notes on the organ of the Justinuskirche
The case of today's organ originates from the time of the construction of a new organ between 1736 and 1740 built by Johann Onimus (1689-1772) from the Black Forest. The exact stoplist of this organ is not known, but it could possibly have had around 25 stops. The Hauptwerk and Rückpositiv had a range from C to c''', the pedals, on the other hand, comprised of only 13 notes from C to c. A first modification to this organ was carried out in 1839 by the Mainz organ builder Bernhard Dreymann and further alterations were made during a renovation of the church in 1890. During the next church restoration between 1930 and 1932, changes to the technical systems of the organ were made: it was fitted with pneumatic membrane chests as well as a new console including new key and stop actions (E.F. Walcker). The case was retained, but the insides of the Rückpositiv were taken out and this division was therefore brought out of use. In 1960 the organ was electrified. In 1986 the committee of the chemical company Hoechst AG decided to cover the costs of a substantial organ renewal to mark the occasion of the firm's 125th anniversary in 1988.
Tonal design of the new organ
For an accurate reconstruction of the old Baroque organ of Onimus there was too little of the old material still available and references to his work also proved unsatisfactory. Therefore, instead of working on the basis of hypothetical assumptions, it was decided to build a new three-manual instrument in the manner of a high quality concert organ, under the condition that its tonal design reflected the traditional features of the mid-Rhine region in which the church is located. Outwardly, the organ's case should be a full reestablishment of that of Onimus' organ, including the reactivation of the Rückpositiv.
There is no general definitive description of a typical organ of the «mid-Rhine region» in organ building. It is a mix of four different «ingredients» which come together to form the unmistakable and striking sound of these organs: traditional mid-Rhine organ building in the narrow sense is that represented by the builders Stumm, Köhler, and later also Dreymann, then there are the Frankish and South German elements, of which Onimus' work is representative. Finally there are also French features from the Alsace and Lothring regions. Tonally, this mid-Rhine organ culture is characterised by great warmth, colour and also a certain softness of tone, but without sounding weak. Of particular note is the fact that these organs do not display the sharpness of sound characteristic of instruments of northern Europe. The plenum achieves its effect more through a satisfying fullness than through glittering brightness.
These considerations were also significant when deciding how to design the desired third manual. A northern Brustwerk was not built into the substructure of the main case, but instead a more restrained Echowerk, constructed out of view, with warm stops for colouration.
A long wished-for alteration to the tonal spectrum of the organ was carried out in 1997: the reed stop Clairon 4 ' in the Hauptwerk was replaced by a threefold Cymbal 1 '. Instead of two reeds, the Hauptwerk plenum is now rounded off in the upper range by two Mixtur stops, a small shift from a French to a more German component in this tonal conglomeration of the mid-Rhine region.
Translation 2008: SJR