Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1992
Ref. Kirche St. Martin
Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1992
A new instrument in the manner of a restoration
The construction of a new instrument and a restoration are usually two completely different things. Through particular circumstances it is possible, however, that these two fields of organ building can be combined in a single project. The construction of a new organ for St. Martin's church in Chur is a good example of such a project. The three important stages of the history of the St. Martin's church organ are briefly summarised below.
The new instrument of 1868
The old small organ built by Sylvester Walpen in 1816 had been unsatisfactory for some time, but it was not until 1864 that an organ committee was formed. The firm of Kuhn & Spaich, newly founded in 1864, was selected for the project against competition from eight firms from both Switzerland and abroad. The contract of 23rd September 1867 was for a three-manual organ (III/P/36), which would be, in fact, the first three-manual instrument in Graubünden. It was installed on the back gallery and was given a neo-gothic case based on a design by the brothers Franz and August Müller from Wil, Canton St. Gallen. This organ was fitted with mechanical cone-chests.
The organ modification of 1918
A full renovation of the church, led by the architects Schäfer & Risch also led to some changes to the organ: the instrument was moved from the west gallery to the choir, fitted with a pneumatic system and enlarged to 50 stops. The range of the manuals was also extended. A new façade based on plans by the architects, a new console, changes to the stoplist and numerous extra windchests were the result. Goll Organ Builders from Lucerne were commissioned for the work. Documentation of the project from 23rd April 1918 stated in writing that the organ was to be «modified with the greatest respect for the old substance of the instrument».
The new organ of 1992
Further changes took place in the years 1928, 1963 and 1974 (electrification of the pneumatic action). In view of a further restoration of the church two important questions were posed: 1. whether the organ should remain in the choir or be returned to the gallery, 2. whether the current instrument be (in part) preserved or replaced by a completely new organ. Organ experts pushed for a new instrument on the gallery whilst the Authority for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments wished to retain the interior designed by the architects Schäfer & Risch, which spoke for keeping the organ in the choir and keeping the façade of 1918. In 1988 Thomas Itten was able to prove that the instrument of 1868/1918 was worth preserving. Itten's project was taken up by Kuhn Organ Builders and led to a new instrument in the manner of a restoration in 1991/92. The old cone-chests of 1868 were restored and re-mechanised with further necessary new windchests likewise being built as mechanical cone-chests. The façade and the preserved stop jambs of 1918 were also restored. The new stop-list was comprised of 43 sounding stops. Roughly half of these originate from the 1868 and 1918 organs and the other half were partly reconstructed based on old models and partly new constructions.
Friedrich Jakob, 2006