Orgelbau Kuhn AG + Gerhard Hradetzky, 2000
Orgelbau Kuhn AG + Gerhard Hradetzky, 2000
You can't choose an organ, only its builders!
Having an organ built is no simple task for those who commission it. Since every organ, except for very small instruments, is newly designed for a specific purpose and setting, the buyer cannot simply choose their instrument from a catalogue of models. Therefore, numerous meetings between the buyers and the builders are necessary in order to establish a detailed design. How the aims of the project are afterwards put into practice then depends solely upon the abilities and intuition of the specialists who undertake the work. For this reason it is a good idea to carefully choose an organ building company which one trusts.
In order for an organ to function..
So that a traditional pipe organ can work, besides the pipes which produce the sound itself, a complex technical infrastructure is necessary. One example is the mechanical connection between keys and pallets, which in the case of the new cathedral organ amounted to a total length of over 1300 m.
Or to consider the wind supply: as is the case with every wind instrument, the pipes must be supplied with «breath». We speak here of «wind» which is produced by a large electric blower. To achieve a consistent pressure and correct amount of wind a number of bellows, the wind reservoirs, are employed as regulators.
Even modern computer technology can be incorporated into a traditional organ. The switching of stops links electrical engineering with advanced electronics in a combined system. Due to its individuality, every organ has its own special requirements in terms of design. Therefore, all technical parameters need to be defined in advance. Of course, the laws of physics lay out the bounds of possibility. As there are always a number of factors which influence the solution to a particular problem, these have to be considered and judged during the planning stages. Through weighing up these defining factors, scope for the realization of the organ builder's personal ideals is created. It is therefore understandable why every organ bears the builder's «signature» not only in the tonal features of its design, but also in its technical construction.
Although we have, up to now, been concerned with technical issues, the consideration of these reaches far beyond a simple comparison of technical data. The sum of its characteristics influences the instrument as a whole and a great deal of imagination and personal judgement is required in order to unite all the information into a coherent and complete picture. In developing one's own visions, creativity and a personal philosophy are required.
The question of trust
Consequently, is it therefore surprising that considerable differences between the organs of different organ builders exist? And what are the arguments which lead one to being convinced of the way forward?
For those who commission an instrument, there is nothing else one can do but to establish the quality of an organ builder and, once a decision has been made, to put ones full trust in him.
Because work on the organ in Treviso Cathedral was a joint project carried out by the organ building firms of Hradetzky (Oberbergern, Austria) and Kuhn, the complexity of planning the work involved was not made easier. Due to having constructed a number of new organs in the region Hradetzky enjoyed the trust of those who commissioned the cathedral organ, but did not have at their disposal the capacity to realize such a large project alone. In complement, Kuhn was able to offer the know-how in the building of large instruments, but, for financial reasons, could not take on the project as a whole. A collaboration between the two firms therefore proved to be the optimal solution.
The basis for successful collaborative work is in establishing exactly how the work is to be divided. Hradetzky were responsible for the design of the façade, case, wooden pipes, flue pipes and the voicing, whereas Kuhn was to take on the co-ordination of the project as a whole, including its planning, and the construction of the key and stop action, console, wind system and reed pipes.
And why divide the work in this particular way? In order to create enough scope for artistic judgement during the voicing phase, establishing all the technical considerations could not be delayed until later. In the planning stages all parameters for the technical components must be defined as later corrections are not possible.
Through this collaborative work we expected an inspiring exchange of ideas and an instrument which could positively express a fusion of a variety of organ cultures in the centre of Europe. Today, at the end of the joint project, we can say that this goal of creating a unique synthesis has, in every respect, been reached.
Building organs is a passion. Every new project presents an exiting new challenge, which we are prepared to meet with full commitment and enthusiasm. This is how we viewed our work and did everything possible to fulfil the expectations placed upon us. We are very grateful for the trust we experienced and for the constructive collaborative work. Let the new instrument cheer the church community with its music in all moments of church life, now and in the future!