Switzerland, Zurich
Tonhalle, Grosser Saal

© pictures Orgelbau Kuhn AG, Männedorf/Schweiz

Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd, 2021

New organ

slider chests
Key action
Stop action
Christian Schmitt, Martin Haselböck, Peter Solomon
Case design
Christoph Jedele, Dieter Righetti
Gunter Böhme (Leitung), Thierry Pécaut, Stephan Wioland

A new concert hall organ for the Tonhalle in Zurich

We are very honoured to build a new concert organ in the historical Zurich Tonhalle. The project will continue a partnership that existing since 1872. In this year, the founder of our company, Johann Nepomuk Kuhn, built one of his first large organs for the Zurich (old) Tonhalle.

The goal was to design an organ that is suitable not only for solo performances, but also for performances with the Tonhalle orchestra, visiting orchestras, soloists and choirs. Furthermore, the organ should be capable of appropriately presenting both the classical and modern organ repertoires.

Specification and layout

Based on a design with 74 to 80 stops by Christian Schmitt (Stuttgart), the present specification has been developed in close cooperation between the organ consultants - Christian Schmitt, Martin Haselböck (Vienna), Peter Solomon (Zurich) - and Kuhn Organ Builders. The Great Organ contrasts with a German Romantic Orchestral Division and a French inspired Récit. These two swell organs are situated ideally, that is to say directly above the orchestra. The Great Organ lies one level higher, with behind it the enclosed solo division with its high pressure stops. The larger pedal pipes are positioned behind the organ case, the smaller pedal stops level with the great organ. The pedal organ comprises twelve stops and is completed by the orchestral pedal with seven transmission stops.

The specification shows a distinctive accumulation of foundation stops.They include even a homage to the Tonhalle organ of Johann Nepomuk Kuhn, a Wienerflöte 8'. Another highlight is the Flauto turicensis 8', a development by Kuhn Organ Builders with a circular (360°) labium that is manufactured for the first time for Switzerland. The reed stops will be realized in German, French and English styles. Free reeds are represented by an Aeoline 16', Physharmonica 8' and Clarinette 8'. The specification is supplemented by percussion and effect stops. A glockenspiel effect is produced by the «crotales» - sound discs by which - additionally - an automatic sequence of notes can be defined, as if it were a freely programmable «zimbelstern». Another novelty is the so called Nasenflöte («nose flute»), an effect stop whose pipe mouths are practically invisibly built into the facade.

On the whole, the instrument has 67 stops, four extensions, seven transmissions and two effect stops and thus similar dimensions as the two preceding organs. The download specification includes further details. (The document «The Important in a nutshell» contents on page 2 the specification with remarks in Englisch.)


Following a detailed discussion, the expert committee decided on a three manual console. It is more compact than one with four manuals, and enables a better contact with the conductor. The solo division is a so-called «floating» division which is playable on all keyboards.

Great concert organs are often equipped with an attached console in addition to the mobile console on the podium. However, experience clearly shows that in concert halls, mobile consoles are used almost exclusively. For this reason it was decided not to install an attached mechanical console.

Design of the front

The design of the facade is historicising and thus related to the restoration concept of the Tonhalle, which will be brought close to the polychrome appearance it had in 1895. The decision of not building a mechanical action makes it possible to move back the instrument into the niche and to save overall height, so that the view into the niche could be expanded, too.

04.07.2021 - Translation: RS 2020 / ut 2021