Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd, 2021
Project in progress
Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd, 2021
Project in progress
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. It will be completed in February 2021 and dedicated on 19 to 22 May 2021. Moreover, the project will continue a partnership that, with one interlude of about 10 years, has been existing since 1872. In this year, the founder of our company, Johann Nepomuk Kuhn, built one of his first large organs for the Zurich 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. We believe that a refined differentiation of the foundation stops is especially important in order to reach these aims.
Location of the organ
The organ project is also the chance to resolve a variety of long-standing edificial issues. For example, the old ventilation system in the hall will be modified in order to obtain more space in the organ niche. Therefore, the organ case can be set further back into the niche creating highly desired additional room on the orchestral podium. Structurally, the organ will once again stand completely inside the niche, reaching out only slightly, considerably less than both the preceding organs.
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 - in accordance with the instrument's function as a concert hall organ - a distinctive accumulation of foundation stops. They include even a homage to the Tonhalle organ of Johann Nepomuk Kuhn dating from 1872, 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 ' and a Clarinette 8 '. The specification is supplemented by percussion and effect stops. A glockenspiel effect is produced by the «crotales» - sound discs by which 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.
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 (see photo 1, which shows how it looked at the time). 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.
Apart from musical aims, the new Tonhalle organ will solve some long lasting tasks: the organ facade will fit the aesthetics of the room, the instrument will have its own place again inside the niche, the orchestra will get more room on the podium, and the already excellent acoustics will be rendered even better. The preceding organ with Jean Guillou's remarkable specification has found a new home in the cathedral of Koper, Slovenia. The decision to build a new organ in the Tonhalle will thus make several winners out of several interest groups.
Translation: RS 2020
Captions to photos
Photo 1: Appearance of the hall 1895, postcard, Archive of the Tonhalle Society
Photo 2: Hall with orchestra, Archive of the Tonhalle Society
Photo 3: Organ taken in 1927, Archive of Kuhn Organ Builders
Photo 4: Organ taken in 1939, Archive of Kuhn Organ Builders
Photo 5: Steinmeyer-Kleuker Organ 1988, Archive of Kuhn Organ Builders