Germany, Baden-Wurttemberg

© pictures Orgelbau Kuhn AG, Männedorf

Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1983


Organ built by
Joseph Gabler, 1736 - 1750
slider chests
Key action
Stop action
Walter Supper + Kommission
Kurt Baumann

The Great Organ of the Basilica in Weingarten is certainly the most famous and largest organ in southern Germany with the status of a historical monument. At the same time it is the unsurpassed masterpiece of Joseph Gabler (1700-1771), an amazing fact since it was only the second organ he had built. The design of the façade, which Gabler drew up himself, is certainly a work of genius. The synthesis of organ and interior architecture into a single whole work of art is exemplary. In a highly refined manner, the six windows in the west front are incorporated into the design of the organ which is built around them. Even Gabler's greatest contemporary critic from the monastery, Pater Anselmus Wüntsch, frankly admitted that Gabler was the «embodiment of a master» in the design of his façade.

The actual construction work on the organ lasted from 1737 to 1750 and was a great economical and personal burden for Gabler. Two events were catastrophic for him: the fire in the monastery on 2nd December 1737 and the change of Abbot on 13th November 1738. The monastery carpenters, who, according to the contract were supposed to construct the case, were overloaded with work due to the fire. This led to a considerable delay to the work, the effects of which were a severe burden for Gabler.

Not only the design, but also the technical work, in particular the windchests and the mechanical systems, is of very high quality. A number of technical tricks enable the instrument to be comfortably playable in spite of its expansive systems. Gabler also constructed the first free-standing console in Germany. The number of pipes was, according to various contracts (1737, 1739, 1741, 1745) supposed to be 6666, which, according to monastery tradition was said to be the number of strokes of the whip which Jesus was subjected to. This number was, however, never exactly achieved on constructing the instrument.

In considering the tonal design, a number of extraordinary features are also apparent. The unusually large number of ranks incorporated into the compound stops is one of these. The stops Sesquialter and Cornets are, in addition, actually repeating Terz-mixtures, in which the characteristic 1 3/5 ' rank often isn't reached until c '. Even 'normal' stops are employed by Gabler in pairs, or even threes, in particular the string stops. It is probable that a choir-like effect was strived for. The last contract of 1745 describes the envisaged sound of the various divisions as follows: Hauptwerk penetrant (penetrating), Oberwerk (+ Kronpositiv) douce (mild, sweet), Echowerk lieblich (gentle), Brustpositiv douce (mild, sweet), Hauptpedal pompos (pompous), Brustpedal scharpf (sharp). Measured against today's standards, the organ does not sound excessively loud, but instead has more of the somewhat restrained tone of chamber music. Soft pastel tones are to be found in all divisions.

During the restoration of 1981-83, all the changes made since Gabler were reversed. Admittedly, two compromises had to be made at the request of the organ committee responsible for the project: the original range of the pedal C-g° was extended by 7 notes to d', and Gabler's unequal temperament was somewhat modified and softened.

Translation 2008: SJR