Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1987
Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1987
Titanic or not?
Schloss Meggenhorn has an eventful history. Up until the 16th century it was in the possession of the collegiate chapter of St. Leodegar from Lucerne. Afterwards it belonged to various Lucerne patrician families and was sold in 1859. After 1870 the property was altered and extended in neo-gothic style by the architect Xaver Meyer. At that time the owner was one Edouard Hofer-Grosjean, an industrial magnate from Alsace. In 1886 the Schloss came into the hands of Madame Marie Amélie Heine-Kohn. In the same year she had erected a small free-standing chapel designed by the architect Heinrich Viktor Segesser and also in neo-gothic style. In 1920 the whole property was sold to the Zurich textile industry boss Jakob Heinrich Frey-Baumann who had the chapel renovated in 1926 and also had an organ built for it. Today the whole estate belongs to the community of Meggen.
The organ installed in the church in 1926 now has great rarity value: it is a Welte-Philharmonie organ. In 1909 the firm Welte from Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany developed a pneumatic organ which could be played as normal from a console, but was also fitted with a self-playing system using punched paper rolls.
The instrument built for Meggenhorn (II/P/14) was arranged in the following way: the console stands sideways on in the chapel, partly hidden, in a case, the shape of which resembles a confessional. The organ itself lies a storey below in the cellar. The sound reaches the inside of the chapel through a grate. It can also, however, be channelled through to a side terrace by opening shutters in the cellar. In this way the organ can be used for the chapel itself and also for outdoor entertainment on the lower terrace of the Schloss.
Almost as valuable as the organ itself is an excellently preserved collection of 104 paper rolls for the self-playing machine. Renowned organists of the time did not shy away from «recording» for the Welte company by playing in pieces onto the paper rolls. Among them were names such as Max Reger, Karl Matthaei, Eugène Gigout and Marcel Dupré.
Among the pieces are some original works for organ (e.g. J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn and Widor) but also many transcriptions from the then popular orchestra and opera works.
The Welte Company intended their self-playing instruments as luxury products for the wealthy. The Welte-Mignon piano was «not available for sale to cafés and pubs». The Welte-Philharmonie organ was exclusively for «the parlours of royalty, important industrial magnates and the wealthy folk of cultured lands across the world». Even the luxury liner «Titanic» which sunk in 1912 was intended to receive such an organ. However, it wasn't dispatched in time and so the Titanic organ escaped the sinking. Ever since, owners of the few surviving Welte-Philharmonie organs of this era argue about who actually has the honour of possessing the instrument intended for the Titanic. In all probability it is to be found today in the «Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments» in the Schloss zu Bruchsal, earlier in Baden-Baden. In spite of arguments to the contrary, Meggenhorn hardly comes into question, partly because of the later date of installation (1926), and partly because of the conditions of space in which the instrument is placed. The real fate of the Titanic organ has, however, not been satisfactorily documented up to now.
Friedrich Jakob, 2007
Peter Hagmann: Das Welte-Mignon-Klavier, die Welte-Philharmonie-Orgel und die Anfänge der Reproduktion von Musik, Bern 1984 (Europäische Hochschulschriften, Reihe XXXVI, Musikwissenschaft, Bd. 10).
Kurt Binninger: Die Welte-Philharmonie-Orgel, in: Acta organologica, Bd. 19, Berlin/Kassel 1987, S. 179-208.
Doris Fässler, Alfred Fischer, Robert Zingg: Schloss Meggenhorn (Meggen wie es war Bd. 2), Meggen 1986.