The fascination of organ building

 

 

Rheinau

III/P/36

Switzerland, Zurich
Ehemalige Klosterkirche, Hauptorgel

© pictures Orgelbau Kuhn AG, Männedorf

Orgelbau Th. Kuhn AG, 1990

Restoration

Organ built by
Johann Christoph Leu, 1715
Windchests
slider chests
Key action
mechanical
Stop action
mechanical
Inauguration
16.09.1990
Expert
Rudolf Brulin u.a.
Voicing
H.-J. Schacht

Today's Baroque monastery church was built between 1705 and 1710 and replaced a Romanesque three-naved Basilica. For the inauguration on 5th October 1710 there was only a small choir organ. The new main organ wasn't built until between 1711 and 1715. It is the only organ built by the Augsburg organ builder and instrument maker Johann Christoph Leu (1675-1749) of which substantial parts still exist. The original contracts have been lost, but there still exist reliable copies from this time. In these can be read that Leu was to construct a two-manual organ with Hauptwerk, Rückpositiv and Pedal Organ and with 30 stops in all. A third manual was solely for playing a Glockenspiel with 45 bells (C-c'''). After its completion the officials of the church decided that the sound of a Glockenspiel was not appropriate for a house of God. Therefore, Leu was contracted, as detailed in an additional document, to replace the Glockenspiel with a «flute division». Therefore a third manual division was subsequently added as an Oberwerk with 6 sounding stops. The handover of the organ followed on 14th December 1715, now apparently with full satisfaction.

The first major modifications took place in 1840/41 by Friedrich Haas, the most influential Swiss organ builder of the mid 19th century. These alterations, with numerous changes to the stoplist, transformed the Baroque organ into an early Romantic instrument. After the monastery closed in 1862, the church and organ became the property of the Canton of Zurich. After a first restoration in the manner of the «Organ Movement» in 1941 there followed, to complete the total restoration of the church between 1988 and 1990, a further, and better funded, restoration. Since the work done in 1941 had practically eliminated the changes made by Haas, the only possible aim of this was to reconstruct the instrument of 1715 (with Oberwerk).


Translation 2008: SJR