The fascination of organ building

 

 

Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd, 2003

Restoration

Organ built by
Silvester Walpen, 1844 / 1853
Windchests
slider chests
Key action
mechanical
Stop action
mechanical
Inauguration
22.11.2003
Expert
Rudolf Bruhin
Voicing
Rudolf Aebischer


www.orgelbau.ch/ope=801260

Luzern

II/P/27

Switzerland, Lucerne
Hofkirche St. Leodegar, Chororgel über Mariae End-Altar

© pictures Orgelbau Kuhn AG, Männedorf

Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd, 2003

Restoration

Organ built by
Silvester Walpen, 1844 / 1853
Windchests
slider chests
Key action
mechanical
Stop action
mechanical
Inauguration
22.11.2003
Expert
Rudolf Bruhin
Voicing
Rudolf Aebischer

An old organ draws new breath

The story of the restoration of the Walpen organ is the story of a unique rescue. This unusual chancel organ in Lucerne's Hofkirche was built in 1842 by Thomas Silvester Walpen (1802-1857) and is the only one of his organs which remains today. It was originally fully mechanical, both in terms of the key and stop actions, but was fitted with a pneumatic system in 1941. This led to technical problems and this valuable instrument was rendered unplayable for many years.

The most interesting feature of the Walpen organ is in its clever dual function achieved through the construction of two facades, each linked to one of the manuals. Besides the splendid main façade (1st manual) which overlooks the Death of the Virgin Altar directly into the aisle and sounding effectively out into the nave, there was also a façade facing onto the choir loft.

However, ten years after the organ's construction Walpen was forced to modify and relocate this highly original instrument. It was criticised that from the console the softer 2nd manual was actually perceived as louder than the stronger sounding 1st manual, which was something of a hindrance to the player. Apparently the advantages of the original conception were misunderstood. The aim of our restoration was to reinstate the organ's dual function as the builder had originally planned it. It was repositioned exactly as it had been in 1842. The preservation of the available historical pipework from 1853 was given precedence over that of the earlier period for which there existed far less evidence. As a result, tonally, today's reconstruction reflects the modifications which Walpen made in 1853.

The pneumatic system of 1941 was completely removed and replaced by a mechanical key and stop action, in the style of the era in which the organ was originally built. The wedge-bellows system could be reconstructed from original materials. The «fresh wind» now flows once again through the old bellows and channels and this authentic wind system plays a major role in recreating the original tonal qualities of Walpen's organ.

Finally there was the task of designing the backward facing façade of which there was unfortunately no surviving evidence. Working together with a representative from the society for the preservation of ancient monuments it was decided against attempting a reconstruction but instead close off the opening of the casing with wooden trellis-work.