Orgelbau Kuhn AG + Orgelbau Joh. Klais, 2004
Ehem. Abteikirche St. Georg
Orgelbau Kuhn AG + Orgelbau Joh. Klais, 2004
Piecing together a complex past
The famed Gabler organ in Ochsenhausen presented one of today's greatest challenges in the art of restoration. To rise to this challenge meant embarking on a journey through numerous phases of modification back into the year 1734, always searching for evidence of the circumstances under which reconstruction work took place. Gabler's first organ was an intrepid project. His visionary design brought with it, however, problems with the action and wind supply. As a result the instrument underwent a long series of alterations by generations of organ builders - headed by Gabler's own modifications in 1753. This ultimately resulted in the complete loss of the original technical system. The pipework alone remained, for the most part, in its original state.
This complex starting point presented the difficult question of the actual aims of the restoration work. The return of the organ to its original condition was theoretically as equally feasible as a reconstruction of the instrument as it stood after the alterations undertaken during the 19th Century. The task of re-integrating original material, gradually removed from the organ over numerous generations, was an ambitious project and, at the outset, a seemingly unsolvable puzzle.
Meticulous research eventually concluded that the conditions under which Gabler undertook his work in 1753 were verifiable. This enabled us to clearly define the aims of our restoration work.
The task was carried out in an interesting and productive partnership with Orgelbau Klais of Bonn. Our experience gleaned from the restoration of the Gabler organ in Weingarten proved valuable, but most of all patience, a critical and enquiring approach and, importantly, a common wish to achieve something special all led to a convincing outcome to the whole project.
What actually prompted two organ building firms, each with its own well-established restoration department, to join forces in a project of this kind?
The idea for this collaboration actually came to fruition in both factories, independently of one another. Intensive talks then led to the decision to undertake the work in partnership.
The Gabler organ in Ochsenhausen presented one of today's greatest challenges in organ restoration.
The cumulative expertise of two highly qualified restoration teams under the direction of Wolfgang Rehn and Hans-Wolfgang Theobald undoubtedly raised the level of success.
The joint work on key tasks such as the dismantling of the organ or the drawing up of the restoration plan made it possible for an experienced restorer to work alongside an equally qualified expert, who, at crucial moments, could take the role of "advocatus diaboli", posing pointed questions, even at times when, on the face of it, everything seemed clear. The knowledge which had been gleaned from the restoration of the Gabler organ in Weingarten and the people involved in this previous project were a positive enrichment to the restoration in Ochsenhausen. Good personal contacts between the houses of Kuhn and Klais were already at hand among the workers, representatives of the restoration team and management.
The success of such a partnership is dependent on those involved being prepared to put the aims of the restoration above the name of one's own company. Indeed, is it not such a prioritization which is the true mark of excellence in restoration work? Through a joint acceptance of the responsibilities both sides could profit, profounder discussion was made possible and an absorbing learning process resulted.
We enjoyed this challenge and are today able to ascertain that the bold step we took in undertaking this project together with a partner has paid off. A climate of mutual respect and the will to work constructively in collaboration have produced a convincing end result. For all involved, the co-operative work presented an additional dimension through which all involved were able to profit.
Together we have accomplished a complex task and looking back on the whole project brings back many fond memories. We would like to offer our sincere thanks to all those involved for their trust and for the satisfying and stimulating collaborative work. Our very best wishes go to the Gabler organ itself: may it pass on joy to the hearts of many generations to come!
Orgelbau Kuhn AG
Dieter Utz,Wolfgang Rehn
Orgelbau Joh. Klais GmbH & Co. KG
Philipp Klais, Hans-Wolfgang Theobald