Switzerland, Solothurn
Museum für Musikautomaten

© pictures Orgelbau Kuhn AG, Männedorf

Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd, 2007


Organ built by
M. Welte & Söhne, Freiburg i.Br., 1914
Key action
Stop action
David Rumsey
Niklaus Stengele

Legendary interpretations brought to life

How would you like to experience how legendary composers of the early 20th century interpreted their own music and be able to listen to the «live» organ sounds of Max Reger and Marcel Dupré? The newly restored Welte-Philharmonie-organ in the Music Machine Museum in Seewen makes this possible. The interpretations of the most famous composers of the time are stored on punched paper rolls and are reproducible on this fascinating instrument. Of course, this is only possible if the organ is fully functional - and achieving this was anything but simple!

The electro-pneumatic system of 1914 functions with exhaust pneumatic action rather than «normal» pressure pneumatic action. The components and construction principles are therefore unusual. Apart from this, the system works with very small amounts of wind. Even tiny leaks can lead to a breakdown in the system. It was therefore necessary to understand exactly the function of all the components and restore them accordingly and with great precision. A task requiring great patience ...

Answers to questions concerning the registration and voicing were found in the compositions on the paper rolls themselves. One could be quite confident of the accuracy of this information as the museum in Seewen is in possession of the largest collection of original, so-called «mother rolls», of which copies for other Welte-Philharmonie-organs throughout the world were made.

This restoration couldn't be more fascinating and diverse. An unexpected turn was the bringing to life of the scintillating tale of a very famous ship. On some of the components was found the name «BRITANIK». Could it really be that this instrument was intended for the sister ship of the legendary «Titanic»? It is known that Welte-organs were, in fact, planned to be on board both luxury liners. Even though this question is, today, still open, the embossed name of the ship makes this seem very likely - it remains an exciting thought.

Story of the instrument

Built around 1914 for the «Britannic». Removed and stored away at the outbreak of the First World War.

Taken to Stuttgart around 1920 for the villa of Dr. August Nagel, owner of the KODAK company. Additional stops, 10. till 12. in Manual I and 7. till 11. in Manual II added.

In 1937 placed in the Meeting and Concert Hall of the company RADIUM LTD. (director Dr. Eugen Kersting). Addirions made involving the stops on the derived stop windchest.

In 1969 set up in Dr. h.c. Heinrich Weiss' collection in Seewen, Canton Solothurn.

Restored in 2007 by Kuhn Organ Builders