Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd, 2008
Kuhn Organ Builders Ltd, 2008
One could consider a village church organ with one manual and 7 stops dating from 1870 to be musically restrained, insignificant and not worthy of being preserved. A new, larger instrument which must have two manuals therefore understandably heads the wish list of a parish with such an old organ.
During our first visit to Gungolding, which occurred mainly by chance, we too were confronted with this assessment. There was indeed hope that the organ builder would assess the instrument in the same way. However, examination of the small Bittner organ revealed that the instrument possessed a simple technical design with slider chests and was apart from the front completely preserved. We therefore spoke out in favour of the preservation of this organ and against a new organ, as also did the representatives of the institute for the preservation of ancient monuments.
In the 1980s the organ had already been restored once. The execution of individual measures at that time was poor. For example, all the wooden pipes were machine sanded and the wind system in the attic was shut down. In the lower case an electric blower and diaphragm bellows were installed instead. The whole organ was moved to the back, right in front of the wall. Due to these measures pipework, pedal chest and all tracker actions were no longer accessible. Maintenance work could therefore not be undertaken on these parts. Consequently the organ deteriorated rapidly.
A «complete re-restoration» which is often demanded in such cases made little sense in our view. The sanding of the wooden pipes is considered to be irreversible. The work done on the windchests and the metal pipework demonstrably led to reliable operation, even if some details would be accomplished differently nowadays. The awareness that every restoration interferes with the historic material should urge caution, especially in such cases. After all, we can't restore our historic instruments every 25 years in the light of current knowledge. In our estimation, as long as the organ functions well, the next «large restoration» may be entrusted to the following generation.
Thus it was decided to renovate the organ thoroughly, to move it back to the original location and to restore the old wedge bellows in the attic. August Bittner, a direct descendant of the organ builder family, was so kind as to provide us with the documents concerning the original front pipes. The 23 pipes of the stops Principal 8 ' and Octav 4 ' were reconstructed.
The organ now presents itself technically in good condition, revealing its full tonal qualities again. Maybe a little austere and rustic, we think, fitting marvellously into its surroundings. So it showed that a «simple and insignificant organ with only 7 stops» after an affectionate and technically appropriate rehabilitation is absolutely capable of fulfilling its purpose in a small parish like Gungolding, to the pleasure of organists and parish alike! In addition, the expense was very modest compared to the cost of a new organ with two manuals.
Translation: RS 2008