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Übersicht

Waldbreitbach, Maria Himmelfahrt

Restoration of the Klais Organ from 1896

The History of the Waldbreitbach Organs

 

The Weil Organ from 1811

The earliest information concerning an organ in the old Waldbreitbach parish church comes from 1810.  Under the leadership of parish priest Kaspar Oberhäuser, who was described as a music lover, the humble, not exactly luxuriously-equipped congregation and the presbyters of the parish decided to have an organ built.  On June 26, 1810, the congregation auctioned off an estate near Neustadt for 1,560 thalers.  790 thalers from the proceeds went towards the new organ, while 500 thalers were set aside as a fund for the payment of a future organist, who was to receive 45 thalers per year.

 

Just over two weeks later, on July 15, 1810, a contract for the building of the new organ was negotiated by Father Oberhäuser, Bailiff Reinhard and the presbyters with the organ builder Christian Weil from Neuwied.  The new organ was planned to have eleven stops, although twelve were actually built.  This financially-daring step—the organ cost at least 1100 guilders—was not received with much enthusiasm by the church council in Trier.  As late as eight years later, vicar-general Hommer complained over the procedures in a letter: “I always think of the financial situation with deep regret.  Back then they built an organ at great expense, and in addition threw out another 45 guilders per year on the salary of the organist.  If the assets of the church are handled in such a fashion, it is no wonder that nothing is left over…”

 

There are contradictory reports regarding the date of the organ’s completion.  One source from the archives of the municipality states, “The organ should be ready in the church by up-coming Johanni 1811.”  Other sources speak of 1813.

 

The Weil organ had the following stop list:

 

Manual

 

 

Viola di Gamba

8’

Wood bass, metal treble

Bourdon

8’

 

Hohlflöte

8’

 

Prinzipal

4’

English tin

Flöte

4’

Wood, open

Gedackt

4’

Wood

Octav

2’

Metal

Quint

1 1/2’

Metal

Mixtur 3f

1’

Metal

Trompete

8’

Metal

 

 

 

Pedal

 

 

Subbass

16’

Wood

Prinzipalbass

8’

Wood

 

 

 

Koppel

 

 

Tremulant

 

 

 

The keys were given a veneer of ivory and ebony; the organ case, constructed of “beautiful” oak wood, was modelled after the Heddesdorf organ.

 

 

 

Following pages:

Relocation and alteration of the organ

A new organ is built

The restoration
Relocation of the Weil Organ

In 1831 a comprehensive repair of the parish church was necessary.  For this purpose the organ was relocated to a gallery next to the sacristy, with special care being taken to avoid damaging the instrument.  Item 10 of the administrative agreement with mason Hofmann from Niederbreitbach read, “The contractor is not just to relocate the organ, but also to replace it in good and proper condition, for which no further payment other than that agreed upon in the contract will be given.”  Over the course of construction the contractor was also given the job of “building the new platform for the organ” in the old church of that time.  In the archives of the organ building firm Schlaad, located in Waldlaubersheim near Bingen, there is a note stating that in 1831 the organ was repaired and relocated by them for the sum of 400 thalers.  It can additionally be inferred from this labour contract that another altar was erected, as it states under item 2 of the contract, “Within this year the contractor is also to build the new platform for the organ and to relocate the organ itself, as well as place the new altar, for which the high altar in the parish church is to be used as a model.”

 

The total cost of the repairs to the old church amounted to 906 thalers.  The renovation was begun in fall of 1831, and according to a report from Father Heinrich Schiffer was completed in September of 1832.

 

Alterations to the Weil Organ

Twenty years later, voices were raised for changes in the organ.  On May 23, 1852, organ builder Weil proposed a remodelling with an expansion of two keyboards and the following stop list:

 

Hauptwerk

 

 

Flöte

8’

 

Prinzipal

4’

 

Quint

3’

 

Oktave

2’

 

Mixtur 3f

1 3/4’

 

Trompete (Bass/Treble)

8’

 

Oberwerk

 

 

Hohlflöte

8’

 

Viola di Gamba

8’

 

Gedackt

4’

 

 

 

 

Pedal

 

 

Subbass

16’

 

Prinzipalbass

8’

 

 

 

A second proposal was offered by Schlaad on November 27, 1854.  It included a new instrument with the use of the old stops.

 

Manual

 

 

Gedackt (Treble)

16’

Reconstructed out of Bourdon

Flöte

8’

 

Viola di Gamba

8’

 

Prinzipal

4’

New

Gedackt

4’

 

Quinte

3’

 

Octave

2’

New

Mixtur

1 3/4’

New

Trompete (Bass/Treble)

8’

New

 

 

 

Pedal

 

 

Subbass

16’

 

Prinzipalbass

16’

 

 

 

The congregation decided on the more cost effective solution, and on November 30, 1854 a contract was negotiated with Schlaad.  The expenses amounted to 300 thalers.  The contract was approved by the vicar-general in Trier on November 23, 1855.

 

 

 

Following Pages:

A new organ is built

The restoration


 

What did an organist, chorister and blower earn?

 

In a log from 1867 documenting the condition of the parish, the yearly salary of an organist was given as 27 thalers; a blower (the person who pumps the bellows) received 3 thalers, and a chorister 6 thalers.  In 1884 the yearly salary of an organist amounted to 106 thalers, while blowers received 34 thalers and choristers 18 thalers.

In a document dated March 16, 1900, the following numbers were listed:

Salary for the organist, 232 thalers; for the blowers, 42 thalers; for the choristers 18 thalers.

In thirty-three years the salary of a chorister had increased threefold, that of an organist ninefold, while that of a blower now amounted to fourteen times that what it was in 1867!

 

A New Church is Built

By 1767 the old Waldbreitbach parish church was already too cramped for the large number of members.  However, it took another hundred years before it was possible to build the parish church that exists today.  The interminable negotiations and legal disputes over the construction could only be settled after a donation of 22,000 thalers by the Prince of Wied.  Under parish priest Heinrich Jakob Hermes the foundation stone was laid on January 7, 1877; two years later the exterior of the church existed in its current form, complete with the old steeple from the 12th century.

 

An inventory from June 25, 1863 shows under the header “Furniture”: “Organ, erected in 1813 for 1100 guilders.”  Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine what organ stood in the newly built church.  Presumably the organ from the old church was reinstalled in the new church.  It is unlikely that the congregation, having for many decades been used to the accompaniment of an organ, managed to do without the familiar sound for very long.  From 1876 to 1895 the church choir was conducted by mill-owner Peter Nassen.  Presumably he had the position of organist as well.

 

A New Organ is Built

In the 1890’s the wish was expressed for an organ better suited for the church, and the congregation and their parish priest Georg Baulig negotiated a contract for a new organ with the Bonn firm Orgelbau Klais on November 4, 1893, for a price of 7,450 marks.  The new organ was to be completed by August 1, 1896.

 

The then renowned organ building firm from Bonn was founded in 1882 by Johannes Klais, and quickly won an excellent reputation for itself.  In October of 1985 the following stop list was suggested for an organ with two keyboards and twenty stops:

 

 

Hauptwerk (C-f3)

 

 

Bourdon

16’

The three lower octaves out of wood, continued in 62.5% tin

Full, dark underlying tone

Prinzipal

8’

From 75% and 87.5% tin

Strong, full, rich tone

Gamba

8’

From 75% tin

With ears; strong, striking tone

Hohlflöte

8’

Wooden lower octaves, continued in 75% tin

Gemshorn

8’

The lowest octaves out of wood, continued in 75% tin

Smooth flute tones, gentle

Oktave

4’

From 75% and 87.5% tin

Violine

4’

From 75% tin

Smooth and gentle

Mixtur-Cornett 3-4f

4’

From 75% tin (4’, 2 2/3’, 2’, 1 3/5’)

Lustrous tone

Superoctave

2’

From 75% tin

Fresh tone

Trompete

8’

Striking; resonator out of 62.5% tin, block out of hard alloy

Brass shallot and tuning wire

Phosphor bronze reed

 

 

 

Unterwerk (C-f3)

 

 

Geigenprinzipal

16’

Wooden lower octaves,

continued in 75% tin

Salicional

8’

Wooden lower octaves,

continued in 75% tin

Lieblich Gedackt

8’

The two lower octaves out of wood,

continued in 62.5% tin

Dulcet, full and round flute tones

Dolce

8’

He nine lowest tones out of wood,

continued in 75% tin

Gentle with a little dash

Vox coelestis

8’

From 75% tin,

Gentle and smooth

Flaut travers

4’

The three lower octaves out of wood,

Remaining octaves overblowing, out of 75% tin

 

 

 

Pedal (C-d1)

 

 

Subbass

16’

Wooden

Very full and dark underlying tone

Oktavbass

8’

Wooden

Strong, full principal tone

Violoncello

8’

Wooden lower octaves, 

continued in 75% tin

Moderately “stringy”

Tuba 

16’

Penetrating; wooden shallot,

brass frame and tuning wire

Phosphor bronze reed

Full and round, after the style of a horn

 

 

 

Manualkoppel II / I

 

 

Pedalkoppen I / P

 

 

Feste Kombinationen:

Tutti, Forte, Piano

 

 

 

The front of the organ case was crafted of oak; the sides, back and decorations of fir.  The keys were made of white bone and ebony, the pedal-keys of oak.  The organ was tuned at 435 Hz and 15 degrees Celsius.

 

Despite the fact that the contract had already been agreed upon, the vicar-general inTrier suggested the following changes in a letter to the Klais firm on November 14, 1895:

-Omission of the Vox coelestis

-The lower octaves of the Geigenprinzipal, Salicional and Dolce should be made of zinc instead of wood

-The lowest octave of the Violoncello 8’ should be built of zinc instead of wood

 

The organ was then built with these changes.  However, it proved impossible to finish the organ by the planned date of August 1, 1896.

On November 22, 1896 the completion of the Klais organ was celebrated.

 

In his report from November 26, 1896, organ consultant Johannes Blessing OSB from Maria Laach wrote:

“On November 19, 1896, the new organ from organ building master J. Klais in Bonn was officially accepted by the undersigned.  It has a total of nineteen stops distributed across two manuals and a pedal, as well as five combination drawstops.  The completed organ leaves nothing to be desired.  The individual stops deserve whole-hearted praise.

The organ case is crafted of good oak wood.  With its well-chosen proportions and artfully preserved Romantic style, it makes an exceptionally beautiful presentation.  The bellows, located to the side, are separated from the organ by a passageway.  The congregation should consider itself lucky to possess such a valuable and well-made work of art.”

 

In a “General Receipt” made out to Father Georg Baulig on January 27, 1899, Johannes Klais confirmed that the total sum of 7,450 marks had been paid.  The entire contract price was paid through voluntary donations from the congregation.

 

The Façade Pipes are Confiscated

Our organ was not spared from the call for tin in World War I.  A letter from February 17, 1917, contained the following command for the mayor of Neuerberg: “The tin façade pipes from organs are to be seized and expropriated.  Other tin organ pipes may be voluntarily handed over.  All these pipes will become the property of the government military service.  The tin façade pipes are to be removed from the organ and delivered between now and the 31st of July, 1917.”

Shortly following the end of the first World War, the congregation endeavoured to get the organ back in working condition.  On September 8, 1919, organ builder Klais wrote to parish priest Lux, “The new façade is ready, but could not yet be delivered due to the blockade on the railway.”

 

Heavy Damage to the Church During World War II

The bombardment of the Waldbreitbach church at the end of World War II led to the collapse of the ceiling above the choir wing and aisles; all the arches developed cracks, the steeple lost its roof and all the windows were destroyed.  Many pipes in the organ were heavily damaged due to falling rocks.  The organ itself had no roof, so the debris from the damaged arches was able to fall directly into the pipework of the Hauptwerk and Pedal.  However, long-time parish priest Bertram Möhren soon had the worst damages repaired.

 

 

 

Following Page:

The restoration


 

First Thoughts Towards a Restoration

A woodworm infestation in the 70’s provided cause for a thorough renovation of the organ to be considered.  In 1975 the Klais firm wrote that an impregnation against the pests was absolutely necessary.  When the parish could not make up its mind to have the work done, parish priest Otto Berberich wrote to the Trier Cathedral organist, Wolfgang Oehms, in May of 1977, “As regards a renovation of the church, our congregation was thinking of a major overhaul to the organ, or possibly even replacement with a new organ.”  On June 20, 1977, the cathedral organist examined the organ and wrote in his report:  “The organ is technically in good condition, although the Prinzipale are dull and tiring.  An electric action should be avoided; a mechanical slider chest with the same stops would be better.”

 

In December of 1977 Orgelbau Klais suggested an alteration and extension to the organ, so that it would also be suited for performing Baroque works.  Twenty-five stops, five of which would be new, were to be built in a new mechanical slider chest organ with two keyboards, while the Pedal would be located behind the Manualwerk.  Provision was made for new tin pipes for the façade, as well as an expanded compass; the new stops to be added were Sesquialter 2 2/3’ 2f, Cornetmixtur 1’, Oboe 8’, Tenoroktave 4’, Piffaro 2f 2’ and Posaune 16’.  In addition the stop Dolce 8’ in Manual II was to be detuned to produce a beating effect.  However, due to financial reasons Father Berberich and the church council were forced to turn down the proposal.

 

When the parish church was reopened on December 24, 1977, after a six-month renovation, Father Berberich wrote in a letter to the congregation: “The stairs to the organ and the organ itself are still waiting for a new, colourful presentation.  Unfortunately, we lack the money for a new organ, considered by music lovers to be so desperately needed, but—we will see what the future brings!”

 

Four years later, in September of 1981, the organ building firm once again pointed out that the layer of dirt and dust was always growing, and that a cleaning was imperative.  At that the current parish priest, who had held his position since 1980, got estimates for a cleaning and tune-up from four different organ building firms (Orgelbau Klein, Orgelbau Oehms, Orgelbau Seifert and Orgelbau Walcker).  Their offers ranged from 4,700 DM for a provisional cleaning, up to roughly 180,000 DM for a new organ.  At a meeting of the parish council under Father Veit on July 14, 1982, a renovation of the organ was rejected; building a new organ was considered absolutely unthinkable.

 

However, the organ continued to fall into a further state of disrepair.  In 1984 Orgelbau Klais once again wrote, “During maintenance we discovered a large infestation of woodworms in the pedal-keys; furthermore a cleaning is badly needed.”  The pressure to quickly take action prompted the council to gather new estimates.  Organist Willi Zimmermann listed the following shortcomings in his letter from November 15, 1984: “Bad bellows, windtrunks no longer airtight, heavy woodworm infestation, damaged pouches.”  He recommended an electric console—or a completely new organ!

 

In March of 1985 organ building firm Oehms, which had given the cheapest quote, performed the following work: all pipes were cleaned, the organ freed of dust, the pneumatic action checked, damaged pouches replaced, the organ impregnated against woodworms, the rotten back replaced with a new one, and a new electric bellows installed.  In addition, the maintenance and tuning contract was transferred from Orgelbau Klais to Orgelbau Oehms from Trier.

 

In 1993, the Westwälder organ building firm Klein took over the maintenance of the organ.

 

A New Parish Priest—A New Approach

Possessing a deep interest for all musical facets, Father Hermann Helmig took over the organ project shortly after his inauguration as parish priest of Waldbreitbach.  On March 26, 1996 cathedral organist Josef Still examined the organ and wrote in his report: “The organ represents a monument of high value.  The enchanting Romantic sound of the organ is fascinating.  Only a careful and comprehensive restoration, strictly following the considerations of a historical monument, comes into question for the valuable organ in Waldbreitbach.”

 

On December 3, 2001 the organ consultant for the Office of Historical Monument Preservation in Rheinland-Pfalz, Prof. Dr. Friedrich W. Riedel, wrote in his notes:  “This organ is a valuable monument stemming from the turn of the century.  Its original form has been preserved, although it has fallen into desolate condition due to insufficient maintenance and improper treatment.  A restoration strictly in keeping with the standpoints of a historical monument is of the utmost importance.”

 

The following period was marked by an intensive search for suitable organ building firms, various visits to instruments from the same time period, and the collection of donations.  In the meantime, the infestation of woodworms in the organ continued to spread, and during the summer of 2003 one of the pedal-keys even broke off due to the many holes.  Time was of the essence.

 

After five organ building firms had offered their estimates, and after exhaustive deliberations, the parish council awarded the restoration contract to Orgelbau Klais.

 

The stop list of the organ before the 2006 restoration was as follows:

 

Hauptwerk (C-f3)

 

 

Bourdon

16’

Stopped pipes, spruce, c2-f3 stopped pipes, metal

Prinzipal 

8’

C-a0 façade pipes of zinc

Oktave

4’

C-Gis façade zinc, after  A tin

Hohlflöte

8’

C-h0 open, spruce, after c’ metal

Gemshorn

8’

C-B open, spruce, H out of zinc,

c0-f3 tin originals

Gamba 

8’

C-f3 zinc, many pipes heavily damaged

Violine

4’

Metal

Superoktave

2’

Original, C-f3 tin

Mixtur 3-4f

2 2/3’

Tin originals

Trompete

8’

Original, full-length resonator, resonator out of tin

 

 

 

Unterwerk (C-f3)

 

 

Geigenprinzipal

8’

C-H zinc

Salicional

8’

C-H zinc, after c0 tin

Dolce

8’

C-H zinc, after c0 tin

Lieblich Gedackt 

8’

C-H spruce, after c’ tin, after fis3 conical open

Traversflöte

4’

C-h0 spruce, after c’ tin conical overblowing

 

 

 

Pedal (C-d1)

 

 

Subbass

16’

Spruce

Oktavbass

8’

Spruce

Violoncello

8’

Zinc

Tuba

16’

Spruce

 

 

 

Koppeln:

II-I, I, II-P

 

 

Feste Kombinationen:

Piano, Forte, Tutti

 

 

 

The Decorations Atop the Case

The reconstruction of the case decorations led to an exciting search.  As corroborated by multiple members of the congregation, various ornaments graced the organ’s case prior to World War II.  Schicker, the long-time mayor of the municipality, who since his earliest youth has been closely connected with the church and organ, clearly remembered the decorations (despite the passage of over fifty years!), and even drew up a diagram in a scale of 1:25.  This was compared to pictures of Klais organs preserved from the turn of the century.  An intensive search for a photograph of the organ was carried out, unfortunately without success.  The oldest picture stemmed from 1956, at which point the decorations on the case had already disappeared.

 

The restorers attempted to find a coherent solution, designing decorations which were then cut and mounted atop the case, and which in size and shape stand in good proportions to the case itself.

 

The Colour of the Organ Case

Many members of the congregation commented that the colour of the case had once been much lighter.  A search began for original documents , and in addition research was undertaken regarding colours.   After an on-site meeting with the church council, it was decided to strip the dark outer finish and bring out the naturally dark oak tones which had been preserved underneath.  Thus the organ case once again makes an appealing and distinguished presentation.

 

Peter Uhl

 

With the friendly permission of the author we have taken this article from the Festschrift for the newly restored organ.