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You are here: Home > Featured Organs > Störmthal, Germany: Hildebrandt organ (1723)
 
Recording sessions at the
Hildebrandt organ of Störmthal, Germany (1723)

The organ in the village church of Störmthal near Leipzig enjoys a unique identity among the surviving artifacts of eighteenth-century culture in Saxony. This was the first instrument to be built by the organbuilder Zacharias Hildebrandt following his training and subsequent employment in the Freiberg shop of Gottfried Silbermann. As one would expect from a promising young builder eager to establish his reputation, the quality of the Störmthal organ was of the highest order in every respect. Recognizing this, the church’s then patron, Hilmar Statz von Füllen, invited none other than Johann Sebastian Bach to approve the completed work. Bach in turn expressed not only his satisfaction with the instrument but declared that its proficiency would thereafter be continually acknowledged with his praise. The organ was dedicated on Sunday, November 2, 1723, in a festive service. For the occasion, Bach composed and directed the cantata “Höchst erwünschtes Freudenfest” with his choir from St. Thomas Church with Anna Magdalena as soloist. This auspicious beginning fostered a lifelong acquaintance between Bach and Hildebrandt, and acquaintance which found its most notable collaboration in1748 when Bach served as consultant for Hildebrandt’s great masterpiece in the St. Wenzel’s church in Naumburg.

The design of the Störmthal organ is a testimony both to the genius of its builder and to the oft-overlooked musical potential of single manual organs. Here, with a palette of only 14 stops, Hildebrandt achieved such variety and quality of tone that one can play for hours and still be charmed by its beauty. The brilliantly proportioned plan of the façade, the compact layout of the windchests between the pillars of the church tower, and the simple and efficient design of the suspended action and wind system all bear the mark of a craftsman confident of his skill. It is most of all in the scaling and voicing of the organ that we find a distinction between Hildebrandt and his mentor, for in Störmthal there is an endearing sweetness which diverges from the characteristically bold voice of Silbermann’s work. Hildebrandt’s exquisite mutation stops are particularly noteworthy. His choice of tapered pipes for the treble of the Nasat 2 2/3’ and Rohrflöte 4’ as well as the inclusion of a Tertia in addition to the customary Cornet are tonal innovations peculiar to this instrument.

Although it has fared better than most of its contemporaries, the Störmthal organ has not entirely escaped changes in fashion or the scourge of war. While alterations to the original voicing have been minimal, Hildebrandt’s Posaune was replaced during the nineteenth century by a Principal 8’ and the tremulant was lost. In 1905 an Aeoline 8’ and Gambe 8’ were added to the manual on an auxiliary pneumatic windchest, which was later removed. The saddest loss came in 1917, when its tin façade pipes were needlessly sacrificed to the war effort. These were replaced by the firm of Hermann Eule in 1934 with new pipes, which have served the organ well since then. At that time the pitch of the organ was lowered from the original 464Hz to 438Hz by shifting the action by a half tone. In spite of these changes, one can still appreciate Hildebrandt’s work singing to us three centuries later in the music of his most esteemed and admiring critic, Johann Sebastian Bach.

 

 
Manual (C, D – c’’’)
Principal 8’ (1934)
Gedackt 8’
Quintadena 8’
Octava 4’
Rohrflöte 4’
Nasat 2 2/3’
Octava 2’
Tertia 1 3/5’
Quinta 1 1/3’
Sifflöt 1’
Cornet III
Mixtur III

Pedal (C, D – c’)

Subbaß 16’
(Posaune 16’)*
Principal 8’ (1840)

Windkoppel
(Tremulant)*

Cornet: (c’ – c’’’)
2 2/3’, 2’, 1 3/5’

Mixtur:
C:   1 1/3’, 1’, 2/3’
c:    2’, 1 1/3‘, 1’
c’:  2 2/3’, 2’, 1 1/3’
c”:  4’, 2 2/3’, 2’

Two wedge bellows in the tower behind the pedal windchest

*original pipes lost in the 19th century

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The Bach Organ of Störmthal William Porter
The Bach Organ of St”rmthal / William Porter
List Price: $16.98
Our Price: $16.98

In 1723, J. S. Bach dedicated this organ with a concert featuring his choir from St. Thomas Church in Leipziag and his wife, Anna Magdalena, as soloist.  The organbuilder Hildebrandt achieved an unusually high variety and quality of tone for an instrument of this size, earning him Bach's lifelong admiration, and later his collaboration on larger projects, particularly the large Hildebrandt organ in Naumburg.

This is the only recording of one of the few extant organs played by Bach, largely in its original condition!
   
 
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The Gothic Catalog
P.O. Box 414
Orcas, WA 98280 USA
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