The present organs

After some years during which it became clear that the state would never actually build the new organ, the cathedral council and Bremsteller decided to try to build a smaller organ in the proximity of the high choir, which should in some measure fulfil the functions of both the west organ and a choir organ and which would be financeable by the parish itself. An order was placed with Schuke, and after a waiting period of nearly a decade the organ was finally erected in 1970. It stands on a triforium ledge above the "Paradise Gate", deeply recessed into the northDomorgel transept. It is a fine example of neo-baroque organ building and is able to dominate tonally the transepts and crossing; since however the altar which is used for parish services stands west of the crossing, and the screen east of it, this is an area of the cathedral which is "dead", empty of people during services. Its tones are heard very diffusely in the rest of the building. The case, which is made of stained pine and very roughly carpentered, was designed by the architect Fritz Leweke of Halle. The sweetness and clarity of its voicing finds many admirers, and the organ is still carefully maintained and used for services in the choir as well as in recitals. Recent work reversed attempts in the early nineties to make the organ substantially louder, and a mildly unequal temperament was laid - one, however, which did not require lengthening or shortening of any pipes, in order to make this alteration in the nature of what is after all a neobaroque instrument as easily reversible as possible. It is a modified version of the Lehmann-Bach temperament. In the future the organ will need new facade pipes, since the current ones are slowly collapsing (the 70% tin alloy has reached the end of its stable life), and the idea of reconstructing the case in a largely unaltered design but with better materials and better workmanship is current. The thought of replacing the 60s Giesecke reeds with new ones of more fundamental tone seems attractive, but carries with it the risk of falsifying the character of an organ which is undoubtedly one of the finest instruments by any builder of its period.   

After Barry Jordan became cathedral organist in 1994, there seemed absolutely no doubt that a new organ on the west gallery was not only desirable but a necessity. (His predecessor Gunther Hoff had had little interest in organ playing and had devoted his energies to the choral music in the cathedral.) The cathedral is after all not only a church serving a small but lively parish, but also one of the city's major tourist attractions and an important cultural centre. It soon became clear, however, that the financial dimensions of the project would be such that the cash-strapped parish would be completely out of its depth.

To this end a society (eingetragener Verein), dedicated to the purpose of funding of organ building projects in the cathedral was founded under the name of Aktion neue Domorgeln Magdeburg. After some initial difficulties this was legally incorporated and registered as tax-advantaged in early 1998. The plural form "New Organs", was deliberately chosen because it was clear that the Remter, too, needed a new and worthy instrument.

The plan envisaged a large symphonic instrument in an eclectic style for the cathedral, and a smallish (about 22 stop) organ in a style which, while ideal for Bach, would allow the convincing performance of a certain amount of repertoire for the Remter, which has the more appropriate acoustic for most baroque music. Not only would these two organs complement each other; they would also greatly enrich the Orgellandschaft of Magdeburg, a city which once had more instruments by Arp Schnitger than any other city after Hamburg and which is rapidly once more becoming an organ mecca.

The first step in the realisation of the plan was the commissioning of the main organ. The contract for this was awarded to Schuke Orgelbau (Werder an der Havel); the project took several years to realise, and the organ was completed in May 2008 and dedicated on Trinity Sunday, May 18th. During the festival week the instrument was able to convince its hearers with its warm, colourful sound and its ability to dominate the very large room without ever being vulgar or overly loud. Voicer Hartmut Rönnecke and his team deserve enormous praise for their achievement, especially as the organ is in a style which represented a new departure for the Schuke firm, even though having enormous experience in the restoration of romantic instruments. The organ comprises 92 stops (and 1 transmission) on four manuals and pedals. The tonal backbone is a generous principal chorus owing much to Friedrich Ladegast, but the multifarious beautiful flute stops and the gentle but often keen strings have won much praise from visiting organists from many traditions.

The exterior design of the instrument is simple but striking; the facade is turned through many dimensions which makes for an interesting and plastic appearance. That only large pipes have found a place in the case (beginning with FF# of the 32 Principal) works to the organs advantage when viewed from the cathedral, especially as the organ gallery floor is at a height of approximately 16 metres.

Essentially, the instrument has mechanical action; there are Kowalyshyn machines to the first and second manuals, and all normal manual couplers run through these. The octave and suboctave couplers are electric, as are two of the pedal couplers; the tuba, the Chamade and some pedal stops are on auxiliary electric chests. The pedal, as can be clearly seen from the photo, is located to the sides of the organ; in the centre are the Hauptwerk, with the expressive Positiv behind it; on the upper level are the Solo, with the Swell behind that. The Chamade, while playable from the second manual, is located on the roof of the Swell. The case structure itself has no roof (the roof of the Solo division was removed during the voicing as this was found to be enormously beneficial).

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The Specification of the organ was developed by Barry Jordan with Matthias Schuke, Hans Scheffler, and the other consultants involved in the project, Reinhard Menger, Reiner Schuhenn, Silvius von Kessel and Christoph Schulz. Scales were developed by the Schuke team; Michael Blighton of Mander Organ Builders was responsible for the tuba. The Solo clarinette originally supplied was replaced in 2011 by an historical English stop from a Brindley and Foster organ of 1914.

In October 2011 it was possible to complete the organ projects at the cathedral with the inauguration of a new organ in the Remter as well. This organ represents a collaboration between Glatter-Götz Orgelbau of Pfullendorf (Kreis Sigmaringen) and Manuel Rosales of Rosales Pipe Organ Services of Los Angeles, a team responsible for a number of fine organs in the United States, including the already famous organ of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the USA. Rosales was responsible for the tonal design, scaling and voicing, whereas Glatter-Götz took responsibility for the technical design and construction. This 22-stop instrument is located under one of two arches joining the Remter to its Lady Chapel, has 2 facades with an 8 Principal in each and can thus function as liturgical instrument for both spaces. Although its specification, by Manuel Rosales, Barry Jordan and Kevin Erly Gilchrist, resembles that of a typical neoclassical instrument, its tonal conception is quite different and the general impression that of an instrument much larger than it in fact is. The organ is a real triumph of multum in parvo thinking and voicing. The striking case was designed by Graham Tristram of Edinburgh; with a nod to classical organ design, the case is in fact almost completely dissolved; together with the artful use of colour, the organ makes a real visual contribution to both rooms.

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Tonal samples of all three organs

Absolutely all there is to know (in German)