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The new organ's visual design is based on Arp Schnitger’s organ case at Clausthal-Zellerfeld in central Germany

The Cornell Baroque Organ Project

A New Organ for Anabel Taylor Chapel

In 2003 Cornell University began work on a new organ for Anabel Taylor Chapel—an instrument based on a German 18th century masterpiece—as part of an international research project involving three academic institutions in the field of organ studies: Cornell, the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. This interdisciplinary and international effort encompasses scholars, physical scientists, musicians, craftsmen and visual artists from Sweden, Japan, The Netherlands, Germany and New York State. Joining their efforts under the artistic direction of Munetaka Yokota at the Gothenburg Organ Art Center (GOART), the members of this team created an organ that is not just a fine vehicle for teaching, performance and scholarship, but also a magnificent work of art. (See Photo Galleries section below.)

Historical Models

The Cornell Baroque Organ will reconstruct the tonal design of the celebrated instrument at the Charlottenburg-Schlosskapelle built in the first decade of the 18th century in Berlin by Arp Schnitger, one of history’s greatest organ builders. The instrument’s layout and visual design will be based on Schnitger’s breathtaking organ case at Clausthal-Zellerfeld in central Germany. See Historic Model Photo Gallery.

Arp Schnitger was the most important organ builder of late 17th-century North Germany; although he was active mainly in its northwestern corner, his work was well known in all of the German speaking lands. He built several organs in the eastern cities as well, with unique features not possessed by their northwestern counterparts. Many of his works in the northwestern areas survive today and are well-known, but none of his instruments in the eastern areas are extant today, with the one exception of the organ case in Clausthal-Zellerfeld.

Tragically destroyed in the Second World War, the Charlottenburg organ and its unique tonal qualities can be recreated today using original documentation alongside early 20th-century studies and recordings of the instrument. Unique to this Berlin instrument, and still little-understood, is the way in which Schnitger combined North- and Central-German organ aesthetics in its design, to result in an unusual, even exceptional, tonal concept. This recreation will allow us to explore this fascinating sound world once again. (See Specification section below.)

Research, Collaboration and Outreach

The project involves extensive research into the art of woodworking, metallurgy, organ construction and the crucial voicing of organ pipes in the early 18th century. It seeks to go beyond simply revivifying these skills, and attempts to place them in the cultural and aesthetic contexts so particular to Berlin and its environs. As part of this process, Cornell’s new organ is being built using sophisticated handcraft techniques, replicating the construction techniques of its storied historical models. In a landmark collaboration with local talent, Cornell is engaged not just with GOArt, but also with Ithaca-based master woodworkers Christopher Lowe and Peter De Boer, who built the organ case entirely by hand, and with the Canandaigua-based organ-building firm Parsons Pipe Organ Builders (see Case Construction Photo Gallery). This is more than an academic exercise. The historical entity that was the Berlin organ will enrich the active musical culture of Cornell, Ithaca, and Central New York and will provide valuable data and insights that can be drawn on by kindred projects globally. And with the inauguration of Cornell’s Baroque organ, the Fingerlakes region of New York will become an unprecedented destination for historic organ performance and research, with musicians and scholars able to work both at Cornell and on the nearby Eastman School of Music’s historic organs.

Performance and Teaching

The Cornell Baroque Organ will be ideal both for the glorious solo repertoire of the 17th and 18th centuries, especially the music of J. S. Bach, and for the accompaniment of ensemble music for instruments and voices; in addition, it will be versatile enough for performance of music from the 16th to the 19th centuries and beyond. This instrument will act as a magnet for top student organists, as well as being an inspiring tool for teaching, solo and group performance, and new composition. The Cornell Baroque Organ will complement the existing strengths of the Cornell music department in performance and research, especially in the music of the 17th to 19th centuries. In addition, it will contribute to the university and wider community in diverse and unforeseen ways. This project does not simply import a historic organ into Central New York, but seeks to transplant and nurture the skills required to make and maintain such an instrument, and of course to play and use it, drawing on the best of the past in pursuit of a rich future. This is not an exercise in reconstruction and museum-style curatorship but an effort to invigorate a constellation of skills and musical activities to help further energize both local culture and the University’s international standing.

Specification:

Hauptwerk (Manual I) Rückpositiv (Manual II) Pedal
Principal 8’, Quintadena 16’, Floite dues 8′, Gedact 8′, Octav 4′, Violdegamb 4′, Nassat 3′, SuperOctav 2′, Mixtur IV, Trompete 8′, Vox humana 8′ Principal 8’, Gedact lieblich 8′, Octav 4′, Floite dues 4′, Octav 2′, Waltflöit 2′, Sesquialt II, Scharf III, Hoboy 8′ Principal 16’, Octav 8’, Octav 4′, Nachthorn 2′, Rauschpfeife II, Mixtur IV, Posaunen 16′, Trommet 8′, Trommet 4′, Cornet 2′

Photo Galleries

Historic Models

Case Construction

Delivery

Pipe Racking

Assembly

Assembly #2

See also the Cornell Baroque Organ Website and Blog