Cornell’s is First Organ with Multiple Historic Wind Systems
Cornell’s new baroque organ has become the world’s first organ with multiple historic wind systems, using a technique organ designer Munetaka Yokota perfected on a research instrument at the Göteborg Organ Art Center (GOArt) at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
With simple manual adjustments, organists can authentically re-create the wind systems of organs from the 15th to the beginning of the 19th century from north and central Germany on the instrument.
Professor of music Annette Richards, who led the organ project at Cornell, explains that “the wind is the basis of any organ’s sound, and to appreciate music like Bach’s as it was intended, you need to hear it played on the kind of organ for which it was written.”
The organ is intended to reintroduce modern audiences to this authentic, historic sound, which was gradually lost over the centuries as equal temperament in keyboard intervals and highly stable wind systems became the norm.
The ingenious system includes seven new valves and 80 new feet of conductors, and has attracted worldwide attention from organists and researchers. An international group of scientists gathered at Cornell in spring 2012 to share data on the organ’s key action characteristics and wind behavior.
Yokota and GOArt research engineer Carl Johan Bergsten will use the new system to study general wind system behavior in organs. They’ll compare the measurements they took in November 2011, before the modification, to measurements they will take after.
“We’re excited to hear how the collaborative research on this organ between mathematical modelers, engineers and a builder with Munetaka Yokota’s historical knowledge and incomparable musical intuition can make our instrument speak with even more clarity, power, nuance and expressivity—even while acting as a cutting-edge laboratory for the latest experimental study,” Richards says.
The $2 million organ is the culmination of more than seven years of research and collaboration by GOArt and the Department of Music, and more than two years of work by 21st-century craftsmen, who used authentic 17th- and early 18th-century methods to hand-build the instrument.
The organ re-creates the tonal design of the 1706 Arp Schnitger organ at Charlottenburg in Berlin, which was destroyed by Allied bombers during WWII. The massive wooden case has a design based on a Schnitger organ at Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany, and was hand-built by local cabinetmaker Christopher Lowe.
The original wind system on Cornell’s organ was built by Parsons Pipe Organ Builders in Canandaigua, N.Y.; the 1,827 pipes were handcrafted in Sweden by Yokota, using rediscovered historic techniques. The modifications to the wind system were made by Lowe.
The Cornell Baroque Organ
The new majestic baroque organ in Cornell’s Anabel Taylor Chapel required over seven years of research in an international, collaborative effort by Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Gothenburg Organ Art Center (GOArt) at the University of GÖTEBORG, Sweden.
The instrument re-creates the tonal design of the celebrated Charlottenburg organ in Berlin, handmade in 1706 by master organ builder Arp Schnitger and tragically destroyed during WWII. The interdisciplinary effort to understand the many aspects of this historic organ’s construction included experts in fluid dynamics, electro-acoustics, and metallurgy, as well as craftsmen and musicians. Each of the nearly 2,000 pipes was handcrafted in Sweden under the direction of project designer Munetaka Yokota.
View from behind the keyboardThe massive, intricately designed wooden case is based on another Schnitger organ in Germany. Every detail is handmade and historically accurate, from the wooden pegs and hand-forged nails to the hand-planed wooden surface and dovetail joints.
Commissioned by the Department of Music, the organ is perfect for the music of J.S. Bach and his north German predecessors, and is versatile enough for solo and ensemble music from the 16th century onward. As a complement to the music department’s strengths in performance and research, the organ is expected to attract top organ students, professional performers, composers and scholars to Cornell.
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.)
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.
Hauptwerk (Manual I)
Principal 8′, Quintadena 16′, Floite dues 8′, Gedact 8′, Octav 4′, Violdegamb 4′, Nassat 3′, SuperOctav 2′, Mixtur IV, Trompete 8′, Vox humana 8′
Rückpositiv (Manual II)
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′
Baroque Organ Fact Sheet
Total cost: approx. $ 2 million
Number of years of research, planning and construction: 7
Number of years organ is projected to last: several hundred
•Number of pipes 1,847
•Largest pipe; c. 16 feet long, 8 inches diameter
•Smallest pipe—c. 1 inch long, ¼ inch diameter
•Materials for pipes: lead, tin, pine
•Sheets of metal for pipes cast on beds of sand
•Seven and a half months required to “voice” pipes (ensure each has perfect sound in the chapel, and responds correctly to pressure and speed of the touch of the performer)
•42 ranks (individual rows of pipes)
•2 manuals, each with 50 notes (C, D to d3)
•1 pedal, with 26 notes (C, D to d1)
•over 740 feet of wooden trackers traveling from key to pallet
•4 wedge bellows (each weighing approximately 430 pounds)
•two pumpers required to manually run the bellows
•fastened together with cow hide and cow hide organic glue
•lowest pitch: c. 30 Hz
•highest pitch c. 8, 000 Hz
•quarter-sawn fumed white oak
•many tons of lumber in the case (estimated around 7)
•handcrafted; every surface hand-planed rather than sanded
•longest boards, 18 ft, imported from 300-year old sustainable forest in Germany
•case dimensions: 25ft wide; 4 and ½ feet deep; 23ft high in the center
•number of structural nails in case: zero—case held together by wooden pegs, dovetail joints, wedges, drawboard mortise and tenon
All nails, hinges, etc. hand-forged of solid iron in Sweden
oContact: Annette Richards, University Organist
oProfessor of Musicology and Performance (17th-18th-century music, organ)
oPh.D., Stanford University
Annette Richards provided the passion and organization behind the Cornell Baroque Organ project. She managed every aspect, from coordinating the international team of builders to shoveling snow for the delivery trucks, and is now delighted to be one of the primary organists to play the unique instrument. More details at: music.cornell.edu/people/faculty/?page=cudm/facultyCtrl&a… and vivo.cornell.edu/humanities/individual/vivo/individual23295
oProfessor of Musicology and Performance (17th-18th-century music, early keyboards)
oPh.D., Stanford University
David Yearsley provided key support for the Cornell Baroque Organ project through his expertise with organs and his skill as a performer. He is also one of the primary organist to play this magnificent instrument. More details at: music.cornell.edu/people/faculty/?page=cudm/facultyCtrl&a…
oContact: Christopher Lowe
oFreeville, NY(607) 347-6633 email@example.com
Christopher Lowe is a local craftsman who has been a cabinet maker for 28 years, specializing in everything from barn restoration to furniture making. This was his first organ commission.
•Göteborg Organ Art Center
oUniversity of Gothenburg, Sweden
oGOArt was responsible for the overall design and project coordination, the production of the pipework, and the voicing of the pipes. More details at www.goart.gu.se/Research/
oContact: Munetaka Yokota
Munetaka Yokota supervised the assembly of the organ at Cornell. He is the main researcher and designer of the instrument and the primary craftsman for the organ pipes. He brought his family to Ithaca to live for almost a year, while he installed and voiced the pipes at Cornell.
•Parsons Pipe Organ Builders
oCanandaigua, New York
oParsons Pipe Organ Builders was responsible for constructing the wind system inside the organ, including all the mechanicals and the bellows. More details at: www.parsonsorgans.com/home.htm
oContact: Richard Parsons
oPresident and owner (585) 229-5888 or (888) 229-4820 or firstname.lastname@example.org
•2/2/10 Delivery of wind chest, organ case, to Anabel Taylor Chapel
•Assembly of organ begins
•2/8/10-2/19/10 Pipe racking (involves burning wood and making a great deal of smoke, and will happen in a little shed right outside the chapel)
•2/17/1 Voicing of pipes begins
•3/1/10 Basic organ assembly complete, though all pipes might not be in
•03/4-6/10 Inspection by the great Dutch organist and organ expert Jacques van Oortmerssen
•03/10-11/10 Final tuning of organ
•04/10 Open house to display assembled organ
•11/10 Late November concert to inaugurate organ for local audience
•3/11 Official inauguration of organ
17th-18th-century music, organ
Ph.D., Stanford University
340 Lincoln Hall
In her work as a music historian and keyboard player, Annette Richards draws on her training in English literature, art history, musicology, and musical performance. Musical and visual aesthetics and criticism are of particular interest to her, as is music in literature, and changing attitudes and approaches to performance in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Her book The Free Fantasia and the Musical Picturesque (Cambridge, 2001) explores the intersections between musical fantasy and the landscape garden in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century music culture, ranging across German-speaking Europe to England. Other topics on which she has written include Mozart and musical automata, the German keyboard song and solitude, and Haydn and the grotesque. She is the editor of CPE Bach Studies (Cambridge, 2006), and, with David Yearsley, of the Organ Works of C. P. E. Bach for the new complete edition (Packard Humanities Institute, 2008). She is also the founding editor of Keyboard Perspectives. Prof. Richards is currently working on two projects: a reconstruction of the extraordinary collection of musical portraits belonging to C. P. E. Bach, and a book that expands on her work on death, fantasy, and the grotesque to explore the dark hermeneutics of musical life in the age of European enlightenment and revolution—Music and the Gothic on the Dark Side of 1800.
As a performer Annette Richards specializes in music of the Italian and North German Baroque, and has played concerts on numerous historic and modern instruments in Europe and the United States. She also regularly performs music from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and has won prizes in international competitions including the 1992 Dublin International Organ Competition and first prize for organ duo with David Yearsley at the Bruges Early Music Festival in 1994. Her CD Melchior Schildt and the North German Organ Art ( on the Loft label) was recorded on the historic organ at Roskilde Cathedral, Denmark.
Prof. Richards has won numerous honors, including fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center, the Getty Center in Santa Monica and at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell. She has also held a New Directions Fellowship from the Mellon Foundation and a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.
At Cornell Prof. Richards teaches courses on eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century music aesthetics and criticism; intersections between music and visual culture; music and the uncanny; the undergraduate history survey; music of the Baroque; and the organ and its musical culture, as well as organ performance. She has organized several conferences and concert festivals at the university, including “German Orpheus: C. P. E. Bach and North German Music Culture” (1998) and “British Modernism” (2003).
Prof. Richards is also the Executive Director of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies.
History, literature, and performance of 17th-18th-century music
Ph.D., Stanford University
341 Lincoln Hall
David Yearsley was educated at Harvard College and Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. in Musicology in 1994. At Cornell he continues to pursue his interests in the performance, literature and history of northern European music among other activities. His musicological work investigates literary, social, and theological contexts for music and music making, and he has written on topics ranging from music and death, to alchemy and counterpoint, musical invention and imagination, and musical representations of public spaces in film. His first book, Bach and the Meanings of Counterpoint (Cambridge, 2002) explodes long-held notions about the status of counterpoint in the mid-eighteenth century, and illuminates unexpected areas of the musical culture into which Bach’s most obsessive and complicated musical creations were released. More recently, his Bach’s Feet: the Organ Pedals in European Culture (Cambridge, 2012) presents a new interpretation of the significance of the oldest and richest of European instruments—the organ—by investigating the German origins of the uniquely independent use of the feet in music-making. Delving into a range of musical, literary, and visual sources, Bach’s Feet pursues the wide-ranging cultural importance of this physically demanding art, from the blind German organists of the 15th century, through the central contribution of Bach’s music and legacy, to the newly-pedaling organists of the British Empire, and the sinister visions of Nazi propagandists.
He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Musical Lives of Anna Magdalena Bach, a study of the changing musical contributions and restrictions, performing possibilities and perils that characterized the musical world of the women of the Bach household in the first half 18th century.
David’s musical and musicological interests extend to the Elizabethans, the Italian keyboard traditions of the seventeenth century, Handel’s operas, film music, musical travels, and the intersections between music and politics.
The only musician ever to win all major prizes at the Bruges Early Music Festival competition, David’s recordings of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century organ music are available from Loft Recordings and Musica Omnia.
While his primary interests are in European music culture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he has taught courses in music theory, film music, music and travel, and music historiography.
Works by David Yearsley
•An essay on the political implications of Bach’s vocal works: konturen.uoregon.edu/vol1_Yearsley.html
•Concert performance of C. P. E. Bach’s Abschied von meinem Silbermannischen Claviere for the Cambridge Society for Early Music played on Ferruccio Busoni’s 1906 Dolmetsch clavichord
•Concert performance of C. P. E. Bach’s Fantasia in C Major from Kenner und Liebhaber VI for the Cambridge Society of Early Music played on Ferruccio Busoni’s 1906 Dolmetsch clavichord
“A great university deserves to have a really great organ,” says Annette Richards, university organist and project manager. Although Cornell had a number of organs already, it lacked an instrument of the style and scope appropriate to the music of the noted German organist composers of the 17th and 18th centuries. “There was no great vehicle for playing the music especially of Johann Sebastian Bach and his North German predecessors. So I felt it was important for us to get a new really first class—world class—instrument at Cornell,” says Richards.
Cornell’s New Baroque Organ
“Cornell is an institution that fosters many kinds of scholarship, and it also has a long and very storied musical tradition,” continues Richards. “Andrew Dickson White was a big organ supporter and fan. He initiated getting an important organ for Bailey Hall when that building was built. And Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences has a music department where the 18th century is a real strength. It also has a fine collection of keyboard instruments already, and it made sense to build on all those strengths and that history to bring something like this here.”
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