The Wagner Organ in Brandenburg Cathedral
The cathedral probably possessed an organ as early as the 14th century. In 1604 the old organ had become completely unusable and was replaced by a new one. This was carried out by Martin Grabow. In 1646 the instrument was modernised. Following the destruction of the organ in 1722 by a thunderbolt, the most prominent local organ builder of the 18th century Joachim Wagner (1690-1749) built a new one between 1723 and 1725.
The costs came to 2,180 thalers with free lodging and transport of the tools and materials. On 18 July 1725 the organ was officially handed over to the complete satisfaction of all parties. Wagner’s instruments bear a distinguished personal style with great tonal chromaticity. After years of tuition with Christoph Treutmann Senior and Gottfried Silbermann, Wagner created a total of 51 instruments. Today the organ in Brandenburg Cathedral is not only the largest preserved instrument by Joachim Wagner. With its 29 original and altogether 33 registers and its preserved mechanical works, it is by far the organ with the highest proportion of original parts of all “preserved” Wagner organs. Its acoustic opulence and the beauty of the instrument’s spatial sound are without a doubt among the most significant in the history of organ construction.
The specifications and arrangement of the Wagner organ were slightly altered, especially in the 19th century, and some tones were adapted to contemporary tastes or removed completely. From a present-day perspective it is fortunate that there were sufficient funds available to construct a new organ or conduct substantial specification changes; it was likewise beneficial that the historical value of the cathedral organ was recognised as early as the First World War. Consequently, the Berlin Organ specialist Reinhold Kurth wrote in his assessment of 1917: “There are only few organs in Germany on which Bach’s musical creations can be conveyed to the listener the way the Master must have intended. We therefore owe it to later generations to preserve the work in its original form wherever possible.” The melting down of the organ’s pipes for use as war arms was prevented. In 1947 the organ was rebuilt.
The previous changes to the organ’s specifications and arrangement were reversed partly in 1951 and then in 1965/1966 by the company Schuke in Potsdam. Restoration work was carried out later between 1997 and 1999, which returned the intonation, mensuration and historical temperature control (according to Bach/Kellner) to their original state using present-day analysis methods for source evaluation.
Specifications and Arrangement:
I Main consoleC, D–c3
Viola di Gamba 8’
Reed pipe 8’
Spire flute 4’
II Upper console C, D–c3
Reed pipe 4’
Piccolo Sifflet 1’
Vox humana 8’
Pedal C, D–c1
Auxiliary effects: tremulant, cymbal star
Coupling flute: II/I, mechanical key and tracker action
Temperature control: according to “Bach/Kellner”