The organ of the St. Joseph church in Bonn-Beuel, built in 1981 by the reputed firm Gebr. Oberlinger, is very special in the german organ scene. At that time the german 'Orgelbewegung', oriented at a north-german baroque sound ideal and originating from the 1920s, could still be felt everywhere. Romantic organs were seen as the product of a period in organ building mainly formed by decadence. Many precious instruments of this period had been destroyed or totally defaced in an attempt to reach a more baroque sound, so that not much was left from their original sound. In that time it took a lot of courage to build an organ following a romantic organ design ideal, and even more so french romatic.
At that time the organ at St. Joseph was a small instrument built by Klais in 1903. This instrument had been modernized in the 1950s according to the prevailling taste of that period. The pneumatic action had been replaced by an electric one, and mixtures and high pitched aliquote stops had been added to the disposition to brighten the sound. But the resulting sound was not really baroque as intended, instead it was sharp and at times rather piercing.
In a journal Hans Peter Reiners, organist at St. Joseph, found an ad in which the swiss parish of La-Chaux-de-Fonds was offering their organ for sale. This 20-stop instrument was built in 1882 by Kuhn and, despite some minor damage, was still in excellent condition. This organ, together with nine stops kept from the old Klais organ, should now form the basis for the new instrument. The contract was awarded to the reputed firm Gebr. Oberlinger, located in Windesheim. In 1981 the new instrument was dedicated, which then comprised 58 stops. Today the instrument has 61 stops, distributed over three manuals and pedal.
The disposition and tonal design follows closely the tradition of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, the most famous organ builder of the french romantic period, which also is reflected in the design of the organ console. The drawbars for the stops are arranged in semi-circles at the height of the corresponding keyboards on both sides of the console. Following the french tradition the foundation stops (32', 16', 8', and 4') are placed on the left hand side, and the higher pitched stops (aliquotes, mixtures, and also reeds) are placed on the right hand side.
The large number of 8' stops in all divisions, voiced to blend well with the others, forms the basis of the organ sound in St. Joseph, which gets its characteristic tonal colour from the large number of reed stops typical for french romantic organs. With six reed stops alone the Récit (3rd manual) contains particularly many reeds. At the same time this division also contains stops allowing for the finest dynamic nuances, here we find the Cor de Nuit, the Voix céleste, and also the Eoline, a very narrowly scaled string stop.
The Positif division offers a wealth of possibilities with its disposition with three foundation stops, two 8' reeds (Cromorne and Trompette) and a number of aliquotes. With this flexible disposition and also its location as the second manual it takes up a mediator role between the Grand-Orgue and the Récit.
With its complete series of principal stops based on the 16' Montre the Grand-Orgue builds the backbone of the organ sound, which is reinforced by a powerful trumpet chorus.
The pedal finally makes up the sonic foundation of the instrument. With its versatile disposition it can serve as an adequate partner for each individual division as well as the full organ.
Following a suggestion by Pierre Cochereau in 1983 two horizontal trumpets (Chamades) were added to the organ. These can be coupled to the Grand-Orgue, Positif and Pedal.
The names of the organists playing concerts at St. Joseph give a feeling for the renommee and the reputation the organ has gained throughout Europe: Artists such as Olivier Latry, Ben van Oosten or Jean Guillou are taking turns. Comments given by french organists about this instrument speak for themselves: Pierre Cochereau wrote into the guestbook "A grand instrument and joy beyond comparison". Michel Estellet-Brun conceded: "What a lesson for France! To find an organ here, such as they have destroyed in France!"
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