The Historic Organ (1714)
in Freiberg Cathedral, Saxony
by
GOTTFRIED
SILBERMANN

Honorary Court and State
Organ Builder to the
King of Poland and Duke of Saxony

Germany is exceptionally rich in historic organs, and a particularly fruitful area for exploration is the state of Saxony in southeast Germany, with no fewer than thirty-one baroque instruments by one master-builder, Gottfried Silbermann, most of them in near-original condition. Gottfried Silbermann (1683-1753) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) were contemporaries and are known to have worked together as colleagues and friends.

From 1702 to 1707 Gottfried studied the arts of organ-building with his elder brother Andreas in Strasbourg, and for two of these years with Thiery in Paris. A condition of his elder brother's tutelage was that Gottfried would not work in his brother's "territory"! So in 1710 Gottfried returned to his native Saxony and set up shop centrally in Freiberg, bringing with him qualifications and certificates which immediately established his reputation locally. The following year, in 1711, Freiberg Cathedral invited the young builder, then only 28 years old, to construct a new organ of three manuals and pedal with 44 registers. This was completed in 1714. It was thoroughly restored in 1982/1983, and retains very closely its original condition.

The specification and design of the instrument were largely influenced by the then cathedral organist Elias Lindner, a pupil of Kuhnau, also a lawyer and a mathematician.The casework was also Lindner's design, and was to influence all of Gottfried Silbermann's subsequent organ cases. The design reflects the internal structure: each section HW, OW and BW is kept visually separate: the pipework of the OberWerk (OW) is located in the section at the top of the organ case, while the BrustWerk (BW) is right above the console. The HauptWerk (HW) occupies the rest of the case.

Hauptwerk
C, D - c"'

Bordun 16'
Principal 8'
Rohrflöte 8'
Viol di Gamba 8'
Octava 4'
Quinta 3'
Superoctav 2'
Tertia (1+3/5')
Mixtur 4fach
Cimbeln 3fach
Cornet c' 5fach
Trompet 8'
Clarin 4'

Oberwerk
C, D - c"'

Quintadehn 16'
Principal 8'
Gedackt 8'
Quintadehn 8'
Octava 4'
Spitzflöte 4'
Superoctav 2'
Flaschflöt 1'
Mixtur 3fach
Zimbeln 2fach
Echo c' 5fach
Krumbhorn 8'
Vox humana

Brustwerk
C, D - c"

Gedackt 8'
Principal 4'
Rohrflöte 4'
Nassat 3'
Octava 2'
Tertia 1+3/5'
Quinta 1+1/2'
Sufflöt 1'
Mixtur 3fach

Couplers (slider)
OW/HW
BW/HW

Pedal
C, D - c'

Untersatz 32'
Principalbaß 16'
Subbaß 16'
Octavbaß 8'
Octavbaß 4'
Pedalmixtur 6fach
Posaunenbaß 16"
Trompetenbaß 8'
Clarinbaß 4'

Tremulant

Schwebung

Freiberg Cathedral provides ample opportunity for visits and auditioning. Cathedral guided tours with organ introduction are held on Sundays at 11am throughout the year, and additionally on Thursdays at 2pm from May to October. Also from May to October, the 8pm Thursday organ recitals are a long tradition much enjoyed.

Freiberg is in fact proud home today to no less than four Silbermann organs in three churches. In the Jakobi-Kirche a two-manual, 20-register organ built in 1717; in the Petrikirche a larger, two manual organ with 32 registers built in 1735; and in the Cathedral, two Silbermann instruments. The smaller, below center, is a one-manual instrument, originally built for the Johannis-Kirche and moved to the cathedral in 1939.


St Jakobikirche

Small organ,
Freiberg Cathedral

Petrikirche

Following the success of his Freiberg Cathedral organ which was universally well received, both for its fine sounds and its technical excellence, business moved briskly thereafter, and Silbermann's instruments would finally total forty-five, all within the relatively narrow area of Saxony. Today there are still thirty-one Gottfried Silbermann organs in original baroque condition, all located within the borders of, or very close to Saxony.

Such did his reputation grow, that Gottfried Silbermann felt confident to request an official title from Frederick I, at that time King of Poland and Duke of Saxony. His request is dated 10th June 1723 and on the 30th June he was granted the privilege he had sought: "Honorary Court and State Organ Builder to the King of Poland and Duke of Saxony". It sounds even better in Baroque German!

Perhaps the single most important feature of Gottfried Silbermann's instruments is their distinctive sounds. From the silvery flutes to the strong and reedy 16' pedal Posaune (Trombone) which provides that fundament or bass support that Bach considered so essential, Silbermann's sounds were unique, and indeed were constantly praised by organists in their testimonies of his instruments. Frequent reference is made to a play on his name, as organists praised his "Silberklang" or "Silvery Sounds". Mozart commented emphatically: "These instruments are magnificent beyond measure".

To hear the famous Silver Sounds, check Gottfried Silbermann: Organ CDs for CD details and music samples.

There's a lot more information about Gottfried Silbermann on the internet. And in Frauenstein (see map above) there is a Museum dedicated to this great organ builder.

To begin, if you have not already done so, you might like to visit the Museum and main Silbermann site
GOTTFRIED SILBERMANN: Master Organ-Builder of the German Baroque.
for the general background story and biography of this unique organ-builder.

Then follow up with this selection!

GOTTFRIED SILBERMANN: ORGAN INVENTORY
offers a chronological listing of organs built with notes on current status.

Planning your SILBERMANN Organ Tour
gives space to every Silbermann organ location with photo, how-to-get-there, concert and recital details etc... in fact all you need to plan a real - or a virtual! - Silbermann Organ Tour.

For further information about Frauenstein, home to the Silbermann Museum,
visit Frauenstein's Website: Herzlich Willkommen in der Silbermannstadt Frauenstein!

The Silbermann Organ at Nassau
a picturesque village and village church near Frauenstein.
Lots of photos! Also link to CD recording of this organ.

Gottfried Silbermann - Orgel zu Crostau
Die Gottfried-Silbermann-Orgel zu Ponitz
These two German-language sites provide full detail on the Silbermann organs at Crostau and Ponitz, including specifications, history, and current concert programs.

For information on the Silbermann organ in Reinhardtsgrimma (1731) check
Photos of the Silbermann organ in Reinhardtsgrimma
Concerts on the Silbermann organ, Reinhardtsgrimma, and in the Schloss

The Dresden firm of Jehmlich Orgelbau
has much experience with the restoration of Silbermann organs.

Similarly the Bautzen firm of Hermann Eule Orgelbau
also has much experience with Silbermann restoration.

Through the legacy of his instruction, designs, and his pupils, Gottfried Silbermann was to influence organ-building in America, and, believe it or not, the development of the modern piano! Check
The GOTTFRIED SILBERMANN LEGACY

In 1736 Silbermann built a magnificent 3M+P/43 organ for Dresden's Frauenkirche. In 1945 organ and church were completely destroyed. The Frauenkirche lay in ruins until 1994; a grand program of rebuilding is currently underway.
Check on progress at the Frauenkirche Rebuilding website.

Natürlich steht Ihnen eine deutsche Gottfried-Silbermann-Web-Seite zur Verfügung:
GOTTFRIED SILBERMANN: Orgelbaumeister der deutschen Barockzeit

Here's a useful "dictionary" for organists working with German websites:
Organ Terms / Orgelfachbegriffe German-English

Check the
BAROQUE MUSIC HOME PAGE
www.BaroqueMusic.org

for a detailed information source on baroque music and composers.

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