The harmony of the organs with the architecture

Corneille F. Janssen, architect

Before the new organ cases were designed, it was necessary to decide whether a reconstruction of the original situation according to the engraved etching done by Melchior Küsel in 1682 and the lithographs of illustrations done by Georg Pezolt from about 1850 was to be aspired or whether a new form was to be found.

We finally decided not to pursue the reconstruction of the historical situation, primarily because the cases illustrated by Küsel and Pezolt did not have a convincing form. They had the appearance of three free-standing cupboards pushed together. It is certainly not easy to create casing that encircles a pillar that also displays an inner unity. However, we thought it essential to strive towards unity for the new construction.

In addition, there was the equally important issue of matching the new case with the altars and the casing of the large organ. The unity of the cathedral’s interior is ensured by the classic architectural style. For this style, cathedral architect, Santino Solari (1576-1646), followed Vincenzo Scamozzi’s (1552-1616) proportional instructions – instructions that were also followed for the altars and the western organs.

It was therefore only natural to follow Scamozzi’s proportional ideals when designing the new casings. Furthermore, we thought it essential to follow the principles of classic architecture and therefore to bring the pillar and pilaster arrangement of the new cases into harmony with the large Romanesque pilaster arrangement within the interior of the cathedral.

In this way, the new cases were to be integrated into the architecture of the cathedral. One task remained: ensuring the internal cohesion of the casings. To do so, we took up an architectural theme that had been ‘discovered’ by the architect, Sebastian Serlio (1475-1555), and was known under the name ‘Serliana’. It consists of a vaulted ‘gate’ accompanied by two high rectangular openings that extend only as far as the descent of the rounded arch. This theme was frequently used by Scamozzi and is therefore called a ‘Scamozzi window’ in England when used in windows.

This theme dominates the design of the new cases. In the middle, there is a rounded opening framed by three-quarter Corinthian pillars. The arch rests on the ledge of the ionic pilaster footing which is bordered on both sides by rectangular panels. Within this ionic arrangement, there are additional arches that are not on the ionic ledge but instead rest on a so-called impost: a plain profiled, chapter-shaped element. The impost profile extends out to either side of the arches as a ledge, which then ends in shorter, rectangular panels. Towards the centre of the case, these panels contain pipe casings which appear in the pipes that extend to the closed side walls.

The goal of the design was to configure the organs to harmonise with the entire interior of the cathedral as if they had always been part of the architecture.

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