Pipe organ stops
Periods and aesthetics
Alsacian organ builders
Organs in Alsace
Organs and organ builders in Alsace before the 18th century
the pendentive of the case built in 1385
Organ builders were very few in Alsace before the beginning of the 18th
century i.e. the arrival of:
There was no local organ building tradition, but there were already quite a lot
You will find here a description of the "organ landscape" found by Silbermann when he came
in Strasbourg. And, above all, what had attracted him in Alsace. Below is an inventory of the
known organ and organ builders in those days. For each century, a table collects the main
The tables can be only used as reference : each is followed by a summary giving the main events.
The 13th century
During those days, the organs had fixed stops, and were above all attractions.
The disposition of the pipes were certainly designed as large cornets
or fournitures, with lots of powerful overtones in order
that the sound would fill the crowd with wonder.
These instruments were rather small, and were placed either on the ground or suspended to a
pillar, in cases called "swallow's nest", without any gallery.
They were usually fit out with a lot of automations, and accessories which could properly be called
"bells and whistles".
Here are the known works in the 13th century :
|Strasbourg||Cathedral||1292||Ginzelin von FRANKFURT|
But, at the end of the century, apparently there was only 1 organ left, as the one in the
cathedral of Strasbourg, built in 1292 by Ginzelin von FRANKFURT was destroyed by
fire in 1298.
The first (1260) was probably only a portable organ.
Ginzelin is called "Guncelinus" in Latin.
The 14th century
|Thann||Franciscains||1345||Herrmann von NEWWILER (burnt in 1376)|
|Strasbourg||Cathedral||1385||? (today's pendentive)|
The organ builders in the 14th century were Claus CARLEN (or KARL),
Herrmann von NEWWILER.
There was also Conrad von ROTHENBURG, who repaired in 1378 the organ built
by Claus Karlen in the cathedral of Strasbourg.
This organ disappeared in a fire in 1384 and one year later was replaced by an organ
in a "swallow's nest" case. Its pendentive (lower part of the case) was kept by
Friedrich KREBS when he built his new organ, and is still to be seen today.
So, this pendentive dates back to 1385 !
Thann was the second Alsacian town to get an organ. This instrument had nearly the
same history as those in Strasbourg.
The 15th century
|Strasbourg||St-Pierre-le-Jeune||1404||? (swallow's nest)|
|Colmar||St-Martin||before 1417||? (2 organs ?)|
|Guebwiller||-||before 1445||? (swallow's nest)|
|Strasbourg||Cathedral (choir)||1478||Friedrich KREBS|
|Ensisheim||-||1482||Conrad SITTINGER (swallow's nest)|
|Strasbourg||Cathedral||1492||Friedrich KREBS (today's case)|
|Lucelle||Abbey||before 1500||? (destroyed in 1525)|
|Ribeauvillé||-||ca. 1500||Ruppert ECKSTETTER, from Constance|
There were no less than 20 organs in Alsace at the end of the 15th century. They are still
Blockwerks (with fixed stops) except the last, as those built by
Frierich KREBS seemed to have separate stops. The organ in Ensisheim (swallow's nest)
last up to the 18th century. The case of Kreb's organ, 1492, in the cathedral of Strasbourg is still
there, with its pendentive from 1385. It is thus an authentically gothic case.
In those days, all the organ builders were to be traveling from town to town.
The first who really built up business in Strasbourg seems to be Matthias KERN (?-1507).
Probably, he specialized in the maintenance of existing instruments, and had thus enough work
in the vicinity to be able to settle. He is known to have been working in Basel (Switzerland)
There were organs in Neuwiller-lès-Saverne, but very little is known abut them.
The 16th century
|Haguenau||St-Georges (choir)||1503||Jacob BILLUNG|
|Strasbourg||Cathedral||1511||Hans SÜSS (with sliders)|
|Colmar||St-Martin||1513||Hans TÜGI, from Bâle (destroyed in 1576 by order of the magistrate)|
|Strasbourg||St-Thomas||1515||Hans SCHENTZER, from Stuttgart|
|Masevaux||St-Martin extra muros||before 1516||?|
|Haguenau||St-Georges (choir)||1519||Hans DINCKEL|
|Wissembourg||id. (Choir)||before 1520||?|
|Sélestat||St-Georges||1521||Hans von MASMÜNSTER (swallow's nest)|
|Kaysersberg||-||1525||Rupprecht ECKSTETTER, from Constance|
|Wissembourg||-||1525||Johan Ludovicus WIGANDUS|
|Thann||St-Théobald||1561||Sigmund PEISTLE (swallow's nest)|
|Rouffach||-||1571||Chrysostome LETZER, from Fribourg|
|Niederhaslach||-||before 1578||? (destroyed in 1633)|
|Strasbourg||St-Pierre-le-Vieux||1590||Anton MEUTTING, from Augsbourg|
|Strasbourg||St-Pierre-le-Jeune||1591||Hans KLEIN, from Donauwörth|
|Colmar||Unterlinden||1594||Hans Werner MUDDERER, from Fribourg|
|Strasbourg||St-Nicolas||1595||? (from Temple-Neuf)|
A "permanent" organ builder settled in Obernai in 1515 : Jacob SUNELLER. This did not
prevent Hans DINCKEL to build two new organs in Hauguenau. Maybe some "secrets" were necessary
to build a new organs, and were not known by people who only did the maintenance.
The organ by Hans SÜSS, 1511, in the cathedral of Strasbourg had sliders chests, and was
repaired in 1542 by Hans SCHENTZER (often called Johan Schentzer) from Stuttgart,
then in 1564 by Sigmung PEISTLE.
Peistle (FÄUSTLIN), from Fribourg, was an apothecary.
Sébasian DIETHER came from Stockau, settled in Strasbourg, were he became a burgess.
Johann Peter RUETSCH, from Bâle, worked in Obernai in 1583.
In 1592, Hans HUODT was a joiner, who had his business in Fribourg. He did a lot of works,
up to the next century.
But the most outstanding was probably Hans Werner MUDDERER (MUTTERER). He made :
Mutterer settled in Breisach (maybe only retired?) in 1622.
- repairs to the organ in the "cathedral" of Fribourg (1594 and 1621)
(Fribourg became a cathedral town only in the 19th century).
- the organ in Colmar, Unterlinden (1594)
- the choir organ in the cathedral of Fribourg (1596)
- the organ in Breisach (1598 new, repaired in 1610)
- the organ in the Cathedral of Soleure (from 1598 to 1604)
- the organ in Benfeld (1619)
So, the 16th century was very rich, both in organ builders and organ works.
The 17th century
In the very beginning 17th century, a lot of new organs were built, but soon came the terrible
"30 years war" during which Mansfeld's soldiers, then the Swedish put Alsace to fire and the sword.
The war drained almost all the inhabitants of the countryside and caused the ruin of the towns.
|Munster||St-Léger||1602||Anton MEUTTING (destroyed in 1652)|
|Strasbourg||Ste-Aurélie||before 1604||Dietrich WAGNER?|
|La Petite-Pierre||-||1604||? (pipes removed during the war)|
|Rouffach||-||1604||Hans KLEIN, 2 keyboards|
|Colmar||St-Martin||1608||Hans HUODT (choir, 8 reg.)|
|Munster||Bénédictins||before 1614||second organ|
|Lucelle||Abbey||1615||Thomas SCHOTT (18 stops) (destroyed by the Swedish in 1638)|
|Mulhouse||St-Etienne||1616||Hans HUODT or MUDDERER (builder came from Fribourg) (moved to Ferrette)|
|Lautenbach||-||before 1618||Hans Werner MUDDERER? (destroyed in 1636)|
|Ammerschwihr||-||1619||Hans Werner MUDDERER|
|Benfeld||-||1619||Hans Werner MUDDERER (replaced en 1634)|
"30 years" war (1618-1648)|
|Strasbourg||Temple-Neuf (Choir)||before 1634||? (taken back by TOUSSAINT)|
|Ensisheim||-||1642||? ("Régale" for processions)|
|Strasbourg||St-Guillaume||1643||Hans Jacob BALDNER (Swallow's nest. New?)|
|Westhoffen||-||before 1650||? (Replaced in 1667)|
|Masevaux||St-Martin extra muros||end of the war||? (Positif)|
|Murbach||-||before 1652||? Rebuilt in 1691|
|Munster||St-Léger||1660||Hans Jacob AEBI (Moved to Wihr-au-Val)|
|Erstein||-||1660||Hans Jacob AEBI|
|Strasbourg||Cathedral (nave)||1660||Matthias TRETZSCHER|
|Strasbourg||Cathedral (choir)||1660||Matthias TRETZSCHER (moved to the Temple-Neuf in 1681)|
|Lauterbourg||-||1661||? (Destroyed by fire in 1678)|
|Boerch||-||1663||Hans Jacob AEBI|
|Mont Ste-Odile||-||1663||? Destroyed en 1674|
|Schoenensteinbach||-||ca. 1665||AEBI? (Moved to Wittelsheim)|
|Rosheim||-||1665||Christoph AEBI? (Positif)|
|Herrlisheim (Wintzenheim)||-||1665||AEBI? (Moved to Orbey)|
|Niederhaslach||-||1666||? (Moved to Mulbach)|
|Bouxwiller||-||1668||Hans Jacob BALDNER|
|Guebwiller||-||1669||AEBI (Rebuilding of the swallow's nest)|
|Cernay||-||1670||Hans Jacob AEBI|
|Mutzig||-||1680||Hans Jacob BALDNER?|
|Strasbourg||Cathedral (choir)||around 1681||BALDNER? (taken back by WALTRIN)|
|Masevaux||St-Léger||1682||? 8 stops|
|Guéberschwihr||-||1685||? (moved to Lautenbach-Zell)|
|Murbach||-||1691||Antoine GEIGER, from Faverney|
|Altorf||-||1692||? (moved to the Bischenberg)|
|Sélestat||St-Georges||1692||Christoph AEBI? (2nd organ : jube)|
|Bouxwiller||-||1698||Work by André SILBERMANN on the BALDNER organ|
|Strasbourg||Fustel de Coulanges||1698||?|
|Marckolsheim||-||1698||(came from Sélestat, Ste-Foy)|
|Sélestat||Ste-Foy||1698||the Frère lai from Ebersmunster|
|Strasbourg||St-Jean (Choir)||before 1700||the Frère lai from Ebersmunster|
|Soultzbach-les-Bains||-||before 1700||Jean-Michel CRÄNER|
|Ebersmunster||-||around 1700||a Frère d'Ebersmunster|
Anton MEUTTING, from Augsbourg, had already been working in Strasbourg, St-Pierre-le-Vieux,
the previous century.
Dietrich WAGNER was an official burgess in Strasbourg.
Thomas SCHOTT came at least two times from Bremgarten.
Some of his work in Rouffach is still there.
Matthias TRETZSCHER (1626-1686), from Kulmbach, had a lot if success in the cathedral of Strasbourg.
So much success that he managed to supplant Hans Jacob BALDNER.
This is the more surprising that Baldner had set up his business in Strasbourg!
Hans HUODT, who settled at the end of the 16th century in Freibourg seems to have been working
only in Alsace :
- a new organ for the Augustins in Marbach (1604)
- an assessment for the 2 keyboards organ built by Hans Klein, 1604, from Rouffach (1606)
- a new, 8 stops choir organ in Colmar, St-Martin (1608)
- a new organ in Riquewihr (1609)
- a repair to (his?) organ in Colmar (1619)
The other outstanding builders were the AEBI.
In 1616, Johann FABER was an organ builder settled in Saverne. There, he is known to repair the organ
of the Récollets in 1634.
The following works also belong to the 17th century :
- The organ by Matthias Tretzscher, 1660, on the jube (choir) of the Cathedral was moved in 1681 to
the Temple-Neuf in Strasbourg.
It was completed in 1684 by Frantz FREUND.
- The organ by Hans Klein, 1591 in Strasbourg, St-Pierre-le-Jeune, was repaired by Baldner (1642, 1667),
but also by Anton NEUKNECHT (1608), and FIXLIN (1695).
- The organ by Hans Huodt, 1609, of Riquewihr, last up to 1758.
- The organ by Hans Süss, 1511, of Strasbourg, Cathedral, was enlarged in 1608 to 21 stops on 3 keyboards
by Neuknecht. The case by Krebs was reused.
- the two organs in Molsheim from the 17th century last up to the Révolution (1789).
- In 1657, Johann GEUSSLER, from Lucern, repaired the organ by Ruppert Eckstetter, 1500, in Ribeauvillé.
- The nave organ in the Cathedral of Strasbourg was completely renewed (again in Krebs' case)
in 1660 by Matthias Tretzscher (29 stops, 3 keyboards).
- The organ by Rupprecht Ecksetter, 1525 in Kaysersberg was repaired in 1648 by "Master JOERG"
and in 1698 by Caesar SCHOTT, from Horb. Caesar Schott is known to have been working in 1671 in Haguenau
(5 years after Baldner on the same organ).
- The organ in Brumath, 1650, was moved to Strasbourg during Turenne's campaign...
It is possible that the wind chests were still in use in Bernolsheim in 1921 (!)
- Antoine GEIGER (1764-1711) is said to have been working in Alsace, but, if this is true,
it is difficult to find were.
- The organ in Marckolsheim, 1698, was not new : it came from Sélestat, Ste-Foy, giving an evidence that
there was an organ there before 1690.
- The second organ in the Commanderie St-Jean, in Sélestat was probably built during the 17th century.
It was moved in 1799 to Mackenheim.
- There was probably a second organ in Colmar, St-Martin, in the 16th or 17th century, as Silbermann wrote
that he saw "an old case" et sparrow's nest in 1753.
The Frère lai d'Ebersmunster (he is sometimes called Joseph BENDER), is now famous for
being one of the very few organ builders favorably esteemed by Jean-André SILBERMANN !
He probably repaired the organ in Sélestat (Commanderie St-Jean) in 1697.
The organ in Soultzbach-les-Bains, 1700, apart from being built at the end of the century, was also
on of the most important milestones in the history of organs in Alsace : the organ enters in small villages.
Soon, each village will want an organ : people visit the towns for business, hear the marvelous sound of
the organs that plays there during the cults. Then they come back in their countryside, and want all the same
for their village. The "market" increases. In year 1700, there are about 100 organs in Alsace.
But the Aebis had left Alsace in 1674 to Switzerland (where the demand was high, too).
So, after Baldner's death, in 1683, there was no more organ builder having his business in Strasbourg.
Friedrich RING (1666-1701), from Berstett, is known to have undertaken the building of an
organ in the Temple-Neuf in Strasbourg. But, he had a poor health, and died before the work was completed.
Like often, the good fortune of Alsace came from the immigrants. Because the demand was high, came
the man who changed everything : Andreas SILBERMANN. He was 20 years old in 1698. Ambitious, but also
with an uncommon humbleness, he began with some simple works, then decided to study the classical
French organ building, and spent two years in Paris in order to achieve his goal.
-~Hans Jacob BALDNER (17/11/1606-03/02/1683)~-
Origin : Strasbourg
Training : Dietrich WAGNER ?
The only organ builder in Strasbourg, with Wagner, from 1674 to Andreas Silbermann's arrival (1698).
Brought : ...a lot of maintenance work...
Trained : /.
The Baldners were a family of fishermen. Hans' (Johan's) father name Hans BALTNER, and he
was an "instrumentalist". Johan Jacob was the second of 6 children. He got marrier 3 times.
Baldner was popular with the rulers of the town, probably because of his family's relatives.
He probably was trained by Dietrich Wagner.
He repaired the organ by Hans Klein, 1591 / Anton Neuknecht, 1608 in Strasbourg, St-Pierre-le-Jeune in 1642
and 1660, completed to one in Strasbourg, St-Guillaume in 1643, repaired Anton Meutting's organ, 1590,
in Strasbourg, St-Piere-le-Vieux, in 1645 and 1666.
He also repaired in 1655 the organ by Jacob Suneller in Obernai (which was damaged during the 30 Years War,
and which had a Great and a Choir division, and, in 1666 the organ by Hans Dinckel, in Haguenau, St-Georges.
Above all, he did the maintenance of the nave organ of the Cathedral of Strasbourg (from 1652 to 1680),
and of the organ in St-Nicolas, from 1649 to 1655, before building there a new one. The instrument was
repaired by Carl SPIES (1690), but also Frantz FREUNDT, from Rottenburg am Neckar (1687)
and Johann Sébastian FIXLIN (every year from 1693 to 1696). Silbermann did completely rebuild it in 1706.
Baldner built a new organ in Haslach im Kinzigtal in 1661, made to repairs in Strasbourg, St-Thomas
in 1672 and 1677, and maybe built a new organ in Mutzig, in 1680. If this is true, it was his last organ.
The works by Baldner did not last very long, and the fact that Baldner, tough being the only
organ builder in Strasbourg in 1660, did not get the deal for the renewal of the choir organ in the cathedral
(Matthias Tretzcher got the deal), clearly means that he did not have the ability.
He certainly did not have the skill to build an organ with more than one division.
His organ in Strasbourg, St-Guillaume did not give satisfaction : Carl Spies repaired it in 1656, 1684 et 1693...
He also built an organ in Ettenheim.
But Baldner's most famous organ is Bouxwiller, St-Léger, 1668.
The case of this instrument, and even some pipes are still there : the "prestant" and the "doublette",
with their round faceboards.
Baldner did build, according to some sources, a choir organ for the cathedral of Strasbourg, around
1650 (the one that, according to P. Meyer-Siat, Waltrin took back in 1711).
-~Hans Jacob et Christoph AEBI (1612-1688)~-
Origin : Soleure
Training : ?
Brought : many instruments.
Trained : his son Christoph (1642-1693).
Activity period is Alsace : 1657-1674 (1692?)
Hans Jacob (1612-1688) came from Soleure around 1657, with his son Chtristoph (1642-1693).
They settled in Ensisheim, but made a lot of journeys.
Besides the building, with his son, of a dozen of new organs, Hans Jacob Aebi certainly worked on
the organ in Marbach in 1660, (as the Père GEIGER, from Lure).
He also repaired around 1668 the organ in Ammerschwihr.
Between 1663 and 1673, Christoph Aebi was known to be an organist, successively in Boersch, Rosheim,
Westhoffen, Marmoutier, and Saverne.
He built the second organ in Westhoffen in 1667.
The Aebis left Alsace for Switzerland in 1674, but their probably built an organ for Sélestat, St-Georges,
In Switzerland, they went doing famous works, among with the organ of the Collégiale de Sion, in
Valère (it was not a new organ), which is said to be the oldest playable organ in the world.
Sources : Inventaire Historique, P. MEYER-SIAT "Martin et Joseph
BERGÄNTZEL", AEA 1984 (Huodt, Mudderer), and "Les quatre orgues du Mutzig", Annuaire de Molsheim 1981 (Baldner).