David Tannenberg, Organ Builder

Chapter 2: General Stylistic Characteristics

David Tannenberg's organs were constructed within the Central German tradition of organ building. Of course, this tradition has many variations depending on the exact region, the particular builder or the time period. The style of organ building that Johann Gottlob Clemm brought to Pennsylvania, which was then carried on by Tannenberg, seems to have originated from the area in and around Dresden. When we think of antique organs in this area, we immediately think of Gottfried Silbermann, but there was, of course, a tradition of organ building in existence in that area before Silbermann. Most of these older instruments have not survived, but they were characterized by their lieblich or particularly sweet and gentle sound. This would also characterize the sound of the Pennsylvania-German organs and it is quite likely that Clemm, who trained in the Dresden area, brought this lieblich style to Pennsylvania.

Several stylistic characteristics of the Pennsylvania-German organs can be noted. One of the most notable is the large selection of color stops such as the Viola da Gamba 8', the open wood Flauto Amabile 8' as well as the Quintadena 8'. In his larger one manual organs, Tannenberg often provided as many as four 8' stops. The stop list for Tannenberg's organ of 1771 for Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading, PA was a one manual and pedal instrument of eleven speaking stops. Four of the manual stops of this organ were at 8' pitch. This extensive use of 8' color stops also occurs in the organs of Central Germany. Another notable characteristic is the use of wood pipes for most of the flute stops such as the Gedackt 8' which are stopped and the Flauto 4' which are open. The two pedal stops, the Sub Bass 16' and the Octav Bass 8' were also made from wood. The Octav Bass 8' are open wood pipes. The pedal pipes were most often unenclosed behind the case. Strings stops such as the Viola da Gamba 8', already mentioned, and the Salicional 8' as well as the Salicet 4' were included on many organs. In addition, over-blowing stops such as the Flauto Traversa 8' and Querflöte 4' were occasionally included.

The metal pipes of Tannenberg contain about 60% tin and 38.5% lead. The remainder is antimony and trace elements. The wood pipes are generally made from white pine but pipes above 2' pitch are made from black walnut. The toes of wood pipes are very short and fit directly into the chest without the need for rackboards. This is one of the characteristics found in all Pennsylvania-German organs.

It is very important to note that Tannenberg constructed two distinct types of organs: one type for the Moravian churches or chapels and the other for the Lutheran or German Reformed churches. It must be remembered that the Moravians almost always used stringed and woodwind instruments in their services of worship and so the organ was more of a large continuo instrument. For these churches, Tannenberg provided organs that contained many 8' stops but very rarely any mutation stops and never any Mixture stops. The intent was clearly to provide an instrument that would compliment the other instruments. Solo organ literature (with very few exceptions) was completely unknown in the Moravian churches. Detached, reversed consoles were provided for all but the smallest organs. This was probably so the organist could easily see the other instrumentalists, or perhaps direct if he needed to.

In the Lutheran and German Reformed churches, however, the organ played a more traditional role - that of leading congregational singing of the chorales. For this reason, Tannenberg provided mutations such as the Quinte 3' as well as Mixture stops on these organs. However, even in these organs, there was often an abundance of 8' color stops. As a result, the organs in the Lutheran and German Reformed churches more closely resembled those instruments known to J. S. Bach.  Also, the key desks for the organs in these churches were of the traditional recessed type similar to those constructed by Gottfried Silbermann.

Another important characteristic to note is the inclusion of the Terz rank - either separately or as part of the Mixtur. When the organ at the York County Heritage Trust was restored in 1991, the missing third rank of the Mixtur was replicated and it was determined that these pipes were originally a Terz rank. This is not totally surprising as Terz Mixtures were not uncommon in Central German organs.

The case work for Tannenberg's organs reflects the classic Baroque architectural style then in common use in Europe. Most (if not all) of Tannenberg's mid-sized organs were housed within a five-sectional case with three towers and two flats. The center tower was the tallest. This arrangement also reflects the way the pipes are situated on the manual chest. The five lowest notes were in the center, the next ten pipes distributed between the two outer towers and the remaining pipes distributed between the two flats. The facade, therefore, usually (but not always) contained 27 or 29 pipes depending on how many pipes were in the flats. Incidentally, the manual chest is supported by the case instead of an internal framework as in later nineteenth century organs.

Finally, the winding for Tannenberg organs was often of the traditional European design. His smaller organs contained a single bellows within the case itself and was often able to be pumped by the organist and/or by someone situated at the side of the case. His larger organs often had two or more bellows situated outside the case. Many of these were located in the attic of the church with ropes hanging down to the gallery level. These ropes were pulled in succession by the pumper in order to provide a steady supply of wind. This type of winding, at one time a very common arrangement in Pennsylvania-German organs, can be seen today in the gallery of the Single Brother's House in Lititz, supplying air for Tannenberg's organ of 1787.


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This page was created & is maintained by
Philip T. D. Cooper
Organist & Organ Historian