David Tannenberg, Organ Builder

Chapter 6: Repertoire and Performance

Over the last twenty-five years, this writer has had the great fortune and pleasure to play and become intimately familiar with the organs of David Tannenberg as well as those of his followers. During this time, much experimentation with various repertoire has resulted in the formulation of a list of composers from the Central German Organ School whose works sound especially appropriate on the Pennsylvania-German organs. This research occurred at the same time many organists and organ builders were familiarizing themselves with antique instruments from the 18th century in the regions of Thuringia and Saxony. With the reunification of Germany, it became possible to gain more frequent access to the instruments from that region. Many of these instruments have recently been restored and some were known to Johann Sebastian Bach as well as to his contemporaries and students. As a result of this research, much more information has been learned about the Central German Organ School. With the restoration of many of these organs, compact disc recordings have been made and the sounds of the organs as well as the music of the central German composers has become more familiar to many organists and organ builders. It is not surprising that so much of this music sounds at home on the Pennsylvania-German organs as their style is so similar to the central German organs.

The following is a list of central German composers (plus two south German composers) whose works sound especially appropriate on the Pennsylvania-German organs:

Johann Pachelbel  (1653-1706)
Gottfried Ernst Pestel  (1654-1732)
Nicolaus Vetter  (1666-1734)
Johann Heinrich Buttstedt  (1666-1727)
Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow  (1663-1712)
Johann Philipp Krieger  (1649-1725)
Johann Krieger  (1651-1735)
Andreas Armsdorff  (1670-1699)
Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer  (1656-1746)
Franz Xavier Anton Murschhauser  (1663-1738)
Johann Bernhard Bach  (1676-1749)
Johann Jacob de Neufville  (1684-1712)
Georg Friderick Kauffmann  (1679-1735)
Johann Gottfried Walther  (1684-1748)
Johann Sebastian Bach  (1685-1750)
Georg Philipp Telemann  (1681-1767)
Wilhelm Hieronymus Pachelbel  (1686-1764)
Johann Caspar Vogler  (1696-1763)
P. Carlmann Kolb  (1703-1765)
Johann Caspar Simon  (1701-1776)
Georg Andreas Sorge  (1703-1778)
Johann Ludwig Krebs  (1713-1780)
Johann Philipp Kirnberger  (1721-1783)
Gottfried August Homilius  (1714-1785)
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach  (1714-1788)
Johann Christoph Oley  (1738-1789)

As can be seen, this list spans three generations of composers all within the same general region of Germany (only P. Carlmann Kolb is from further south, having worked in Asbach as well as in Munich in Bavaria). It should be noted that the works of Johann Pachelbel sound just as wonderfully appropriate on the Pennsylvania-German organs as do the works of Bach's sons and students. Each of the composers listed above have provided at least some works that are playable on one-manual or smaller two-manual organs. These pieces are either manualiter or they require only a small number of pedal notes. In the case of Johann Pachelbel, most of his works fall into this category. With others, such as J. S. Bach and his student, Johann Ludwig Krebs, the percentage of works of this nature is smaller. Nevertheless, one who spends some time searching, will find numerous pieces that sound very beautiful on the Pennsylvania-German organs.

As previously noted, the specific and very special style of the early and mid seventeenth century instruments of the area in and around Dresden has been all but lost. However, this tradition survives in the Pennsylvania-German organs and can still be thought of as being a part of the central German style of organ building. Many of the most notable characteristics of these instruments are also found in the organs of Tannenberg and his followers (see Chapter 2 for a list of these characteristics). Surely one of the foremost of these characteristics is the use of many eight-foot color stops such as strings or narrow and wide-scaled flutes. This plentiful selection of stops of differing color affords the performer many choices in the registration of the repertoire. Also, the smaller size of the surviving Pennsylvania-German organs perfectly suits the more intimate nature of many of these works.

The works that first come to mind are the partitas and arias with variations. These pieces have the advantage of showcasing individual stops or small combinations of stops. The partitas from Pachelbel's Musikalische Sterbengedanken (1683) are very beautiful examples of this genre. The youthful partita on Ach! Was soll ich Sünder machen? (BWV 770) of Bach is another wonderful example. The chamber style of the Fugas of Pachelbel or the manualiter chorales of Kauffmann also sound very beautiful played with small combinations of stops such as Gedackt 8' and Principal 4' or with 8', 4' and 2'. The Principal 4' can be used alone as well. Most of the chorales from the Neumeister Collection, from Bach's teenage years, as well as those from the Clavierübung of Krebs are also very appropriate. Several of the Toccatas of Pachelbel were written to be performed using the Principal 8' with pedal. The beautiful singing quality of Tannenberg's front pipes give these works a sound of aristocratic elegance not found on many modern organs. Another example is the manualiter chorale, O Lamm Gottes unschuldig (without BWV number) of Bach which sounds quite beautiful played on Tannenberg's Principal dulcis 8', with its unusually sweet and gentle speech. In addition, the Viola da Gamba 8', the Quintadena 8' and the Flauto Amabile 8' are wonderful color stops for use in some of the more introspective chorales. Incidentally, these 8' stops can be used in combination as they are often not located next to each other on the chest. Of course, the plenum with Quinte 3' and Mixtur is available on a few of Tannenberg's surviving organs. The Terz rank in the Mixtur on the 1804 Tannenberg organ, now in the York Heritage Center, lends a very interesting sonority to works such as the four smaller Praeludium of Krebs or the more festive of the organ chorales.

Some of the works of the later composers listed above, such as the chorales of Johann Christoph Oley, or also various smaller works of Johann Christoph Kellner (1736-1803), also work extremely well on the Pennsylvania-German organs. Because Tannenberg (and thus, his followers as well) followed Georg Andreas Sorge's advice with respect to the scaling of pipes and the use of equal temperament, these later works can be performed very convincingly. Indeed, the earlier composers' works do not have the advantage of the colorful meantone tuning prevalent at the time of Pachelbel and his students when played on the Pennsylvania-German organs, but this is less of a factor for the works of the later generations.

No discussion of appropriate repertoire for the Pennsylvania-German organs would be complete without the inclusion of the music from the keyboard manuscript books from early Pennsylvania. Many of these books of early American keyboard music were written out by organists of churches where there was an organ by Tannenberg or one of his followers. While no indication has been found in any of these books that the pieces were intended for the organ, many of the fiddler's tunes, marches, dances and lessons sound quite at home when performed on these organs. One such manuscript book of keyboard music was written out by the organist of First Reformed Church in Lancaster, Caspar Schaffner. This church had purchased a two-manual and pedal organ from Tannenberg in 1770 (click here for more information on this organ). This extraordinary book, from about 1790, is over three hundred pages and was written out in very beautiful calligraphy. It contains many works of various English, German and early American composers, some famous in their own time. It also contains many anonymous works and some of these could possibly have been composed by Caspar Schaffner himself. Another manuscript book of keyboard music and chorales was written out by Durs Rudy, a well-known Fraktur artist from the early 19th century who lived in Lehigh County. On the first page of his book is attached a very old piece of paper with a German organ stop list written in a very old hand - possibly the stop list of the 1820 Andrew Krauss organ he played in Neff's Union Church near Unionville, PA. Yet another example is a book of miscellaneous keyboard works written out by Jonathan Bertram, the organist of Hain's Reformed Church in Wernersville. This church had purchased an organ from Tannenberg around 1795 (for more information on this organ, click here). It is quite likely that these organists, who played the largest and most complete instruments then available in this country, would have performed the music from these books on the organs in their churches as entertainment for themselves and for their friends.

Lastly, it has been the experience of this writer that the old Pennsylvania-German organs have much to teach us today. With their beautiful, sweet and gentle, antique sounds, these instruments serve as some of the most influential instructors. They teach us to listen very carefully as we play and to value the beauty and gentleness in the way the pipes speak. They also teach those of us who play these instruments to play carefully with grace and elegance. Most of all they teach us that those instruments that are really beautiful are not necessarily the largest and most complicated. They are also not necessarily made with the most perfect and technologically advanced workmanship. But they were crafted in a time when this country was new - an exciting time of creation and expansion. They were also created by builders who took their work very seriously and constructed their organs with loving care in order to create instruments of beauty and grace to glorify God. Indeed, these organs are endowed with a bright spirit that beckons us with a gentle and old aristocratic voice to understand just a little of what the old master builders understood.

Phil Cooper
July, 2003
Expanded and updated, July, 2005


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Philip T. D. Cooper

Organist & Organ Historian