2018 | 1 | 7-27
Article title

Szczegóły konstrukcyjne organów Paula Voelknera na przykładzie unikalnego katalogu firmowego z 1900 roku

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Structural details of Paul Voelkner’s organs as exemplified by the unique company catalogue from the year 1900
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Within the extensive collection of the State Archives in Wrocław particular attention should be drawn to the files of the Silesian Evangelical Consistory in Wrocław from the period between 1614 and 1945. This is without a doubt the largest collection of documents for the exploration of Protestantism in Silesia. In the collection which comprises more than 26,000 archived items, there are three folders dedicated to the construction and renovation of organs. After an initial, rough review of those files, the researcher’s attention is drawn to the well-preserved advertising brochure published by the Voelkner company from Duninów under the title Katalog der Kirchenorgel-Bauanstalt mit Dampfbetrieb von P.B. Voelkner, Dünnow, Kr. Stolp i. Pomm. The Voelkner company was founded in 1859 in Duninów (Dünnow) by Christian Friedrich Voelkner (1831–1905). In 1900 the company which employed 20 workers by then, was taken over by Christian Friedrich’s son, Paul. In 1906 the company’s headquarters were transferred to Bydgoszcz. The reason for this transfer was a fire that had destroyed most of the former factory buildings. The years of crisis after the first world war led to a sharp economic downturn that strongly affected the Bydgoszcz based company which in the period of heyday had employed as many as about 50 people. As a result, but also due to the fact that Bydgoszcz became a part of Poland, the company ceased its activities and was sold in favour of a big carpenter’s shop in 1920. It is estimated that the Voelkners built or rebuilt approximately 300 instruments. This activity usually concerned smaller instruments. Furthermore they specialised in the production of stylish organ prospects. The brochure described in this article is a valuable source for the history of the company. It offers a variety of information on such points as the organisation of production, the characteristics of instruments, the materials used for their construction, the details concerning the construction of the organ mechanics, the suggested conditions as well as the price of instruments. Additionally, this publication gives the reader an insight into the prevalent trends of organ building at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The brochure was printed in Wernigerode by the publisher Angerstein and does not contain any information concerning the year of issue. The analysis of its contents suggests that it was most probably made in 1900 when the company was taken over by Paul Voelkner. In the first part of the brochure constructional details of the Voelkner instruments are discussed. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the company from Duninów was in its heyday and implemented lots of new technical developments, thus adapting their instruments to the needs of romantic organ music. Therefore, it is not surprising that cone chests and pneumatic action were applied, which made it possible for organists to achieve the “ease of play”, the fast register alteration and the rich dynamic expression that seemed so desirable at the time. The admiration for this new type of organs can clearly be felt in the brochure, together with a loss of understanding for the old instruments, especially with regard to their technical possibilities. The large companies and factories that emerged in the nineteenth century were known for their standardised production. The Voelkner company also produced organs with a multiple disposition and design solutions. Moreover, they introduced machining operations and mechanical serial production of organ parts. Pages 8–11 of the brochure quote statements and opinions concerning Voelkner organs. The users of the Voelkner instruments underlined such points as the use of good solid materials, the neat and robust design, the impeccable intonation and, most importantly, the moderate price of Voelkner’s instruments. Unfortunately the majority of the published statements do not contain any clear information about the place and construction year of the specific organs. Not even the brochure itself contains a survey of the works performed by the company, which is perhaps its greatest shortcoming. The first part of the brochure is concluded by a presentation of the types of prospects offered by the company. The central part of the brochure (pages 25–45) is a list of the 48 available disposition models for church organs, concert organs and cabinet organs including their pricing. The disposition models proposed in the brochure outline the typical trends in romantic organ sound, which aimed at imitating the sound of a symphony orchestra. The list is divided into four parts: • organs with one manual (keyboards): on offer were three organ models with 2 to 4 stops at prices ranging from 480 to 700 marks. Together with this type of instrument Voelkner offered his patented invention called Melodieführer at a price of 150 marks. That device allowed to strengthen the chord’s highest element (with one or more stops); • organs with one manual and pedal (pedal-boards): the brochure presents six dispositons ranging from 5 to 10 stops. Prices vary between 1,000 and 2,450 marks; • organs with two manuals and a pedal: the company offered this type of instrument ranging from only 3 to 41 stops at prices ranging from 800 to 11,530 marks. For instruments of this size various additional devices and technical innovations were on offer, e.g. sub and super octave couplers, fixed and free combinations, swell boxes, and crescendo rollers; organs with three manuals and a pedal: for instruments of this size the company offered, circumstances permitting, the installation of an Echowerk, i.e. a special sound section for the third manual in a double swell box installed in the attic, from where the sound would pass through a decorative slatted opening into the vault. The prices for this type of organs ranged from 8,700 to 30,000 marks, and the number of stops varied between 30 and 90. The prices indicated in the brochure did not cover the costs of constructing the organ prospect. Its price depended on the selected style of the organ case and the size of the instrument. The company offered very favourable funding terms. No advance payments were required. The price to be paid for the instrument (in cash) was not due before the technical approval procedure had been positively completed, which was carried out by an expert designated by the purchaser. The company also authorised payment by instalments at very low rates. The open question remains to what extent the company from Bydgoszcz managed to put into practice the projects presented in the brochure. Answering this question, however, requires painstaking research including a considerable number of comparative field studies. This is a task that the author leaves to researchers specialising in the history of the Voelkner company.
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Publication order reference
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