Organ reform movement

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The Organ Reform Movement or Orgelbewegung (also called the Organ Revival Movement) was an early 20th-century trend in pipe organ building, originating in Germany. It was influential in the United States in the 1940s. The movement waned in the 1980s. It arose with early interest in historical performance and was strongly influenced by, among others, Albert Schweitzer's championing of historical instruments by Silbermann and others, as well as by his declaration that the criterion for judging an organ is its fitness to play the music of J. S. Bach. It ultimately went beyond the copying of old instruments to endorse a new philosophy of organbuilding, however.


The movement sought to turn away from many of the perceived excesses of Romantic or Orchestral organ building, in favor of organs understood to be more similar to those of the Baroque Era in Northern Germany. This took the form of a vertical style of registration in which ensembles were ideally built up with no pitch being duplicated in the same octave. The movement endorsed the so-called Werkprinzip, in which each division was based on a principal-scale rank of a different octave.

Organ voicers strove for an articulate speech characterized by chiff and avoided nicking, beards and other means of achieving 'smoothness'. Low wind pressures were revived. Casework was often eschewed in favor of open standing pipework and swellboxes became relatively rare.

In Europe the movement was indelibly connected with mechanical action instruments; in North America this was not the case and many instruments characteristic of the Organ Reform Movement had electric action.[citation needed]

Some of the leading builders of the movement were Frobenius, G. Donald Harrison, Holtkamp, Schlicker, Dirk Andries Flentrop and Beckerath.


Some of the changes the reform movement executed on existing organs of pre-movement times are since being reversed, such as in the organ of the Auckland Town Hall.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Restored Auckland Town hall organ ready to sing". CityScene (Auckland City Council). 7 March 2010. p. 1.