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 1930s through 1970s. 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 Schweitzer's declaration that the criterion for judging an organ is its fitness to play the music of J. S. Bach. The movement ultimately went beyond the copying of old instruments to endorse a new philosophy of organ building.[1]


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 swell boxes 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.

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


Some of the changes the reform movement executed on existing organs of pre-movement times have since been reversed, such as in the organ of the Auckland Town Hall.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lawrence I. Phelps (Spring 1967). "A Short History of the Organ Revival". Church Music (Concordia) 67 (1). Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "Restored Auckland Town hall organ ready to sing". CityScene (Auckland City Council). 7 March 2010. p. 1.