Wilhelm Sauer

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Sauer about 1910

Wilhelm Carl Friedrich Sauer (23 March 1831 – 9 April 1916) was a German pipe organ builder. One of the famous organ builders of the Romantic period, Sauer and his company W. Sauer Orgelbau built over 1,100 organs during his lifetime, amongst them the organs at Bremen Cathedral, Leipzig's St. Thomas Church, and Berlin Cathedral, which is considered to be "his final great masterpiece".[1]

Early years[edit]

Wilhelm Sauer was born in Schönbeck, in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz,[2] the son of blacksmith and self-educated organ builder Ernst Sauer (1799–1873) from Karlsburg in Pomerania, and his wife Johanna Christine, née Sumke (1800–1882).[3][4] His parents married in 1822. He was the brother of Johann Ernst Sauer (1823–1842).

Organ from the Wilhelm Sauer Manufactory in Berlin Cathedral[5]

When Wilhelm was seven years old, the family moved to the neighboring town of Friedland, where his father built a factory and started the commercial organ business. Wilhelm spent his youth there, attending school, with the idea that he would transfer to the Berlin Academy. However, when his older brother Johann died in December 1842,[4] it was decided that Wilhelm would be the one to inherit his father's business and continue the work he had started building organs. Wilhelm received an early education about organ building from his father. He left home in 1848 to further his education in this business, including studying with E.F. Walcker (1851–1853) in Ludwigsburg and with Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in Paris.[6]


In 1855, Sauer took over the management of the German crown branch in his father's factory, which had been opened there for the Prussian market in order to avoid customs duties. On 1 March 1856 Sauer finally opened his own business as Wilhelm Sauer, organ builder in Frankfurt (Oder), which grew quickly with temporary branches in Königsberg (1860). International orders soon followed.[6][7] By 1882, he had completed 380 organs.[8] In 1883, Sauer was awarded the Distinction of Akademischer Künstler and the following year, on 18 April 1884, he was named by the cabinet as "Royal Organ Builder".[4]

Sauer's tombstone

In his lifetime, Wilhelm Sauer and his staff built more than 1,100 organs. His largest and most famous organs are, amongst others, in Berlin Cathedral (1903, IV/113), Thomaskirche[9] in Leipzig (1888/1908, III/88), and in Görlitz City Hall (1910, IV.72). Two of his 1897 organs are in Namibia: one in Windhoek's Christ Church and another in Swakopmund's Lutheran Church.[9] In 1910, Sauer sold the company to his longtime manager and deputy Paul Walcker, son of E. F. Walcker.

At least ten of his organs were installed in Latvia.[10]

Personal life[edit]

He married Minna Auguste Penske in 1859, the daughter of a cantor, and the couple had a daughter named Johanna (1859–1887); she died in 1876. On 7 September 1878, he married his second wife Anna Bauer (18 January 1848 – 11 August 1924). She was the daughter of a brewery owner and member of the city council in Potsdam.[4] They had two sons: Wilhelm (1879–1962) and Franz Gustav Adolf (1883–1945 missing). His grandson, Wolfgang Sauer (1920–1989), went to the United States in 1964 and became a professor of German history at the University of California, Berkeley.[11] Wilhelm Sauer's grave stone is now in Kleistpark in Frankfurt (Oder), where he died.

Notable works[edit]

Year Opus Place Church Photo Manuals Registers Comments
1853 Rechlin-Boek St Johannis Church Sauer-Orgel in der St.-Johannis-Kirche Boek.jpg I/P 6 Oldest preserved work by Wilhelm Sauer. Pedalboard and bourdon added by Carl Börger about 1900. Restored by Christian Scheffler 1995–2003.
1864 94 Marienwerder (present-day Kwidzyn) Cathedral Church Wnętrze katedry w Kwidzynie 2011 2.jpg III/P 49 To be restored.
1869 95 Berlin St Thomas Church IV/P 52 Damaged by Allied bombing and dismantled in 1944.
1870 Labiau (present-day Polessk) Town Church Replaced an older organ by Johann Josua Mosengel; demolished after 1945.
1872 235 Zeschdorf-Döbberin Village Church I/P 8
1874 209 Doberlug-Kirchhain Dobrilugk Abbey Church Klosterkirche Doberlug Orgelempore.JPG II/P 26
1879 248 Frankfurt (Oder) St Gertraud Church III/P 36
1883 401 Wernigerode Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) Hauptorgel Liebfrauen.JPG II/P 30 Baroque organ facade.
1884 419 Lauchhammer-Kostebrau Village Church Ev-Kirche Kostebrau Orgel.jpg I/P 7 Built for the Protestant Church in Klettwitz, at present location since 1907.
1886 Herne-Eickel St John's Church (Johanneskirche) II/P 33 Destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944.
1887 475 Frankfurt-Griesheim Benediction Church (Segenskirche) Segenskirche Frankfurt-Griesheim Sauer-Orgel.jpg II/P 28 Built for the Protestant Church in Bochum-Laer (demolished in 1974), at present location since 1995.
1888 Göttingen St Nicolas' Church (University Church) Orgel St Nikolai Göttingen (Feb2014)1.jpg II/P 23
1889 501 Leipzig St Thomas Church Sauer organ Thomaskirche Leipzig 01.JPG III/P 63 Extended to 88 registers in 1908.
1889 505 Amsterdam Basilica of St. Nicholas Amsterdam St. Nicolaas Orgel.jpg III/P 40 Two Barker levers.
1890 530 Bad Freienwalde-Bralitz Village Church II/P 13 Restored in 2015.
1891 554 Mühlhausen St. Mary's Church Orgel Marienkirche Mühlhausen.JPG III/P 61
1891 Hötensleben-Barneberg Church of Peace (Friedenskirche) II/P 19
1891 557 Jacobsdorf-Sieversdorf Village Church I/P 6
1893 554 Berlin Garrison Church III/P 70 Then Berlin's largest church organ. Destroyed by a blaze in 1908.
1893 Berlin Immanuel Church Berlin-ImmanuelkircheOrgel1-Asio.jpg II/P 29
1894 620 Apolda Luther Church Orgel.lutherkirche.apolda.png III/P 47
1894 Saalfeld St John's Church (Johanneskirche) Johanneskirche Saalfeld Orgel.JPG III/P 49 Baroque organ facade. Reconstruction 1932. Restored in 1996.
1894 Bremen Cathedral BremerDom-03.jpg III/P 65 Extended to IV/P/98 in 1926 and 1939.
1895 661 Gehren St Michael's Church Gehren-kirche-2013-0002.JPG II/P 23
1896 Potsdam Pentecostal Church (Pfingstkirche) II/P 16 Extended to II/P/28 in 1933. Dismantled in 2011.
1897 Chorin-Golzow Village Church Golzow Dorfkirche 01.jpg II/P 15 Reconstruction 1911. Restored in 1994
1898 731 Wuppertal-Elberfeld Cemetery Church Wuppertal Hochstraße Friedhofskirche 2013 020.JPG II/P 30 Partial renovation 1995
1898 755 Moscow Sts Peter and Paul Lutheran Cathedral Moscow Lutheran Cathedral Organ.jpg III/P 33 Built for the St. Michael Lutheran Church in Moscow, at present location since 2005.
1903 891 Bad Harzburg Luther Church Bad Harzburg Lutherkirche Sauerorgel (1903).JPG III/P 40 Originally II/P/29, restored and extended by Christian Scheffler 1997–2001
1905 945 Fulda Heilig-Geist-Kirche (Church of the Holy Ghost) Heilig-Geist-Kirche Fulda Orgel 1.JPG II 16 1990, restored to the original version of 1905
1906 981 Neuzelle Abbey St Mary's Church Sauerorgel Stift Neuzelle.JPG II/P 24 Reconstruction by Christian Scheffler, 2001
1907 Kostebrau
1908 Potsdam St. Nicholas' Church Bundesarchiv Bild 170-215, Potsdam, Orgel der Nikolaikirche.jpg III/P 49
1908 Bad Homburg Church of the Redeemer The sound of the "Fernwerk" appears in the above the altar.
1909 1025 Bad Salzungen Stadtkirche Bad Salzungen III 41 The organ was built according to the ideas of Max Reger, and restored from 1994 to 2000.
1910 Jerusalem Augusta Victoria Hospital The Sauer foot blower is still operational.[12] Unique in the Near East as of 2011.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Incorporated Association of Organists (1997). Organists' review. Incorporated Association of Organists. p. 326. Retrieved 8 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Blume, Friedrich; Finscher, Ludwig (2005). Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik. Bärenreiter. p. 1984. ISBN 978-3-7618-1134-4. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  3. ^ American Guild of Organists; Royal Canadian College of Organists; Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America (1992). The American Organist. American Guild of Organists. p. 69. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d "History". Sauerorgelbau.de. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  5. ^ The Organ. Musical Opinion. 1995. p. 151. Retrieved 8 April 2012. For nearly 50 years the 1905 Wilhelm Sauer four manual organ stood, damaged and vandalised, in Berlin's Cathedral. It has been restored to its original specification by the Sauer firm... 
  6. ^ a b Kassel, Richard (2006). The organ: an encyclopedia. Psychology Press. pp. 483–. ISBN 978-0-415-94174-7. Retrieved 3 April 2012. 
  7. ^ Mehlis, Georg; Kroner, Richard (1922). Logos: Internationale Zeitschrift für Philosophie der Kultur. J.C.B. Mohr. p. 162. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Green, Janet M.; Thrall, Josephine (1908). The American history and encyclopedia of music ... (Public domain ed.). I. Squire. pp. 266–. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Bush, Douglas Earl; Kassel, Richard (13 April 2006). The Organ: An Encyclopedia. Psychology Press. pp. 21, 487–. ISBN 978-0-415-94174-7. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Fiseisky, Alexander (August 2007). "A History of the Organ in Latvia". The Diapason. Scranton Gillette Communications. 98 (8). Retrieved April 4, 2012. 
  11. ^ Gilbert Allardyce (July 1971). The Place of Fascism in European History. Prentice-Hall. p. 162. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  12. ^ "Organ of the Church of the Ascension - Augusta Victoria". Israel Organ Association. Retrieved 7 April 2012. 

External links[edit]