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The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

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The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby Johannes Sørensen » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:16 am

The Compenius Organ, this beautiful renaissance instrument at Frederksborg Castle, Hilleroed, Denmark, was build by the German organ builder Esaias Compenius (1560-1617) and finished 1610 after five years of work.
Although no big organ the Compenius Organ is valuable in itself, it has been of importance and to inspiration for later organ building, and it is a living historical document of music historic interest.

Image

In front of the organ it call to reflection how generation following generation have played it and have listened to its sound during all these 400 years of its existence.

The organ was ordered by Duke Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel. Possibly composer Michael Praetorius a friend of Compenius and conductor at the dukes court have had some influence on the origin of the organ.
Unfortunately Duke Heinrich Julius could only enjoy the sound of the organ a few years. After his death 1613 the Compenius Organ was given as a present to his widows brother King Christian IV of Denmark, and in the spring of 1617 it was transported by eight men to Frederiksborg Castle and the 10th of April it arrived. Compenius himself took care of the installation of the organ in the chapel of the castle. That was the last work by Esaias Compenius. He died during his stay in Hilleroed.
Without a royal order from a gifted, enlightened and music loving duke to an excellent organ builder, a skilful craftsman and artistic personality, then at the beginning of the seventeenth century we would never have had an instrument like this. When ordinary people today can see its beauty and listen to its sound it is a sign of democratization. Also that aspect reflects the history.

It is a blessing in disguise that the Compenius Organ exists today. In 1859 Frederiksborg Castle was devastated by fire, but at that time from 1791 the Compenius Organ was at another castle Frederiksberg Castle near Copenhagen and thus saved. After the fire Frederiksborg Castle was rebuild and 1868 the Compenius Organ went back to the chapel of Fredriksborg Castle and placed on the gallery where it still stands.

Originally Esaias Compenius installed the organ in the chapel (the exact place is unsure) as you find it today, but in periods of its life on the castle last time from 1692 to 1791 it was moved to the Knights Hall of the castle, and in a way that is a more right place. The Compenius Organ was not build as a liturgical church organ but as a house organ or chamber organ which term you may prefer.
Now the castle is a museum, but the chapel is in function as an ordinary parish church. There have always been other organs too in the chapel for services.
The Compenius Organ is still in use once a week for a short demonstration concert, other concerts, and recording CD's etc.

Sometimes you can see the Compenius Organ described as a “dance-organ”, while others object and say that such an indication is too narrow and that the Compenius Organ is more an universal music instrument for different kinds of music at the time, a renaissance orchestra. I think the later have a point and are more right.

Image

The appearance of the organ is beautiful and it is obvious that it was precious. The organ case is made of oak, in part veneered and decorated with different sorts of noble wood, has ornaments of ebony and it has wood-carvings by Herman van de Velde. Unfortunately a top figure has disappeared.
When the facade doors are closed and the pedelboard pushed in, the organ almost looks like a big cupboard, but when it is opened the organ appears in all its beauty. The facade pipes principal 4' are coated with ivory and the pipe mouths are made of and decorated with ornaments of ebony. The natural keys of the two manuals and even the natural pedals are covered with thick ivory too. The stop-knobs are formed as heads, men, women (Diana) and lions, made of silver and also the fronts of the keys are of silver.

Image

When you see the size of the organ case, 3.62m high, 2.88m broad and 1.50m in death, it is difficult to understand that it can contain the mechanism, the windchests and 1001 pipes divided on 27 stops. Besides of the stops the organ has an 8' C organ point and a bagpipe as a curiosity.
As normal at that time the lowest octave is a short octave and the compass of the manuals is: CDEFGA – c3 and the pedals: CDEFGA - d1.
There is really no unused space inside the organ. Only a great master could have done such a work centuries before 3D computer modelling. The crowded interior of the organ make tuning of the pipes troublesome, but wise the reeds are placed in front.
All the pipes form the biggest to the smallest are made of different sorts of wood, oak, maple, plum, box, ash, ebony and juniper. In some cases even the single pipes are made of more than one sort. One thing is that Compenius or the Duke wanted to make an organ all of wood, except parts of the reeds necessary made of brass and some secondary parts, but why so many different kinds? Was it a matter-of-facts or a sport?

The Compenius Organ is very well preserved and the organ itself has survived almost unaltered until today, and it can be regarded as in original condition. The four wedge bellows behind the organ are the originals but restored bellows. The scaffolding that supports the bellows is a reconstruction, cause the original one has disappeared in a period, when another arrangement of the bellows was used.
The temperament was changed in the period the organ was at the castle near Copenhagen to “the best temperament”. That was the worst treatment of the organ during its history. But 1895 Félix Reinberg, Cavallié-Coll, restored the organ and the temperament was returned to the original meantone, a1 = 468Hz at 20 degrees C, wind pressure: 55 mm WS.
Maybe the complexity of the organ in the narrow space inside the organ case, that would have made any alteration difficult, has been a conservation factor. But we must also emphasize and appreciate, that all the organ builders (except the case mentioned above), who have maintained and carried out restorations of the organ during the four centuries, have done it with great respect for this masterpiece by Esaias Compenius, and the organ has in contrast to many other historic organs avoided “modenizations” and “bessermachen”. The latest restorations are: 1981-82 the bellows, 1985-92 by stages the organ (inside) and 1987-88 the organ case.
Today the Compenius Organ can be enjoyed as for 400 years ago when it was build and give us an impression of the sound of music in the seventeenth century.


Here you can read a little more about the Compenius Organ and many other organs in Denmark.
http://orgel.natmus.dk/frederiksborg_co ... rammex.htm
Some high resolution photos of details.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ana_sudani ... ostream/#/

And here a short presentation.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNX0gOTLWDo
And some more examples of the sound of the Compenius Organ.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj3rsNwCj7c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jCkdWTyDbY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFl1k9rqUb8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbEyFhbQISU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PiLfA7RtpI


The anniversary will be celebrated with a music festival on Frederiksborg Castle in the week from the 3th to the 10th of October. During the week there will be played music on historical instruments: a Markussen organ from 1864, a glockenspiel from 1886, the composer I. P. E. Hartman's grand piano from 1840, and of course the Compenius Organ will be central on the festival.
So, if you want to visit Denmark here is an occasion.
From this site you can download the festival program as a pdf-file.
http://www.frederiksborg-slotskirke.dk/ ... p?id=29031
Although the program is in Danish, you can read the essence of it.


Disposition of the Compenius Organ:

Over manual II
Gross Principal 8'
Gross Gedact Flöite 8'
Klein PrinciPal 4'
GemsHorn 4'
NachtHorn 4'
PlockFlöite 4'
Gedact-Quint 3'
Kleine Flöite 2'
R.Rancket 16'
Tremulant*

Under manual I
QuintaDehna 8'
GedactFlöite 4'
GemsHorn 2'
NaSatt 1 1/2'
Zimbel I
PrinciPal Cantus 4'**
BlockFlöite Cantus 4'**
KrumbHorn 8'
Klein Regal 4'
Tremulant*

Pedal
GedactFlöiten Bass 16'
GemsHorn Bass 8'
QuintaDehn Bass 8'
QuerFlöiten Bass 4'
NachtHorn Bass 2'
PaurFlöiten Bass 1'
Sordunen Bass 16'
Dolzian Bass 8'
Regal Bass 4'
Tremulant*

*) common canal tremulant for manuals; strong tremulant for pedals.
**) treble compass: f-d'.
Temperament: meantone.


Best regards
Johannes
Last edited by Johannes Sørensen on Sat Sep 25, 2010 7:11 am, edited 10 times in total.
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby engrssc » Sat Sep 04, 2010 5:58 am

Totally gorgeous, thanks for sharing. As in wow. My first impression, and it only took five years to build? Even with skilled craftsmen, just imagine getting all the materials together.

It appears the pedal board is a bit shallow, front to back, and pulls out like a drawer? Also I don't see a music rack, just something that might be called a music ledge? Also, I assume there must be some internal "source" for the air supply/blower?

From my "practical even humorous" side, I could just imagine what my wife would say if such an instrument were available and I would bring it home? No, it definitely belongs in the setting where it is. And it has meantone temperament, quite a unique and beautiful instrument. Again thanks for sharing.

Rgds,
Ed
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby Johannes Sørensen » Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:59 am

Hello ED

Thanks for the kind words.

Regarding the five years of building, I haven't found information if Compenius have had helpers or how many, but I don't think that he has done all the work himself. We know for sure that some of the wood-carvings on the organ case are made of others.

On the first of the videos you see a music rack, and on this wooden organ it is made of brass.
On the same video you also see a young man drawing the bellows behind the organ.

Best regards
Johannes
Last edited by Johannes Sørensen on Sun Sep 05, 2010 12:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby engrssc » Sat Sep 04, 2010 9:28 am

That was definitely an interesting video (first one) and likewise the sound is quite unique. Doc Williams sure gets around and can play such a variety of instruments. I wish her influence would extend so that we would see even more lady organists. Even here on this H/W Forum, it appears to be more male dominated.

My first piano teacher was a very talented lady who, with her talent and perseverance, got me thru those early years of music "basics". All good stuff. :)

Something very good about these historical instruments. To think what those talented folks from way back could do with some of our modern tools, hmmm. Not saying we don't have talented people today. :wink:

Rgds,
Ed
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby Johannes Sørensen » Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:54 am

In the article I wrote:
“The four wedge bellows behind the organ are naturally enough the most restored part and look like a reconstruction.”

The organist at Frederiksborg Castle Sven-Ingvart Mikkelsen, who is responsible for the organ, has kindly mailed me, that the bellows actually are the originals but restored bellows, and only the scaffolding that supports the bellows is a reconstruction. The original scaffolding has disappeared in a period, when another arrangement of the bellows was used.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... ellows.jpg

The detail has now been corrected in the article.

Best regards
Johannes
Last edited by Johannes Sørensen on Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby pat17 » Sun Sep 05, 2010 2:48 pm

This organ is beautiful... Thanks for sharing it with us Johannes! 8)

More than anything else, the console with the two manuals and the fantastic drawknobs make it unique...

The first video is truly amazing... I didn't know such sounds could be possible in an organ. It looks really medieval (though the organ is from the Renaissance period). It's a miracle such an instrument could survive intact after 400 years! 8)
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby Johannes Sørensen » Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:27 am

Hi “pat17”

Beautiful, yes indeed.
If you have not jet, I can suggest to open the link to the high resolution photos. Right click an opened photo and the resolution can be increased once more.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ana_sudani ... ostream/#/
When the organ was new the contrast between the colours of the different sorts of wood was much higher. We can try to imagine how the appearance of the organ was then.

The YouTube videos can give an impression of the sound but can not do the organ full justice. When you listen to CD-recordings of renaissance- or other appropriate music for an instrument of this kind, the limited compass, the disposition, the meantone temperament and the high pitch, the sound of the organ is gorgeous.

Best regards
Johannes
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby Johannes Sørensen » Mon Sep 06, 2010 5:51 am

An interesting detail from the latest restoration of the organ 1985-92.

The restoration was carried out by organ builder Mads Kjersgaard, specialized in organ's theory, technique, history and restoration.
Inside the organ on a wooden block he found an inscription by Esaias Compenius. In translation it reads:

“This work I initially accomplished with God's assistance in Wolfenbüttel, and assembled in Hessen. There it stood for over 5 years … By divine dispensation I then transferred this organ to the kingdom of Denmark and reassembled it here in the year 1617.”

Best regards
Johannes
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby engrssc » Mon Sep 06, 2010 8:11 am

A testimony to a God-fearing artisan not seen too often.

Rgds,
Ed
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby Johannes Sørensen » Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:22 am

A testimony to a God-fearing artisan not seen too often.

It is among other things a question about time and culture.
An example, in the first period of the organ builder company Marcussen from 1806 and onward when the founder Jürgen Marcussen was at the head, at the beginning of a working day was kept a common devotion. Today such a practice in a company would be unimaginable.

Organ building history is also interesting as it reflects the involved personalities and cultural history in a broader sense. If and how these aspects may have influenced the instruments is another not uninteresting question. Beyond the obvious as for example that the Compenius Organ reflects the renaissance there is no simple answer, let the question blow in the wind for reflection. Not so much as an abstract question but as a question in the concrete individual case.

Best regards
Johannes
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby engrssc » Wed Sep 08, 2010 12:16 pm

Johannes Sørensen wrote:It is among other things a question about time and culture.
An example, in the first period of the organ builder company Marcussen from 1806 and onward when the founder Jürgen Marcussen was at the head, at the beginning of a working day was kept a common devotion. Today such a practice in a company would be unimaginable.


An interesting parallel I recently saw. That is in a famous surgeon's office, hanging on the wall behind his desk, a painting from obviously many years ago. There depicted a patient on the surgical table with the medical staff kneeling around it in silent prayer. I pondered that a bit.

Rgds,
Ed
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby imcg110 » Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:18 pm

engrssc wrote:
Johannes Sørensen wrote:It is among other things a question about time and culture.
An example, in the first period of the organ builder company Marcussen from 1806 and onward when the founder Jürgen Marcussen was at the head, at the beginning of a working day was kept a common devotion. Today such a practice in a company would be unimaginable.


An interesting parallel I recently saw. That is in a famous surgeon's office, hanging on the wall behind his desk, a painting from obviously many years ago. There depicted a patient on the surgical table with the medical staff kneeling around it in silent prayer. I pondered that a bit.

Rgds,
Ed

Knowing surgeons, that was more likely to be the Last Rites for the patient than a period of devotion and supplication. :D
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Re: The Compenius Organ 400 year anniversary

Postby engrssc » Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:36 pm

Everything, including music, is subject to interpretation. :|

Rgds,
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