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New project: 1904 German late romantic Wilhelm-Sauer organ

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New project: 1904 German late romantic Wilhelm-Sauer organ

Postby OAM » Fri Jun 06, 2008 11:32 am

Hello all,

OAM is happy to announce a unique German late romantic organ, the 1904 Wilhelm-Sauer organ op. 915, of Dortmund:



For detailed information please check

The organ of Dortmund-Dorstfeld in Northern-Germany is located in a neo-Gothic brick wall church, built in 1904 for the strongly increasing population of the German "Ruhr-Gebiet", which was the largest area of coal mining in Germany.

The 3-manual, 40 stop Wilhelm-Sauer organ. op. 915, was inaugurated in December, 16, 1904. This instrument was completely donated (!) by a private person, Mr. Schulte-Witten, a wealthy citizen, honorary officer and Presbyterian of the Dorstfeld parish. The costs were 15.000 Reichsmark.

The late romantic Sauer organ is one of the very few instruments in Germany (the author only knows two), which have survived almost completely in their original state! This organ even survived four disasters, world war I and II (Dortmund was heavily destroyed, the famous Walcker organ of St. Reinoldi destroyed!), the German organ reform movement ("Orgelbewegung") and a church fire twelve years ago, caused by a lightning stroke, where the burning tower crashed into the church.

Sauer (1831-1916) and Walcker were the most important and biggest organ manufacturers of that time and built more than thousand instruments. Sauer himself was a volunteer of the Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899) workshop for one year (about 1852), where the young Sauer met the organ builder genius, whose fame grew more and more. Sauer very often is named as a "German Cavaillé-Coll". He transformed French organ concepts to the German sound concepts.

Sauer himself initially therefore had big problems in Germany, because there was an unwritten law, not to build any French oriented organs, (in German so-called "Französelei" at this time), because France was one of the basic enemies of Germany!

It is assumed, that he there especially learned building high-quality overblowing pipes, which we also find in Sauer's instruments. Sauer's sound concept was based on the sound of the late-romantic symphonic orchestra and he tried to transform this sounds into the organs.

The German romantic organ is like a paint-box, where you can add a lot of colours, thus getting new ones by additive mixing.
Therefore you usually find a lot of 8ft stops. The registration is completely different from baroque organs. You always look for orchestral like tonal colours.The mixtures only crown the sound, but aren't leading voices.

The organ movement, not (any more) understanding the sound concept and music of romantic organs, usually resulted in a modification or even total elimination of the (late-) romantic organs, especially in Germany.

Modification, that meant modifying these organs to a "neo-baroque style", usually was not very successful, because it destroyed the inherent perfect sound structure of those organs. Therefore most instruments were completely removed a short time after.

From a today's pint of view, we regret this consequences of the organ reform movement and usually don't find much of those organs in Germany. Due to the appreciation and the efforts of the former organists, this Sauer organ remained unmodified. Only some cleanings and general overhauling took place. Therefore the Sauer organ of Dortmund-Dorstfeld is a first-rate object in the history of music and very often serves a reference instrument for Sauer organ restorations/reconstructions.

When playing or listening to this organ, we have the original German romantic organ sound of 1904 with a strong relation especially to the music of Max Reger.
Reger himself and Sauer had good relations. Straube performed most Reger works on the big Sauer organ of Leipzig.

The Dorstfeld organ has a wide range from very soft tone colours (pppp) up to a very strong Tutti with some "brute force", which is necessary for Reger's work (ffff).

I would like to invite you to joining some demos, which show some typical sounds of this organ. A lot of more preliminary demos you'll find at

Let's start in an unconventional way with a waltz form Karg-Elert, a contemporary of Reger with a very own style of composition.
This work, originally written for a special reed organ (German "Kunstharmonium") also sounds very good on such a romantic organ:
Karg-Elert: Valse noble op. 26,5

The registration of the following work tries to simulate a typical reed organ like sound, appropriate for this work:
Karg-Elert: Humoreske op. 26,1

Now let's listen to a Brahms organ work, where six(!) 8 feet stops produce a great warm sound:

Brahms: Choral "Herzliebster Jesu" op. 122,2

Now let's come to a famous late Reger work, Phantasie und Fuge d-moll, op. 135b, which shows the full dynamic range (with super-octave coupler in the final measures).

Be careful, because the organ starts with pppp and ends with ffff . The final measures reach the pain threshold in reality!

Max Reger: Phantasie d-moll op.135b
Max Reger: Fuge d-moll op.135b

There is still a lot of work to be done, so we can't give a precise shipping date. The sample set should be ready not later than end of Q3, perhaps sooner.

Please note, though using 3 release layers and original acoustic, that the requirements are not too high. As far as we can see, the standard settings will fit into a DualCore 4 GByte system.

The project again shows the importance of the sound documentation approach: This organ is endangered, because now, due to decreasing number of inhabitants, the church has to be given up and the future of this organ actually is unknown.
It seems, that we never will hear this organ in this church in reality again.
Last edited by OAM on Mon Jun 16, 2008 6:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
Prof. Helmut Maier
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Postby adri » Fri Jun 06, 2008 3:07 pm


It is crucially important to appreciate organs of all periods, and this is a very fine sample of romantic German romantic organ culture. A very welcome addition to the Hauptwerk library of sample sets!

How does this organ compare to the Sauers in Amsterdam and Bremen?

Wonder how well this organ does with Rheinberger and composers of the non-Reger tradition, including from the Mendelssohn school, as well.

More samples, please! :)

At any rate, you have caught us by a pleasant and total surprise!

The sampling quality is, as always, superb!
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Postby OAM » Fri Jun 06, 2008 5:24 pm

Thanks Adri!

If we listen to late romantic (Sauer) organs of different time periods, we can hear the sound getting more and more darker and orchestral like.

The 1889 Sauer organ op. 505 of Amsterdam has nearly the same specification as the Dortmund organ, but IHMO a slightly more touch to early romantic sound concepts.
The 1894 Sauer organ of the Bremer Dom was heavily altered and now brought back to its original sound. Its sound also has more relations to the classical sound.
The 1928 Sauer Glocke concert hall organ of Bremen was built long after the death of Sauer and represents IHMO an organ type, where we can see the first influences of the organ reform movement.

The second unmodified organ, which I mentioned, is the 1906 Link organ of Giengen/Germany (III,54), which is still darker than the Dortmund Sauer organ, has still more 8ft stops and some high pressure ranks. This organ will later on also be part of the project due to my membership in the new European Organ Expert master study program of the music academy of Trossingen (Musikhochschule).

I personally don't know, if Mendelssohn will sound optimal on a 1904 organ. Personally I think, Mendelssohn more demands an early romantic organ, like the 1844 Goenningen organ, we'll see.
We'll have live demos recorded by Anton Doornhein later on.

Let me give some additional remarks on the sound concept:
If you sometime hear sounds mainly from the left side, that's not a bad recording, but is due to the wind chest layout of this organ (check introduction please). Pneumatic systems no longer demand a classical C-C# layout. The unconventional wind chest layout allows a lot of effects, like remote organ and echo effects (listen to the Reger Capriccio).
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More literature about reger and Sauer

Postby Unda Maris » Sat Jun 07, 2008 9:14 am

More literature about Reger and Sauer:

Zur Interpretation der Orgelmusik Max Regers, by Hermann J. Busch, Kassel, 2007, Ed. Merseburger, ISBN 978-3-87537-226-7

and a dissertation by David Adams
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Postby Dutch Brad » Sat Jun 07, 2008 4:11 pm


Once again a high end top recording!

And an excellent original organ of a somewhat forgotten era.

My compliments!

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Postby imcg110 » Sun Jun 08, 2008 3:27 pm

What a lovely surprise!!
A beautiful instrument. Such a shame that it might become playable only on Hautwerk!!
There are few organs that captivate on first hearing - this is one.
I look forward to its release - congratulations Prof M!!
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Postby jleyman » Sun Jun 08, 2008 7:59 pm

imcg110 wrote:...A beautiful instrument. Such a shame that it might become playable only on Hautwerk!!...

In all sadness one feels regarding that this organ most likely will have to be dismantled and never sound the same again even if it will be reinstalled in some other place, this shows the invaluable importance of Hauptwerk as a documentation tool.

This organ is one of a kind. 8 foot addicts can't whish for more -- out of 31 manual stops no less than 15 are 8 foot flue stops! What a sound! And as Prof. Maier points out -- the echo effects than can be obtained thanks to the wind chest layout, exemplified by the Reger Capriccio, are absolutely stunning.

I just can't wait.
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Postby OAM » Tue Jun 10, 2008 4:30 am

Here is another example of the typical German late romantic organ sound, using the Superoctave coupler on Manual I:
Max Reger: Dir, Dir Jehova will ich singen op.67,7

Registration please check the demo page

The registrations may serve as a small guide for using stops in Geman late romantic organs.
You always will find new sound colours, when working with such a "paint-box" organ concept in detail.

For German reading Hauptwerkians, there is an excellent introduction to German late romantic sound concepts (with sound examples):

Even, if you don't understand the German text very well, it's worth wile, to have a look at the historic pictures and to listen to rank demos.
Prof. Helmut Maier
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Re: New project: 1904 German late romantic Wilhelm-Sauer organ

Postby Gert » Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:43 pm

Hi Hauptwerk-/organ lovers,
Again recordings and a review with valuable information of Dick Sanderman.
This time about: 1904 Wilhelm Sauer, Dortmund, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.


Moreover, he recorded 30 mp3-examples for educative purposes: The complete opus 135a of Max Reger.
These pieces are widely used in organ lessons, teachers can now students refer to for good examples.

You can download the mp3's of Dick on:

All recordings of Dick are on:

Thanks Dick!
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