Monday, August 10, 2009

Compenius Organ Denmark

Carol Williams on the 1610 Compenius organ in Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark

Frederiksborg Slotskirke
The Chapel of Frederiksborg Castle
Esaias Compenius o. 1610

Frederiksborg Slotskirke
The Chapel of Frederiksborg Castle
Compenius-orglet / Compenius organ
Esaias Compenius o. 1610 / c. 1610
27 / II / P
Renovated 1988 by Mads Kjersgaard
The console
The stop-knobs are formed as small heads of silver with the abbreviated names of the registers engraved on the foreheads. The fool's head at the right of the upper row activates a special bagpipe effect.


The manuals.

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'

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

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'
*)common canal tremulant for manuals; strong tremulant for pedals.
Stop names are abbreviated (using the upper case letters in the names as stated above: GP, GGF etc.)
manual compass: C, D, E, F, G, A-c'''.
pedal compass: C, D, E, F, G, A-d'.
treble compass: f-d'.
coupling locks the keys of the Positiv manual.
Drum (double pipe, 1693?).
mechanical action.
slider chests.
4 wedge-shaped bellows.
Temperering: middeltonestemning/meantone.

A princely house organ

The Compenius organ was built c. 1610 at the request of

Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, a
remarkable intellectual leader who was a pioneer
in several areas including theatre management,
newspaper publication and organ building.

The idea behind this unusual instrument was primarily
to demonstrate how far the art of organ building had
progressed, and how many beautiful, subtle sounds
could be produced solely from wooden pipes. The duke
had chosen one of the leading organ-builders of the time,
Esaias Compenius, to carry out the task, and he summoned
his court organist, the composer and musical theoretician
of many talents, Michael Praetorius, to act as a consultant.
After Heinrich Julius's death the instrument was given to
his brother-in-law, the music-loving Danish king Christian IV.

Once a week - at a short "Thursday concert" - the façade
doors are opened so that the treasures can be admired.
One can see now that no expense has been saved: the
finest and most exquisite materials have been used, and
even the pedals are covered with genuine ivory.
Thus most tourists see the famous Compesius organ when
they visit Frederiksborg Castle: a closed chest, whose
magnificent decoration suggests that there are rare and
precious things inside. The wood-carvings are by Herman
van de Velde.

All the pipes (of which there are altogether 1001) are made of wood, even the tiniest, for which it would have been far easier to use metal. The principal pipes in the façade are also made of wood with their fronts thickly coated with ivory.

When the organ is played it is as though one is hearing a Renaissance orchestra from the time of Christian IV in the flesh. One really only misses the drums and triangles.

The instrument is often referred to as a "dance organ", but it would be more accurate to call it a "universal" organ; in fact it suits all music of the period, irrespective of whether it was intended for sacred or secular use.

Esaias Compenius
d. 1617 i Hillerød
The German Renaissance organ builder Esaias Compenius has by chance become associated with Denmark, since his most outstanding instrument, the expensive and ingenious house organ for Duke Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, has been here since 1617. It stands in the Chapel of Frederiksborg Castle (q.v.) and in most of the world is known as the "Compenius organ".
As an employee of Heinrich Julius, Esaias Compenius became a colleague of the composer, musician and musical theoretician Michael Praetorius and through this association contributed to Praetorius’s lexicon on musical instruments, De organographia, which was published in 1619, two years after the death of Compenius.

The Compenius organ’s importance for Danish organ building can hardly be overestimated. Generations of organ builders have admired and studied this masterpiece, and many interesting details in recent Danish organs show evidence of having being inspired by this treasure at Frederiksborg.

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