John Alexander Fuller-Maitland Sir George Grove.

A Dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889): with ..., Volume 2 online

. (page 137 of 180)
Online LibraryJohn Alexander Fuller-Maitland Sir George GroveA Dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889): with ..., Volume 2 → online text (page 137 of 180)
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nth centiuv; and that the manner of testing
the ' speech by blowing the pipe with the mouth
in various ways, is precisely that often em-
ployed by the 'voicer' of the present day, when
' regulating * or 'finiidiing ' a stop. It n worthy
of observation that although Theophilus inci-
dentally recognises an addition to the number of
pipes to a note as one means of increasing the
utility of the oxgan, he as distinctly indicates its
range or compass as simply seven or eight notes.
It would have been of great importance had be
mentioned the names of the sounds which formed
a sufficient scale for the accompaniment of the
chants of his day. His record, as a priest and
monk, as well as an oxgan-maker, would have
been most valuable.

We have intentionally introduced the account
of Theophilus somewhat before its due chronolo-
gical place, as it materially assists in elucidating
the description of the renoarkable organ erected
in Winchester Cathedral in the 10th century by
order of Bishop Elph^ge (died 95 1), and described
in a poem by a monk of the name of Wulstaa who
died in 963. It is of further use in this place,
since WuUitan's description has up to this time
been a great puzzle to most writers on the histoiy
of the oigan.

The following is a trandation of the portion of
the Latin poem with which we are concerned,
as given by Mr. Wackerbarth in his ' Music and
the Anglo^xons,' pp. 12-15.

Bach oigans as yon have built are Been nowhere,
fabricated on a double gronnd. Twice six bellows above
are ranged in a row, and fourteen lie below. Theae. hr
alternate blasts, supply an immense quantity of wind,
and are worked by seventy strong men, labouring with
their arms, covered with perspiration, each inciting his
companions to drive the wind np with all his strength,
that the fall-bosomed box may speak with its four
hundred pipes which the hand of the oif^anist govema
Some when closed he opens, others when open he doses,
as the individual natore of the varied sound reqaires.
Two brethren (religious) of concordant spirit sit at the
instrument, and each manages his own alphabet. There
are, moreover, hidden holes in the forty tongues, and
each has ten (pipes) in their due order. Some are oon-
ducted hither, others thither, each preserving the proper
point (or situation) for its own note. They strike the
seven differences of Joyous sounds, adding the mnsio of
the lyric semitone. Like thunder the iron tones batter
the ear, so that it may receive no sound bat that ^one.
To such an amount does it reverberate, echoing in every
direction, that every one stops with his hand his gaping
ears, being in no wise able to draw near and bear the
sound, which so many combinations produce. The mudc
is heard throughout the town, and the flying fame thereof
is gone out over the whole oountry.

From this we learn that the organ was built
in two stages, as are most of those of the present
day, but of which no previous example is met
with ; the chief department — corresponding with
the Great organ of after-time, and fed by fourteen
bellows — being below, and the two smaller de-
partments — auswering to the Choir and Bcbo
organs of later times, and each supplied by six

Digitized by



bellowt-^being aboiw. Serenl of the pipes were
BO fkr of an exceptionally large size, probaHj
foreshadowing the Double DiapMon of subsequent
times, that some were 'conducted hither, others
ikither * ; that is to say, in organ-builders* Ian*
g^aage, tiiey were 'conyeyanoed off' pipes, and were
probably brought into yiew and so grouped as to
form an ornamental front, exactly as hi the present
day. The ' tongues ' were perforated with ' hidden
holes,' after the manner explained by Theophilus ;
and there were the remarkable number of ten
pipes to each playing-slide * in their due order,*
wnateyer that ' order * may haye been.

The organ had a total number of forty tongues ;
and as the organist had the help of two assist-
ants, and each ' managed his own alphabet,* the
lettered tongues must haye been assorted into
three sets. The remarks of the same writer on
the yoicinff of pipes show it to be quite proba-
tJe that the tluree diyisions of this organ pro-
duced as many different strengths of tone, like
the separate manuals of a modem instrument.
The gamut of the instrument consisted of the
seven diatonic sounds, with 'the music of the
lyric semitone TB flat) added.* This last expres-
rioQ is interestm^^ as showing not only that the
introduction of we B flat was unusual, but that
its effect was musical It modified the tritone
which existed between F and B.

Sufficient is indicated in this account to enable
one, after some thought, to offer a suggestion as
to the most probable ranffe of the three sets of
pl^ing^lides of this Win<mester organ. A series
of eleven diatonic sounds, from C to F, making
with the B flat (lyric semitone) twelve, would
be all that was required by the old chants as an
aooompaniment, and would dispose of thirty-six
of the notes. The chief alphabet may not im-
probably have descended one note lower, to B^
and three higher, to Bb, a compass that was after-
wards frequently adopted by the mediseval organ-
makers ; or may have had two extra diatonic notes
both above and below, extending the range to
two octaves, namely from A to A, oorresponding
with the ancient 'Disjunct or Greater System
Complete.' In either case the exact number of
* f<nrty tongues' would thus be accounted for.
These assumed ranges are exhibited in the fol-
lowing diagram.



The description of the organist's opening or
closing the holes 'as the individiud nature of
the varied sound requires,* clearly indicates that
he manipulated for mngte notes only; in fact,
with slides he could for successive sounds do no
more than draw forward with one hand as he
pushed home with the other.

The contrast from 'loud* to 'soft* and back,
which from an organ was probably heard for the
first time in this example, would be obtained by

'the organ&t* himself oeasing, and letting one
of his assistants take up the strain, and then by
his again resuming it; but whether the threes
when simultaneously engaged, still played the
melody only, or whether they occasionally ' bat*
tered the ears* of the congregation with some of
the hideous promssioins mstituted bv Hucbald
in his 'Organum in the loth oentuiy, it probably
now would not be easy to ascertain. If the latter,
it is quite possible that the chants of the period
were sometimes clothed in such harmony as the
following ; the ' organist' playing the plain-song,
and ea/Si of the attendants one of the under
parts: —

If the din caused by the lealous organist and his
* two brethren (religious) of conoordant spirit '
was such that the tone 'reverberated and echoed
in eyery direction, so that no one was able to
draw near and hear the sound, but had to stop
with his hands his gaping ears,' which could
'receive no sound but that alone,' it is evident
that the race of noif^ orean accompanyists dates
much fiurther back than has generally be^i sup-
posed, and existed before * lay' performers were
heard ot

We now arrive at a period when a vast Im-
provement was made in the manner of construct-
ing the organ. It has been shown that when
the Winchester oigan was made, and onwards
to the date of the treatise by Theophilus* the
method of admitting wind to, or of excluding it
from the pipes of a note, was by a slide, which
alternately covered and exposed the underside of
the holes leading up to its pipes. The fricUonal
resistance of the slides, at all times trying, would
ineyitably be increased by their swelling in damp
weather and becoming tight; they would cer-
tainly have to be lengthen^ for every pipe added,
whicm would make them heavier and harder to
move with the hand ; and they involved the two*
fold task, already mentioned, of simultaneously
thrusting one slide back while another was being
drawn out. These drcumstancee, added to the
&ct that a given resistance can be overcome with
less difficulty by a blow than by a pull with the
fingers and thumb, must have oirected attention
to the possibility of substituting pressure for trac-
tion in the manipulation of the organ. Thus it is
recorded tiiat towards the end of Uie i ith century
huge keys, or rather leyers, began to be used as the
means for playing the instrument ; and however
unwieldy these may have been, they were never-
theless the first rude steps towards proriding the
organ with a Jceybocwd. A spring-box, too, of some
kind was almost of necessity also an improvement
of the same period ; for without some restoring
power, a key, on being knocked down, would have
remained there until picked up ; and that restor-
ing power would be the most readily supplied by
a spring or springs. In some of the early sj^ng-

Digitized by VjOOQIC



boxes a Bepante Ydlvh seems to baVe Been placed
Agamst the hole leading up to every pipe of each
vote, where it was held in position by an elastic
appliance of the nature just named. The valves
were brought under outward control by strings or
dords, which passed through the bottom of the
spring-box, and were attached to the key lying in
a diroct line beneath. As the keys must have
been himg at their inner end, and hiftve had their
greatest &11 in front, the smallest pipes of a note
were no doubt from the first placed quite inside,
and the largest in front, with those of graduating
scale occupying an intermediate position in pro-
portion to Uieir size ; and thus the small valves,
opening a lesser distance, were strung where the
key hiMl the least fall, and the laiger pallets
where they had the greatest motion.

The late Herr Edmund Sohulze, of Paulinzelle,
about twenty years ago made for the present
writer a rough sketch of the spring-box of an
organ about 400 veara old which he assisted in
taking to pieces when he was quite a youth ; from
which sketch the drawing for the following illus-
tration was prepared.

F40. 0.


^ ^^


The early keys are described as being from
three to five inches wide, or even more ; an inch
and a half thick ; from a foot and a half to a yard
or more in length, with a (all sometimes of as
much as a foot in depth. They must at times
therefore have been as large as the treadle of a
^nife-grinder*8 machine. Their size and amount
of resistance would on first thought appear to
have been most unnecessarily great and dumsy ;
but this is soon aoeounted for. We have seen
that the gauge of the keys was influenced by the
size of pipe necessary for the lowest note. Their
width would be increased when the compass was
extended downwards with larger pipes ; and their
length would be increased with the number of
valves that had to be strung to them ; while the
combined resistance of the many strong springs
of the larger specimens would render the toudi
insensible to anything short of a thump.

It was in the Cathedral at Magdeburg, towards
the end of the century of which we have been
speaking (the nth), that the earliest organ with
a keyboard of which we have any authentic re-
cord, was erected. It is said to have had a com-
pass of sixteen notes, — ^the same range as that of
our assumed 'chief alphabet' of the Winchester '

organ, — But ^'mention is. made as to* what ilte
notes were.

In the 1 2th centuiy the number of keys was
sometimes increased ; and every key fririher re-
oeived the addition of two or three pipes, aomid-
ing the fifth and octave to the unison. Ac-
cording to Seidel' (p. 8) a third and tenUi were
added. Pkt>vided a rank of pipes sounding the
sub-octave were present; the fifth, octave, and
tenth would sound at the distance of a twelfth,
fifteenth, and seventeenth thereto, which would
be in acoustic proportion ; but a rank producing a
major third above the unison as an acocunpani^
ment to k plain -chant conveying the impreanon
of a minor key, must have sounded so atrocious,
that it would probably be introduced only to be
removed on the earliest opportunity, unless a
rank of pipes sounding the second octave below
the unison (afterwards the 32-feet stop), were
also present. Although the number of pipes to
each key thus continued to be added to, no means
was devised for silendng or selecting any of the
several ranks or tiers. All sounded together, and
there was no escaping firom the strong incessant
'Full Organ 'effect.

There is a curious account written by Lootens'
— an author but little known — of a Dutch organ
said to have been erected in the churoh of St.
Nicholas at Utrecht in the year 1 1 30. The organ
had two manuals and pedals. The compass of the
former was from the low F of
the bass voice, which would be
represented by a pipe of 6 feet
standard length, up to the Bb of the soprano,
namely, two octaves and a halfl The chief
manual had twelve pipes to each key, inoludinff
one set of which the largest pipe would be i a foet
in length,' and which therefore was identical with
the Double Open Diapason of subsequent times.
The soundboard was without grooves or draw-
stops, consequently there were probably nearly as
many springs for the organ-beater to overcome as
there were pipes to sound. The second manual
was described as faavjng a few movable draw-
stop ; and the pedals one independent stop, —
oddly enough a Trumpet, — details and peculi-
arities which strongly point to the last two de-
partments having been additions made at a much
later period ; for a 'double organ* is not known
to have existed for two centuries after the date
at which this one is said to have been completed;
still less a triple one.

In the 13th century the use of the organ in
divine service was, according to Seidel, pp. 80-9,
deemed profane and scandalous by the Greek and
Latin clergy, just as in the 17th century the
instrument wan called a 'squeaking abomina-
tion ' by the English Puritans. The Greek

1 JotMim VaUna 80UUI. ' Die Orgel and Ihr Bu ' (BraslMi IMD.

s ' NouTCfto nwDuel oomplet de rOrcantot* ' (Farts).

* Nor«eonlliknowii4oezitt«stothepltolitowhi<dttlMv«nrcu1f
organs ware tuned, or whother thtf were toned to aaj ontfcffin pitrti
whatervr. which. Ii extrandy doubthil. In reterting to the lotntt
pipe ae being IS fset In speaking length, a tftum of pipe woman-
ment Is made use of which is n^ known to have been ad^ypted ancQ
centories alter tba date at wfaidi this oi|aa is stated to haw bem

Digitized by



GlJnrc^ floes not talerAte its u^ eyeo atthe ?
present day.

Early in the 14th century— in the year 131 2 —
an organ was built in Germany for Marinus
SanutUB, a celebrated Venetian Patrician, which
was erected in the church of St. Raphael, in
Venice. It excited ereat admiration ; and as it
no doubt contained all the newest improvements,
it was a pleasing return to make for the organ
sent from Venice to Aix-la-Chapelle nearly fire
hundred vears before.

One of the greatest improvements effected ini
the organ in the 14th centuiy was the gradual!
introduction of the four remaining chromatiod
semitones. F| was added in the early part oM
the century ; then followed C| and £b ; and nextj
Gf. The fib abready existed in the Winchester
and other medieval instruments. By Dom Bedos
the introduction of these four notes is assigned
to the 13th century ; while others place the first
appearance of three of them as late as the 15 th.
Praetorius gives them an intermediate date — ^the
middle of Uie 14th century ; and he is undoubt-
edly correct) as they were certainly in the Hal-
bentadt organ, finished in the year 1361.

Dom B^os refers to a ourious MS^ of tha
14th century in the Bibliothbque Boyale, as af-
fording much further information respecting the
organ of that period. This MS. records that
the clavier of that epoch sometimes comprised
as many as 31 keys, namely, firom B up to F,
two octaves and a fifth; that
wooden rollers, resembling those
used until within the last few
years in English organs, were employed to
transmit the movement of the keys to the valves ;
that the bass pipes were distributed, right and
left, in the form of wings ; and that those of the
top notes were placed in the centre of the instru-
ment, as they now are.

To appreciate the importance of the improve-
ments just mentioned, and others that are neces-
sarily implied, it is necessary to remember that
so long as it was a custom in organ-making to
have the pipes above and the keys below placed
parallel one to the other, every little expansion
q( the organ involved an aggravation of the un-
wieldy size of the keys, at the same time that th«
convenient reach of the player set most rigid
bounds to the legitimilte expansion of the organ,
and fixed the extent of its limits. The ingenious
contrivance of the roller-board at once left the
dimensions of the organ free to be extended
laterally, wholly irrespective of the measure of
the keyboard.

This emancipation was necessary before the
additional semitones could be conveniently ac-
commodated ; for as they would materially in-
rrease the number of pipes in each rank, so they
would require wider space to stand in, a larger
spring-box, such as was then made, to stand
upon, and rollers equal in length to the sum of
the distance to which the pipes were removed
out of a pMtJlel with each key.

With re^;ard to the distribution of the pipes,
they had generally been placed in a single row,



tm shown* in' medieval drawing^ but as the
invention of the chromatic notes nearlv doubled
the number in the septave — increasing them
from seven to twelve — half the series would now
f(Nrm nearly as long a row as the entire diatonic
range previously £d. The two smallest pipes
were therefore placed in the centre of the organ,
and the remainder alternately on* each side;
and their general outline — spreading outwards
and upwards — gave them the appearance of a
pair of outstretched wings. The ' zig-zag * plan-
tation of pipes was doubtless a sulwequent ar-

In 1350 Poland ap*pears in connection with
our subjects In that year an organ was made
by a monk at Thorn in that kingdom/ which
had 22 keys. As this is the exact number
possessed by the Halberstadt organ, completed
eleven years later, it is possible that the Thorn
organ may have been an anticipation of that at
Halberstadty as fiur as the chromatks keyboard is

Up to tWs time (r4th century), we ha^e met
with nothing to indicate that the organ had been
employed or designed for any other purpose than
the execution of a primitive accompaniment to
the plainsong;- but the instrument which now
comes under notice breaks entirely fresh ground,
and marks a new starting point in the use of the .
organ as well as its construction and develop-
ment. The Halberstadt Cathedral organ, al-
though, strictly speaking, a 'single organ* only,
with a compass of scarcely three octaves, had
three claviers, and pipes nearly equal in size to
any that have ever been subsequently made. It
was built by Nicholas Faber, a priest, and was
finished on Feb. 23, 1361. Our information re-
garding it is obtained from the description of
Michael Praetorius in his ' Syntagma musicum,*
It had 22 keys, 14 diatonic, and 8 chromatic,
extending from Bt] up to A, and
20 bellows blown by 10 men. Its
largest pipe, B, stood in front, and
was 31 Brunswick feet in length, and 3 j ft. in cir-
cumference, or about 14 inches in diameter. This
note would now be marked as the semitone below
the C of 32 feet, and the pipe would naturally
be expected to exceed the pipe of that note in
length ; but the ^itch of the Halberstadt organ
is known to have been more than a tone sharper
than the highest pitch in use in England at the
present day, which accounts for the want of length
in its Btl pipe.^

In the Halberstadt instrument a successful
endeavour was made for the first time to obtain
some relief firom the constant ' full organ' effect,

1 As Uw hUtorr of mnsictl Pitch Is treated of vnder \ii proper
h«ad. it U only n«ioeitMr7 here to refer brleflj to the remarluble fact
that the pitch of old organs sometimei varied to no less an extent
than half an ocUve. and that too at one and the Mune date, as shown
by Arnold Schlick In 1511. One reason fiven for this great shiftlnff
of the pitch was. that the organ shookl be tnned to solt higher or
lower Toloes. without the organist having to ^* play the chromatlca.
which was not convenient to every one ' ; a difficulty that must have
arljwi as much from the construction of the keyboards, and the un-
equal tuning, as from lack of skill In the performer to uve them.

Digitized by




v^hich was all that had previottaly been com- [
monly produced. For this purpose a meaiu was |
devised for enabling the pipes standing in front
(afterwards the Principal, Prsestant, or Open Dia-
pason), and the larger pipes in the side towers
(subsequently part of the Great Bass Principal,
or 32-feet Diapason), to be used separately and
Independently of the other tiers of pipes, which
were located behind, and hence called the Hinter-
satz, or ' hindeisposition/ This result was ob-
tained by introducing three claviers instead of
one only ; the upper one for the fiill organ, con-
sisting of all the tiers of pipes combined ; the
middle one, of the same compass as the upper,
and called * Discant,* for the open diapason alone ;
and the lower one, with a compass of an octave,
from f (Bfa) to H (Bh), for the lower portion of
the bass diapason. The residt of this arrange-
ment was that a change from forte to piano
could be obtained by playing with the right hand
on the middle manual and the left hand on the
lower. It was even possible for the organist to
strike out the plainsong, fortCt on the HintermU
with his left fist, and play a primitive counter-
point {discant) with the right. Pwfetorius men-
tions incidentally that the large bass pipes, which
sounded the third octave below the unison, would
have been scarcely definable, but being accom-
panied by the numerous pipes of other pitches
in the general mixture organ, they became effec-
tive. A rank of pipes sounding a * third * above
the unison, like that mentioned by Seidel, and
already quoted, might very well have been among

The claviers of the Halberstadt organ pre-
sented several interesting features; and being
the earliest examples of chromatic keyboards
known, are here engraved from Pretorius.




V -i^'^


- K





L ~


The keys of the Halberstadt organ were made
at a time when the five chromatic notes — or


u we now call them* the 'shmrps and flftts'^
were placed in a separate row from the ' iiAtiirals,'
almost as distinctly so as a second manual of the
present day. The keys of the upper {Hinteraatx)
and middle {DiacarU) claviers (Fig. 10) measoied
four inches from centre to centre, and the diatonie
notes were ornamentally shaped and lettered, thus
preserving the 'alphabetic' custom obeerved in
the 10th-century organ at AVinchester, and de-
scribed by Theophilus in the nth. The chro-
matic notes were square-shaped, and had their
sur£EM» about two and a half inches above that
of the diatonic, were two inches in width, and
one inch in thickness, and had a £Edl of about an
inch and a quarter. The chromatic keys were
no doubt pressed down by the three inner fingers,
and the diatonic by the wrist end of the hand. The
(Uatonio notes of the lower clavier (Fig. 11), eight
in number, namely ll(BlO, C. D, E, F, G. A, H
(Btl), were quite differently formed, being square-
fronted, two inches in br^th, and with a space
of about the same width on each side. These
keys were evidently thrust down by the left hand,
by pressure from Uie shoulder, like handles, the
space on each side being left for the fingers and
thumb to pass through. This clavier had four
chromatic notes, C|, £b, F|, and GS, but curious^
enough, not Bb, although that was the ' lyric semi-
tone* of which so much is heard long before.

The contrast between the forte and pioM
effect on the Halberstadt organ — firom the full
organ to a single set of pipes — ^must have been
very violent ; but the experiment had the good
effect of directing attention to the &ct that a
change, if less marked, would be grateful and use-
ful ; for Seidel (p. 9) records that from this time
instruments were frequently made comprising
two manual organs, the upper one, interestin^y

Online LibraryJohn Alexander Fuller-Maitland Sir George GroveA Dictionary of music and musicians (A.D. 1450-1889): with ..., Volume 2 → online text (page 137 of 180)