Holzhey-Orgel  Weissenau 1787

Johann Nepomuk Holzhey (1741-1809) was one of the greatest South German master organ builders in the second half of the 18th century. He succeeded in creating a distinct personal style. His instruments belong to the rococo and the classicism too. He was a contemporary of Haydn and Mozart.

Holzhey's work represents the zenith of classicistic organ building in South Germany. Holzhey was presumably educated by his uncle Alexander Holzhey. He received most significant ideas for his work from Karl Riepp. While his uncle built instruments in South German style, Riepp practiced French organ building. Those two styles could not be more different.
Holzhey's masterstroke was to combine both styles and thus create tonally highly appealing instruments.

His contemporaries frequently marveled at how soft but also how powerful his organs sounded.


Principal                  8’
Rohrflöten                8’
Salicional                 8’
Unda Maris (Schweb) 8’
Flautravers              8’
Octav                     4’
Holflöten                 4’
Fugari                     4’
Quint                      3'
Syflöt                     2’
Hörnle                     2’
Cimbal 5f.                2’
Fagott     bas           8’
Hautbois  discant      8’

Nachthorn               8’
Dulciana                  8’
Spizflöten               4’
Flageolet                 2’
Cornet Resit 4f.        4’
Vox Humana bass      8’
Vox Humana diskant   8’
Cromorne bass          8’
Schalmei   diskant  
Tremulant diskant
 Subass              16’
 Octavbass            8’
 Violonbass            8’
 Cornetbass           4’
 Bompard             16’
 Trompet              8’
 Claron                4’

Prospectum Sample Set    Holzhey-Orgel in Weissenau

Prospectum has made a perfect sample set of the Holzhey organ in Weissenau. No sample set brings the sounds of a large organ in a church with an overwhelming acoustics so superbly over to the living room.

The registers show a variety of sounds from a period when the Rococo transformed in the Classicism. Holzey managed to combine the best of both worlds. It is a unique performance to put the various sound colors of this striking organ so in the samples, that each timbre is fully into his own and yet let the sounds fuse together well in the beautiful acoustics.

The specific characters stored in the samples can be mixed in many combinations without large volume differences.

Therefore, this is a successful Sample set for an organ in the living room.


Prestant                 16’
Principal                  8’
Copel                      8’
Quintadena              8’
Gamba                    8’
Viola (Schwebung)    8’
Octav                     4’
Flöten                     4’
Nasard 2f.               2’
Superoctav             2’
Sexqualter 3-4f.       3’
Mixtur 6f.                2’
Cornet 3f.               3’
Trompet                 8’
Clairon                   4’


The concept of the organ is focused on transparent sounds with a great clarity. The lower keyboard is the classic Main organ where Principals from 16 feet to the highest footages of the 6 strong Mixture build up to a brilliant Plenum sound. The sounds have a perfect balance between strength and clarity.
A careful intonation of the samples is needed to translate these qualities well to the living room.

The main work is enriched by numerous coloring flute sounds plus the strings Viola 8’ and Gamba 8’. These are floating tuned against each other, but each has its own timbre.

The French influence can be heard well in the reeds with their rich overtones, the sounds are more focused on singing than on powerful sounds. The Trumpet 8’ becomes more vital by the addition of the Claron 4'. The sound of the Cornet joins to the reeds.

The second keyboard, the Positive organ is a moderate version of the Main organ like South German tradition. The organ is very expressive by adding special registers such as an overblown flute the Flautravers 8 ', the intimate get Flöte 4', the Unda Maris 8' floating against the Salicional 8'. The reeds of this manual is in the bass a Fagott-8' and a bright Hobo 8' in the treble. In the large room, the reeds sound transparent with a fine shine.

In large instruments the third manual is often targeted as a sharp Cornet, but in this organ it is an Echo organ. It is behind closed doors in the lower part of the organ case, that is why the volume is much less than in the first and second keyboard.

The echo work has a wide scaled Nachthorn 8’, a Dulciana 8' and two silent flutes. For solo, there is a choice of two reeds supplemented by a singing Cornet sound.

auf Deutsch
Scaling the pipes

Sometimes Holzhey took the scaling of the pipes from Karl Riepp, such as the scale of the Principal 8 ', the base of the organ sound in the time of the Baroque. The higher octaves, however, he scaled to his own insights of sound performance. Thus was born a new scale line that was the starting point for the total Principal plenum, with which Holzhey qualified himself in the tradition of the South German masters.

The register Quint, Nazard, Sexquialter, Hörnle and Cornetbass are in Principal scale. Because the main part of the pipe is part of the Principalchoir, are thus to 54% of all its organs in a unit bore pipes. Only the Cornet is as mixed voice wide scaled, but the Cornet bass as principal again.

The adjustment of the pipes on the acoustics of a room was first and foremost about the different cut ups and the regulation of the air flow at the foot hole. The strings and flute, however, are customized for the organ in Weissenau individually.

This richness of colors, designed by Holzhey (beats, overblown flutes, Quintadena and strings, also in four foot), is typical of the South German organ.

Organ case

This change of style is to be seen on the housing; the Rococo style is changing over in the style of classicism. Holzhey did not built the case himself, sculptors and cabinetmakers were tasked, as was then the common practice. Only after the case was set up, the organ builders start the actual work. A close interaction between housing design and plant arrangement is increasingly being abandoned. The design for the noble enclosure comes from the construction director of the Abbey.

The instrument has a free-standing table, which was arranged before the West Windows. Therefore, the tracker actions are often rerouted. Still Holzhey’s instruments let play itself almost "as easily as a piano play", as Ernst Ludwig Gerber in his historical biographical lexicon of sound artists of the year 1812 expressly noted.

Excellent Sample Set

The sample set that Prospectum made by the Holzey organ of Weissenau, is the result of a good insight of how a large organ in a church with an exceptional acoustic must be stored in samples, that accurately transmit all qualities to the living room. Due to the generous acoustics, it's hard to save the sounds in detail in the samples, as well as to transfer the huge acoustics. A strategic place is chosen for the microphones, as close as possible to the pipes, but yet evenly from each tab.

The acoustics are there working already, but not so intense that they masks the chiffs of the starting tones. It is also a good place to hear how the sounds blend. Microphones are placed at a greater distance for a second set of samples to store the full acoustics. The organist at home hears the sounds reflecting in a large room, without the disadvantage of WET samples such as by the Bovenkerk in Kampen and the Dom in Utrecht, which produces more hall as sounds.

On the sample set of Weissenau the relationship between sounds and acoustics is per keyboard adjustable. The reeds of the Echo can be heard far away, while the second stop on the lower manual is perceived close to the console.

The organ has a wide range of eight foot and four foot registers, which are not intended to amplify the sound, but to color them very nuanced. Many combinations are possible and lead to surprising sounds. The Quintadeen 8' is a strikingly beautiful register, the sound is insistent and melodic. The Flautravers 8' is an overblown flute. The Copel 8' and Nachthorn 8' sound as modest flutes.

Trembling registers were popular in the age of romanticism, but they are not belonging specifically to this period of time. In many baroque organs they were already planned, especially in the southern countries. More than 400 years ago every Italian organ has a Voce Umana, a trembling Principal stop.

Heinrich Trost built the Unda Maris in organs, which have been played and appreciated by Bach.
Joseph Gabler made trembling register in the organs of Weingarten and Ochsenhausen.

Holzhey built the organ of Weissenau 30 years later and placed trembling stops on two keyboards; the Gamba 8' on the main work with a Viola 8' as a beat. The Positive organ got the Salicional 8' and the Unda Maris 8'.                              

Book Holzhey Organ

The Abbey Church in Weissenau is a large church with an impressive acoustics. The sounds of the Holzhey organ can resonate beautifully in this room and those sounds are stored in the samples. The voicing of pipe organs has taught me that an adjustment is required, to make the samples sound in the domestic environment similar to the church.

It is not easy to transfer the various sounds, each according to its own nature to the living room. After several months of working on the voicing, the Holzhey organ in my living room sounds as it is heard by the organist at the console in the church. Church and acoustics have carried accordingly to my own environment.

About this fundamental editing, I wrote a book with which any organist can achieve the same results. The great acoustic space is proportionally reduced transferred into the living room, where the organ may sound both powerful and brilliant as well as thin and far away in the enormous room.

The book is free to request, stating the full postal address.

Send an email with the request: Holzhey organ in the living room
                                                                                                                      John Boersma

An ideal Sample Set

This organ offers a great choice of timbres in eight foot and four foot registers without large differences of the volume. At a chamber organ it is more valuable to have many timbres, than having registers that are building to a powerful volume. Therefore, this is a successful Sample set for an organ in the living room.

Much attention has been given to the reeds and it can be heard that Holzhey had a preference for the French intonation of lively sounds. The serene sound of the Vox Humana of the Echo is strikingly beautiful. Also the Oboe of the Positive has a sublime sound.

The emotional atmosphere of the sounds is different per keyboard. The Main organ sounds wide and lively, the Positive organ is colouring and attractive , the Echo organ sounds thin and far away.

Each keyboard can be placed in the acoustics at your own preference.

The price of this Sample Set is low, 199 Euro for the two channel version.
The Premium-version with four channels is 249 Euro 

French influence

The influence of the French organ building traditions is unmistakably in this organ. The usual cornet in the French organs is also planned, but the sounds are wider and strengthen the character of the reeds. By separating the bass and treble, there are more opportunities to colour the sound.

The French influence is also noticeable in the reeds, because of exuberant overtone development. However, the French récit-manual is replaced by an Echo work with fine intruding sounds in the two reeds. The cornet isn’t sharp here but is broad singing and fills up the sounds of the reeds.

In the pedal, the Gravity and Brillance comes from the family of the trumpet: Bompard 16 ', trumpet 8' and Claron 4'. Holzhey didn’t made pedals mixtures, these registers can be found in the Main work.

The Principalen two foot or higher are missing in the second and third manual. Now there is one more place for colouring sounds of strings and flutes and a brilliant of a Cimbel.

The French intonation can be hears as well in the sparkling sounds of reeds in the Positive, Fagott-Oboe 8'.

In the Echo work the Vox Humana 8' sound with a fine serene sound of great beauty. Due to the large room, the register has a special glow. It invites to be played often.

The second reeds of the Echo work, the Cromorne – Schalmei 8' sounds more broadly as the Vox Humana. A nice register to be used alternately or together with the Vox Humana.

Holzhey‘s labial voices are some more fundamental as the former Baroque organs, what makes a bridge to the romantic organs. The basis of the sound remains a complete Principal choir like Southern German style, characterized by thirds in the mixture voices (Sexquialter, Nazard, mixture).