Gotisch organ in Kiedrich from 1500

The Gothic organ of the parish church of St. Valentine and Dionysius in Kiedrich has the reputation of being the oldest playable organ in Germany. By wrong interpretations of the numbers on the pipes, it was thought that the organ was made in 1313. In reality the organ was built around 1500 and is with Rysum one of the oldest playable organs in Germany.

The organ was built by Johann Kirchner in 1652 and later modified several times. In the contract in 1710 for the restoration of the organ the positive with six registers is mentioned, although it was probably already built by Kirchner. The independent pedal was probably added in 1722.

The restoration done in the 19th century is remarkable, because it is so unlike those performed on many other historical organs. When the Baron John Sutton discovered this instrument on one of his journeys through Europe, he was captivated by its Gothic origin and he supplied the money to restore the instrument to its 1500 state, according to the perceptions of the mid 19th century. The organ was restored by by Louis Benoit Hooghuys, the case with the painted side wings was restored by August Martin de Fürth.

The last restoration by Kuhn (1985-1987) preserved the state achieved by the previous restoration of John Sutton, with a focus on the Gothic sound. The positiv is hidden behind the main organ case in the church tower, thus sounding as an echo-organ, and the modern pedal is also concealed in the church tower behind the organ case.

The Gothic and the neo-Gothic elements blend together exceptionally well in this particular church. The visitor is truly astonished by the church's ambiance when entering the building. The absence of the ecclesiastical baroque, which is so common elsewhere, make this church and its organ absolutely extraordinary.

Sample set Kiedrich

The organ of Kiedrich is a Gothic organ. Gothic organs are built around 1500, their sound character is well recognizable, but it is difficult to describe this sound in words. The Praestant pipes of Gothic organs are made of hammered lead and that gives a dark but at the same time, intensive tones with a vocal character. In the treble increases the brightness of the sounds. It is similar to a male choir of singers, where each adds his own consonant sounds to the choir. Each pipe is voiced to its own optimal sound, whereby the voices do differ from each other, but still are in good harmony. The flutes sound is full, a sound which penetrates without ever being sharp.

Part of the pipes of the organ of Steinkirchen stems also from the Gothic time. The particular sound was recognized by Arp Schnitger and is adapted into the sound character of his organ in Steinkirchen. Who appreciates the sounds in Steinkirchen, will also make music with pleasure with the sounds of the organ in Kiedrich.

The hammered lead contains traces of other metals that give the sounds their characteristic musicality. The leads that is used nowadays by plumbers is much too pure to give this particular properties to the sound. The organ builders Reil in Heerde have analyzed the lead pipes of the Bader-organ. Then they cast lead plates with accurately the same composition. The sound character of the Bader-organ fits well to the sounds of the Gothic organs.

I got acquainted with the organ in Kiedrich by own playing. The sounds of the main organ I hear back exactly in the samples, they are recorded well and stored in the memories. The problem is to reproduce them in the living room just as they sounded in the church. At a large volume they come best to their right, but that's too loud for most living rooms. It was for Jiri Zurek harder to record the sounds of the Positiv with his microphones, because the positiv is hidden behind the main organ case in the church tower, thus sounding as an echo-organ.


With each sample set the difference in volume between the church and the living room must be bridged, but for the loud sounds of the Gothic organs is still more necessary. The goal is to reduce the volume evenly while retaining the character such. With a good use of the equalizers the sounds are to reproduce well in the living room as they sound in the church. The sounds of the Positive may also be more highlighted, making them sound more direct and in a better interaction with the main organ.

There are no CDs of the organ in Kiedrich, but the organ of the Andreas Church in Ostönnen (Soest) is a good example for voicing the sample set of Kiedrich. A comprehensive demonstration with clear sound samples can be found at: Organ Andreas Church

Gothic organs are wonderful examples of the original organ sound. A study copy of the Peter Gerritz organ from 1479, built by the organ builders Reil for the Organ Park in Amsterdam is built to demonstrate that special sound character. Also for Pulgarn in Austria they made a organ with these sounds.

Organs with gothic sounds