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Thread: David Tannenberg

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    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    David Tannenberg

    In another post, Giovanni asked a couple questions about David Tannenberg. I'm not at home near my books (writing this on my laptop in a motel room) but I'll make a short posting, writing what I can say off the top of my head without double checking references.

    It is somewhat of a mystery where David Tannenberg learned all of his organ building skills. The first answer to this question is that he apprenticed with a builder named Klemm, who had studied organ building in Germany. It is debated whether Klemm had studied with Silbermann. . .there are some stylistic similarities, though in recent years the Klemm/Tannenberg organs have been identified as being of a particular German style called "lieblichkeit" organs, a style which Silbermann did not follow.

    At any rate, we do know that Tannenberg studied with Klemm, but we don't know for sure how much he learned from him. It seems that some of his skills may have been self taught. For instance, his metal pipes are built in a peculiar way where the languids are upside-down. For various reasons related to restoration, this is a very good thing, because it makes it impossible to voice the pipes outside of a small range. If the pipes speak at all, they sound very close to the way Tannenberg had them sound. So this and some other facts about his building style allow us to guess that perhaps Klemm had not taught him everything and Tannenberg improvised until he found ways that worked well. This, the quality of his workmanship, and the sound of the instruments, show him as a very rare genius. I have played several of his surviving instruments and I love them very much.

    Yes, he did build a large organ for a Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. I don't have my books, but I can tell you it had three manuals and pedal, with a pedal Posaune 16'. It must have been a spectacular instrument! It was the largest organ in America at the time, and George Washington travelled to Philadelphia to hear its dedication recital. Unfortunately one of the most dissapointing facts in organ history is that the church burned several years later, completely destroying the organ. A terrible loss.

    Thanks for asking the question, Giovanni! I'd be happy to go on and on and on about Tannenberg!

    Thomas Dressler

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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Dear Mr. Dressler,

    I have learned something new today: upside-down languids.

    Yes, all those reading are permitted to laugh at my lack of knowledge in this respect - I won't take offense.

    I once heard that Tannenberg's string stops had a sound somewhat like the string stops of the Gabler Organ at Weingarten Abbey.

    Maybe Mr. Dressler can enlighten me if this is correct.

    "Lieblichkeit" organs - I have for a long time viewed the instruments by Gabler and Riepp as such. Especially the Gabler at Weingarten Abbey - the richness of the principal, flute and string stops - his mixture stops give off such a blaze of color and piquantness that makes my head spin.

    How are the Tannenberg mixture stops in relation to other labial stops - do they shriek or do they just give an adequate pungency to palette of sounds?

    Sad to hear about that 3-manual Tannenberg in Philly.

    Many an glorious organ has perished to the flames.

    An all-time favorite of mine was the Akerman & Lund at Katarina Kyrka in Stockholm. That Church which was gutted by fire, has since been rebuilt. The new instrument there, Van den Heuvel (Van den Teufel) as my Swedish organist friends call it, has none of the elegance of the previous instrument - sounds like a bomb which has just exploded in a hen-house.

    I hereby scold the parish of Katarina Kyrka for not contracting Akerman & Lund to build the new instrument - Van den Heuvel is one of the more, if not the most expensive builders out there. To the best of my knowledge the voicer/finisher of the former instrument is still alive and kicking and has his own business (Knut Kaliff).

    One can always take the more expensive builder when it's the taxpayer who foots the bill.

    Yes, many millions for rebuilding the church structure were given in outright donations by private individuals.



    Giovanni

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    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Dear Giovanni,

    The only recording I have of the Gabler organ is a very old one and it's difficult to hear much on it. I did hear a CD at a friend's house more recently, but he only played a very short clip of the plenum which was pretty terrific! So I can't really compare Tannenberg's strings to the Gabler organ. But I will tell you that the his strings are very unusual, very colorful and have a lot of very sensitive chiff. They sound like very colorful Quintadena stops, but not quite as quinty as a real Quintadena. I find them extremely attractive, but I did get bombed on another organ email list by several people who really dislike them because they are so different from orchestral organ strings. To my ears, they are actually more expressive and attractive--they're not as "bite-y" but they have extremely sensitive speech.

    As to the lieblichkeit character, let me be more specific and give more details. In his day (late 18th-early 19th century) David Tannenberg was the premier organ builder in America. Actually, history looks back on him as one of the premier organ builders of anywhere. He, himself, was of the Moravian church, but he built organs for whomever could afford to buy one. So besides Moravian churches, he built many organs for Lutheran churches, some for Reformed and even Roman Catholic. The musical requirements for organs in the Moravian churches were very different from those of the Lutheran Churches. Moravians emphasized vocal music along with instruments, with the organ often playing an accompanimental role, usually as continuo. However, it is not true as has often been said that Moravians never accompanied hymn singing on the organ alone. They did.

    But because of the more subservient role of the organ in Moravian worship, the instruments Tannenberg built for those churches were the "lieblichkeit" ones. The voicing was very gentle, and the organs never had mixtures, and almost never had mutations. The emphasis was 8' stops of many colors, and 4' and 2'. The organs he built for Lutheran churches, however, were different. These churches liked having a more prominent organ, and his Lutheran organs DID have mixtures and other upperwork. The voicing was more aggressive than that of the Moravian instruments. So the Lutheran ones with mixtures would probably not be considered to be lieblichkeit organs as much as the Moravian ones.

    In general, I can say from having played several Tannenbergs (there are 9 extant ones) that the voicing does not shriek at all on top, even in the Lutheran instruments. The best example of a Lutheran instrument is in a Lutheran church outside of Madison, Virginia. What a WONDERFUL instrument, though it is only one manual and no pedals. It does have a mixture that sings beautifully on top.

    The Moravian instrument are even more unassuming as you go up the keyboard. They are very gentle. The large Moravian instrument in Winston-Salem, North Carolina has two manuals and pedal. This one is a rare example that has a 2 2/3' Quint. The effect of the chorus of Principles at 8' 4' 2 2/3' 2' is of a wonderful silvery blend. That instrument is, for me, perhaps the most wonderful, lovely organ I have ever heard. Its 8' Principal is absolutely stunning in its straightforward, unassuming and yet colorful and vivacious sound. I admit that people who prefer more modern voicing are not as impressed by the instrument, but I have to say it is my favorite instrument of all I have played in my 43 years.

    He did build some other very impressive instruments which unfortunately have not survived. There are two very beautiful cases in Lancaster, PA which house other kinds of instruments. One is in a Reformed church and the other in a Lutheran church.

    By the way, if you go to my website and scroll down the soundclip page, you'll find a clip of the Brahms "Es ist ein Ros'" played on a small 4 rank Tannenberg. I alternated with two different registrations--it opens with the 8' Flute Amabile and the 8' String, then the next section takes off the flute so you can hear the string alone, then add the flute again. . .etc. You could judge for youself what you think of the string.

    Thomas Dressler

    My Website

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    Re: David Tannenberg

    WOW!!!

    Thanx for the info - you know your stuff!!! The reason I ask about the Tannenberg instruments is out of plain curiosity. Some of my friends have surprised me often when guessing "Who is the Builder"! Since then I have always liked the elegant character of the Tannenbergs.

    If I would dare to guesstimate that the Tannenberg pipes are of low cut-ups, would I be wrong in this assumption? Is there alot of deep nicking on the labials? Just very curious...

    Peace,

    Giovanni :-)

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    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Yes, the Tannenberg pipes have low cut-ups. In general, the lower the wind pressure, the lower the cut-up; and the Tannenberg's are on fairly low wind pressure. The pipes are very lightly nicked, with the nicks not too close together. I have not examined the pipes in all of his instruments, but I have seen some pipes with no nicking at all, wooden pipes in particular.

    Another really wonderful thing about these instruments is that many of them can still be pumped by hand. Actually, I can think of three of them that MUST be pumped by hand, and another two, at least, have an electric blower PLUS the hand pumping mechanism so you can choose. Many of us feel that when the wind is raised by hand the organs sound better--the speech of the pipes is better and the tone is also superior to the same instrument played with an electric blower. The theory that seems to make the most sense is that the electric blower disturbs the air molecules so much that they have not calmed down by the time the wind enters the pipe toes, so it disturbs the speech. I've spent a lot of time playing the Tannenberg in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and it must be pumped by hand. (That's the one you can listen to on my web site.)

    I, too, find the Tannenbergs to be very elegant, both in appearance and sound.

    There is a very interesting book about the life and work of David Tannenberg, called Organs for America by William H. Armstrong. You can often find used copies of it on Amazon.com. There is another authoritative book on Pennsylvania German organ builders with a large section on Tannenberg written by a friend of mine, Raymond Brunner. It's called That Ingenious Business: Pennsylvania German Organ Builders and you can also find copies of this often on Amazon.

    I have spent a lot of time with some of these instruments, and I saw the Tannenberg organ in Nazareth, PA, when Ray Brunner had all the pipes out of it. Fascinating, wonderful instruments!



    Thomas Dressler

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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Dear Mr. Dressler,

    When it comes to hand-pumped bellows vs. centrifugal blower, I haved presumed that the steadier pressure from the blower vs. the less steady pressure of hand-pumped contributes to a less *live sound* in certain instruments - not so much having to do with how *excited* the air molecules are. I sense that when one deals with VERY low wind-pressure pipework there might be an advantage to *human powered bellows*.

    Peace Aplenty,

    Giovanni

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    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: David Tannenberg

    I'm not sure that hand pumped wind is less steady, unless the pumper doesn't know what he/she is doing, or the reservoir is very small, as in the 4 rank Tannenbergs. These instruments are a real challenge to pump well, and the wrong person will make them hiccup like crazy! On a larger instrument that allows the option of electric or hand pumped wind, I find the hand pumped sound is more calm, more steady, more focused. . .in general a lot nicer. The way most organ builders talk about this is that the fan of an electric blower "chops" the air and it does not calm down by the time it reaches the pipe toes. The difference is mostly in the way the pipes speak, not so much in how steady the air is, as in either case the same reservoir is used. I have heard this difference even in large 3 manual organs which allow hand pumping. (Which in that case is often done with the feet--you "ride" levers down to the floor to inflate the bellows.)

    Thomas Dressler

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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Hi Thom,

    May I use you first name?

    I think I can see the point by the organbuilders, although after the wind has gone into the bellows, wind trunks and wind-chests, the *chopped* molecules should not present such a big difference imho. My earlier caveat was when one deals with VERY low-pressure pipework, human-powered pipes probably would sound exquisitely.

    I guess some would consider this chat about organ-winding as minutiae. Methinks it's another lead in getting to understand aspects of the organ with aren't readily apparent to the fervent organ aficionado in the pew.

    Peace and Blessings,

    Giovanni

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    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Of course you may use my first name!

    I think probably the best test of all of this is to actually experience an instrument that lets you use both electric and hand powered wind. Then you can judge for yourself what the differences are. It is even becoming the practice in some places when restoring 19th century American organs, at least, to restore the hand pumping mechanism. I find that even on these instruments it sounds better. It would follow that a water motor would sound better too, as all it really does is mechanically pump a set of bellows just as hand pumping does.

    Actually, I think all these details are really important, as modern builders are only starting to get a handle on what made the old instruments sound so good. All these little details are possible influences. I have found in my experiences that when I play on a hand pumped organ, the audience members become very excited just to see it done this way.

    On the other hand, when we start talking about things like hand pumping mechanisms, flexible winding as opposed to rock steady wind, flat pedalboards, etc, we are getting into realms that can cause considerable disagreement among people with strong opinions. My own opinions on these things have been formed through direct experience with instruments--the theory came later!

    Tom

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    Re: David Tannenberg

    WOW Thom,

    You make eminent sense. Personal experience with a human-pumped instrument is to be desired. In another post you lamented that you got blasted for your position on Tannenberg instruments - might that have been on Pipeorg-L praytell?

    A friend of showed me the website - I didn't know it existed - honestly - see, I'm not such a savvy netizen. I must say there are a bunch of extremely narrow-minded louts there - my friend pointed out a few in particular, "x", "y" and a few others. My friend's wife shared about "x" having set fire to the console at the Synagogue where his Magnum Opus was being installed. What a handy way to get the console of one's dreams!

    Well, enough about that website - I wouldn't join it even if I were paid for it.


    Peace and Plentiful Blessings to you,

    Giovanni :-)

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    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Dear Giovanni,

    I really appreciate your enthusiastic posting on this forum! We've had some very interesting discussions on some of the questions you raised. And I also appreciate what I see as personal support coming through in what you said. However, I've struggled a bit with it because I think it is best to be careful of what we say about others, especially when they are not present to defend themselves. I did not directly edit the post because I highly value our right to free speech, however this has to be tempered with care. We don't know the truth of what you said, and I am thinking it might be best for me to remove the exact names.

    Yes, that email list can be frustrating, but it is one of the largest Pipe Organ lists (if not THE largest) on the internet. There are lots of good people who read it, too, so I continue to post on it once in awhile out of a desire to make contact with the ones who do NOT flame others. But you are not alone in avoiding it, because the arguments on it can get pretty nasty sometimes. This is the reason I try to emphasize being polite on this forum. . .I don't want to have any wars on here. . .

    But yes, I agree with you that personal experience is the best teacher. I would say that it's likely that many of the people who argue so vehemently against some of these things either have no experience at all with them, or very little. On the other hand, it's true that there are BAD examples of flexible wind, that's for sure, along with everything else.

    Best wishes to you!

    Tom

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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Dear Thom,

    You're a good soul and I really appreciate that. If I caused a furrowed brow, please accept my apologies.

    Hey, did you or are you thinking about acquiring the latest St. Sulpice CD's - Steven Tharp playing Dupre's Le Chemin de la Croix and the Widor Mass on Joe Vitacco's Label JAV? WOW!!! What reallly beautiful playing and recording - I'm really happy to have acquired them.

    Peace and Blessings Aplenty,

    Giovanni :-)

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    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Hi Giovanni,

    Thanks! and no problem at all!

    I didn't know about that recording, but after Christmas I'm going to look it up. I can't believe how busy I am. . .two churches and two music programs. . .2 rehearsals, a Lessons and Carols service, 6 Masses, all in less than 24 hours and on 4 hours of sleep this weekend. . .argh!

    After that, I'm going to be happy to relax and listen to SOMEONE ELSE play!

    Tom

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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Hi Thom,

    I empathize with you on your heavy workload - I have 40 weddings to play between now and New Year but hey, music is the only way, at least for us

    There's an organist named David Sykes who has recorded an ambitious program on a Tannenberg instrument. I saw it recently and thought about acquiring it - I'll see after New Year about acquiring a copy. Another question: Do Tannenberg's trompetes have any significant characteristics insofar as the shallot and reed?

    Peace And Blessings Always,

    Giovanni

    ps. Doing any Bach? A number of couples(20 to be exact) have requested me to play the Ouverture to Cantata 29 (Wir Danken Dir Gott, Wir Danken Dir) for the Recessional Music and David N. Johnson's Trumpet Tune in D for the Processional Music.

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    Captain of Water Music Thomas Dressler's Avatar
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    Re: David Tannenberg

    Wow, where do you work that you have that many weddings???

    I believe you must be thinking of the recording by Peter Sykes on the Tannenberg in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I was there for the "party" and it was the experience of a lifetime to hear the tones come from that organ for the first time in 100 years! We were the first living people to hear that organ once again! (It had been taken down and put in storage back in 1911, I believe, and it was only several years ago that it was put back together, restored, and is now playing again.) You can get a pretty good idea what the instrument sounds like on that recording. I guess I have to say I would not have programmed exactly like that or played quite that way, but it is still an interesting recording. I love the sound of that instrument, and I love to play it. (It's somewhere around 10 hours to drive there, though, so I don't exactly get there often!)

    We don't know anything about Tannenberg's reeds, as none have survived. If I remember correctly, the only shred of evidence is a wooden resonator that was found in a workshop or something like that. Very unfortunate, as the character of the reeds would have greatly influenced the overall sound of the big Lutheran instruments. He didn't make a lot of reeds, as he was very careful about whether the instrument could be maintained in the long run. For instruments in remote locations (and you have to remember that in those days, much of Pennsylvania and surrounding colonies was remote) he encouraged flue stops that could be easily maintained.

    I play Bach quite often, so I'll likely get some in during Christmas. But for our Masses, the focus is the choir(s) and the Christmas carols. I usually make a snap decision about the postlude, but often on Christmas I will play the 9/8 Preludium in C, or sometimes the Buxtehude "Jig" fugue in C.

    I like David N. Johnson's Trumpet Tune in D very much, and I encourage couples to use it at weddings. My undergraduate teacher had studied with DNJ.

    Best to you!

    Tom

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