The pipe organ in the Evangelical Reformed Church in Warsaw

michał markuszewski

The pipe organ located in the Evangelical Reformed congregation in Warsaw is an old instrument of great historical and artistic value. The parish commissioned the then renowned company Schlag und Söhne from Świdnica to build an instrument which was finally installed in the church in May 1900. Construction costs - according to the sources - were covered entirely from the parishioners' donations. Interestingly enough, in the company's catalogue the organ was described as 32-stop organ , although in reality it has only 24 stops and the original wind chests that have remained until this day do not bear any signs of ulterior reconstruction. Unfortunately, because of the war actions the correspondence with Schlag und Söhne company did not survive, nor did the project or the contract for the construction of the organ in our Church. Finally, the instrument received an opus number of 552 and it was consecrated on June 10, 1900. Zwiastun Ewangelicki (official newspaper of the Evangelical Church in Poland) No. 6 from 1900 published a following report: On the 10th of this month [VI 1900] a yearly synod in the Evangelical Reformed Church in Warsaw has begun with a solemn mass, during which bishop Diehl consecrated the newly installed organ. The instrument, built by Schlag und Söhne company from Schweidnitz, with 24 stops and 5 couplers has made a very positive impression both by exterior look, as well as the sound of particular voices. The case was made from oak wood in the pure gothic style which perfectly matches with the style of priest's pulpit and the whole church. Voices, especially II manual (delicate), produce a very pleasant sound; on the other hand the sound of the horn (I manual) and trombone (pedal) is immense. The instrument was made according to all the newest innovations achieved in the art of organ building. Thanks to the using of Superoctavcoppel with Suboctavcoppel the pipe organ is enriched with power and force, as if it was an instrument of more than 30 stops. The organ does not take much space, but still it ensures the free access to every voice so there wouldn't be any problems in case of renovation or tuning of the pipes. This new organ confirms the deserved renown that Schlag's company has achieved. Let the sound of this instrument reverberate forever for the glory of the Almighty and the joy of the congregation.

Thanks to the finding on the wind chests' bottom board of the original inscriptions with the names of the notes, it was possible to reconstruct instrument's original disposition (structure of the notes). It was the following:

Dyspozycja organów
I Hauptwerk II Schwellwerk
  • Bordun 16'
  • Principal 8'
  • Hohlflöte 8'
  • Gemshorn 8'
  • Gamba 8'
  • Octave 4'
  • Offenflöte 4'
  • Rauschquinte 2 2/3' u. 2'
  • Mixtur 4f 2'
  • Trompete 8'
  • Gedackt 16'
  • Geigen Principal 8'
  • Liebl. Gedackt 8'
  • Flûte harm.8'
  • Aeoline 8'
  • Vox coelestis 8'
  • Traversflöte 4'
  • Fugara 4'
  • Principalbass 16'
  • Subbass 16'
  • Violonbass 16'
  • Octafbass 8'
  • Cello 8'
  • Posaune 16'
  • Man. coppel II.z.I
  • Superoct.coppel II.z.I
  • Suboct.coppel II.z.I
  • Ped.coppel I.M.
  • Ped.coppel II.M.
  • Piano Pedal
  • Rohrwerkabsteller
  • Registerausschalter
  • Tutti
  • Forte
  • Mezzoforte
  • 4 Auslöser
michał markuszewski

Unfortunately for the new instrument, not much time after that its slow destruction began. Already in 1910 the organ was renovated by Antoni Adolf Homan, then - in 1917 - tin pipes (weighing 173 kg) were requisitioned for war purposes. The state of the instrument has been deteriorating year after year. It was only in 1930, after the complete refurbishing of the church interior that the Church College decided to renovate the instrument as well. The works were executed by the company owned by Wacław Biernacki, judging from the inscription discovered on the bottom board of the wind chest of the II manual: "The organ was renovated, with a new front [façade pipes] installed by Wacław Biernacki's company and executed by A.Żółkowski and H.Jóźwikowski in November 1930". Again for only few years the organ has been working properly in the Warsaw congregation. The Second World War and the Warsaw Uprising did not spare the instrument which was one more time destroyed. The extent of the damages is unknown but we know today that the organ was not playable at this time.

In the post war era (most probably after 1952) a small 2-manual organ was inaugurated in the church. The instrument was brought from the church in Tabor Wielki and installed centrally on the right balcony. This organ served the Warsaw congregation for a few years, when the main Schlag's instrument was out of order. During that time an idea arose to renovate the main organ using the material from the small organ or to sell the latter and use the money to cover the costs of the restoration of the Schlag's instrument, which was finally the case. The small organ was sold to the Order of Friars Minor located at Senatorska street in Warsaw for the amount of 85.000 zloty and taken out of the church after 17 April 1955. The instrument went then to St. Andrew Apostle Church belonging to Friars Minor in Chełm, from which only the organ case has survived has survived until this day. Money from the sale of the instrument made it possible to start works on the main organ. The extent of the works included restoration of manuals, putting celluloid plates on the keys in the Ist manual, restoration of actions, adding the missing lead-tubes and wind channels, as well as reconstruction of the missing metal pipes and repairing of the wooden pipes. It was also pointed out that it is necessary to cover torn parts of the bellows, install the wind blower and renovate channels and regulation appliances. The restoration of the organ was executed by Roman Izydorzak under the supervision of prof. Antoni Karnaszewski. Probably because of insufficient financial means it was possible to activate only 16 ranks:

Manuał IManuał IIPedał
  • Pryncypał 8'
  • Oktawa 4'
  • Bourdon 16'
  • Holflet 8'
  • Gemshorn 8'
  • Holflet 4'
  • Gamba 8'
  • Libli Gedeckt 16'
  • Travers Flet 8'
  • Aeolina 8'
  • Geigen Pryncyp. 8'
  • Travers Flet 4'
  • Vox-celestes 8'
  • Cello 8'
  • Subbas 16'
  • Okaw Bas 8'

and in the place of 8 missing ranks it was planned to introduce:

Manuał IManuał IIPedał
  • Mixtura 4 rzędowa
  • Kwinta 4' (!) 2 rz.
  • Oktawa 2'
  • Tercja 1 3/5 '
  • Libli ged. 8'
  • Violon 16'
  • Flet Bas 8'
  • Chorał Bas 8'

and install temulant (however the manual sections were supposed to be ready in the end of 1958 and the pedal section in the first quarter of 1959). Izydorzak was commissioned some further works but most probably they were never fully accomplished. For a few years Evangelical Reformed Parish have been struggling with financial problems and unfinished instrument. In that state the instrument was used for many years. In was only in mid 1970s that a new renovation work has started. In its realization two close parishes ensured their help: Evangelische Zinzendorf Kirchengemeinde from West Berlin and Evangelisch-Reformierte Kirchengemeinde from Zürich-Wiedikon. Restoration works were executed by brothers Kamiński's company from Warsaw. The whole instrument was again dismantled and cleaned, wind chests' membranes and bellows mechanism in relays were replaced, wind chest and wind trunks were sealed, damaged pipes, bellows and mechanism of swell box were repaired. The whole was readjusted, voiced and tuned. Probably it was then that next changes in organ disposition were introduced (original spelling):

Manuał IManuał IIPedałPołączenia
  • Bourdon 16
  • Pryncypał 8
  • Holflet 8
  • Gemshorn 8
  • Octava 4
  • Holflet 4
  • Octava 2
  • Mixtura 4
  • Libi Gedeckt 16
  • Geigen Pryncypał 8
  • Libli Gedect 8
  • Travers Flet 8
  • Aolina 8
  • Vox celeste 8
  • Flau taver 4
  • Fugara 4
  • Subbas 16
  • Oktaw-Bas 8
  • Cello 8
  • Man II do I
  • Supper M.II
  • Sub-okt.M II
  • Man.I do ped.
  • Man.II do ped.

Many years have passed since that time and the subject of renovation of the pipe organ in Warsaw has not been discussed. The Parish started however to organise organ concerts. First of them took place on the 23rd of February 1976, with Günter Metz from Zwickau performing. Second concert was on the 12th of April 1976 and the organists were Michał Dąbrowski and Andrzej Nagalski - prof. Józef Serafin's class' student from Warsaw. Next concert with the participation of an organist from Basel, Heiner Kühner, scheduled on November 8, 1976, was cancelled because of the organist's indisposition. Unfortunately, the tradition of organ concerts in the Evangelist church ended with only two performances. It is probable that the state of the instrument which was renovated and reconstructed so many times did not allow for its full concert use.

michał markuszewski

In the following years, the pipe organ served the congregation only during Sunday services. In 1982, master organ builder Ulrich Fahlberg from Eberswalde has performed an inspection of the instrument and stated that the best solution - because of the state of the organ at that time - would be to build a new 15-rank mechanical organ in the old organ case. In 1989, the Parish received a similar proposition from Jan Zych and Dariusz Zych's company from Wołomin. The instrument was supposed to get 3 manuals and electro-pneumatic action. It was proposed to make a new console which would be installed in front of the prospect, additionally to the preserved old console. Some parts of old Schlag's ranks and wind chests were supposed to be used. Moreover, it was decided to give the instrument three new bellows. Proposed disposition of the organ after the reconstruction was the following:

Manuał IManuał IIManuał IIIPedał
  • Bourdon 16'
  • Pryncypał 8'
  • Gemshorn 8'
  • Holflet 8'
  • Gamba 8'
  • Oktawa 4'
  • Hoftel 4'
  • Rauschkwinta 2x
  • Mixtura 4x
  • Kwinta 2 2/3'
  • Oktawa 2'
  • Trompet 8'
  • Gedeckt 8'
  • Kwintadena 8'
  • Oktawa 4'
  • Rurflet 4'
  • Oktawa 2'
  • Kwinta 1 1/3'
  • Siflet 1'
  • Cymbel 3x
  • Krumhorn 8'
  • Trompet 4'
  • Lieblich Gedeckt 16'
  • Lieblich Gedeckt 8'
  • Trawersflet 8'
  • Aeolina 8'
  • Voxcoelestis 8'
  • Trawersflet 4'
  • Fugara 4'
  • Nasard 2 2/3'
  • Flet 2'
  • Harmonia aeteria 3x
  • Obój 8'
  • Vox humana 8'
  • Szałamaja 8'
  • Subbas 16'
  • Violon 16'
  • Oktawa 8'
  • Fletbas 8'
  • Cello 8'
  • Chorałbas 4'
  • Puzon 16'
  • Trompet 8'

Because of financial problems of the Parish this reconstruction has never been accomplished. However, this lack of money should be considered fortunate because thanks to that original wind chests as well as many other elements coming from Schlag's workshop have survived intact until today. In the meantime organ prospect and the instrument itself were entered into the national register of monuments. Last renovation works performed on the organ at the beginning of 1990s were realized by Robert Kopoczek. In 2003 the Parish asked Association VEESO (Verein zur Erforschung und Erhaltung schlesischer Orgeln e.V.) for help with the restoration of the instrument. The effect of this was a visit of an organ-builder from Kassel, Richard Jacoby, who presented a project of renovation comprising among other things rebuilding of the original Schlag's wind chests and replacing them with cone-chests what would change the original design and sound principles. Thus, the cooperation was not agreed on.

michał markuszewski

In August 2004, a new organist, Michał Markuszewski, started working in the Warsaw Evangelist Reformed congregation. At that time the instrument was practically out of use, only simple accompaniment during Sunday service was possible. The organist and parson Lech Tranda as well as the members of Church College discussed the subject of profound and historical historically accurate restoration of the instrument. It was decided to re-establish the old splendour of the organ, so that it would be possible to use it not only in liturgy but also for concert purposes. How difficult and complicated was the task awaiting the Parish was soon to be discovered. The organist Michał Markuszewski prepared the sound and photographical documentation of the instrument in its state and began to search and document other preserved instruments made by Schlag's company from that time. Laborious gathering of the findings and organization of the concerts have begun and the money thus obtained was allocated for the restoration works and the printing of special bonds. In the end of 2004, the engine that supplies the air into the bellows was replaced and in 2005 the works on the instrument began. Upon the proposal of Michał Markuszewski it was decided to give priority to the question of restoring original construction and sound principles - one should not forget that it is one of the most precious romantic instruments in Warsaw! Extraordinarily important was financial help coming from Warsaw Conservator of Monuments, without which it wouldn't be possible for the Parish to finance this large and expensive project integrally. The extent of the works was enormous and almost all elements demanded restoration. Organ case necessitated complete renewing. Bearing structure of the instrument was damaged. Moreover, more than a half of the carving details were missing. Lateral turrets were twisted and distorted. The organ did not possess the back wall of the case, thus side walls of the prospect were not fixed, risking falling down on the church. Also the state of the mechanisms and pipes was disastrous. Console, pneumatics, wind chests, main bellows, mechanism of the IInd manual swell-shutters and all pipes demanded a general restoration. Also the niche above the instrument had to be renewed. The works were divided into several stages which lasted from the beginning of 2005 until October 2008. During that time the conservation documentation of the works was carried on.

The wooden case of the organ was brushed, cleaned and restored. Non-original layers of the varnish were rubbed and the whole was painted with a new varnish. The structure of the instrument was straightened up and stabilized. 14 lateral panels were added, all missing carvings of the case walls were restored: fleurs-de-lys, finials, capitals, crockets and also doors, hinges and locks. Original pipes that supplied in the past gas to the lamps above the console were preserved. Full reconstruction and conservation of the organ case was executed by the company "Rescona" owned by m.a. Magdalena Bogdan from Katowice.

michał markuszewski

The organ-builder works included: the complete restoration of the wind chests, replacement of bellows belonging to the stop action and valve springs, disassembling all action tubes and purging them with compressed air in order to improve their permeability, replacement of non-original plastic action tubes with lead tubes and reconstruction of the missing ones. All membrane bellows in every section and relays were replaced, organ case, music rest and keyboard were restored, celluloid veneer was replaced with original made from ivory, company's plate was reconstructed as well as all porcelain plates with the names of stops and registrational aids. New lighting was installed above the console and inside the instrument. The bellows was cleaned, new bellows weight was installed, used wind linking the bellows with the wind chests were integrally refurbished. The most time consuming was the restoration of the pipes. All metal pipes were reconstructed on the basis of the preserved measures from Schlag's workshop. Wooden pipes were repaired and missing ones were added. The whole was covered with a composition against wood destroying insects. The company Killinger Pfeifen from Freiberg am Neckar was commissioned to make reed pipes and organ-builder works were executed by engineer Olgierd Nowakowski from Zabrze (“Building, Conservation and Renovation of the Pipe Organs").

The organ has a disposition of stops that is typical of Schlag's company. Both manuals are based on 16' closed ranks, and 8' ranks constitute the half of all ranks of the instrument. In this pipe organ almost all forms of pipes are represented: open, closed, conical, strings, overblowing and reed pipes. II section of the manual is enclosed in the swell box. Old non-original pipes were partly sold to the affiliated church in Gręboszów to replace the pipes stolen during the post war era and partly given to the Museum of Silesian Organs at the Music Academy in Katowice.