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Olli Porthan

The Silbermann organ in the Freiberg Cathedral is often mentioned as the model for
the Kotka organ. Although the Freiberg organ was in fact the starting point for the
Kotka organ, it is important to realize that the Kotka organ is not similar to the
Freiberg organ. The aim was not to build a “Silbermann organ” – the Kotka organ is
modern and built in the tradition of Silbermann.
It is recommended to have the same attitude with respect to registration.
The registration practice of the 17th century is important to know, but it must not
necessarily be applied to the Kotka organ as it stands.
A good basis for registration of classical organ repertoire is offered by
several contemporaries of Bach, i.e., Gottfried Silbermann, Georg Friedrich
Kauffmann, Johann Friedrich Agricola, and Johann Mattheson in addition to the
registration instructions of the French Baroque masters.


Gottfried Silbermann documented his recommendations for registrations on his

organs in Fraureuth (1742) and Grosshartmannsdorff (1741). The respective
instructions are almost identical. Below is my resumé of them.
Silbermann does not couple his recommendations with any known
works or even any particular genres. The application is left to the organist. The
registrations are the following (I am writing the stop- names in the modern order):

1) Reines volles Spiel

Manual: Principal 8, Rohrflöte 8, Octava 4, Quinta 3, Octava 2, Mixtur 4x
Oberwerk: Gedackt 8, Rohrflöte 4, Octava 2, Suffloet 1, Cymbel 2x
Pedal: Subbass 16, Octavbass 8, Posaunenbass 16
There is no mention of couplers. Originally in Silbermann’s organs the main manual
was permanently coupled to the pedals. (However, today almost all Silbermann
organs have a main manual to pedal coupler installed in the restoration.) It is most
likely that also the Oberwerk must be coupled to the main manual.
2) Manual: Principal 8, Octava 4, Quinta 3, Octava 2
3) Manual: Principal 8, Octava 4, Quinta 3
4) Manual: Principal 8, Octava 4
5) Manual: Principal 8, Spitzflöte 4
6) Manual: Principal 8, Rohrflöte 8
7) Manual: Principal 8, Quintadehn 8
8) Manual: Principal Solo 8
9) Flöten-Züge
Manual: Rohrflöte 8, Spitzflöte 4
Oberwerk: Gedackt 8, Rohrflöte 4
10) Lieblicher Flöten-Zug
Manual: Quintadehn 8, Spitzflöte 4
Oberwerk: Gedackt 8, Rohrflöte 4, Gemshorn 2
11) Manual: Rohrflöte 8, Spitzflöte 4
12) Stahl-Spiel
Manual: Gedackt 8, Nasat 3, Tertia, Quinte 1 ½, Suffloet 1
13) Cornett Zug
Manual: Principal 8, Rohrflöte 8, Octava 4, Cornet Solo
Oberwerk: Gedackt 8, Rohrflöte 4
14) Tertien-Zug
Oberwerk: Gedackt 8, Rohrflöte 4, Nasat 3, Octava 2, Tertia canto solo
15) Cornett-Zug im Oberwerk
Oberwerk: Gedackt 8, Nasat 3, Gemshorn 2, Tertia
16) Nasat-Zug
Manual: Rohrflöte 8, Spitzflöte 4
Oberwerk: Gedackt 8, Rohrflöte 4, Nasat Solo 3
17) Suffloet-Zug
Oberwerk: Gedackt 8, Rohrflöte 4, Suffloet 1


Georg Friedrich Kauffmann gives instructions for registration in his Harmonische

Seelenlust (1733). This collection consists of 63 chorale compositions, of which 51
are furnished with stop recommendations. Many pieces are duos or trios.
The general features of Kauffmann’s recommandations are the
1) Registrations are generally colourful and imaginative. Stops from different groups
are combined freely.
2) 16 foot registrations are fairly frequent (e.g., LH: Fagott 16, Quintadena 8,
Spitzflöte 2; RH: Quintadena 16, Principal 8, Gemshorn 8; Principal 16, Gedackt 8,
Spillflöte 4; Principal 16, Octava 8; Fagott 16, Quintadena 8, Principal 4). The
foundation stop can be Principal 16, Quintadena 16, Bordun 16, or Fagott 16 (Fagott
especially useful in fast passages in the LH).
3) The left hand is frequently played one octave lower on a 4-stop (e.g., RH: Principal
8; LH: Octava 4 (octave lower); P: Subbass 16, Octava 8).
4) Reed stops are used liberally, but not on their own, e.g., Vox humana 8, Principal
4; Principal 8, Vox humana 8; Vox humana 8, Spillflöte 4; Fagott 16, Quintadena 8,
Spitzflöte 2; Clarino 4, Principal 4; Vox humana 8, Fagott 16. It is also possible to use
reeds simultaneously in both hands, e.g., RH: Vox humana 8, Salicional 8, VK: Fagott
16, Quintadena 16, Gemshorn 8, Kleingedackt 8; OK: Vox humana 8, Rohrflöte 8,
Rohrflöte 2, LH: Trompete 8, Principal 8.
5) In trios no high mutation stops (e.g., 1 1/2, 1 3/5, 1, Mixtur) are used, instead,
registrations with a gap are frequent, especially with Nasat, e.g., RH: Gedackt 8,
Nasat, Spitzflöte 2; LH: Principal 8, Gedackt 8, Kleingedackt 4.
6) Duo and trio registrations have normally only 1-4 stops per part.
7) Duos and trios can also be played on one manual only (plus pedals).
8) Registration in a lower voice can contain higher stops than the upper voice (e.g.,
LH: Fagott 16, Quintadena 8, Spitzflöte 2; RH: Quintadena 16, Principal 8, Gemshorn
9) It is rare to encounter two or more stops of equal pitch. (An exception is a reed
registration, Principal 16, Principal 8, and Quintadena 8, which can all be doubled.)

J.S. Bach’s disciple Johann Friedrich Agricola documented in multitude musical

practises of his day. In his article “Sammlung einiger Nachrichten von berühmten
Orgelwerken in Teutschland, mit vieler Mühe aufgesetzt von einem Liebhafer der
Musik“ (Historisch-kritische Beytrage zur Aufnahme der Musik, ed. F.W. Marpurg,
III, 1758, 6) Agricola explains the construction of the organ and the contemporary
registration practises. His recommendations are in broad outline the following:

1) The principal-choir consists of the principals, octaves, and mixtures. In the latter
are also included (narrowscaled?) fifths, thirds, sesquialteras, and cornetts. They must
all be drawn for the biggest choir.
2) Cantus firmus sounds beautiful on a Cornet-stop with an accompaniment of
Principal 8 and Octava 4.
3) The principal-choir can be augmented by 16-, 8-, and 4-trumpets, also with another
keyboard coupled to it. It is possible to play fast passages on this registration, too. The
French do not use reeds in the Full Organ, because in large chords in the low register
they sound disagreeable. Such passages should not be played with 16- and 8-reeds.
4) Flutes should not be drawn for the Full Organ, except when the lowest principal is
8. In this case also Gedackt, Bordun, Quintadena, and Rohrflöte of 16 foot should be
drawn. Bordun 16 adds to the gravity of Principal 16.
5) Mixtures should not be used without other principal stops. They do not blend with
flute stops.
6) However, Gedackt 8 can be combined with Sesquialtera and Octava 1 in fast
broken chords.
7) When fifths and thirds are used there should always be another higher stop, i.e.,
Octava or Superoctava. Quinta should be mixed with a 2-stop in addition to 8 and 4.
8) It is preferred not to leave out Octava (8 and 2 would sound hollow without the 4).
However, if one plays in one part on a single keyboard as in a trio, 16 and 4 can be
combined (e.g., Quintadena 16, Hohlflöte 4 or Waldflöte 4). Even Bordun 16 can be
played with Sifflöt 1, in certain rapid passages.
9) A reed stop should be coupled with a stop of the same pitch, which will cover the
noise (e.g., Trompete 8, Principal 8).
10) Vox humana should be coupled with another stop when resemblance with the
human voice is sought after. This stop is Principal 8 “as Mr. Silbermann requires”, or
at least Gedackt 8 or Rohrflöte 8. The most suitable one is Hohlflöte 8.
11) A reed stop can be combined with a flute 4 and vice versa. A reed stop can also
function as a foundation stop for higher pitched stops.
12) A solo part must be registered more loudly than other voices. The loudness of
pedal stops should also be adjusted.
13) The French play fugues with a low Borduna and a higher Octava. They are of the
opinion that the beginning of themes can be heard distincly if mixtures are not used,
and they are not wrong there. The French call the principals used with the reeds “Le
Fond de la Trompette ou de Cromhorne”.
14) In the past people were of the opinion that two equally pitched stops must blend
awkwardly. If the pipes are well made and properly tuned, they can be used together.
E.g., Liebl. Gedackt 8, Vugara 8, Quintadena 8, and Hohlflöte 8 without any other
stops blend nicely, if with an exotic sound.

Johann Mattheson writes about organ registrations in the third volume of his work
Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739).
Mattheson does not accept the idea that stops with the same pitch but
differing scales should be mixed (doubling prohibition). However, his Organo Pleno
comprises all the principals, bordunas, salicionals (pastoral stops), rauschpfeiffs,
octavas, fifths, mixtures, scharffs, quintadenas, zimbels, nasats, thirds, sesquialteras,
superoctavas, and posaunes in the pedal. Reeds are not used in Full Organ because
their treble will sound out of tune.


The French Baroque registrations have been explained thoroughly by Kati

Hämäläinen in her book Le Bon Goût (2002). There is no need to repeat them here.
Agricola was obviously familiar with the French practice. It is
interesting to note how he has “Germanized” the French registrations.


The first big organ that Gottfried Silbermann built was the one in Freiberg. He had
studied organ building under his brother in Alsace. Therefore it is natural that French
influence was strong in his organ building, especially during the early years. Like the
Alsacian organs the Freiberg organ was originally even to have a Rückpositiv. The
reeds in the Freiberg instrument are clearly in the French manner like the nasats,
thirds, and cornetts. Later in his career Silbermann turned to German type reeds and
principal thirds. He replaced in the German manner Clarin 4 by Fagott 8 in the main
The Kotka organ was modelled after the Freiberg organ. The Freiberg
organ was finished in 1714, but already in 1738 Silbermann had to change the
disposition along with the changing ideas of the time. The Oberwerk was enlarged
with Quintaden 8, and Echocornet 5 fach. Nasat was removed and Tertia was cut to
become Flageolett 1. This stop with a wide scale is unique in Silbermann’s
production. These changes were a move towards German galantism.
In the Kotka organ, steps were taken even further on purpose. The organ
was to become a synthesis between Silbermann’s “French” style and his “German”
There are several features in the Kotka organ representing the German
German - Silbermann’s later - style. These include placing Krummhorn in the
Rückpositiv instead of the Oberwerk. The third in the Brustwerk was scaled narrow to
become a repeating sesquialtera. In the Great the wide Tertia was replaced with
Spitzflöte 4. The Oberwerk got a Mixtur of four ranks instead of the Freiberg devided
Mixture 3x and Cymbel 3x.
The French influence is represented with the fairly widely scaled Nasat
and Tertia in the Oberwerk after the Freiberg organ of 1714.
French registrations on the Kotka organ

1) Grand Plein Jeu. The French way would be to draw all principals and bourdons
(from 16 to cymbel) in the Great as well as the Positiv. But the amount of mixtures
must be taken into careful consideration. The Silbermann Organo Pleno is much
louder and brighter than the French one. In addition, attention should be paid to the
distinctness of the cantus firmus in the pedal (Trompetenbass 8, Clarinbass 4).

2) The Small Tierce registration. Originally the Tierce consisted of nasat, flute 2, and
tierce in addition to foundation stops. In the Brustwerk of the Kotka organ the third is
German, narrow and repeating. A better choice is the Tierce registration in the
Oberwerk, without Principal 2.

3) The Great Tierce registration. This registration differs from the small Tierce by
including a 16-stop. Here one should draw the Principal 2. In my experience the small
Tierce in the Oberwerk with Quintaden 16 is a reasonably good compromise for a
great Tierce registration.

4) In duos and trios the Tierce is opposed by a reed registration in the French style.
Then the reed (trompette or cromorne) should be augmented by one or two foundation
stops. In the Kotka organ Krummhorn is placed in the Brustwerk and is fairly soft
compared with the French version. To achieve a good balance, Nasat could also be

5) Grand Jeu. This registration consists of a combination of the reeds and the Tierce
registration, always built on 8-foot foundation. On the Kotka organ Octava 2s should
be left out. A good registration could be for instance the following: HW: Rohrflöte 8,
Octava 4, Cornet, Trompete 8, Clarine 4; OW: Gedackt 8, Octava 4, Nasat, Terz (Vox
humana is never included in the Grand jeu); OW/HW.

German Baroque registrations on the Kotka organ

Registration in Germany was never codified to the extent of France. Certain practices
did develop as the above recommendations show. The French registrations were well
known in Germany of the 18th century. Indeed, using them in German music can be
appropriate especially in music in the French style. The French registrations can be
“Germanized” in the manner of Agricola. For instance, Grand Jeu can be used with a
pedal registration of 16- or 8-reeds.

1) Organo Pleno
During the 18th century the “doubling prohibition” lost gradually some of its
importance. Several stops of the same pitch could be drawn together. Finally, in the
course of the 19th century every stop of the organ could be played together and the
aim was to imitate the orchestra. Agricola does not approve of adding bourdons to
Organo Pleno - Silbermann and Mattheson definitely recommend it. On the other
hand, Agricola considers it possible to add reeds to a manual Pleno – with Silbermann
and Mattheson this is not possible (to be sure the reason is to avoid out-of-tune reeds).
Mattheson’s Pleno consists of almost all the stops exept manual reeds.
There is an abundance of possible Organo Pleno registrations on the
Kotka organ. The mixture of the Great in Kotka as well on Silbermann’s organs is
designed for use with 16- foundation, so the Pleno on the Great must always be made
thus. The Zimbel of the Great is not higher than the Mixtur; it only lacks the lowest
rank. This Pleno is Bourdon 16, Principal 8, Octava 4, Quinta 2 2/3, Oktava 2, Mixtur,
and Zimbel. It can be extended with Rohrflöte 8 and possibly also Spitzflöte 4 of the
Great (according to Silbermann’s recommendation). To increase the gravity, stops
from the Oberwerk - Principal 8, Octava 4, possibly Gedackt 8 and Octava 2 – could
be added in the manner of the 18th century. If a really brilliant sound is sought after
the Oberwerk Mixtur, possibly Quintaden 16, could also be added. The Oberwerk
tierce is another possibility. (In many 18th -century organs, e.g., by Trost, the mixture
included a tierce rank.) However, the tierce should be limited to pieces in a major key,
in order to avoid hearing simultaneously a major and a minor third. Trompete 8 is
suitable to the biggest sound of the organ (as Agricola points out) in spite of the
French model (which never combined principals and reeds).
The Brustwerk Pleno could be coupled to the Great. This could include
Quinta 1 1/3 and Sifflöte 1 (they are principals), possibly also sesquialtera with the
same precaution as the tierce.
Pedal Pleno is on the Kotka organ Principalbass 16, Octavbass 8,
Octavbass 4 and either Windkoppel from the Great (which couples only the Great no
matter what other couplers are in use) or Mixturenbass 6fach. Mixturenbass is more
independent and is especially well suited to pedal solos. Windkoppel on the other
hand makes the sound more unified. Windkoppel and Mixturenbass together make the
pedal part too heavy for this registration. In addition to the flue stops there should
always be from one to three reed stops. In the Kotka organ Subbass 16 and
Posaunenbass 16 are placed on the same windchest. Because of the great consumption
of air they cannot be used together. Untersatz 32 is useful in many combinations, but
especially in a big Organo Pleno it gives more of the gravity that already Bach

2) Solo registrations and accompaniment

Silbermann and Kauffmann give a great variety of registrations for solos and
accompaniment. They all suit the Kotka organ unamended. All the limitations of the
directions are also applicable to Kotka. Frequently the choice of stops would have
been made to imitate certain instruments or the human voice (e.g., Krummhorn,
Trompete, Vox humana with Principal 8 and tremulant, or Principal – imitating the
violin, the gamba, or the cello – and several flutes). In the pedals this calls for
Subbass 16 and Octavbass 8, or Principal 16 alone or together with Subbass 16, or
perhaps Subbass 16 and Viola da gamba from the Great through Windkoppel.
All reeds should be doubled with at least one other stop. It is also
necessary to keep in mind the symbolic value of certain stops. The trumpet (and the
cornett) was associated with the king, royalty and God, Vox humana with people,
humility, and longing. Salicionals denote pastorals. In Kotka this effect is achieved
excellently with Viola da gamba and Spitzflöte of the Great.
3) Duos and trios

Kauffmann gives registrations for duos and trios that fit the Kotka organ nicely. These
pieces represent the chamber music style, where imitation prevails in sound and
playing. The pedals would usually have Subbass 16 and Octava 8.

Practical experience on the Kotka organ has shown that it is possible to widen the
repertoire played on it into Romantic and more recent music. It is as well to remember
that Mendelssohn, Liszt and Brahms were frequently played on late baroque organs.
For their music it is thus wise to seek inspiration for registration from earlier styles
than the late Romanticism.