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A Rieger treasure in the Czech town of Terezín

Authors:
  • University of Social Sciences

Abstract

Although we all admire large organs for their power, majesty and splendour, true organ lovers know that the size of the instrument does not always follow its quality. We are often surprised profoundly by the craftsmanship and perfection of the creators of small or medium-sized organs built in less significant places. Standing on the side of the mainstream of the historical events, these instruments survived until the present, being witnesses of their times and cultural dimension of humanity. One of these treasures I met at my concert route this Summer was a small but powerful Rieger organ in a calm and historically-experienced city in the West Czech Republic, Terezín. The history of the Rieger organ company started in the first half of the 19th century thanks to Franz Rieger (1812–1885), who was interested in music and the arts of craftsmanship. After graduating from school in his hometown, Jägerndorf (currently Krnov, Czech Republic), he moved to Vienna, the capital and royal residence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, where he started to work at Joseph Seybert organ workshop. In 1844 he obtained the Master’s exam and, as a 32-year man, returned to Jägerndorf being a qualified master of organ building craft. Opus 1, built for the castle church nearby Jägerndorf (20/2M+P), was his success. The business developed into a large company known for high-quality organ building. In 1852, it was included in the Austrian Monarchy’s commerce and trade address book . Two of his sons, Otto Rieger (1847–1903) and Gustav Rieger (1848–1919), showed interest in organ building and practised under Franz Ullmann (1815–1892) in Vienna and under Balthasar Schlimbach (1807–1896) in Würzburg, one of the best-known organ builders of the time. Being 26 and 25 years old, the firm, Franz Rieger and Sons, was founded. The brothers were outstanding organ builders and excellent business people: the quality of their instruments was not adversely affected by the firm’s rapid growth. The company started to receive medals at the Viennese World Exhibition, in Germany and Russia. The orders started to gain from Vienna, Norway, Istanbul, Gibraltar, Rome and Jerusalem.
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Rieger’s
Czech
treasure
Dr Michał Szostak
on the Terezín Rieger
Dr Michał Szostak
Introduction
lthough we admire large
organs for their power,
majesty and splendour, true
organ lovers know that the size of the
instrument does not always iindicate its
quality. We are oen profoundly
surprised by the crasmanship and
perfection of the creators of small or
medium-sized organs built in less
signicant places. Standing on the side of
the mainstream of historical events,
these instruments survived until the
present, being witnesses of their times
and cultural dimension of humanity.
One of these treasures I met at my
concert tour last Summer was a small but
powerful Rieger organ in the calm and
historically-signicant town in the West
Czech Republic: Terezín.
History of the Rieger company
The history of the Rieger organ company
began in the rst half of the 19th century,
thanks to Franz Rieger (1812–1885), who
was interested in music and the arts of
crasmanship. Aer graduating from
school in his hometown, Jägerndorf
(currently Krnov, Czech Republic), he
moved to Vienna, the capital and royal
residence of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, where he began work at the
Joseph Seybert organ workshop. In 1844,
he obtained the Master’s exam and, as a
32-year man, returned to Jägerndorf now
a qualied master of the cra of organ
building. Opus 1, built for the castle
church nearby Jägerndorf was his
success. The business developed into a
large company, well known for high-
quality organ building. In 1852, it was
included in the Austrian Monarchy’s
commerce and trade address book.1
Two of his sons, Otto Rieger (1847-
1903) and Gustav Rieger (1848-1919),
showed interest in organ building and
practised under Franz Ullmann (1815-
1892) in Vienna and under Balthasar
Schlimbach (1807–1896) in Würzburg,
one of the best-known organ builders of
the time. Being 26 and 25 years old, the
rm, Franz Rieger and Sons, was founded.
The brothers were outstanding organ
builders and excellent business people:
the quality of their instruments was not
adversely aected by the rm’s rapid
growth. The company started to receive
medals at the Viennese World
Exhibition, and in Germany and Russia.
Orders were obtained for installations in
Vienna, Norway, Istanbul, Gibraltar,
Rome and Jerusalem.
With 19th-century industrialisation,
the organ building cra was also lied to
the upper levels of production
possibilities. Like Cavaillé-Coll’s
company in Paris,2 the Rieger company
produced various standard models of
dierent sizes, allowing less wealthy
places to possess high-quality
instruments. Otto and Gustav Rieger
were named “appointed suppliers to the
royal and imperial court” in 1896. The
workshop built mechanical cone chests
mainly, a few pneumatic, and almost no
electrical actions, owing to the unknown
reliability of such modern solutions.
However, electrical blowers allowed the
beginning of large concert organs. More
than 150 working sta members in new
workshops (ca. 20,000 square metres)
lived in apartments belonging to the
company. In addition, the company
instituted health and accident insurance
for its sta.
In 1903, Otto’s son, also Otto
(1880–1920), took over the rm’s
management. Being an excellent organist
and master of concert hall organs, he
founded a successful branch in Budapest.
The company started to deliver overseas.
Unfortunately, World War I stopped the
company’s development, and aer its end
the rm was located in Czechoslovakia,
a new country. The organ market had
collapsed, and the company sta had
been decimated. Otto died two years aer
the end of the War, and Otto’s school
friend, Josef von Glatter-Götz (1880–
1948), the fourth generation of the
company’s managers, reorganised and
led it through dicult times. This
achievement was recognised by Otto
Rieger, who appointed Josef as the
company’s general manager. Aer Otto’s
death, Josef received power of attorney
from Otto’s widow and acquired the
company in 1924.
Otto Rieger had no successors, so in
the next years the rm went to Josef von
Glatter-Götz’s sons, Egon Glatter-Götz
(1911–1940) and Josef Glatter-Götz
(1914–1989). They opened a branch in
Mocker, Germany. It was only seven
kilometres from their Czech
headquarters, but the company was able
to enter the German market. At the time,
they were still building Romantic organs.
During World War II, the company had
to produce ammunition boxes for the
army. Aer the War had ended they
succeeded in getting orders for many
organ restorations. However, to keep
aoat, they also had been producing
window frames, wicker chairs and
running a sauna, in which Josef Glatter-
Götz Junior worked as a masseur.
The rst aer-war breakthrough
came in 1950 when Josef built a small
mechanical 6-stop organ. Paul
Hindemith and Herbert von Karajan
were delighted with this organ and used
A Rieger treasure
in the Czech town of Terezín
A
Photos: Dr Michał Szostak
4 No 399 | THE OR GAN | WINT ER 2022
WIN TER 20 22 | T HE ORGA N | N o 39 9 5
6 No 399 | THE OR GAN | WINT ER 2022
it within their orchestras. An organ of
this kind was presented to the World
Exhibition in Chicago and, as a result, the
USA became a new important market for
the company. Josef Glatter-Götz kept the
ideals of the mechanical slider chest
organ and became one of its pioneers,
thereby inuencing the organ building
industry in Germany and the USA. It
dominated the organ world by building
optimal actions, making it possible to
play even the largest instruments purely
mechanically.
The third Glatter-Götz generation
(the sixth from the beginning of the
company) came to the fore: Caspar
Glatter-Götz (born 1945, practicing at
von Beckerath, Kuhn and Kern
companies), Raimund Glatter-Götz
(1948–2013, practicing at Klais, Bonn)
and Christoph Glatter-Götz (born 1951,
practicing at Marcussen, Denmark).
Since the 1970s, a new standard of
exibility for all styles of organ music
has been set. In addition, the architecture
of the instruments introduced modern
forms into historic buildings. None of the
children of Caspar, Raimund and
Christoph were interested in organ
building: therefore, the seventh change
of “dynasty” was started by Wendelin
Eberle (born 1963), trained by his
predecessors at the Rieger company. Like
Otto Rieger, 80 years before, the company
went to friends, not family successors, in
2003.
Today, keeping the line of its
historical meaning, the Rieger company
is one of the most prominent, long-
lasting and vital organ producers in the
world, creating instruments for the most
prestigious venues on all continents.
Church of the Resurrection
of the Lord in Terezín
The Church of the Resurrection of the
Lord in Terezín was built between 1805
and 1810, according to Henricus Otto
Hatzinger (1772–1809, architect and
professor of civil engineering at Vienna’s
Akademie) and Julius d’Andreis. Its
creation was to be the garrison and the
parish church in Terezín. It is a single-
nave building in the Empire style with a
56-meter high tower attached to the
Figure 1. Heinrich Hatzinger and Franz Josef Fohmann:
Cross Section of the garrison church in Terezín, 1805.
Source: Vojenský ústr˘ední archiv, Praha.
Figure 2. Heinrich
Hatzinger: Design for
the main façade of the
garrison church in
Terezín, ca. 1807.
Source: Vojenský ústr˘ední
archiv, Praha.
WIN TER 20 22 | T HE ORGA N | No 399 7
8 No 399 | THE OR GAN | WINT ER 2022
Today, keeping the
line of its historical
meaning, the Rieger
company is one of the
most prominent, long-
lasting and vital organ
producers in the
world, creating
instruments for the
most prestigious
venues on all
continents.
WIN TER 20 22 | T HE ORGA N | N o 39 9 9
10 No 399 | THE O RGAN | WIN TER 202 2
The console
Figure 3. The console
WIN TER 20 22 | T HE ORGA N | N o 39 9 1 1
chancel. The chancel is in a semicircular
apse, 7.5 m long and 14 m wide. Above
the portal of the church façade, the year
of the foundation of the building is seen
– MDCCCV (1805). Today, the church is a
Roman Catholic parish church in the
middle of the eastern front of the main
city square, and it has been protected as a
cultural monument since 1964. The
impressive main portal with a high cut
gate and a towering façade served to open
wide to the central city square during
festive services. Otherwise, the church
usually is accessible from the south by a
side staircase.
The whole of the interior design is
sober, but the scale of the architectural
elements is impressive. The majority of
the inventory comes from the time of its
construction. The image of the main
altar, describing the Resurrection of
Christ, was created by Josef Bergler (1753-
1829), professor and the rst director of
the Academy of Painting in Prague. In
addition to the main altar, there are side
altars: consecrated to the Virgin Mary,
dating from 1888; St John of Nepomuk
and the altar of the Heart of Jesus, were
both created in 1905. A classicist Empire
marble baptistery is located on the right-
hand side of the main altar. The last
overhaul of the church took place
between 1994 and 1997. At that time, a
crystal chandelier of the Novoborsk
glassworks was installed, donated by the
city of Terezín; the previous chandelier
was transferred to the then SNB Museum
(today the Terezín Ghetto Museum)
during communist totalitarianism.
Today, Terezín has about 2,900
inhabitants and is more like a monument
and museum of a complicated history of
wars and their consequences.
Riegers’ organ
The rst instrument at this church was
constructed by Anton Rusch, son of the
prominent organist Jan Rusch.3 In 1898,
a new organ of the Rieger-Kloss company
from Krnov was installed. Having 20
speaking stops built on two manual and
pedal sections It has the opus number
622. Even though Terezin played a vital
role in the history of World War II,
neither the turmoil of that period nor the
communist times diminished the value
of this musical treasure. The organ was
restored from the second half of 2013 to
mid-June 2014 by organ masters from the
Dlabal-Mettler workshop in Bílsko near
Olomouc (in the Czech Republic). The
inaugural concert was performed in June
2014 by Czech organists Pavel C
˘ erný,
Lenka Fehl-Gajdošová, and Martin
Maxmilian Kaiser. In December 2015,
Czech Radio recorded a “Memorial Organ
of Bohemia and Moravia” series of
programmes documenting the sound and
appearance of this instrument.
Despite its limited size, the organ
builders of the Rieger workshop created
an ideal sounding instrument supported
by the perfect acoustics of the classical
building. As much as 50% of all stops are
8-feet size, 25% of the 16-feet size, and
25% of the 4-feet size plus one Mixture.
We could say that only one reed stop in a
romantic instrument is not enough, but
the quality of the ue stops fulls even
the highest acoustic standards of
musicians and audience. Each stop is
independent but fully coherent with the
whole instrument’s character. The 8’
Hohlöte (wooden ute) lls the entire
Figure 4. The pedalboard and the crescendo tool
Figure 5. Interior of the organ case
12 No 399 | THE O RGAN | WIN TER 202 2
building with a deep, wide-scale so
sound. Each string oers dierent
characteristics and only allows the most
sophisticated blending to be limited only
by the organist’s imagination. The 8’
Gamba creates unbelievable results as a
solo stop or mixed with the ue stops.
Only three principal-sounding stops
(8´ Principal, 4´ Octave, 2 2/3´ Mixtur of
4 ranks) oer a complete and sucient
range of possibilities for the performance
of Baroque and classical repertoire as
well as to force the narration of romantic
works. Mechanical key and stop actions
are reliable, and control cone-valve
windchests accurately. Five xed
combinations (Mezzoforte I. Man., Forte I.
Man., Forte II. Man., Pleno, and Tutti) allow
thee swi manipulation of the resources.
An interesting (because of its rarity for
today) solution for the crescendo tool is
that a metal semi-pedal, spinning around
the axis (unlike the foot-spoon at
Cavaillé-Coll’s) allows the mechanical
adding and reducing of stops. Even a lack
of swell shutter does not give the
impression of a lack of possibilities in
shaping the sound volume. Until today,
the organ has the original solution for
wind pumping by a calcant.
A few recordings of this instrument
done during the rehearsals and recital
may be found on my YouTube channel at
https://www.youtube.com/c/
MichałSzostak
Terezín Organ Festival
The marvellous restoration, undertaken
by the Dlabal-Mettler workshop
introduced the unique Rieger organ to
the general public and helped the city of
Terezín to build an international Terezín
Organ Festival, attracting new visitors
because of its history and cultural
experiences. The festival’s concept is to
organise concerts dedicated to young
Czech performers and professionals from
all over the world. Each year, there are
three organ recitals. The festival is
supported by the city of Terezín (free
rental of church and organ, posters,
programmes, leaets) and sponsors
(advertising, artist fees, travel expenses,
owers). The leader of the Terezín Organ
Festival is Michaela Fišerová, the founder
and member of the variable piano
ensemble “Ghetto Piano Duo” as well as
organ and piano lecturer at the
Elementary Art School in Litome˘r˘ ice (the
closest city near Terezín).
Figure 8. Dr Michał Szostak during his
recital at the Rieger organ in Terezín
Conclusion
A city created for the military defence at
the end of the 18th century, used as an
internment camp durign World War II
(more than 150,000 Jews were sent there:
around 33,000 died), a mute historical
monument of many human tragedies, at
Figure 6. The original solution for wind
pumping by a calcant
Figure 7. Michaela Fišerová, Dr Michał Szostak,
Dr Martin Maxmilian Kaiser at the Rieger organ in Terezín.
the same time possessing a beautiful instrument for the
creation of artistic music, helping in prayers and liing
hearts to the highest ideals and values. A paradox that
describes our life very well, it yet continues to be a
further exemplication that even surrounded by death
and evil, there is always place for Truth, Good and
Beauty.
Footnotes
1. On the basis of the Rieger company promotion
materials. Retrieved from https://www.rieger-
orgelbau.com (2021/12/20).
2. Szostak Michał (2018). Evolution of Cavaillé-Coll’s
symphonic organ. The Organ, 384(384), 8–22.
3. Horák, Tomáš. Výtvarní umelci, umelectí
remeslníci a výrobci hudebních nástroju
º v
Litomericíc 16. – 19. století. 158-159: Nakladatelství
OSWALD, 2007.
WIN TER 20 22 | T HE ORGA N | N o 39 9 1 3
Bourdon 16´
Principal 8´
Gamba 8´
Gedeckt 8´
Hohlöte 8´
Octave 4´
Rohröte 4´
Mixtur 2 2/3´ 4x
II/I
Table 1. Specication of the organ built by Gebrüder Rieger in
1898 in the Church of the Resurrection of the Lord, Terezin
(Czech Republic today)
Source: http://varhannifestival-terezin.cz/dispozice_varhan (2021/10/30).
Manual I C-f’’’
Geigenprincipal 8´
Aeoline 8´
Salicional 8´
Rohröte 8´
Gemshorn 4´
Flaute dolce
Manual II C-f’’’
Contrabass 16´
Subbass 16´
Violon 16´
Octavbass 8´
Cello 8´
+ Posaune 16´
I/P (if II/I is on = II/P)
Pedal C-d’
Mezzoforte I. Man.
Forte I. Man.
Forte II. Man.Pleno
Tutti
Crescendo
Fixed combinations
Figure 10.
The main
altar
Figure 9. Poster for the Terezín
Organ Festival, 2021 edition
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