Organs and Organ Builders in Slovakia
1651 – 2006
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The firm Rieger-Kloss was founded by a fusion of two nationalised organ building companies – the former company Gebrüder Rieger and a smaller firm of local significance, Josef Kloss, working in Krnov.

The firm Gebrüder Rieger closed down formally in 1945 when its owner Josef von Glatter-Götz with his family and his German employees had to leave Czechoslovak territory. The company was taken over by the state, Jan Tuèek and Rudolf Nevoral were appointed to be its temporary managers. In 1947 “The Czechoslovak Timber Factory, National Company, Prague” was appointed to manage the firm. In 1948 the Minister for Industry issued a regulation by which the national company “Factories for Pianos and Organs” was founded; the two nationalised organ building firms’ holdings made up its basis. After a year the factory split into two companies: “Factories for Pianos, National Company” and “Factories for Organs, National Company”. On 10 March 1958 the latter company merged with the newly founded company “Czechoslovak Musical Instruments” and so became one of its factories under the name “Organs”.

After many organisational/management upheavals, the situation in the company settled down as late as the 1960s. The firm, however, was suffering from an acute lack of qualified staff because many of them left for Austria with the former owner of Gebrüder Rieger, Josef von Glatter-Götz. more »»

Organ builder’s workshop

In the first years the company had to deal with problems concerning its existence, to stabilise its economic situation in order to maintain the production programme. Up to the mid 1950s it was a period marked by a lack of qualified staff and quality materials for organ production. The firm continued with the production programme of the Gebrüder Rieger firm from the end of the 1930s in respect of the construction, material, work and economic possibilities. Organs with cone chests, pneumatic actions and romantic voicing were being produced. Because of the complex economic circumstances and a lack of experience, it was not possible to reorientate the production for a type of organ with mechanical actions and slider soundboards which had been developingabroad for decades. The company Rieger-Kloss’s predecessor, the firm Gebrüder Rieger, had begun to develop this type of instrument around 1940, yet during the Second World War development ceased. The design staff left for Austria in 1945 with Josef von Glatter-Götz.

Up to 1958 the factory produced instruments with prevailingly cone chests and pneumatic actions. Some, mainly bigger, organswere equipped with electro-pneumatic action. The other type of instruments were unit organs with electric or pneumatic action but they were substantially fewer. The cooperation with Professors Ernest Riegler-Skalický and Jiøí Reinberger is reflected mainly in the specifications of many organs whose conception is already based on the “werk” principle. Despite this, it was not possible to achieve the desired sound quality typical for organs with slider chests and pipes voiced on low wind pressures.

Valuable knowledge and experience from the field of constructing slider soundboards, mechanical actions and pipe voicing acquired in 1956 were manifested within a short time in the production programme of the company. In 1958 the first organ with three manuals, slider soundboards, electro-pneumatic action and pipes voiced on lowere wind pressure was built for the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. This type of organ was at first destined only for export mainly to the countries of the former Soviet Union; on the domestic market the type of organ with cone chests mainly with pneumatic actions or unit organs dominated. Despite the fact that the factory from the 1950s to the 1960s acquired experience with building big instruments with slider soundboards and electric actions, the problem of constructing mechanical actions remained unsolved. In 1963 a prototype of a small one manual organ with pedal and mechanical action with five stops was constructed. A year later a two manual organ with ten stops was built. In the following period a relatively large number of instruments with mechanical action and nine to fourteen stops were produced for foreign and domestic markets. In 1971 the factory Rieger-Kloss built its first three manual organ, opus 3396, with mechanical action for export to Norway. During the development work on this type of instrument which lasted from the beginning of the 1960s, it was necessary to accomplish many constructional changes to the soundboards (schwimmer bellows built into the lower part of the soundboard, slider seals), actions, console, wind system, changes in the whole layout of the instrument itself and the organ case whereas also alternative materials like synthetics and light metals were being used more and more frequently.

From the 1960s the number of instruments with cone chests begins to fall, in the 1980s they appear only rarely. The last such organ built by the Rieger-Kloss factory was in 1992. From the mid 1960s on the other hand the number of instruments with slider soundboards rose very substantially, from the 1970s mainly in connection with mechanical action. The unit organs were built occasionally up to the end of the 1990s, from the first half of the 1960s nearly exclusively in combination with electric action. In organs destined for the USA digitally sampled stops appear from the second half of the 1990s.

Text: Marek Cepko

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Promotional material on the occasion of the concert-organ construction.