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 Tuček 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. In the second half of the 1940s, even some employees of Jan Tuček’s Kutná Hora company worked here.

From 1951 the company cooperated more intensely with the outstanding organists, Prof. Ernest Riegler-Skalický of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, and Jiří Reinberger, professor at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. In the same year Engineer Ota Veverka came to the firm; until that time he had worked in the Kutná Hora Cooperative “Organa”. He was commissioned to design new organs from the point of view of their construction and sound quality as well as to teach theory to young workers. It was his task also to achieve cooperation with the above-mentioned experts. In 1956 he and J. Reinberger were sent on a journey abroad where they visited many organ building factories and got acquainted with the latest trends in organ building. After their return they tried to implement the acquired knowledge by including it, step by step, into the company’s production programme. Ota Veverka retained the function of Artistic Manager of the Rieger-Kloss company until the 1970s when he was replaced by Engineer Bohumil Plánský. After the social changes in 1989, the company went through a complex transformation and in 1994 it was privatised by being sold to its employees. The contemporary name of the company is “Rieger-Kloss Organs Ltd”. From the outstanding personalities who formed the firm from its inception up to now, one should particularly mention the artistic consultants Ota Veverka and Bohumil Plánský but also the company’s main voicer, Jan Kostera and the famous constructor, Zdeněk Světlík.

During the time from the end of the Second World War practically up to 1958, the company produced organs, with some exceptions, exclusively for the domestic market. In the 1950s it regularly took part in foreign exhibitions (Brussels 1956, Bucharest, Poznan, Zagreb 1957) trying to open up new business contacts. But success came only at the World Exhibition (Expo ’58) in Moscow which in the following years launched the demand for dozens of instruments to the countries of the former Soviet Union (up to 1991 57 instruments were exported). From 1964 until the mid 1970s constant orders were coming from Norway (25 instruments). In the 1970s and 1980s more foreign orders came from China, Bulgaria, Iceland but particularly from Poland and Japan. Despite this, as long as up to the beginning of the 1990s, the most frequent customer was Czechoslovakia. From the 1990s production for the domestic market (countries of the former Czechoslovakia) slowly decreases and the majority of instruments go abroad (Germany, Austria, Norway, Italy, France, Portugal, Denmark, Poland, Ukraine, Cuba, South Korea, China, Japan, USA). At present the firm has a network of commercial representation throughout the whole world. Its production in the years 1998 – 2004 was one to four new organs a year.

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 Jiří Reinberger is reflected mainly in the specifications of many organs whose conception is already based on the “werk” principle. more »»

Text: Marek Cepko

Organs               Photogallery              

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