Organs and Organ Builders in Slovakia
1651 – 2006
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From the organ’s history

1624 – 1632, Hans Hummel – Building of the instrumental part and organ case; the instrument was completed by Jerzy Nitrowsky.

About 1708, unknown organ builder – Repairs.

1738, Vavrinec Čajkovský – Repairs.

1865 – 1877, Ludwig Mooser – The main case was moved to the west gallery. Into it was put a completely new 32 stop three manual instrument with mechanical actions and slider soundboards. The positive case was moved to the northern stone gallery. The instrumental part was however rebuilt (at the rebuild they had to use parts of the instrument and pipes from the whole organ which given their age and technical condition were still usable).

1931 – 1932, Rieger – Into the main case of Hummel’s organ, Rieger placed a new instrument, opus 2540, wherein part of the pipework of L. Mooser’s organ was used.

1997 – 1999, Peter Franzen – General overhaul of the Rieger organ (repairs, cleaning, tuning, new prospect pipes, new electric blower, restoration of the organ case).

The original organ in St James’s was ordered by the town as early as 1615 from the Cracow builder of German descent, Hans Hummel. The instrument was largely financed by the generous benefactor, Friedrich Pobst. Hummel appeared in Levoča after many deferrals as late as 1624 and work on the organ continued very slowly. The organ case made by the cabinet maker Andreas Hertel (Cracow) and the carver Hans Schmied of Danish descent was already finished in 1625 but the new instrument was a long way off being ready. One of the reasons for its lateness could have been a plague epidemic which at that time struck the locality. There may also have been related financial difficulties, but the main reason was the weak working discipline of the organ builder and his excessive drinking. Hummel did not fulfil his obligations in other places either; finally he was prosecuted with a threat of forfeiting his property. The court itself however never met: 11 February 1630 they found him dead on the tiled floor of the St James’s church. The reason for death was his fall from high scaffolding. In the same year the organ was completed by the famous Polish organ builder Jerzy Nitrowsky. The original contract was for an organ with 25 stops, all the later versions mention a 27 stop organ. Besides the large organ on the northern gallery, shortly after 1687, 300 florins was paid for an organ positive. Already at the beginning of the 18th century, Hummel’s organ was in a bad condition. The town organised the collection of tin, lead and brass for its repair.

Up to the middle of the 19th century, the organ was considered to be the largest in the Hungarian empire. Lack of maintenance and the instrument’s age were responsible for a rapid worsening of its technical condition. Around 1830 the organ was used only rarely. In the period after 1861 several organ builders worked on a scheme for its reconstruction (Dominik Műller, Jozef Demeter). A contract was finally signed with the Salzburg organ builder Ludwig Mooser. In the period between 1865 and 1877 he installed a three manual organ with 32 stops, mechanical actions and slider soundboards. The instrumental part was placed in the main case of Hummel’s organ which they moved to the rear gallery. The positive with its balustrade was moved to the stone gallery over the north entrance. After several years following its completion, Mooser’s organ exhibited important shortcomings. Despite this its condition was resolved only by partial repairs. Not until after the First World War was thought given to an extensive reconstruction. After negotiations with several firms (Július Guna, Jan Tuček, Josef Melzer) work was entrusted to Rieger’s Krnov factory. From 1931 to 1932 Rieger actually installed a new organ but using pipes from Mooser’s organ also.

Text: Marek Cepko