Interview with Gerhard Walcker-Mayer
Dario Diaz, Argentina
Can you explain us how do you live the fact of being part of a familiar tradition in the craft of building organs of such excellence?
Well, I am very proud to be a member of the Walcker-organbuilders. But of course, I know that the best time and the highest point of artistic organbuilding was a long time ago. In our time the organbuilding centres in a technical focus, while during the romantic Walcker-period the creation of new organ-sounds was going hand by hand in excellent quality.
We´ll like to know an historical synthesis of the firm from the beginnings till nowadays. We suppose that you´ve been able to preserve a familiar account of this history.Would you relate it to us?
I am now in the 7th generation of the Walcker organbuilders. When Johann Eberhard Walcker started with his first organ in Stuttgart in 1780, there was of course a completly different world than today. He build about 6 or 7 organs in a very poor time. When his son Eberhard Friedrich was born in 1792 there where french soldiers in Stuttgart. They did’t have to eat enough. Eberhard Friedrich had to go to Military with the Napoleon Grand Armee some days. But than, after this period, Eberhard Friedrich got the chance to make some sensationel organs, so for church St.Paul in Frankfurt, what made him to the most important organbuilder of Germany. This was the most productiv history of organbuilding in the 19th century in Germany. But nearly all important organs of Eberhard Friedrich are lost.
The five sons of Eberhard Friedrich, who went to organbuilding, Carl, Heinrich, Friedrich, Eberhard and Paul continued the very good work of the father an build some very large instruments. So the organ in the cathedral to Riga and Vienna. The son of Friedrich was Oscar Walcker who also continued the development of the firm. His biggest organ was for the Michaelischurch in Hamburg, than Nuremberg. Existing is still the large organ in Barcelona and parts of the large organ in Stockholm, which will be restaured at the moment. My father, Werner Walcker-Mayer started after Oscar Walcker in 1947. He build the most organs, about 3500 in 50 years. He build an organ with Marcel Dupré in Munich, and a very interesting organ from him stands in Stuttgart- Rundfunk, where about Messiaen was very surprised.
Which are the disciplines and knowledges inherent to the organ´s trade?. Is there any institucional education established for this profession in Germany or in all Europe?
In Europe, I think it’s the most importand organbuilder-school worldwide, is the Oscar-Walcker-School in Ludwigsburg. When you learn organuilding in Germany it is a must to go to this school. But there are also very much students from all over the world to learn here the elementar physical and artistical things about organbuilding.
In this days it is very important to know how to restaure organs. How to keep the material staying without damaging the substance. The easiest way to do this is to do it like the organbuilder worked on it at the time of building the instrument. So you have to study the history and the methods of the organbuilder. In case of “Walcker” it is a compact knowledge, which I try to transmitt on three blogs in the internet. Here I show with photos and drawings the thoughts of the builder and the possibilities of repairing. If the builder took a special glue to fix wood together, you cannot take a glue of the supermarket nowadays and fix in a historical organ parts together, becouse, if you do this, after some years you will see, that you damage some things with this. It is also completly impossible to repair a pipe without the knowledge how to sold it correct. If you repair one pipe incorrect, that does not matter. But if there are 20 or 50, you will hear it at last.
How have you developed your own training?
I learned by my fathers shop in 1967. To this time there where 320 persons working in Germany and in Austria. Three years later I made apprenticeship diploma and in 1976 I worked one year for master craftsman’s diploma in Ludwigsburg. Till this time I had different installations for Walcker in USA, especially the organ for the Brigham Young Universitiy in Salt Lake City was a very interesting installation, Switzerland, and the large organ in Zagreb Philharmonia. In 1986 we made the restauration of the Walcker-organ in cathedral of Zagreb and in 1993 the restauration of the Walcker-organ in Strasbourg St. Paul. Instruments which made me very deep impressed. And this was the reason to study more and more these sounds and these organstructures. When my fathers factory closed in 1999 I had the chance to restaure the Voit-organ in Nieder-Roden and later then different other organs. Today I work on the only complete received Oscar Walcker- concert-hall organ, which is in the Bukarest-Philharmonia, and which has a beautiful organ-sound. To study these instruments is a totally artistic action. After the normal work you go and make your artistic work, what means, you start another part of life. If you cataloge a lot of photos or scales and compare this with the books, if you manage CAD sketching to see another perspective of the organ, if you make your own stilistik of the organdesigns, if you read a lot of books of history, to get the taste of time on your tongue, and so to come nearer and nearer to the organbuilder of this time, all these work, and this is much more than an eight-our-day, is the work you do for your own qualification. And with a little luck you get the chance to enrich other interested persons too. But it is not guaranteed.
Which specific areas and staff involves the construction of an organ since the begining till it is finished? Every organ has a predecessor. If you have an idea what type of organ you mean, you have this predecessor. So this question must be specified on a building, on an idea or anything else to say what it means.
Who determines the front style of the organ?. Are there standard designs or unique and unrepeatable ones? This is a question of artistic styles and cultural development. In times, where a lot of organs where build, of course there where schematism and functionalism in creating the organ-designs. Nowadays normaly we have especially designs. Although we have the special case where a large organ will be build a second time. Also we have the cases, that old organs will be copied really exactly. So you see, that organbulding reflects only the society of this time.
You have told us in other communication that there has been an important change in the organ´s systems after the Second World War. Do you use other materials today that replace the traditionals? The society of the European nations in 19th century closed a culturel development which expanded since the middle-age in Europe. A typical person of this society was Eberhard Friedrich Walcker, who started to flourish in his sounds and constructions, but also was afraid of the industrial development. With the two world wars and the concentration on technical development instead culturel growing, we now have a complete other condition for the organbuilding. It’s not a question of materials it’s a question of religion and philosophy. But this time after the wars is also in changing. In my fathers workshop I found the manufacturing of organbuilding in a form of “compressed industrialisation”. Nowadays in restauring instruments of other periods we find the slogan “industrialisation keep out!”
Organs are comitted on the 400 years old music of the churches. So, if you work on organs your are connected to this old world, and you cannot replace something totally (partly, sometimes, ok!)
Which is the actual situation of the organ´s construction and the volume of work compared to other historical moments? After the 2nd World War there where some experiments with the new materials (war-materials!) and of course the thought to make organs as industrial-parts was very interesting. Nowadays we have some fun and games with computer and organs, especially the ‘childs-play’ of digital games from our organ experts shows that boredom has moving in the heads of some organist, who don’t like how to learn to play the organ. But at last, the decision what makes a good organ, what is the good sound and a good functionality, doesnt’ depend on new constructions. We must say: Although we are living in this time today, with all the good materials and technics, we have hard to work to make instruments like Silbermann or Eberhard Friedrich Walcker, this must be the destination – but we know, we don’t reach it.
Among all the works you have done which one or ones have given you the greatest satisfactions? The greatest satisfacion was working on the Walcker-organ in Warschau-Conservatory some days before final inspection, where were some nerve-racking problems. In the night before the inspection we managed all problems – that was looking God.
Walcker Opus 2220, in Llavallol City, is an special one because of its significance. You have already given us some information about it but we´ll like to have some more if it is possible. All technical plans are in my archiv. Opus book I must copy, becouse it is in the other archive. Today I am in Bukarest, which is 2000 km away from my home. That’s the problem – but we work on it, be sure.
- Do you have any idea about how many of this kind of instruments are there in the world? I think there are not so much instruments of these type and extension (perhaps 10)
- Do you think that it qualifies for an international declaration as mankind patrimony? I never heard about declaration of organs of this type. I think this is only possible with the building. In Guadalupe/Spain they declared the whole building as world-protected cultural monument, the Walcker-organ included.
- We know that this organ combines an electric section for the comand from the console and another section with a pneumatic system. Could you describe us the system with more technical details? Do you have some graphics or drawings in some publication that you can send us to illustrate this system?) This system of Llavallol-organ is nearly exact described on my WalckerBlog(look at the NEWS by walckerorgel.de and here on top are the links to WalckerBlog ) Also there are different articles like “Taschenlade” or “Kegellade” as PDF or as html pages which you can translate. This documents are very basicly and demonstrate also non-experts the function of the different organ-systems. I fyou don’t find the files, let me know. For me it’s also not easy to find all the stuff on the 50.000 files we have on our internet pages.
- We know that this organ´s assembly is articulated in three levels. Is there any sketch of this structure to exemplify it? I don’t understand this question.
- Is it known who installed the organ? (Hense, Vollmer or specialists coming from Germany?) it was Vollmer
- Do you know if the company did the maintenance of the organ for a period of time or if it was done by the company´s representatives in Argentina? by Vollmer
- Between 1904 and 1905 we know that an organ builder, Hermann Walcker, was in our country. He practically reconstructed the Gray & Davison organ in the Methodist Church of Lomas de Zamora. Is there any connection between this specialist and the Walcker firm? If there is would you give us some information about him? Hermann Walcker was a son of Hermann Walcker (son of Eberhard Friedrich). He came with the Riga-organ to Riga, stood there and after his wife died he went to South-America where he married again. All story about him is on my internet- site. Please look there and tell me if you don’t find it.
Thank you Mr. Gerhard Walcker-Mayer