Freiberg cathedral’s Silbermann organ is marking its 300th birthday, providing an excellent reason to celebrate this spectacular instrument
From rohrflote to krumhorn
Some 300 years later, we can say that he was absolutely right. It may even have been something of an understatement, in fact. According to Albert Koch, “there is probably no comparable instrument anywhere in the world today.” The young president of the Silbermann Society is the cantor at Freiberg cathedral and knows the magnificent organ better than almost anyone else. “What makes this organ so special is that it has survived the past three centuries unscathed and, above all, unchanged,” he says. Elsewhere, organs have had their pitch adjusted over the years to suit the musical tastes of the time, while pipes were altered or simply chopped off in order to obtain a different sound quality. Other organs have been destroyed or lost due to war or fires – but in Freiberg cathedral everything remains exactly as it was. “As such, many of the works from Silbermann’s time can still be heard as originally intended,” explains Koch. He then opens the doors to the console, revealing three manuals and ebony keys, which are partially overlaid with ivory. The 44 wooden knobs on the sides mean organists really can pull out all the stops, while tiny plaques underneath bear inscriptions like “Viola di Gamba”, “Rohrflöt” and “Krumbhorn”. When organists and music lovers begin to arrive in Freiberg in May of this anniversary year, many rarely played registers are certain to be heard once more.