Niederehe, St.Leodegar
The first organ built by Balthasar König (1714).

The organ in the former monastery church of the Premonstratensian Order in Niederehe was built in 1714 by the organ builder Balthasar König from Bad Münstereifel. König came from a family of organ builders in Ingolstadt, was born there on June 18, 1684 and died in Menden on December 16, 1756.

The Niederehe Instrument is not only the first to have been built by König after settling in the Eifel region but also his opus one; later he was to achieve fame as an organ builder throughout the Rhine valley area.

The case was presumably made by the Niederehe monastery carpentry shop. The organ originally had nine stops on one 48-note manual and a pull-down pedal of 13 keys. In 1868 organ builder Johann Josef Müller from Niederehe enlarged the instrument with an independent pedal chest of three stops (Subbass, Oktavbass and the former manual-8ft-trumpet). In the manual he added a Wienerflöte 8’.

A thorough rebuilding took place in 1923. Many original stops were removed and the specification was adapted to the taste of the day. This work was subcontracted by the Klais firm to an organ builder by the name of Burkart. Further work, although without significant change in the basic material, intervened in the post-war years. It was finally possible to begin a thorough and scrupulous restoration in1997. Organ builder Hubert Fasen (Oberbettingen) and his shop people completed the work in the summer of 1998. This made it possible to reconstitute the original manual specification by König. The pedal chest from 1868, deemed to be historically viable material, was retained. Working from three preserved stops from König’s organ, it was possible to deduce the original scalings.

The Niederehe organ is the only instrument by Balthasar König that may once again be heard today with the original tuning and temperament from the era it was built.

The original tuning cutouts in the case pipes were still recognisable, since the work done upon raising the pitch of the organ was fortunately of shoddy quality. On the rear side of the case pipes originally cut to length, tuning tabs were grossly torn away and bent downwards or sidewards. Subsequent changes to the mouth areas and cutups were not apparent, so that we hoped that after reshaping of the “tuning scraps“ and refastening of the recognisable cutouts evidence for König’s tuning processes would emerge. Determination of the temperament is only possible in the pipe’s original position, since the case, pipe shades and proximity to neighbouring pipes influence the pitch of the individual pipes considerably. An examination of the tuning was therefore postponed until all of the parts had been restored and the organ had been once again erected on site. The case pipes were cautiously freed of dust and only the worst buckling at the feet was corrected. First, after reinstalling the case pipes, the speech of the pipes was tried out at 70 mm pressure, whereby the pipes showing major sagging at the feet were temporarily straightened and opened so that evenness of volume throughout the compass could be achieved. The result surpassed all expectations. Upon playing in all keys and listening to the fifths and thirds Balthasar König’s original meantone temperament (with the wolf fifth d sharp g sharp) could be perceived. Then the individual pitches of the case pipes were measured with a tuning apparatus and recorded.

After restoration of the pipes the wind pressure was corrected, since optimum speech of the pipes was achieved with as little as 55 mm. The newly measured pitch values coincided with those of the first measurement. The pitch was measured at 421 Hz for a’ at 15.3° C.

Hubert Fasen