1904 Wilhelm Sauer Late Romantic Organ op. 915


Please click on the picture to start the photo gallery

01-organ gallery 02-protestantic church of dortmund-dorstfeld 03-organ gallery with sauer organ 04-church nave 05-sauer organ console and principal 16 front pipes 06-complete organ console 07-crescendo display and company plaque 08-stop jamb left side 09-stop jamb right side 10-couplers and  combinations left side 11-couplers and  combinations right side 12-details pipework manual 1 13-overblowing flutes 14-pneumatic tubes and roller system 15-cone valves

Short Introduction and History

The 3-manual, 40-stop Wilhelm Sauer organ op. 915 of Dortmund-Dorstfeld in Northern Germany is located in a neo-Gothic brick church, built in 1904 for the strongly increasing population of the German "Ruhr-Gebiet", which was the largest area of coal mining in Germany.

The late romantic Sauer organ is one of the very few instruments in Germany, which have survived almost completely in their original state! This organ even survived four disasters, World War I and II, the German organ reform movement ("Orgelbewegung") and a church fire years ago, caused by a lightning strike, causing the burning tower to crash down into the church.

The front pipes (Principal 16) are actually made of zinc. It isn't possible to find out if they are the replacement of original tin pipes (tin front pipes usually had to be replaced during World War I, to support weapon production!) or if they were already used in the original organ. A lot of romantic organs used zinc front pipes before World War I, because the tin prices were very high at the time. There is no loss in tonal quality of this rank compared to the Principal 8 (tin), so that we could assume, that they are original.

Sauer (1831-1916) and Walcker were the most important and biggest organ manufacturers of that time and built more than a thousand instruments. Sauer himself was a volunteer at the Cavaillé-Coll (1811-1899) workshop for one year (about 1852), where the young Sauer met the organ building genius, whose fame grew more and more. Sauer very often is named as the "German Cavaillé-Coll". He transformed French organ concepts to the German sound concepts.

It is assumed that Sauer learned how to build high-quality overblowing pipes there, which we find in his instruments. Sauer's sound concept was based on the sound of the late-romantic symphonic orchestra and he tried to transform this sound into the organs.

The German romantic organ is like a paint-box, where you can add a lot of colours, thus getting new ones by additive mixing. Therefore you usually find a lot of 8ft stops. The registration is completely different from baroque organs. You always look for orchestral like tonal colours. The mixtures only crown the sound, but aren't leading voices. German reading customers may find an excellent article on sound concepts of German romantic organs with a lot of pipe sound examples by Gerhard Walcker-Mayer (see Links)

The (German) organ reform movement, which demanded a come-back of high-quality manufactured organs and considered the sound of Baroque organs as the only valid sound concept. This movement , not understanding (any more) the sound concept and music of romantic organs, usually resulted in a modification or even total dismantling of the (late-) romantic organs, especially in Germany. From today's point of view, we regret this consequence of the organ reform movement and usually don't find many of those organs in Germany.

When playing or listening to this organ, you will have the original sound of 1904 with a strong relation especially to the music of Max Reger. Reger himself and Sauer had good relations. Straube performed a lot of Reger works on the big Sauer organ of Leipzig.

The Dorstfeld organ has a wide range from very soft tonal colours (pppp) up to a very strong Tutti with some "brute force", which is necessary for Reger's work (ffff).

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Recording technique

The organ was recorded in February 2008 with 48 kHz, 24 bit, multi-channel for Hauptwerk 3, using the multi-release technique introduced by OrganART. The stops were recorded with multiple release levels for short, medium and long key attacks for optimal acoustical mapping.


I would like to thank the parish of Dortmund-Dorstfeld for supporting this project.
Special thanks are due to Oliver Fiedler and Jörg Glebe for local assistance and organ workshop Christian Scheffler for a stand-by organ maintenance service and a lot of helpful information and discussions!
Last but not least special thanks to my wife, who assists all projects and is responsible for the photo documentation.