Organ building in Lithuania in the 19th century

  • Rimantas Gučas
Keywords: Lithuania, organ building of the 19th century, musical instruments building workshops, organ masters


For Lithuania, the 19th century was marked by the symbol of the Russian Empire – Lithuania became a province of a foreign empire. Farming suffered a severe general downturn. As the Church’s powers began to be restricted, there was almost no opportunity for new significant instruments to emerge. The monasteries, which until then had been the initiators of the best organ building, were closed. Eastern Catholic (Unitarian) churches, which also had organs in Lithuania, became part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the organs were ordered to be liquidated. The Catholic Church itself, unlike evangelicals, also had little regard for music and especially for organ matters. From the beginning of the 15th century, the development of Lithuanian organ culture was closely associated with Königsberg. Once the import customs were imposed, significant contacts which had taken place almost disappeared. The industrial revolution in Lithuania was delayed, and for half a century small artisan workshops still prevailed. Almost exclusively small, single-manual organs without pedals or positives were built. A large three-manual organ at Vilnius University St John’s Church was rather an exception. It was built by the Tiedemanns. This family, which originated in East Prussia, worked in the Baltic States throughout the first half of the 19th century. Only in the middle of the century did the new European organ building trend, the so-called organ romanticism, reach Lithuania. A particularly important role in this period was played by the experience of organ building of the neighbouring Curonia. Very few impressive examples were created, and in this respect Lithuania is hardly able to compete with the major countries of Central Europe. Lithuania is characterized by the fact that in the 19th century local masters and companies ( J. Rudavičius, M. Masalskis, F. Ostromensky), as well as masters from neighbouring Curonia (Herrmann, Weissenborn) and Poland (Blomberg) worked there. In western Lithuania, then part of Prussia, Terletzki was active. Meanwhile, large factories (Walcker, Rieger) reached Lithuania only in the first half of the twentieth century and only in a few instances. At that time, more work started to be focusing on the construction of two-manual with pedal instruments. At the end of the century, J. Rudavicius built some three-manual organs. His 63-stop organ built in 1896 for a long time was the largest in Lithuania. Although the 19th century Lithuanian organs are relatively modest compared to other countries, they have the value that is only growing in the context of present-day Europe, since the “progressive ideology” of more economically powerful European countries affected the art of organ building and few small romantic instruments are left.