Organ builder Dirk Eule and his artistic director were busy working on a project in Russia when they received the news that they had been commissioned to construct the new organ for the Dresden Kulturpalast.
They were already planning the job while they were waiting for the plane back at Moscow airport. They had six years until the date of inauguration, which had been set for September 2017, a somewhat tight schedule for a concert organ of this size.
Moreover, the auditorium where it was to be located does not have the reverberation of a church, as it was designed to suit the sound of an orchestra. “That’s why the dynamics of this organ range from the faintest primo – during which you almost have to hold your breath to hear it – to the full tutti,” says Eule.
Generating this multifaceted sound image are 4,109 pipes, of which the smallest is 12 millimetres in length and the largest 9.23 metres; all of them had to be harmoniously integrated into the concert hall layout, which has been compared to the terraces of a vineyard. 67 organ stops allow the organist to choose between English, German or French timbre. “It is a truly European organ,” says custodian Holger Gehring, who normally plays the organ of the nearby Kreuzkirche.
Clear, soft and warm – just like Dresden
The keyboard of the Kulturpalast organ is mobile, which allows the organist to join the orchestra on stage. Or even to be surrounded by school children on a class visit. Gehring enjoys explaining and demonstrating the fascinating technology behind this instrument to youngsters: “Music is important, as children are the audience of tomorrow.”
At concerts, it will either be Gehring playing or the organist in residence at the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra. This is currently Olivier Latry, who is also the official organist at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. At the end of the inaugural concert, Latry was as voluble in his praise for the Kulturpalast instrument as the audience and the media.
Right up until the night before the grand opening, the tuners were working evening shifts to adjust the sound of the organ to last-minute structural changes in the auditorium, while the orchestra rehearsed during the daytime.
The aim was to match the sound to the mentality of the people in Dresden and Saxony: “Clear, soft and warm,” according to Dirk Eule.
Hermann Eule Orgelbau in the Lausitz region to the north of Dresden has been building organs for almost one and a half centuries. The fact that the committee chose a Saxon instrument builder was a lucky coincidence rather than intentional. Eule beat off international competition by virtue of their proposal and their experience of concert halls in Germany and abroad.
Dirk Eule detects signs of a comeback for the concert organ, and he is especially delighted for Dresden: “The Kulturpalast is paving the way for others.”
Since it was reopened in 2017, the ‘Palace of Culture’ has been regularly staging concerts performed by the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra.
Since 2017, Concerts in Kulturpalast have been supplementing the pop- ular recitals given in the three major Baroque churches of Dresden’s Old Town: Kreuzkirche, Frauenkirche and Hofkirche. Concerts alternate between venues. Feb – Nov, always on Wednesdays, 8pm