Stuttgart/Leipzig. A "new" Ladegast organ will be consecrated at the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig in a special ceremony next Sunday. Restoration of the largest church organ in Saxony was made possible by the donation of €1.8 million Euros by Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart. "Through our contribution, we wish to help Leipzig, a cultural metropolis dedicated to tradition, enhance its position as one of Europe’s most important centres for classical music," states Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking, the CEO of Porsche AG. Wiedeking was keen to explain Porsche’s particular commitment to this project, especially as Porsche has had a production plant itself in Leipzig since 2002. In this way, the company also wishes to pay tribute to the cultural and historical importance of the Nikolaikirche. Between 1723 and 1750, this was one of the main venues used by Johann Sebastian Bach, who gave the first performance of a large number of his organ works here. In autumn 1989, as the "Church of the Peaceful Revolution", the Nikolaikirche was the source of important political momentum for the reunification of Germany.
Another reason why the Stuttgart-based car manufacturer has sponsored the restoration of the organ is that no other musical instrument embodies typical Porsche values such as power, dynamism and aesthetics as well as this classical pipe organ with its voluminous sound. However, Porsche was not just the sponsor in this restoration project. Since the original keyboard built by master organ maker Friedrich Ladegast was no longer in existence, Porsche designers resurfaced the manuals and stops using ebony and brushed stainless steel and also carved the pedals and the organist’s bench. "The keyboard is designed to contrast with the typical décor of the church, but is still classical and bears reference to car production," states Franz Joseph Siegert, Head of Porsche Interior Design, explaining the designer’s intentions.
In 1862 Ladegast completed an instrument in the Nikolaikirche that helped to shape the romantic interpretation of Bach’s organ compositions in the second half of the 19th century. Today, the 21-metre-wide and 13-metre-tall instrument is one of the largest church organs still in existence from Germany’s romantic era. Extensive restoration was necessary because the organ’s original, extraordinary resonance was seriously impaired as a result of numerous alterations and wear and tear over the years. In 2001 organ builder Hermann Eule GmbH in Bautzen was therefore contracted for a complete restoration of the organ to re-create its original sound, taking 45,000 hours to restore one of the most famous instruments in Germany’s music culture. During this process, almost 3,000 of the approximately 6,300 pipes were added anew, the number of stops was increased from 84 to 103, and an extra manual means that the organ now has a total of five.
From now on Jürgen Wolf, the organist of the Nikolaikirche, will be the only organist in the world to start his organ on the left-hand side next to the manuals – exactly the way Porsche cars have always been started. Restoration of the organ now allows Wolf to bring 19th century Bach tradition back to life. The instrument also enables organists to do justice to the compositions of Leipzig musicians such as Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms, and Max Reger. "The extraordinary sound of the Ladegast organ allows us to interpret music in a way which will fascinate the music world," states the organist, full of enthusiasm. "Consecration on Sunday will turn a long-standing vision for Leipzig into reality."
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