The nineteen speaking stops contain twenty-eight ranks on two manuals (keyboards) and pedal, comprising more than fourteen hundred pipes made of tin and finest mahogany.
An important part of the Abbey Church is the unique Hradetzky organ. The organ, located on the west side, is a classical “tracker-action” pipe organ and technically and tonally based on traditional European principles of organ building. Organs of this type are built with a series of features found in the classical organ of Central Europe, but forgotten or discarded in instruments built in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries until they were recognized anew after the early fifties.
The adoption of this traditional model for building an organ gives the instrument its own particular characteristic sound and a great musical variety. The distinctively clear sound of the tonal ensemble homogeneously blended with its acoustics makes this an instrument well fitted to the church with its resonant design.
The nineteen speaking stops contain twenty-eight ranks on two manuals (keyboards) and pedal, comprising more than fourteen hundred pipes made of tin and finest mahogany. The instrument was constructed and built by the organ builder Gregor Hradetzky of Krems near Vienna in Austria and shipped and assembled in the summer of 1967. It was one of the first tracker-organs in the Saint Louis area and the first out of twelve Hradetzky instruments built for the United States.
The very first feature of such classical principles is the so-called “mechanical tracker action.” Through very fine wooden and metal links connected to the keys, the organist has ample control over the speech and articulation of the pipes rather than dealing with the mediation of pneumatic or electronic devices. Furthermore, the divisions of the organ – the great manual, the swell manual and the pedal – are independent ensembles which can be played individually (trio-like), or “coupled” for full sounds “organo pleno.”
The whole organ is built into a carefully designed case of stained oak which not only enhances the appearance, but also acts to harmonize the ensemble; since it has also a soundboard-like function, the case is an integral part of the instrument.
The architectural design of the organ case was the result of a close collaboration between the builders and Gyo Obata, the architect of the Abbey Church.
The clear structured organ façade with its noble cherry-wood console enriched with keys and plaques in fine ebony and polished bone, projects not only harmony to the audience but light and spirit as well.
The organ was assembled, voiced and tonally finished by craftsmen from Austria and dedicated on September 7, 1967.
A general overhaul of the instrument by Orgelbaumeister Gerhard Hradetzky, took place in the summer of 2005, renewing and preparing the organ for the Golden Jubilee of the Saint Louis Abbey.
Photography courtesy of Rene Zajner