Johann Walter and the Organ Project in Kahla

Johann Walter  -  a great musician!

Johann Walter, born in Kahla (Thuringia, Germany) in 1496, is considered to be the “father” of Protestant church music. As a Lutheran composer and poet of the period of Protestant Reformation, he laid the foundation upon which well-known composers of later generations built their musical monuments.

During his student years, Johann Walter got convinced of Martin Luther’s ideas. They soon became friends and co-operated closely. Both supported the coherence of theology and music. Walter arranged German texts and melodies of pre-Reformation and Reformation times to be sung by the congregation in Lutheran service, thus introducing the German language to church music.

When in 1524 Walter published his Geistliches Gesangbüchlein (Spritual Songbook), Luther wrote the introduction. This songbook, containing polyphonic choir compositions, marked the development of polyphony characteristic for Protestant church music. Luther and Walter also acted jointly in developing a church service in German, its sequence being published as the Deutsche Messe in 1526. As the first Protestant and the first German to write a Passion, Walter pioneered in a further field of musical activity.

Johann Walter had begun his career as a musical spokesman of the Lutherans when joining the orchestra of the Saxonian court in 1520. After the dissolution of this Hofkapelle in 1525, Walter established the Kantorei in the city of Torgau, a municipal choir which was in charge of the church music for the whole city. Walter became musical director of this choir, thus being the first Lutheran to hold the office of a cantor and shaping an occupational profile with tremendous significance and effect up to the 20th century. German Kantoreien played a most important role in the advancement of Lutheran music.

In 1548 Moritz, then Elector of Saxony, named Walter his court composer and asked him to organize a Hofkapelle at his court in Dresden. As its first Kapellmeister Walter presided over this orchestra which is one of the oldest orchestras and world famous today under the name Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden.

1554 Johann Walter retired and went back to Torgau. where he died in 1570. Although having spent merely his early years in Kahla, he felt closely affiliated to his hometown all his life.

The Johann-Walter-Orgel – a great project!

Johann Walter, having built a foundation on which much of the greatest music of the world still stands, undoubtedly is of enormous importance in the fields of church music and of Reformation itself. Unfortunately, his merits as a composer, theoretician, poet and organizer did not receive adequate appreciation for a long time. Only recently his achievements are slowly gaining more attention.

The choir of the Lutheran parish in Kahla, the Johann-Walter-Kantorei, now existing for over 60 years, regularly performs Walter’s polyphonic compositions. But at Johann Walter’s birthplace, the town’s greatest son should be commemorated and honored in a very special way. So the Lutheran parish intends to build a new pipe organ in the town church St. Margarethen where Johann Walter was baptized, and this new organ shall bear his name.

The projected Johann-Walter-Orgel is going to be an outstanding instrument. It will consist of two parts which can be played separately, but may be played together by only one organist just as well.

The Johann-Walter-Positiv is the smaller part of the instrument, with a manual and pedalboard of its own. It was finished in 2021 and is situated at the front of the nave. Its selection of stops and the design of its case emulates instruments from Johann Walter’s time. An innovative mechanical appliance enables organists to switch between Renaissance-time (mitteltönig) and modern (temperiert) tuning.

The larger part of the organ on the church’s gallery (costs: approx. 750.000 €) will be suitable for playing all different styles of organ music. Its separation into two wings will reveal the view to the big window in the church wall.

The Johann-Walter-Orgel as a whole is going to be a most extraordinary and interesting instrument, attractive to organ music aficionados as well as organists and students. It will boost both Kahla’s cultural potential and its attraction to visitors. But first of all it will be a “sounding memorial” to the great musician Johann Walter. Please have a share in carrying this project into effect!

Address: Förderkreis Johann-Walter-Orgel, c/o M. Hellwig, Bachstr. 22, 07768 Kahla, Germany – E-Mail: jwok@gmx.de


Mehr Fotos

Das Johann-Walter-Positiv in der Stadtkirche Kahla. Der erste Teil des Orgelneubauprojekts ist fertig! I. Köllner IMG 0671  M. Hellwig IMG 0684  M. Hellwig IMG 0327  M. Hellwig IMG 0323  M. Hellwig IMG 0325  M. Hellwig IMG 0315  M. Hellwig IMG 0748  M. Hellwig IMG 0754  M. Hellwig IMG 0673  M. Hellwig