Organ Festival at Stadtcasino Basel Celebrates the “Queen of Instruments”
Most people think of the organ as an instrument found in churches and used for church music. However, throughout time, organ music has also been created and performed in a secular context, and many world-famous concert halls feature an organ. Likewise, Basel’s premier music hall, the Stadtcasino, has always been home to an organ. However, when the Stadtcasino underwent extensive renovations and expansion from 2016 to 2020, it was felt that the old organ was no longer adequate. In particular, the “Verein Neue Orgel Stadtcasino Basel” (New Organ Association Stadtcasino Basel) campaigned heavily for a new organ in the concert hall and, supported by numerous donors, achieved a small miracle—with the Stadtcasino’s grand-reopening in August 2020, a new organ was introduced to the audiences.
The New Organ
The new organ was built by two renowned Swiss companies, Metzler Orgelbau and Orgelbau Klahre, who worked together on this project. The main challenge was the lack of space: They had to fit the new organ into the casing of the old organ that dates back to 1905 and is a listed structure.
The new organ, with its 51 stops, two extensions, and eight transmissions in the main organ, as well as five sounding stops in the wind-dynamic manual, allows for the whole dynamic range from the softest murmur to monumental tutti, making it well suited for accompanying not only an orchestra but even choirs and soloists. In particular, the Stadtcasino’s new organ is the first concert-hall organ to include a wind-dynamic manual, which allows the player to modify the sound of a note even after it has been hit on the keyboard, thereby creating new sounds and sound connections, which may be particularly inspiring to contemporary composers.
Another feature of the new organ is the attention paid to the sourcing of the materials: For the wooden components, only local wood from areas near Basel was used. And for the first time in organ-building history, the more than 2 tons of tin ore needed were obtained only from conflict-free, sustainable sources.
The Organ Festival
The new organ was inaugurated in September 2020 with the First Organ Festival at Stadtcasino Basel. Since then, the festival aims to regularly put the “Queen of Instruments” and its musical capabilities at the center of attention, following the example of other internationally renowned concert halls, such as the Philharmonie in Berlin, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, or the Leipzig Gewandhaus. With its diverse and dynamic sound spectrum, the organ is ideally suited to build connections–and not just between secular and sacred music, but also between genres, various performing arts, and generation of audiences.
Accordingly, the spectrum of concerts at this year’s Third Organ Festival at Stadtcasino Basel ranges from the “classical” symphony with organ to combinations of organ with solo piano, opera choirs, a gospel choir, or street dancers. In seven concerts from September 2-16, you can experience the breadth of organ music, from new arrangements of well-known works to world premieres of newly commissioned works. So check out their program in our event calendar or on their website (https://www.ofsb.ch/) and get your tickets now!Share