Organ of Týn Church in Prague

The oldest known organ in the Tyn church was built by Albrecht Rudner in the north aisle in 1573. After one hundred years passed, in 1670, the builder Domenico Orsi added a large gallery in the western part of the church. It was decided that a bigger one would replace the organ.  Hans Heirich Mundt was chosen as the builder and during the signing of the contract he declared, “Not even in the entire kingdom will you find a better organ than the one I will build.” The contract was signed on September 25, 1670 and in November Mundt started working with three helpers (an apprentice and two carpenters). He also agreed that he wouldn’t do any other work until this organ was finished. However, on the side he also worked on regals, finished two positives and clavichords, which earned him a good amount of money. But a suspicion arose that he used material from the Tyn organ because when he was finally done with the organ, the total invoice was very high.

With regard to the fact that no archival documents have been found regarding the origin of the Tyn organ so far, we are reliant solely on two inscriptions describing some building phases. The first is an inscription on the airchest of the rear positive: „Anno 1671, den 30. Juli ist diese Windtlade für die Ehr´Gottes undt Marya verfertiget worden durch Johannes Heinrichus Mundt von Köllen am Rehin Orgelmacher in Prag allwo Gott der Allmächtigst ist Glück und Segen dazu verleyhen wöll Amen das werdt war.“ Then the inscription in the upper airchest of the pedal: „Anno 1671, den 18. November ist diese Windtladen verfertiget worden und zu samen gesetzt und gericht worden durch Johann Heinrich Mundt Orgell und Instrument von Cöllen am Reihn gebürtig.“ On the back side of the shield on the rear positive one can find the inscription 1671 documenting that this part of the instrument was finished first.

The approving comittee met first time on April 28, 1673. They thought „ the organ sound was rather faint“. They requested an oak Subbass Gedackt 16´ in pedal to be added, and pedal Quinta was changed to 6´. The final approving comittee that met on June 9, 1673 asked for the addition of an oak Bourdun Flauta 16‘ in the manual. The goal of all these additional modifications was to increase the sound intensity. Mundt was not only compelled to go along with these alterations and give up his original sound idea, but he also had to retune the entire instrument to a sharper tone. For his work Mundt received 3,122 florins and also municipal rights.

However, there was not enough satisfaction with the performed work. Only the exterior was approved, hence the organ as a whole was considered “vas pulchrum, sed vanum.” Mundt’s disagreements with the Old Town’s councilors were getting worse. On October 19th, Mundt took part as a witness at a wedding in the Tyn church, but shortly thereafter he moved out of Prague. Simon Kreczmer performed the first chance repair of the organ already during the same year, 1673. Six years later, a fire damaged part of the Tyn church and made the organ unplayable. Jan Nett, the former helper of Mundt was asked to repair the organ. But then Mundt suddenly appeared in Prague in 1682. The previous agreement was cancelled and the task was given for the reward of 300 florins to Mundt as an “…outstanding organ builder and master of this organ.”

Maintenance repairs were performed in 1811 (Jakub Placek), 1813 and 1817 (Josef Roth). Not until the years 1821-1823 were substantial renovations performed by Josef Gartner. He did the following: retuned the organ almost two halftones lower, moved the main instrument body by 2.4 m towards the back, in order to gain that space, he transferred the organ bellows into a separate room in the tower. His approach to the organ was respectful, almost revering. He didn’t change the original disposition. Some damaged pipes were repaired or replaced and all were moved up due to the change in intonation. His sensitive approach is documented by the fact that despite the change in tune, he kept (except the Cembalo and Rauschquint) the repetition of mixtures. Only maintenance repairs and minimal changes happened in the consequent years; a new pedal mixture (1843, Josef Gartner), tuning (1848, 1849, 1851, 1856, 1859, Josef Gartner), tuning (1870, Karel Schiffner), tuning (1871, Karel Vocelka), tuning (1880, Emmanuel Petr), new organ bellows (1896, Rejna and Cerny).

No substantial overhauls occurred in the 20th century. There was a plan for reconstruction in 1904 which luckily did not happen because of the lack of finances, hence the organ was preserved to this day only with three major construction phases: 1671-1673 (building), 1823 (Gartner’s reconstruction) and 1896 (bellows). The organ was saved from the requisition of the pipes in wartimes. Today, the Tyn church organ is one of the few large organs of the 17th century that have been preserved without considerable technical or sound changes.
Some important organists and choirmasters have been associated with this instrument. We can mention Leopold Marian Stecher. After his death in 1691, Tomas Baltazar Janovka, the author of the first Latin musical dictionary, “Clavis ad thesaurum magnae artis musicae.” In 1741 to 1782, the organist was Josef Ferdinand Norbert Seger, an notable organist, composer and philosopher, the teacher to numerous outstanding pupils (Karel Kopriva, Jan Evangelista Kozeluh, Josef Myslivecek, Jakub Jan Ryba, Jan Hugo Vorisek). More recently, Dr. Vladimir Nemec, author of the valuable publication “Organs of Prague” or Bohuslav Korejs, an author of hymnbooks.

(compiled by Dr. Jan Skvaril using the bibliography mentioned on the main history page and other Internet resources)