Liepaja's Church of the Holy TrinityThe Best-Surviving Handiwork of J.S. Bach's Favorite Organ Builder

In the fall of 1994, Peters bought a classical organ music CD—neither his first nor last. (Peters considers the organ the "King of Instruments" while Silvija thinks of it as somewhat garish!) Peters noticed it was recorded in Libau, Lettland—Liepaja, Latvia! The organist was, in fact, attempting to bring attention to the organ in Sv. Trisvienibu Baznica, Church of the Holy Trinity, built by H.A. Contius, J. S. Bach's favorite organ builder. Peters determined to visit it on his next trip to Latvia, which he did in 1995.

When we were asked for photos of the organ for a project in Europe to build an organ following the style and methods of H.A. Contius—we had included some pictures in our 1995 trip travelogue, we created this page to share this musical treasure.

The following is excerpted and translated from the Guide to Liepaja's Architecture, by Liga Sane-Alksne (1991):

The history of the building of the organ is long and torturous. We'll touch on the most pertinent.

The premier organ builder of the Duchy of Courland, Johann Heinrich Joachim, being deaf, built an instrument for the church which was not very good. This situation did not please the cityfolk, and so, in 1773, Heinrich Andreas Contius, from Halle, began building a new organ. The master had a letter of recommendation from no less than J.S. Bach. In Liepaja's Church of the Holy Trinity is the the only organ in the world still extant which was voiced by H.A. Contius.

Nonetheless, the Liepajans' thirst for competition [with the Duchy capital, Jelgava] was not sated. A further expansion of the organ was begun in 1844, by the hand of Courland's master Karl Peter Otto Herman. Expansion of the instrument continued for the next 40 years. To surpass the organ in Riga's Dom Church, the firm of Grineberg expanded the organ to 131 registers in 1885. And with that, the Church of the Holy Trinity's organ remained the largest in the world until 1912.

Among the pipe ranks of the organ, some of the pipes are grouped in outward pointing "trumpets" [en chamade -Ed.] which are arranged alternating with flat planes. The flanking semi-circles at the top are adorned with life-sized carved gilt figures. An additional two large and two small angels adorn the foreground. ...

Following the gallery, look for links to several high-resolution scans.

Click on a thumbnail to view the picture. Mouse over the either side of the picture and click to navigate or use the left/right arrow keys.

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, view toward the rear of the church and the magnificent organ

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, view of the altar

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, as experienced by the organist

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, close-up of the 1885 expansion plaque

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, the four manuals from top to bottom: Oberwerk, Brustwerk, Hauptwerk, and Echowerk

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, the organ pipework

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, Manuals and stops

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, well-worn seating arrangements, sitting at the console

Liepāja, Holy Trinity church, view from the organist's seat

Detailed scans

You can find more information on Latvian organs at:
http://www.music.lv/organ/

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