Austria and eastern europe

Due to its political structure, Austria was almost predestined to occupy a mediating position between the different organ landscapes, since the Habsburg crown did not only include the Austrian heartlands of Upper and Lower Austria (today’s Austrian federal states) as well as Outer Austria in Swabia and on the banks of the Rhine, but also the Austrian Netherlands (today’s Belgium) the dukedoms and counties of Carinthia, Tyrol, Styria, Gorizia, Cilli (in present-day Slovenia) and above all the kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary. The House of Habsburg ruled from the North Sea coast to the Adriatic, along the Rhine, Vltava and Oder as well as on the Danube, in the Alpine region as well as in the Carpathian Arc. In fact, within this immense realm a lively cultural exchange took place both in the West-East and in the North-South directions: the Silesian Eugen Caspar/Eugenio Casparini, who was active in today’s northern Italy as well as in Silesia, did not move out of the countries of the Habsburg Crown, or only by a few miles.

But it was precisely the spaciousness of this area that made it possible for organ landscapes to develop within. The organ building family Egedacher set standards for the organ style in Bavaria and Austria equally while living in the sovereign prince-bishoprics Passau and Salzburg between them, but influenced organ-building in the northern and eastern crown lands of Bohemia and Hungary far more strongly than in the western territories. This was also due to political history. In Bohemia, the Thirty Years' War began and the period thereafter was determined by the re-catholicization of all the Habsburg lands. In the south-east of Hungary, on the other hand, the Ottoman Empire threatened the existence of Austria until the repulsed siege of Vienna in 1683/84. The further away the individual areas were from the power centre Vienna, the more independent features could unfold, for example in the design of the organs.

Individual elements of the Austrian organ style are an emphasis on diapason ranks, the preference for the doubling of the diapason 8' as one  rank made of tin and another one made of wood ("Portun"), the reduction of reeds and the preference for the positioning of larger organ parts in the parapet. Especially to the west (Bavaria, inner Alpine region, Upper Rhine) the stylistic differences gradually increase; in Bavaria characterised by the renunciation of parapet organs, in the western Alpine and Pre-Alps area by the growing preference for a multitude of colour ranks. In contrast, the instruments in Bohemia or the later Habsburg southern Poland resemble Austrian organs much more.


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