1 · Chamber Organ

Full Description

English, 18th century
By Johann Schnetzler, London, 1742

Compass: four octaves plus five notes: C to e’’’ 
Height 165 cm; width 108 cm; depth of case 75.5 cm; octave span 15.9 cm
Five and one-half ranks of pipes controlled by 8 stop levers.

The name batten is inscribed: “JOHAN SCHNETZLER FECIT LONDINI 1742”. The case of pine is painted in the Italian manner with trompe-l’oeil panels on a grey-green ground.  The organ is winded by a bellows pumped either by the player’s foot acting on an iron pedal, or by a leather strap pulled by an assistant.  A second pedal activates a mechanism that turns off the more brilliant stops for sudden contrast in volume.  These higher pitched ranks at the 2-2/3’, 2’, 1-1/3’, and 1’ level are divided at the middle of their compass, to allow for different registrations in bass and treble, simulating the effect of an instrument with two keyboards. [Restored to playing condition.]

Johann Schnetzler—later anglicized to “John Snetzler” (1710-1785)—was a Swiss emigrant who became the most famous organ builder in England during the 18th century. Trained in the South-German tradition, Schnetzler produced Germanic-style instruments for several immigrant community churches early in his career. He later adapted to English organ-building practices and produced a large number of organs, about half of them church instruments and the rest small chamber organs such as this example.  Chamber organs were highly fashionable in the later 18th century in large houses in England. Several of Schnetzler’s instruments were shipped to the United States before the Revolution.

Schnetzler’s organs were prized by contemporary musicians as well as in later generations for the beauty and fullness of their tone.  Schnetzler enjoyed an acquaintance with Handel, who is known to have used his instruments for performances of his own organ concertos. A good portion of Schnetzler’s oeuvre survives, although more of the chamber instruments have been preserved in nearly original condition than have the larger organs.

The Belle Skinner Collection
Accession No. 3190.1960

Musical Example:

Nicholas Renouf performing Voluntary in G Major, by John Stanley (1712-1786)
Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, 6 October 1985