Ostrava – On Friday 22 September, a new chapter in the story of Organs for Ostrava began. We officially launched the project at a press conference, during which Mons. Jan Plaček on behalf of the Moravian-Ostrava parish and organ builders Petr Dlabal and Boris Mettler signed the contract for the construction of the organ for the Ostrava Cathedral.
Read the press release on the launch of the project:
Press release: launching the project Organ for Ostrava. Let’s give Ostrava Cathedral the instrument it’s been waiting for for 140 years
Ostrava – The parish of the Cathedral of the Divine Saviour in Ostrava is embarking on the construction of an organ for the main church of the diocese. The first-class instrument from the workshop of organ builders in Krnov has a complicated history. It was originally played at the congresses of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in the Palace of Culture in Prague, after the Velvet Revolution it served the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra. Today it can find its home in the Ostrava Cathedral. But to fill the cathedral with tones, the parish needs to raise approximately CZK 27.5 million.
From Krnov to the Palace of Culture and then to the Philharmonic
The organ was originally built in 1981 for the Palace of Culture in Prague and had 87 registers (ranks of pipes). The state spared no expense and ordered the best parts from abroad. According to organologists, it is the finest instrument created in Czechoslovakia at that time. In the Congress Hall of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, the organ accompanied party congresses. After 1989, however, they became redundant. The Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava took them over and used them in the House of Culture in Ostrava. Today, however, the question of what will happen to this top-notch instrument arose again. “Due to the ongoing reconstruction of the House of Culture, the organ was sold, but I am glad that it remains in Ostrava. I am looking forward to hearing it again,” says Jan Žemla, the current director of the Janáček Philharmonic, who cannot praise the instrument enough. Not only the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra was thus always able to use a real acoustic instrument and not replace it electronically, as is often the case in the absence of the organ.”
New life for a first-class organ and a neo-Renaissance organ case
The Cathedral of the Divine Saviour in Ostrava has been waiting for such an instrument for 140 years since its construction. An instrument brought from Germany in the 1990s is currently used for services and concerts there. Unfortunately, their sound is insufficient for the monumental space of the cathedral (the second largest church in Moravia). “Unfortunately, their size and overall sound do not match the acoustics and space of the cathedral,” explains diocesan organist Jiří Krátký, who is coordinating the entire project from a professional point of view. Even so, the existing organ from the cathedral will continue to be used thanks to its sale to a smaller church.
The new organ will also harmonise with the interior of the cathedral in terms of art. “The organ will be placed in a partially preserved and largely reconstructed Neo-Renaissance organ case designed for Ostrava Cathedral in the 19th century by the Viennese architect Max von Ferstel,” says Krátký, pointing out that the Organ for Ostrava project will give new life not only to the instrument, but also to the more than 130-year-old original furnishings.
Several organ workshops have joined forces in the move
On Friday 22 September, at a press conference, the Dlabal-Mettler organ workshop from Bílsko signed a contract with the Roman Catholic parish of Moravská Ostrava for the construction of a new organ. “The new instrument for the Ostrava Cathedral has accompanied us in its own special way for many years. We became acquainted with the instrument as students when it was first moved from Prague to Ostrava. We were all the more interested in its renewal and conversion to the Janáček Philharmonic Hall. That is why we were happy to take on the dismantling of the instrument, which took place at the beginning of this year,” Boris Mettler recalls the unique relocation of the organ, which involved several Czech organ workshops. For the Dlabal-Mettler workshop, this is the biggest commission it has undertaken to date.
Over 5,000 pipes require a careful approach
It is certainly not enough to simply transfer the pipes and other parts of the organ into the cathedral and assemble them like a kit. “We have an entire fund of pipes that we have to project into a preserved cabinet in 94 sounding registers. In total, there are over 5,600 individual pipes that have to be given their exact position and enough space. Each individual pipe must have its intonation tailored to the acoustics of the cathedral. We also have to completely renew the organ’s wiring,” says organ builder Boris Mettler, describing the first steps. After many months of work in the workshop and sound tests, it will be time to install the instrument. If all goes well, the new organ will be heard in the cathedral in 2026.
The adoption of the pipes and the donation kiosk in the cathedral are ready
In order to do this, the Moravská Ostrava parish needs to raise approximately CZK 27.5 million. Another CZK 3.5 million was needed to buy the organ and move it. This amount was covered by the Bishopric of Ostrava-Opava with CZK 2.5 million and the parish of Moravská Ostrava with CZK 1 million. The parishioners started saving since spring. “We have set up a public collection. We have almost CZK 300,000 in our account to date,” says the parish priest of Moravská Ostrava, Mons. Jan Plaček. Participants in the service at which Bishop Martin David took office as diocesan bishop on 31 August 2023 also contributed to the new organ. The cathedral also has a donation kiosk that accepts contactless card payments. It is also possible to donate to the public collection account 1388059555/2700. The website www.varhanyproostravu.cz is also set up for the adoption of pipes. As a reward, donors can receive a donation certificate, a small model of an organ pipe and, for larger donations, an even more original souvenir in the form of discarded pipes from the Palace of Culture, which are not suitable for Ostrava Cathedral.