Church does not tolerate its use even at the present day.
Early in the 14th century—in the year 1312—an organ was built in Germany for Marinus Sanutus, a celebrated Venetian Patrician, which was erected in the church of St. Raphael, in Venice. It excited great admiration; and as it no doubt contained all the newest improvements, it was a pleasing return to make for the organ Bent from Venice to Aix-la-Chapelle nearly five hundred years before.
One of the greatest improvements effected in the organ in the 14th century was the gradual introduction of the four remaining chromatic semitones. F♯ was added in the early part of the century; then followed C♯ and E♭; and next G♯. The B♭ already existed in the Winchester and other medieval instruments. By Dom Bedos the introduction of these four notes is assigned to the 13th century; while others place the first appearance of three of them as late as the 15th. Prætorius gives them an intermediate date the middle of the 14th century; and he is undoubtedly correct, as they were certainly in the Halberstadt organ, finished in the year 1361.
Dom Bedos refers to a curious MS. of the 14th century in the Bibliothèque Royale, as affording much further information respecting the organ of that period. This MS. records that the clavier of that epoch sometimes comprised as many as 31 keys, namely, from B up to F, two octaves and a fifth; that wooden rollers, resembling those used until within the last few years in English organs, were employed to transmit the movement of the keys to the valves; that the bass pipes were distributed, right and left, in the form of wings; and that those of the top notes were placed in the centre of the instrument, as they now are.
To appreciate the importance of the improvements just mentioned, and others that are necessarily implied, it is necessary to remember that so long as it was a custom in organ-making to have the pipes above and the keys below placed parallel one to the other, every little expansion of the organ involved an aggravation of the unwieldy size of the keys, at the same time that the convenient reach of the player set most rigid bounds to the legitimate expansion of the organ, and fixed the extent of its limits. The ingenious contrivance of the roller-board at once left the dimensions of the organ free to be extended laterally, wholly irrespective of the measure of the keyboard.
This emancipation was necessary before the additional semitones could be conveniently accommodated; for as they would materially increase the number of pipes in each rank, so they would require wider space to stand in, a larger spring-box, such as was then made, to stand upon, and rollers equal in length to the sum of the distance to which the pipes were removed out of a parallel with each key.
With regard to the distribution of the pipes, they had generally been placed in a single row, as shown in medieval drawings, but as the invention of the chromatic notes nearly doubled the number in the septave—increasing them from seven to twelve—half the series would now form nearly as long a row as the entire diatonic range previously did. The two smallest pipes were therefore placed in the centre of the organ, and the remainder alternately on each side; and their general outline—spreading outwards and upwards—gave them the appearance of a pair of outstretched wings. The 'zig-zag' plantation of pipes was doubtless a subsequent arrangement.
In 1350 Poland appears in connection with our subject. In that year an organ was made by a monk at Thorn in that kingdom, which had 22 keys. As this is the exact number possessed by the Halberstadt organ, completed eleven years later, it is possible that the Thorn organ may have been an anticipation of that at Halberstadt, as far as the chromatic keyboard is concerned.
Up to this time (14th century), we have met with nothing to indicate that the organ had been employed or designed for any other purpose than the execution of a primitive accompaniment to the plainsong; but the instrument which now comes under notice breaks entirely fresh ground, and marks a new starting point in the use of the organ as well as its construction and development. The Halberstadt Cathedral organ, although, strictly speaking, a 'single organ' only, with a compass of scarcely three octaves, had three claviers, and pipes nearly equal in size to any that have ever been subsequently made. It was built by Nicholas Faber, a priest, and was finished on Feb. 23, 1361. Our information regarding it is obtained from the description of Michael Prætorius in his 'Syntagma musicum,' It had 22 keys, 14 diatonic, and 8 chromatic, extending from B♮ up to A, and 20 bellows blown by 10 men. Its largest pipe, B, stood in front, and was 31 Brunswick feet in length, and 3½ ft. in circumference, or about 14 inches in diameter. This note would now be marked as the semitone below the C of 32 feet, and the pipe would naturally be expected to exceed the pipe of that note in length; but the pitch of the Halberstadt organ is known to have been more than a tone sharper than the highest pitch in use in England at the present day, which accounts for the want of length in its B♮ pipe.
In the Halberstadt instrument a successful endeavour was made for the first time to obtain some relief from the constant 'full organ' effect,
- As the history of musical Pitch is treated of under its proper head, it is only necessary here to refer briefly to the remarkable fact that the pitch of old organs sometimes varied to no less an extent than half an octave, and that too at one and the same date, as shown by Arnold Schlick in 1511. One reason given for this great shifting of the pitch was, that the organ should be tuned to suit higher or lower voices, without the organist having to 'play the chromatics, which was not convenient to every one'; a difficulty that must have arisen as much from the construction of the keyboards, and the unequal tuning, as from lack of skill in the performer to use them.