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Call for contributions

Pulling out all the stops – for a new organ

Munich, 08/06/2012

The Atrium of the Main Building at LMU houses not only busts, mosaics and reliefs, but also the White Rose Organ. The instrument is now in need of restoration, and an appeal for donations has been launched.

Orgel - Foto: Simon Kirner / LMU

Picture gallery.

The organ has already been dismantled and placed in storage, for large-scale renovations are getting underway in LMU’s Main Building, and the necessary scaffolding has been put up. The plan is to refurbish the dome of the Atrium, the glass roof of the Audimax and neighboring areas in the Main Building over the next few months. When this work is complete, it is hoped that the so-called White Rose Organ will have been restored and reinstalled. However, restoration of the instrument, which has accompanied festive and solemn occasions, including the annual commemoration of the eponymous wartime student resistance group, can only be undertaken with the aid of donations. Assuming that sufficient funds can be collected, LMU plans a series of concerts featuring the restored instrument, to be given by the noted Munich organist Stefan Moser. “One thing that makes this instrument interesting for the professional organist is that it is not located in an ecclesiastical setting,” Matthias Fahrmeir, who is Head of the Facilities Division at LMU, “so one can perform works on it that would not be played in a church.”

A memorial to the will to resist
The organ was built specially for LMU in 1960, and the organ gallery occupies the space once taken up by the mosaic entitled “The Fountain of Learning”, which was destroyed during the Second World War. Professor Joseph Pascher, who was Rector of the University when the organ was dedicated, specifically regarded it as a memorial to the bravery of the members of the White Rose. For him, the “Queen of Musical Instruments” was a most appropriate memorial for the group. The organ was first played in public during the ceremony to commemorate the moving spirits of the White Rose, on 23. February 1961. On that occasion, Pascher explained that the instrument was intended to transmit the resistance group’s message to everyone who heard it: “In the end, the most important thing is the resonance in our hearts, the impact of their message; their voices must not fall silent, as they themselves were once silenced.”

A new song
The tonal quality of the organ, however, has inevitably suffered with the passing years. Indeed, it had become virtually unplayable, as recent trials had shown. In an organ that weighs between 2 and 3 tons, material such as leather, or the foam used to seal stopped pipes, deteriorates and begins to crumble. “The basic fabric of the organ is perfectly sound, and the instrument is certainly worth restoring,” remarks organ builder Markus Harder-Völkmann. But then finding the right tonal balance will take weeks – and that phase of the work will be done on site in the Atrium, at night.

“Getting this organ back into shape again means a great deal to me,” says Matthias Fahrmeir. “Obviously, resources earmarked for research and teaching cannot be tapped for this purpose, so we are dependent on the generosity of donors.” The restoration work will cost about 50,000 euros, and this includes bringing the instrument’s capabilities into line with contemporary standards, which will add new tone colors and give the organ a unique sound of its own.

Together with the White Rose Foundation (Weiße Rose Stiftung e.V.), Fahrmeir has launched a public appeal for contributions. Hildegard Kronawiter, who chairs the Foundation, points out that the construction of the original was also financed by donations. “The White Rose Organ is a very special memorial to the student resistance, because it directly evokes the great love that the members of the group had for music and art.”

 

The White Rose Foundation has opened an account for the receipt of donations to enable restoration of the organ:

Weiße Rose Stiftung e.V.
HypoVereinsbank
Account No. 1700116006
Bank Routing No. 700 202 70
Reference: Weiße-Rose-Orgel

 

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