Rising thirty-six feet about the stage, Emory University's Werner Wortsman Memorial Organ in Emerson Concert Hall not only towers as the visual focal point for the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, but also offers three primary artistic functions:
Werner Wortsman Memorial Organ named in memory of Werner Wortsman 47C and in recognition of his generous support of the arts at Emory.
The organ, a mechanical key-action tracker instrument of fifty-four stops and 3,605 pipes, is playable from three manuals (keyboards) and pedal board.
Visually, the monumental yet inviting organ case commands respect by its central position and size. The classical facade of the instrument appears simultaneously formidable yet completely compatible with its surroundings. The design of the organ case bears tribute to the classical golden section principle in its size ratios. For example, the relationship of the vertical distance from the stage to the bottom of the organ case vis-à-vis the height of the entire organ case itself is the same relationship as that of the entire organ case height to the distance form the stage to the top of the organ case. The case's cherry wood, rounded pedal towers, and the painted lower panels below the impost all match design elements found in the concert hall. The Emory University coat of arms occupies the top middle position of the organ's highest central tower, surrounded by intricate basswood carvings outlining patterns of Southern foliage.
The Werner Wortsman Memorial Organ is one of the first pipe organs built in the United States that uses as a starting point the tonal outlook of eighteenth-century Alsatian organ builder Andreas Silbermann. After moving from his native German Saxony to Strasbourg, France, the cosmopolitan capital of Alsace, Silbermann build significant organs that integrated attributes of both the French Classic organ and the German Baroque examples. Similarly our Werner Wortsman Memorial Organ benefits from the internationalism of its maker who worked extensively with organ builders in both Europe and the United States before setting up his own pipe organ shop in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1978. Influenced by the classic instruments of Silbermann, our Werner Wortsman Memorial Organ includes a judicious mix of organ-building traditions from different countries. For example, its rounded pedal towers, its facade pipes with their high tin content, and the five-rank mounted cornet all bear a decidedly French Classic imprint. Southern German and Autrian Baroque organ design influences are heard in its generously scaled flute stops. The organ's two main keyboard divisions, the Hauptwerk and the Oberwerk, feature more Central German Baroque principal choruses and mixtures that are necessary for Bach polyphony. The Romantic harmonic reeds and harmonic flutes of the Recit provide timbres reminiscent of the French-Symphonic organ builder Aristade Cavaillé-Coll.
Timothy Albrecht, Emory University Organist
Werner Wortsman 47C was raised in Germany with a love for classical music and opera, and at age 13 came to the United States to escape Nazi rule. He served in U.S. Army intelligence in World War II before majoring in journalism at Emory. Living most of his adult life near campus, Wortsman (1925-2009) owned a radio station, wrote two books, and participated in Emory alumni events. The value he placed on education, music and the arts inspired his bequest to the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory. The organ, which serves as the visual focal point in the Schwartz Center’s Emerson Concert Hall, was named for him in 2011, in recognition of his generous estate gift to the arts at Emory.
The Emory Department of Music offers master of music and master of sacred music degrees in organ performance programs led by University Organist Timothy Albrecht. You can hear the Jaeckel Op. 45 organ and Emory's three other concert organs in action at University Organist Recital Series events.
If you would like to make a contribution toward the Werner Wortsman Memorial Organ and organ programs, please call 404.727.3229.