Principal (organ)

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Principal pipes in the prospectus of an organ
The principal 16 ′ in a baroque prospectus
Principals can also be made of wood - here pipe mouths with tuning device of an Open Diapason 16 ′ (pedal register of an English organ)

The principals (or Principale - genus in German neuter, English: (open) diapason , French: Montre , Spanish: Flautado ) are important organ registers , they form the sonic backbone of almost every organ and adorn the organ front . Principals consist of cylindrical open labial pipes with a medium length . Even small organs ( positives ) usually contain a principal register, which is usually in the 4 'or 2' position. The spelling Principal came up in the late Romantic period and is to be found for the Neo-Baroque period , in the Baroque the spelling Principal was common, which can also be observed today.


For the first time, the term "principal" is used in a contract from 1386 for an organ in Rouen Cathedral . In his treatise (around 1440), Henri Arnaut de Zwolle describes the double principals (duplicia principalia) for the medieval block organ and thus draws on the organum practice of Musica enchiriadis (9th century). For larger medieval organs that had a main work and a Rückpositiv , the main work was also called the principal work. In the Brabant organ building either the double principal of the treble was in the prospectus or just the tin row of pipes (the other was made of lead). Only in the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries did the tradition of double occupying the praestant in the treble survive. The mirror principle was developed in Brabant in the 15th century , the pipes of which could be soldered together in the middle and artistically chased and embossed .

Since the 14th century, the principal could be played on its own wind chest from a separate manual , for example with the famous organ of the cathedral in Halberstadt by Nicolaus Faber (1361). In the 15th century, the principal register and the back set, i.e. the full work behind the prospectus pipes, could be operated from a single manual using shut-off valves . The praestant of the organ of the Rysum church can still be switched on or off using a lever on the console. As a result of the register differentiation , numerous synonymous names emerged: Doef (f) and Prestant in the Netherlands, Flöte (n) in southern Germany, Flautat and Flautado in Spain, Montre in France and Open Diapason in England.

With regard to the scale, the principals from the Romanesque period (partly up to 1300) had the same diameter despite their different lengths ("pigeon egg scale"). From around 1000 onwards, the lengths were designed to be changeable, but were still based on the old fixed scale, so that the pipes in the bass were relatively narrow and in the treble were relatively wide. From the 16th century a scale progression was introduced based on a 3: 5 ratio of diameter and circumference, which corresponded to the later normal scale of Johann Gottlob Töpfer (1: 1682 = 1:) . Around 1900 principal pipes were provided with side beards and in the bass with roll beards. In 1925, Hans Henny Jahnn , citing Dom Bédos , spoke out in favor of another scale length for the German principal, in which Christhard Mahrenholz followed him in 1927. After the Second World War, a narrower scale was again built, but a rigid scale progression was dispensed with.

Construction and use

Principal registers are usually the most strongly voiced labial pipes of an organ. They are usually in the prospectus or close behind it in order to enable optimal sound radiation. The fact that prospect pipes usually come from the principal family can also be seen in the alternative names used in German-speaking countries, Praestant (Latin praestare - "in front ") and the French Montre (French montrer - "show"); The name Prestant is also common in French organ building, but denotes the octave 4 ′ throughout . The lowest principal register of a sub-work is usually referred to as the principal or quasi-homonymous praestant , the higher as an octave or super-octave . Principal registers are built in footnote 32 '(usually in the pedal, very seldom, with very large organs also in the manual), 16', 8 ', 4', 2 'and 1'. There are also the fifths 5 13 ′, 2 23 ′ and 1 13 ′ as well as third and other partial registers in principle construction. In addition, also known as get sound crowns designated concoctions . In the main work of an organ there is usually a complete principal choir (16 ′), 8 ′, 4 ′, ( 2 23 ′), 2 ', mixture; in the other sub-works this is not always the case, depending on the style of the organ. Principals in 32 'position are relatively rarely available ; if so, they are almost always assigned to the organ's pedal work. Since these pipes are very long and heavy, they are often made of wood when they are inside the organ. Occasionally they are also placed away from the organ. The violin principal is a tightly scaled principal in 16 'to 4' register with a string sound.

Audio file / audio sample typical sound of a 4 'Praestant register 708 kB ? / i


The principal plenum , also known as labial plenum , mixture plenum or plenum for short , is a registration that combines all principal registers (including mixtures) of a sub-work. There is a principal plenum in smaller organs only in the main work , in larger organs also in other sub-works. A typical plenary registration is e.g. B. Principal 8 ′ + octave 4 ′ + fifth 2 23 ′ + super octave 2 ′ + mixture (+ cymbal). A principal 16 'can be added to the manual. For works that do not have a principal register in the 8 'or 4' position, these positions are replaced by other labial registers - for example Gedackt 8 'and Rohrflöte 4' ( principal deputy ).

See also


  • Roland Eberlein : Organ register. Their names and their history . 3. Edition. Siebenquart, Cologne 2016, ISBN 978-3-941224-00-1 , p. 482-485 .
  • Hans Klotz : About the organ art of the Gothic, the Renaissance and the Baroque. Music, disposition, mixtures, lengths, registration, use of the pianos . 3. Edition. Bärenreiter, Kassel 1986, ISBN 3-7618-0775-9 .

Individual evidence

  1. Eberlein: Organ register. 2016, p. 482.
  2. ^ Maarten Albert Vente : The Brabant Organ. On the history of organ art in Belgium and Holland in the Gothic and Renaissance ages . HJ Paris, Amsterdam 1963, p. 13 .
  3. a b c Eberlein: Organ register. 2016, p. 483.
  4. ^ Michael Praetorius : Syntagma musicum . Volume II. De Organographia . Elias Holwein, Wolfenbüttel 1619, p. 98-101 ( [1] ).
  5. Roland Eberlein: New reconstructions of medieval organs. Accessed January 2, 2020 (PDF).
  6. Klotz: About the organ art of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. 1986, p. 16.
  7. Eberlein: Organ register. 2016, p. 484.