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In front the Rückpositiv as a parapet (1984) in the Archabbey of Beuron

The Rückpositiv (or Positiv ) is a work of an organ . It is usually located in the organist's back in its own case and is mounted in the gallery parapet.


Double back positive (1609) in the Nikolaikirche in Flensburg

The first multi-manual organs were built in the 14th century and the first Rückpositive in the 15th century. A Rückpositiv was first mentioned in Dutch organ building in 1447 in Zwolle, and in 1458 in Delft with a manual coupler. Since this organ was compared with the one in Utrecht, the cathedral organ in Utrecht from 1434 will also have had a Rückpositiv. The main plant was traditionally designed as a block plant with the principal plant. In contrast, the Rückpositiv in Dutch organ building initially had double drawers or often three registers ( Prinzipal , Mixtur, Scharff), later also slider drawers with other registers such as flutes. In 1505 Daniel van der Distelen placed pedal whistles in the “Stuhlpositiv” and in the breastworks in Antwerp. While the main work in the late Gothic is called “the great work”, “the principal work” or “le grant ouvraige”, the back positive is called “positive”, “chair” or “la chaire”.

In France, a reverse positive keyboard was delivered to St-Étienne in Troyes in 1433. Other positive returns are attested in the 15th century for Dijon (1447), Koblenz (1467) and Zurich (1479). In 1459 Leonhard Mertz was commissioned to build an instrument in Barcelona, ​​which had two separately playable works in front of and behind the main work ("a parte anteriori" and "posteriori magni operis"), obviously a back and a back work. In the late Gothic three-manual organs in Nuremberg / Frauenkirche , Langensalza (1500) and in Freiberg Cathedral (1506), the registers were divided into Hauptwerk / Oberwerk, Rückpositiv and Brustwerk.

The construction of the Rückpositiv reached its climax in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, especially in organ building in North Germany and the Netherlands. In contrast to his brother Andreas Silbermann in Alsace, Gottfried Silbermann in Saxony did not build organs with a Rückpositiv. In general, construction declined sharply from the second half of the 18th century and was no longer carried out in the 19th century. Only through the organ movement and the return to classic organ building did the Rückpositiv experience a revival through the rediscovery of the working principle .

Technology and exterior design

In the case of the organ of the Marienkirche (Marienhafe) the main work and the Rückpositiv correspond externally

A Rückpositiv requires at least a two-manual system in order to be able to operate both manuals separately. The action of organs with mechanical sliding drawers runs from the key to the higher-lying chambers via abstracts that are subjected to tension. This is not easily possible with the Rückpositiv, since the mechanics are guided downwards and have to react to pressure. For technical reasons, the Rückpositiv is usually assigned to the lowest manual in order to avoid crossing the mechanics. Only modern organ construction made it possible to assign the manuals differently. In the case of two-armed keys, the pivot point can be shifted to the center, which results in tensile stress instead of pressure. In classic organ construction, engravers are attached below the lowest keyboard, which convey the pressure impulse on abstracts via angles and waves that lead to the pipe valves. In the Spanish organ building, a piercing mechanism is sometimes used exclusively, in which chambers up to seven meters long are brought directly below the keyboard.

In the design of the prospectus, the Rückpositiv likes to correspond with the main work. In many cases it corresponds to the case of the main movement in a reduced form.

A special feature is the creation of a double Rückpositiv. As a rule, the registers are then distributed over the two partial housings. In rare cases, both Rückpositive form independent works to which a separate manual is assigned. An early example of a system with two Rückpositiven is the renaissance organ by Nikolaus Maß, which he created from 1604 to 1609 for the Nikolaikirche in Flensburg . In the famous Gabler organ in Weingarten (1737–1750), the parapet pedal mechanism is housed in the right positive. Examples of modern organs with double Rückpositiv can be found in the Luther Church in Hamburg-Wellingsbüttel ( Emanuel Kemper , 1938), the Great Church in Leer ( Paul Ott , 1955), the Almudena Cathedral ( Gerhard Grenzing , 1999), in the Königsberg Cathedral ( Alexander Schuke , 2008).


View of the organ in the north ; in the foreground the register Dulcian 8 ′ on wooden boots

From the beginning, the Rückpositiv, with its different plenum and its different voices such as flutes and reed stops, formed a tonal contrast to the main work. In the late Gothic it was valued for its "sweetness". Because it is placed in the parapet, it can be heard freely in the church. This results in a more immediate sound for the listener than in the other works on the organ. The sound intensity can be similar to that of the main work behind it, as in the case of the small organ of the Jakobikirche in Lübeck , where both works are equally strong. The sound character is in any case slimmer and more brilliant. This is due to the fact that the Rückpositiv has significantly smaller pipes than the Hauptwerk and the prospectus principals of the Rückpositiv are usually an octave higher than those of the Hauptwerk. In addition to the necessary basic parts, various short-bellied tongues, solo parts and aliquot registers are often available. This makes it well suited for playing cantus firmus . Unlike the upper work, the Rückpositiv already contained a fully developed principal choir in the late Renaissance. The north German baroque organ usually has a fully developed flute choir in the Rückpositiv and knows no coupling between the Rückpositiv and the other parts. In southern Germany and Austria, where the ancillary works and also the parapet work are referred to as "positive", the Rückpositiv are significantly weaker.


  • Wolfgang Adelung: Introduction to organ building. 2nd Edition. Breitkopf & Härtel, Wiesbaden 1992, ISBN 978-3-7651-0279-0 .
  • Hans Klotz : The book of the organ . 9th edition. Bärenreiter, Kassel 1979, ISBN 3-7618-0080-0 .
  • 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 .
  • 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.
  • Harald Vogel : Small organ studies. Shown on the model of the Führer organ in the old reformed church in Bunde (= contributions to organ culture in Northern Europe. Vol. 2). 2nd Edition. Noetzel, Wilhelmshaven 2008, ISBN 978-3-7959-0899-7 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Vente: The Brabant Organ. 1963, p. 12.
  2. Klotz: About the organ art of the Gothic. 1986, pp. 83-85.
  3. ^ Vente: The Brabant Organ. 1963, p. 12.
  4. Klotz: About the organ art of the Gothic. 1986, p. 29.
  5. ^ Franz Bösken : Sources and research on the organ history of the Middle Rhine. Vol. 1: Mainz and suburbs - Rheinhessen - Worms and suburbs (=  contributions to Middle Rhine music history 6 ). Schott, Mainz 1967, ISBN 978-3-7957-1306-5 , p. 14 .
  6. Klotz: About the organ art of the Gothic. 1986, pp. 38, 81.
  7. Klotz: The book of the organ. 1979, p. 142.
  8. Vogel: Brief organ studies. 2008, p. 16.
  9. ^ Greifenstein Institute for Musical Instruments: History of Spanish Organ Construction , accessed on March 11, 2019.
  10. Klotz: About the organ art of the Gothic. 1986, p. 81, cf. Pp. 28, 60.
  11. ^ Adelung: Introduction to organ building. 1992, p. 183.