Craftsmanship in Hardheim
At the beginning of the 2nd half of the 19th century, the first slider chest organs were being built in Hardheim. During the age of the technical revolution, mechanical valve chests were produced. Later, pneumatic and electric closing actions were introduced. In the 20th century, 3 organ builders started production facilities in Hardheim.
In 1959 master organ builder Hans-Theodor Vleugels (born in Aachen 1931) wanted to start his own business. He discovered an organ manufacturer in Hardheim who did not have anyone to take over and run the family business. He combined three smaller shops into one company, with great success. Initially, the majority of Vleugels Organs were produced for the Southern German and Swedish markets.
In addition to the production of instruments in accordance with classical principals, organ building in Hardheim stepped into new territories and established new accents in the field of organ building. Milestones include organs with electric action, the organ from Cologne-Gremberg, which set on a concrete mushroom shaped pedestal; a new smaller console (i.e. in Sinsheim III/36); and stops set on the side of the console which can be moved around (i.e. in Stuttgart-Möhringen III/37). Another highlight was the restoration of a decaying, but priceless baroque organ case (Walldürn, Basilika III/40). The voicing of the organ in Stuttgart-Giebel III/35 sounds so beautiful that a reed pipe manufacturer produces a record advertising its wonderful sound. The positioning of a free-hanging organ in a steel frame, the use of Plexiglas for a swell box (expansion chamber), roller boards, and a transparent console were only a few of the features that often caused surprised and sometimes shocked reactions.
In the 1970's the company returned to the use of solid local woods and thus greatly reduced the use of tropical woods and laminates. The use of electric actions was also reduced. In Assamstadt (III/28), the artistic side of our company was further developed with creative pipe placement and paintings.
The 1980's followed with a specialization in the restoration sector. Ever since the end of the 1970's, restoring valve chest organs and pneumatic actions had become fashionable again. In the fight against timber worm and other natural enemies more environmental friendly and material safe techniques, such as gassing, were being used.
Also in the 1980's, we concentrated in voicing in the Southern German baroque style. This characteristic of the instruments was enhanced by restoring old baroque organ pipes. However, organs with a strong romantic sound where also inherited. Thus the symphonic organ was blessed with the Hardheim-signature sound of the German romantic period.
In 1988 our company moved to a new large, open and modern shop and prepared to change leadership. Positive developments under master organ builder Hans-Georg Vleugels (born in Stuttgart 1958) shaped organ building in Hardheim in the 1990s:
- Restoration of the Europe's most important concert hall organs (Görlitz city hall, IV/71; Heidelberg city hall, IV/56; Prague Smetana Hall, III/70).
- New construction of large modern organs modeled after the style of the 19th century. (Aschaffenburg Herz-Jesu Kirche, IV/63; Munich Bürgersaalkirche, III/50; Jülich Probsteikirche, III,45).
- New construction of southern German baroque style organs with historical cases (Würzburg chapel, II/31; Schäftlarn Benediktinerabtei, II/31).
- Ground breaking contemporary organ case design through the use of special materials (i.e. glass case for the Christopherus-Kapelle of the Franz-Josef-Strauss airport in Munich) and colour (Kitzingen St. Johannes III/54, Runding St. Andreas II/36, Bad Tölz Franziskanerkloster II/35, Schifferstadt St. Jakobus III/45, Krefeld Alte Kirche III/42, Geigant St. Bartholomäus II/29).
- The restoration of many of the oldest organs in Germany: (Gaibach, Franken, Hl. Kreuzkapelle, Schleich/1699; Gaibach Pfarrkirche, Seuffert/1748; Mainz Budenheim, Kohlhaas/1747; Laumersheim, Pfalz, Hoffmann/1717).
We currently work in a contemporary workshop and use an optimized work-process consisting of modern machines and CAD. We have brought top specialists from all over Germany to work in Hardheim and we are constantly training new apprentices to the highest standards.
Highly qualified and experienced employees in our design and construction department produce breathtaking designs with the latest 3D-software.
Three voicers with the special talent of producing magnificent sound have mastered the art of "Vleugels-voicing". Each voicer has also gained proficiency in their own special areas. Their sound matches the highest musical and artistic standards.
Our highly sensitive and constantly refined actions are intoned by specialists as well. We developed a method to adjust the required key pressure - in order to be personally suited for the individual playing style of the organist. Nearly all action is produced without the disturbing felt pieces; instead, we rely on wood. Our special construction technique allows for quick disassembly in order to save expenses later on.