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Elbphilharmonie Organ: The Pipe Cleaners

How do you get the dust off 4,765 pipes? Watch the videos to find out how the Elbphilharmonie organ is cleaned.

Necessity is the mother of invention: While the concert halls remain closed, the Elbphilharmonie is using the compulsory coronavirus break to clean the huge organ in the Grand Hall, which measures 15 metres square and weighs some 25 tons. And that's easier said than done: the 4,765 pipes are arranged in and alongside the terraced rows of audience seating, and a large part of the instrument is even concealed behind the walls of the hall, the so-called »white skin«. A spectacle without an audience – but those interested can watch the proceedings on video, almost in real time.

  • Why does the organ need to be cleaned?

    The organ was originally going to be cleaned during the 2021 summer break. But in a change of plans, the cleaning started on 4 January 2021, and will continue during the coronavirus lockdown. A thorough cleaning was actually scheduled back in 2016, when the organ was installed. At that time there was other building work going on in the Grand Hall that caused quite a bit of dust. In order to complete all the work on time, it was decided – contrary to usual practice – to clean the organ only a few years after it was put into operation. That cleaning is now being carried out.

The pipe cleaners :Cleaning the organ in stages

Part 1: The organ is dismantled

Part 2: The Special Features of an Organ Cleaning

Orgelmania

Mad about pipes! The world of the organ in 12 steps.

»What makes the organ complicated is that it doesn’t stand alone like in a church – in that case, scaffolding could be put up around it. At the Elbphilharmonie, the organ is integrated into the seating rows, and all the big pipes, the windchests, the fans and the bellows are concealed behind them.«

Dominik Haubrichs (team leader during installation)

Part 3: Final Preparations Prior to Voicing

Part 4: Voicing the Organ

Impressions of the cleaning work
Organ pipes Organ pipes © Gilda Fernandez
Bernd Reinartz voices a reed pipe Bernd Reinartz voices a reed pipe © Gilda Fernandez
Organ pipes Organ pipes © Gilda Fernandez
Cleaning the organ Cleaning the organ © Gilda Fernandez
An organ builder inside the Elbphilharmonie organ An organ builder inside the Elbphilharmonie organ © Gilda Fernandez
Cleaning the organ Cleaning the organ © Gilda Fernandez
Organ pipes Organ pipes © Gilda Fernandez
Cleaning the organ in the Grand Hall Cleaning the organ in the Grand Hall © Gilda Fernandez
Cables in the Elbphilharmonie organ Cables in the Elbphilharmonie organ © Gilda Fernandez
Organ pipes Organ pipes © Gilda Fernandez
Elbphilharmonie organ Elbphilharmonie organ © Gilda Fernandez
An organ hole is narrowed An organ hole is narrowed © Gilda Fernandez
Bernd Reinartz on his way to the organ’s echo division in the sound reflector above the Grand Hall Bernd Reinartz on his way to the organ’s echo division in the sound reflector above the Grand Hall © Gilda Fernandez

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