The classical Metzler organ was built in 1993. It was sponsored by Agfa-Gevaert Co.Ltd. and by Bayer Antwerpen Co.Ltd. It took some time to come to a decision whether or not to install a second big organ at Antwerp Cathedral. The Cathedral, after all, already has the magnificent Schyven organ with its 90 ranks. The decision to add a second organ reflects some of the important changes which have taken place in recent years with regard to divine worship, and also with regard to the music concerts which are held in the Cathedral. Today's liturgy calls for close contact between the altar, choir and organ. This was hardly the case with the Schyven organ, being remotely located in the organ loft at the west end of the Cathedral. In recent times, we have seen a change in the interpretation and registration, of older organ music in particular. In the light of this new trend it became increasingly clear that the romantic Schyven organ is to be seen as an instrument ideally suited for the performance of 19th and 20th century symphonic music.The instrument was not really designed with the older kind of classical or baroque music in mind. This issue became quite important as the number of organ recitals began to grow. Many spoke of the need for a second organ, of classical design, to meet the requirements of organists wishing to play the older kind of baroque music.
The basic specification
It is not really possible to cover a musical repertoire of more than six centuries, even with two instruments. Hence the master specification for the second organ became a matter careful evaluation. One major consideration was that the instrument should be eminently suited for playing the music of J.S. Bach. In the final analysis the master specification culminated in a combination of French and German styles. Quite a few historical instruments of this type exist, all of which have more than proved their worth. The organ builder was appointed on the merits of his general experience as well as his ability to meet the high standards demanded in terms of both technical and artistic prowess. A thorough evaluation of a number of leading international candidates lead to the selection of the Swiss organ builder, Metzler Orgelbau of Dietikon.
It was decided that the organ should be placed in the southern choir gallery. The is the very same location where the big Cathedral organ was once installed at the end of the late 1700's. The resultant acoustics are excellent. Both the position and height at which the organ is placed allows the sound to flow freely throughout the Cathedral.
Construction of the Metzler organ
The new organ is housed in two large chests, with beams and panelling made of solid oak The electric blower and wind chest are located in a separate housing, placed behind the organ. The organ has three manuals and pedal. The console is built into the main chest. The white keys have been in-laid with bone. Both the black keys and the stop knobs, delicately wrought, are made of ebony. The organ has
, with a total of 3.322 pipes. The instrument has manual tracker action throughout. The stop action is entirely mechanical.
The structure of the organ front reflects the way in which the organ is built up inside. (This is not the case with the romantic Schyven organ). All pipes mounted on the façade of the Metzler organ form part of the family of diapasons.
These pipes have been manufactured using an alloy with a high tin content. This lends them great clarity of sound and it also accounts for their fine appearance. The inner pipes of the Great organ ("Hauptwerk") and those of the pedal are placed behind the lower ranks of front pipes. A small number of these pipes share common sound boards, owing to certain limitations in space. The Great organ and the pedal thus share some of their largest pipes.
The Great organ ("Hauptwerk") contains the largest and most powerful ranks. It does not contain many solo stops, and often serves to accompany melodies played on the "Oberwerk" and "Rückpositiv". While the ranks of the "Oberwerk" are less overpowering in terms of volume of sound, this division does contain a number of very fine solo stops. The "Oberwerk" is the highest part of the organ (approx.18 meters above floor level). With its ranks placed so high up, the organist is able to create some very appealing 'echo' effects which contrast well with the sound of the lower divisions.The choir organ ("Rückpositiv") is housed in its own separate chest, located behind the organist. It is worked into the balcony structure. The choir organ contains a number of very fine solo stops, which often feature in German baroque music. The volume of sound is not overpowering in itself but "quality rather than quantity" is perhaps the expression which fits the choir organ best. The slender, and at times penetrating sound of its solo stops is both distinctive and pleasing.
The reed stops in the Metzler organ are an item of particular interest. The choice of reeds is always a matter of careful evaluation when specifying an organ which combines French and German styles. French reeds are more powerful and brilliant in sound, compared to their German counterparts. A drawback of French reeds however is their tendency to lose power in the higher tones. German reeds by comparison have a somewhat plainer, more mellow sound. The volume of sound however remains fairly constant throughout the entire range of pipes. German reeds are well suited for playing polyphonic music. It was agreed from the start that the specification of the Metzler organ should contain reed stops of both French and German design.
Reeds stops on the Great organ and Choir organ have traditionally played an important role in the registration of French baroque music. It is for this reason that the reeds of the Great organ, choir organ, and also those of the pedal, are of French design. The trumpet of the "Oberwerk" on the other hand is of German design.
Antwerp Cathedral now has two large pipe organs of outstanding quality, each of a very different design. This makes it possible to choose the most appropriate instrument to suit the occasion. The Metzler organ will used for organ recitals featuring older baroque music, composed prior to ±1850. The Schyven organ will undoubtedly be the choice of any organist wanting to play romantic and modern symphonic music, composed after the 1850s. For divine worship, the Metzler organ will be the instrument most frequently used during Holy Mass. Then again, as an exception to justify the rule, organ masses featuring romantic music will call for the use of the Schyven organ. In the case of organ recitals, the choice of instrument will depend mainly on the organist him/herself and in particular on his/her choice of repertoire. The organist, one might say, is faced with " l'embarras du choix ".