04 January 2019
The still-beating heart of Danish organ-building
By Lauren Throup
Danish company Frobenius & Sons has been involved in the production of fine church organs, ranging in size from 3 stops to 88 stops, for over 100 years. As well as installations in their native Denmark, Frobenius' mechanical action organs can be found in twelve other countries including Japan, Holland, Germany and four installations in the United States. In March, our Cambridge Churches, College Chapels and Organs tour will include a unique opportunity to hear a recital on one the finest examples of the company’s work in the United Kingdom.
Sitting by the stained-glass windows designed by British glass-artist John Piper in Robinson College, Cambridge, ACE tour director John Bryden will treat us to a performance on the college’s Frobenius Company organ. This awe-inspiring instrument has brought the unique and exquisite sounds of the Danish organ-makers’ work to college congregations for nearly 80 years, with the individually crafted mechanical workings of each pipe giving the player more direct control of the sound produced, greatly enhancing the performance.
The maker of this particular organ, Theodor Frobenius was born in the small town of Weikersheim in Bavaria, Germany in 1885. In his youth, Theodor undertook a four-year apprenticeship, after which he left Weikhersheim in order to travel and to continue learning his trade by training in other workshops across mainland Europe. In 1909, Theodor Frobenius took over the management of a new workshop for a Copenhagen piano manufacturer, Chr. Winther, who hoped to expand his business.
Within a few years, the name Frobenius became associated with high quality and, in 1914, Theodor was taken up as a partner in the firm, now renamed Chr. Winther & Th. Frobenius Church Organ Factory. In 1917, the administrative cooperation between organ production branch and the rest of the piano company was terminated and Theodor Frobenius became the sole owner of ‘Frobenius Orgelbyggeri’, his own independent firm. In 1926 the company was moved to Kongens Lyngby in Copenhagen where it resided for the next 92 years and made more than 900 new organs.
In 2018, the company moved their production headquarters 9 miles north, to the industrial area of of Birkerød. Here, in a new state-of-the-art workshop, the production and maintenance of their internationally renowned organs continues.
Even in the modern world of industrial scale production, every Frobenius organ remains a hand-crafted work of art. Virtually every component is manufactured in the firm's Copenhagen workshop, including all the pipes - whether metal or wood, flue or reed. Additionally, to ensure that the tonal character and dynamic are exactly matched to the final acoustic environment every rank is uniquely scaled, and every pipe is voiced individually on site. As Erik Frobenius, the son of company founder Theodor Frobenius and current owner of the firm, has said, "voicing, or sound, is the painting for which all other aspects of the organ are the frame."
Another musical highlight of our Cambridge Churches, College Chapels, and Organs tour in March is a recital at Sidney Sussex College on an organ at crafted by Flentrop, another Copenhagen based organ-building company. Additionally, we shall visit Emmanuel College Chapel to hear a fine, versatile 3-manual instrument created by Irish organ maker Kenneth Jones, situated within an enchanting building designed by Sir Christopher Wren.
Places for the Cambridge tour in March are still available. Click below to find out more or to book your place today.