Vital Organs

  • April 28, 2016
  • PCG

What better way to start a serious issue than with a joke, so we ask the readers: which organ contains the most spirit? Well, the answer is: the church organ. Bad jokes aside, Pécs has a whole lot to do with these monsters of instruments.

The historical traditions of organ building reach back to the 19th century, when József Angster (1834-1918) founded his manufacture in Pécs. Until the second world war, the company built 1300 of the magnificent instruments for churches, concert halls and thousands of smaller versions for homes and schools. But as religion and its instruments were ruled a thing of the past in the communist era, the successful workshop was shut down and torn apart. Pécs however did not forget one of its first central industrial figures, so Angster’s name is held by a street in the Mecsek and by the city’s biggest technical training school.

After democracy returned, the tradition was picked up by a descendant of one of Angster’s original crew, Attila Budavári. In the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather he studied the craft in European workshops and started a new company in Pécs with business partner Antal Végh. The restart in the form of Organ Manufacturing Company of Pécs (Pécsi Orgonaépítő Manufaktúra) was also authorized by the grandson of József Angster. The company is a success ever since, working with more than 40 professionals.

More than a hundred new or renovated organs show that the craft is back in business, the builders of Pécs are offered projects everywhere from Austria to the US. The jobs are usually colossal: bringing back such a complex structure to life may require 10-12 years of work and the final bill can reach six digits in euros.

There is only one minor dent in the story: the famous Pécs concert venue, Kodály Centre opened in 2010 but it is still waiting for its organ. The strained construction budget could not include the necessary 200 million forints, so a local businessman, Ferenc Scheffer stepped in. He offered the money in his deceased son’s memory – but a debate with the city kept the donation away so far.

Apart from this episode Pécs, the organs and the factory are in a vital connection. No wonder that the community felt the need to commemorate this heritage – hence the slightly strange organ statue in Nyugati Várfalsétány. The metal structure was built similarly to real organ pipes, while its sounds come from loudspeakers. Visitors sitting on benches around the statue can hear recordings of organ pieces and conversations remembering the history of Angster and the companies.

To close up, we just can not let you off without another possible organ-related joke. So you may already heard that Pécs is often called the Hungarian Liverpool because of the so many young and successful music bands that start here. But on the basis of the hundreds of years of organ-building tradition, we think that Pécs could also be called the Hungarian Angsterdam…

by László Nógrádi

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