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Images from The Pressler Gallery

Swiss House Organ, 1786

NNM 4897. House organ by Josef Looßer, Lüppfertsweil, 1786

NMM 4897. House organ by Josef Looßer, Lüppfertsweil, Gemeind Cappel, St. Gall (Switzerland), 1786. Engraved on center pipe: 1786 / isl. Single manual, tracker action, C-c3 (49 keys). Six stops; 294 pipes. Case exterior painted in traditional style of the Toggenburger valley. Gilded carvings in front of pipes and at top of marbled cornices. Ex coll.: Lady Berkeley, Assisi, Italy. Purchase funds gift of Margaret Ann and Hubert H. Everist, Sioux City, Iowa, 1990.

Stop list:
Copel 8' (wood)
Principal 4' (wood and metal)
Floten 4' (wood)
Octav 2' (wood and metal)
Quint 1/3' (wood and metal)
Subteroctav 1 (wood and metal)

Josef Looßer's handwritten signature

Joseph Looßer's signature, handwritten in ink, on paper glued to the back of the pallet box:
Durch Joseph Looßer Orgeln Macher Von Lüppertsweil in der gemeind Cappel in Toggenburg / 1786:

Maker's initials and date engraved on central pipe

One of the most colorful instruments on exhibit at the National Music Museum is this magnificently painted house organ, built in 1786 by Josef Looßer in a workshop attached to his house just outside Ebnat-Kappel, a village located on the Thur River in the Toggenburger Valley of northeastern Switzerland.

The case is painted in the traditional style (a free rococo with stylised flowers) of the Toggenburger region, complemented by gilded carvings in front of the pipes and at the top of the marbled cornices.

Such organs were built to be used in homes to accompany singing of canticles and sacred songs, at a time when music was banned in many Swiss churches. The Museum's example is the only 6-stop organ by Looßer known to survive. A smaller, 5-stop organ built by Looßer in 1807 survives at the Heimatmuseum in Ebnat-Kappel. The house and workshop in which the organs were built still stands alongside the highway on the south edge of the small town.

The Museum's house organ, which was restored by Edward Bennett in England, has not been electrified. The wind pressure is supplied by a bellows, which is filled when the organist pushes down on the pedal.

The Museum long wanted to acquire a Swiss organ, but had little hope of doing so because they are considered national treasures, making their export difficult. Early in 1990, however, this one was offered. Having been kept for many years in Assisi, Italy, in the music room of Lady Berkeley, an English woman, it was already out of Switzerland.

The organ was purchased with funds generously given by Margaret Ann and Hubert H. Everist of Sioux City, Iowa, and the instrument was first heard, on American soil, when the Museum's Pressler Gallery was opened on May 6, 1990.

André P. Larson, "Swiss House Organ by Josef Looßer, Ebnat-Kappel, 1786," The South Dakota Musician, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Spring 1997), cover and page 22.

Bellows of Looßer's 1786 house organ

Traditional case painting
Names of the stops are painted on the organ's case

Close-up views of the traditional case painting and gilded carvings, done in the style of the Toggenburger region of Switzerland. The names of the stops are also painted on the case.

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A postcard of this organ is available from the Gift Shop

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Most recent update:   March 3, 2014

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