The history of Johann Caspar Kerll’s musical impact is far from being a unique example of just how a composer‘s importance can change during the course of time – whether a composer belongs to the “greats” or not – but Kerll’s history is a particularly striking example.
First rediscovered by musicologists in the twentieth century, the composer is known first and foremost to interested listeners as one of the more important Baroque organ composers before Bach.
However, into the late eighteenth century, Kerll was considered one of the leading musicians in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and “one of the most skilful and able organists that the world ever produced” (as the English music historian John Hawkins put it in 1776). And indeed, thanks ultimately to his extensive circle of students, Kerll’s pieces were known throughout Europe and were still appearing in print in Italy, England and the Netherlands decades after his death; these works also had a formative influence on the generations of organists that followed.
The Wöckherl organ at Vienna’s Franciscan Church is just perfect in terms of style for the performance of Johann Caspar Kerll‘s organ works and it was obvious that the “revival” of this precious instrument should go hand-in-hand with the “revival” of one of the most important creative artists of the day. The new organ completed by Viennese organ maker Johann Wöckherl (c. 1594-1660) in 1642 is now the oldest in Vienna – Kerll arrived at the imperial court just a short time later. Meticulous research with respect to the organ proved that the instrument’s original form could be well-documented. In 2009 the decision was made that the planned restoration should aim to achieve the organ‘s original condition anno 1642. The restored instrument enjoyed its festive “public inauguration” in March 2011 and liturgical events at the Franciscan Church – and Vienna‘s music scene in general – can once again be treated to both the instrument’s historical sound and the contemporary ambient of the city’s oldest organ.