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Flentrop pedal key overhang

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  • Flentrop pedal key overhang

    I recently played a 1986 Flentrop tracker in Fredericksburg TX. The pedal accidentals have an overhang beneath which I frequently hung up my toes. The organist had experienced the same minor problem and didn't know why the keys were cut that way. Are all Flentrop pedal accidentals made this way? Any ideas why?

  • #2
    Re: Flentrop pedal key overhang

    This is not a general characteristic of Flentrop organs. The organ at Fredericksburg is a German Baroque style instrument. In this case they were reproducing a stylistic detail frequently found in German pedalboards of the time. The most prominent example of this can be found on the famous console that survives from the organ Bach played at Arnstadt, a dimensioned diagram of which is reproduced below.

    Notice the shape of the pedal sharp head. I doubt that this shape served any practical function. Someone back in the seventeenth century probably decided that it looked nice and the idea caught on. I personally don't have much experience playing on pedalboards of this type, but I have heard other organists complain about them for exactly the reason cited above. In fact, the Arnstadt console seems like it would exacerbate the problem because the pedalboard is pulled out much further in relation to the manuals than is common today. The Arnstadt organ was brand new when Bach assumed his duties there as organist in 1703, so the style was still current as he began his career as Germany's most well known organ virtuoso.

    Maybe the shoes worn back then had thicker toes that didn't get caught under the darn things. Or perhaps they just take some getting used to. I suppose it's even possible that they could have some sort of disciplinary effect on pedaling technique, in much the same way that the short keys on old organs enforce proper curvature of the fingers. Then again, organists of the period may have complained about them too. We will probably never know.