St. Matthias / St. Matthew Church, Berlin

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A short history of the organ:

Erection of an 18 stop interim organ originally from the "Reichshallen" theater (Berlin, Dönhoffplatz) on the left side balcony of St. Matthias, then still under construction

1913 - 1914
On the middle balcony a large new organ with 50 stops (+ 1 transmission) and 3,073 pipes is built by Ernst Seifert (D, Cologne)

1944 - 1945
The nazi regime demands the compulsory levy of the pipes "of all fingerboards". The resourceful pastor declares the pedal not to be a "fingerboard" so for the time being it is saved. In late 1944 the organ is heavily damaged by World War II bomb attacks and in 1945 completely destroyed by a fire

As St. Matthias is destroyed the auditorium of a nearby school, the Sophie-Scholl-Schule, is used as an interim sanctuary. There a small organ with 8 stops on 2 manuals, built by W. Sauer (D, Frankfurt/Oder) is set up. This organ probably contains some older stops (the instrument or some of its parts may have stood in Berlin-Treptow before)

The interim organ is moved into the reconstructed church and gradually enlarged to 17 stops by several different organbuilders. Still the organ is too small for its sound to fill the spacious church

The small organ is sold to the neighbouring parish of St. Fidelis. At the same time Romanus Seifert & Son (D. Kevelaer) build a large new organ with 69 stops (+ 2 transmissions) and 5,097 pipes on 4 manuals and pedal for St. Matthias. The organ is arranged on the middle balcony (Solowerk), both side balconies (Hauptwerk (Great) and parts of the pedal on the left, the rest on the right) and the sanctuary (Altar division)

1972 - 1974
The organ is enlarged by Seifert to be (what was then) the largest church organ in Berlin, containing 109 ranks and 74 stops + 2 transmissions

The church is renovated and on this occasion the organ is submitted to a general overhaul as well. There are some slight changes made in the stoplist, and a new console is built by Stockmann (D, Werl)

2008 - 2009
General overhaul, addition of 2 stops and extension of the combination system by Sauer (D, Frankfurt/Oder)

Installation of the prepared Flûte harmonique 8' in the Great division by Sauer

2018 - 2019
After a smoldering fire in the church: general overhaul and repair with partly new intonation by Karl Schuke (D, Berlin)

Organ stoplist:

With its at present 5,645 pipes, 111 ranks and 76 stops + 1 extension + 7 transmissions, arranged on 4 manuals and a pedal it is one of the largest organs in Berlin. Thanks to the immense cathedral acoustics in St. Matthias it surely is the one with the most impressive sound by far.

Detailed stoplist (will open in a new window).

Sound samples:

  Léon Boëllmann (1862-1897): Toccata c-moll from the Suite Gothique, op. 25
  Eugène Gigout (1844-1925): Toccata h-moll from the 10 Pièces pour orgue
  Louis Vierne (1878-1937): Andantino d-moll from the 24 Pièces de fantaisie, op. 51
  Louis Vierne (1878-1937): Toccata b-moll from the 24 Pièces de fantaisie, op. 53
  Charles Marie Widor (1844-1937): Toccata F-Dur from the Sinfonie No. 5, op. 42.1

The sound samples are taken from a Motette CD that Ludger Mai, then organist at St. Matthias, recorded after the organ was enlarged in the 1970s. For this reason the sound quality is not too good, but still you will be able to get an idea of what the organ sounds like.

Here are some complete works that the present organist, Ulrich Gembaczka played off the cuff for the Organ Site:
  Joh. Seb. Bach (1685-1750): Schübler Choral Prelude "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" ("Wake up, the voice calls to us"), BWV 645
  Ulrich Gembaczka: Improvisation on the Choral "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten" ("If you but permit God to prevail")
  Jehan Alain (1911-1940): Litanies

  I also recorded my own sound samples at the great Matthias organ – to listen or download click here.

  Improvisation on "Judica me" - Introit of the 5th Sunday of Lent by Ansgar Wallenhorst on Soundcloud, recorded 1995.

By the way:
You will find loads of organ music for download at the Organ Site's MP3 download portal
among others the complete CD program of Motette, Psallite, ifo and organ publishing companies.


  J.S. Bach: Prelude in Es major (beginning) – start of the rededication concert 2019, played by von Uli Gembaczka (00:40, HD)
  Edward Elgar: Nimrod – excerpt from the rededication concert 2019, played by von Uli Gembaczka (03:11, full HD)
  stop and sound demonstration of almost all stops of this organ by fluteceleste, alias Stefan Weist (27:31, HD)

More videos from fluteceleste on YouTube:
  Meditation on "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"
  Improvisation on "For the Beauty of the Earth"
  Improvisation on "God of Grace" (orig.: John Hughes "Cwm Rhondda"
  Charles Gounod: Marche Pontificale
  Antonín Dvorák: Largo from the 9th symphony "From the new World"

Organ concert with Sebastian Heindl in autumn 2020 (due to Corona restrictions without listeners):
  Marcel Dupré: Prélude et Fugue in B major (06:49, full HD)
  César Franck: Prélude, Fugue et Variation b minor, op 18 (10:18, full HD)
  Ludwig van Beethoven: Allegretto from symphony no. 7 (09:30, full HD)
  Maurice Duruflé: Scherzo op 2 (06:02, full HD)
  Maurice Duruflé: Suite op 5: Toccata (08:14, full HD)

Renovation and enlargement in 2008-2009:

•   General overhaul General overhaul and cleaning of the whole organ
Replacement of the about 4,000 little leather bellows (membranes)
Repairs on some of the largest pipes that collapsed due to material fatigue and are in danger of toppling
Renewal of all wiring and conversion to optoelectronics
•   Console remodeling Conversion to optoelectronics
Integration of a USB port
Integration of some additional super- and suboctave couplers and a coupler Pedal to I (!)
Extension of sequencer arrangements and playing aids
Change of the manual layout (II is to be I, III to be II, IV to be III, I to be IV)
•   Gamba 8' As the strings have been underrepresented in relation to the size of the organ this new stop is an important addition to the sound diversity of the organ. The Gamba is located in the Hauptwerk (Great), it is also playable in the Positiv as a transmission and with sub- and octave couplers it can be also played at 16' and 4' pitch.
•   Prinzipal 8' Construction of a basic stop for the enhancement of the sound base in the Positiv

•   Flûte harmonique 8' New overblowing flute needed to display romantic works.

The installation of the renovated console in pictures (2008-10-21):

Click on one of the pictures to view the whole set

New planned expansion:

• English Tuba on own high pressure chest
• Mobile console down in the nave

The St. Matthias church and especially organist and minister of music Ulrich Gembaczka would be grateful for donations. They will be happy to issue a donation receipt for your donation.

Ulrich Gembaczka / Gemeindebüro St. Matthias
Goltzstraße 29
D - 10781 Berlin
Tel.: +49 30 / 216 30 57
email to Ulrich Gembacka


St. Matthias: Homepage of the St. Matthias parish with information on church services, special events, small groups and the organ renovation
Dröhnich plays: Some sound samples, that I played and recorded by myself on the great Matthias organ in June, 2008
Picture gallery: 8-30 megapixel photo gallery of the St. Matthias organ on the Organ Site