Updates to the Pipe Organ in China Project Website for December 2019

27 December 2019

“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1)

  1. We thought about this Old Testament verse this month when we received an email from a visitor to the Website, informing us that one of the two ‘mystery’ organs in Beijing (see What’s New, April 2019) was in fact built by the Oberlinger firm. This is the organ at the Union (or, Yanjing) seminary at Qinghe, Haidan, on the far northwest side of the city.

This raises another question in connection with another mystery organ: PEK2004b, the Oberlinger organ reported to us as installed at the ‘Nestorian Church’ in Beijing. As the Census webpage states, we have long considered this (un-located) site as likely to be a spurious report of a non-existent organ in a fictitious church.

An appealing hypothesis now is that the word, union, and second syllable of Nest-orian would sound almost identical to a native Chinese speaker, especially one with a weak command of English. And so perhaps this is how the confusion arose: through a garbled transmission of the name of the location; the putative ‘Nestorian’ organ may turn out to be the one at the Union Seminary.

An inquiry was sent to the Oberlinger firm at the start of December, but at post time no reply had been received. Until this issue is resolved, we have not updated the page for PEK2004b.

March 2022 update: the mystery seems to have finally been solved, and the Census entry for PEK2004b has been updated to reflect the true location of the instrument. See the page for explanation.

  1. In another interesting development, Prof. Urrows received an email from a scholar in Germany in late September relating to Father Professor Theodor Josef Rühl SVD (1903-59).

In 2015 Prof. Urrows gave a paper at a conference in Hong Kong on Father Rühl, which however has not been published in full. Parts of it are, in a different form, in Keys to the Kingdom (see pp. 224-228). It occurs to us that visitors to this site might be able to help with gathering more information about this elusive figure. Fr. Rühl is perhaps best known for his discovery of the 12 Sonatas for violin and basso continuo of Fr. Teodorico Pedrini (1671-1746) in the Beitang Library in Beijing in 1935.

In particular we would like to track down copies of any of Rühl’s musical compositions. These include the Lieder Communion, Op. 24 (originally published by Schwann in Düsseldorf), which title suggests that there were at least 23 opuses preceding it. Another work that would be most interesting to see, is his book (in Chinese) on organ playing and accompaniment (see the illustration below), published in Beijing in 1939. 

Please use the Contact Us page to send information, which is always gladly received and acknowledged.

     3. There is a small update to an earlier post on Alois Strassl.

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A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

2020 to all our friends! 新年快乐!