The Company's History
Rudolf von Beckerath was
born in Munich on February 19th, 1907. He came from an artistic
family; his father was a painter, his mother a pianist. In the year
of his birth his parents moved to Hamburg, where Rudolf von Beckerath
grew up, went to school and initially decided to make a career as
a mechanical engineer.
Impressed by the quality of organ building in northern Germany,
above all by the organs of Arp Schnitger, Beckerath gave up his
apprenticeship and decided to become an organ builder. As preparatory
training he went to the art school in Hamburg where he learnt cabinet
making, and studied at home the theoretical fundamentals of organ
building. At this time he built a small house-organ in the cellar
of his parents home, which was heard at concerts and in a
radio transmission from the Beckerath house.
For his final instruction and training in organ building Rudolf
von Beckerath moved to France on the recommendation of Hans Henny
Jahnn and in January 1929 entered the workshop of the organ builder
Victor Gonzalez in Chatillon sous Bagneux, near Paris, where they
were still making tracker organs. He wrote: "They still knew
how to make a mechanical action. Although the signs were already
perceptible that this method of construction would be discontinued,
the handicraft skills were still there. The old mechanical action,
not only works without delay, but what is more, it is touch-sensitive,
allowing the organist to influence the initial sound as the air
pressure builds up in the pipe".
After nearly 2 1/2 years of training, Rudolf von Beckerath moved
to Denmark to work as a pipe voicer at Frobenius & Co. in Lingby
near Copenhagen. During this time he laboured independently at the
construction of the large organ in the Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen.
In 1931 the French company called him back to Paris. He became a
Director, and the company took over a patent on him. He wrote: "My
tasks also included the management of the company. I contributed
much to the setting up and expansion of this relatively young firm.
I established the in-house construction of flue stops and reed stops,
which had previously been imported from outside. I set up a locksmiths
shop and introduced improved working methods. At the same time I
undertook independent work in design and construction. When in 1935
the political situation became more and more clear, there was some
boycotting of German companies in France, and of French companies
with German associations. We began to suffer losses, so, after a
friendly, mutual agreement I decided to terminate my contract."
In 1936 Rudolf von Beckerath returned to Germany where at first
he worked as a freelance organ-building consultant in Hamburg. The
work included planning, construction and supervision of building
works. From November 1938 he simultaneously carried out the duties
of an expert on both organs and bells in the government Ministry
for Church Affairs. Thereafter he moved to Berlin, was called up
into the Wehrmacht in 1941, and was taken prisoner by the Americans
in 1945. In May 1946 he was released and returned to his native
town of Munich, near to which his family still lived.
Whilst he was a consultant in Hamburg, the Sauer company built the
organ in Hamburg-Othmarschen (Christuskirche) to his specification
and he himself voiced it.
After his release from the Prisoner-of-War camp he resumed his work
as an organ expert and worked on the planning and advisory stages
for the construction of the organ in the court chapel of the Munich
Residence. Meanwhile the Protestant Church in Hannover also retained
him to catalogue, measure and describe all the organs in its area.
At the same time he made efforts to set up on his own as an organ
builder. Because there was no examination for the Masters
certificate in France, he had to make up for it in Hamburg where
he had returned in order to settle down with his own workshop. This
examination was necessary in Germany since the Nazis had abolished
the freedom of trade. In 1949 he was able finally to set up his
His first large organ, which he built for the Musikhalle Hamburg
with 59 stops, 4 manuals, slider chests and mechanical key action,
was a remarkable and sensational construction.
From the very beginning he strove to manufacture as much as possible
in his own workshops. As early as 1949 his firm was already building
reed stops based on his experiences in France.
As the workforce gradually expanded from the 6 initially employed,
Rudolf von Beckerath established a pipe workshop in 1956 and after
that he built all his flue pipes without outside assistance.
A geographical expansion of his customer base took place from 1957
onwards, starting with the construction of a 4 manual, purely mechanical
organ for export to Cleveland, USA, where it was regarded as an
absolute novelty. The largest Beckerath instrument to that date
was built in 1960 in Montreal, Canada. This also had mechanical
action, with 78 stops spread over 5 manuals.
Today there are Beckerath organs in many countries. Apart from the
USA (Hawaii and others) they are also to be found in Australia (Sydney),
in Canada (Montreal), in Croatia (Dubrovnik), in South Africa (Kapstadt),
in Japan (Kyoto, Tokyo and others), in Poland (Nova Huta), in India
(Bombay) and in Russia (Krasnodar, Kondopoga, Samara).
Another important and interesting task has been the restoration
of classic organs. Over the years 26 historic instruments have been
restored, among them the famous Arp Schnitger organs in Steinkirchen,
Cappel and Mariana, Brazil.
After the death of Herr von Beckerath in 1976 a limited company
was formed, under which control passed partly to his wife, Veronika
von Beckerath, and partly to three of his most trusted employees.
All have contributed greatly to the continuance of the Rudolf von
Beckerath tradition. Through the use of the best timber and other
materials; through the construction of sensitive actions, and not
least through the expertise of their pipe-voicing; they continue
to build organs of high quality.
Over the years techniques have been perfected which have brought
about a revolution in modern organ building. The 30 employees strive
constantly to balance the demands of modern construction with those
of the historic tradition.
When in 1987 the managing director Herr Helmut Kleemann retired,
to be followed in 1990 by Frau Herta Deichmann, the works manager,
Mr. Timm Sckopp, a former pupil of Rudolf von Beckerath, took over
as managing director. In 1992 Frau Christel Glasemann was promoted
to Commercial Manager from within the company.
In 1995 Frau Veronika von Beckerath decided to sell the company
Mr. Timm Sckopp, who celebrated his 6Oth birthday in March 1995,
also wanted to pass the control of the firm into younger hands and
appointed the long-standing principal organ builder, Rolf Miehl,
to take over responsibility for technical activities within the
Since the beginning of 1996, the commercial management is in the
hands of Mr. Holger Redlich who now manages the company jointly
with Mr. Rolf Miehl.
In October 2001, with the assistance
of Dr. Whitney Reader as an investor and enthusiastic organ admirer,
the management, Mr. Miehl and Mr. Redlich, took over the company.