Photo: C. Bassett ©

Dr.Jeannine Jordan interviews Martin Ott.

August 2010 Pro-Motion Music newsletter

Dr. Jordan also authors the PromotionMusic Blog, rich in news about music, pipe organs, and travel.

Photo: C. Bassett ©

Metal pipes are purchased from German pipe makers and are tailored to Martin Ott specifications. Wooden pipes are built at the St. Louis workshop using oak, maple, or cherry.

Martin has 24 cousins on his father’s side; every one plays a musical instrument, several at high professional level. House music was an important part of growing up. His father, Alfred Ott, played the cello, his mother the piano, his sister Barbara the piano, Martin plaid the violin and his brother Nicolaus the piano.

Martin Ott by C. Bassett ©

Distler's house organ build in 1938 by Paul Ott.
Photo source: Hugo-Distler-Archiv, Lübeck

The Orgelbewegung, Distler’s teachers, and the Zeitgeist of the early 20th century influenced Distler’s compositional output. But nothing influenced Distler’s organ music as prominently as the instruments themselves. Distler wrote his works for two main organs: a historical Stellwagen instrument in Lübeck’s St. Jakobi-Kirche and his own house organ in Stuttgart, built by Paul Ott. (Source: Celebrating Hugo Distler: 100 Year Anniversary of the Birth of a Genius. -Diapason Magazine)


Distler's house organ has a 16' Pedal stop named a TRICHTERDULZIAN (dulzian with funnel shaped resonator). This stop was reportedly invented by Paul Ott.

Paul Ott Organ, 1946, (12 Stops)

(2 of the stops made from cardboard), from the house of Wolfgang Adelung (author of organ reference book: Einführung in den Orgelbau). (Source: Ladack Instruments)

Antoine Bouchard at the Ott organ, Laval University, Quebec (12 stops)

Canadian organist and historian, Antoine Bouchard ordered four small tracker organs for Quebec from the German firm Paul Ott in 1963.

Bouchard catalogued and recorded the Complete Organ works of Pachebel in 1995. His book: "Quelques Reflexions Sur Le Jeu De L'orgue", 2003. ISBN: 2-7637-8018-0, demonstrates the value of tracker organ for baroque organ music.)

Opus 37 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, 1977, (17 stops)

Built by Paul Ott in 1977, the Russian organist Valery Maisky, who just then imigrated from Russia to Tel Aviv, gave the inauguration recital.

In 1994 it was restored by Ernst Junker, himself a student of Paul Ott.

Paul Ott

Oct 15, 03:17 AM

Paul Ott

Paul Ott (b. August 23, 1903; d. October 28, 1991 in Bovenden) was a major German organ builder of the organ reform movement (Orgelbewegung) in the 20th century. Paul Ott was one of the priamary organ builders in the revival of tracker-action organs in Germany.

In 1937 Ott received his Meisterbrief (Master designation). He soon began significant restorations of historic organs in northern Germany, including Stade/St. Wilhadi and Cappel. It was not till after the Second World War, in the 50s, that he also received contracts for larger instruments. Ott’s first triple keyboard design was the Christ Church organ at Wolfsburg (1951). Other restorations were in Lemgo, Borgentreich, Norden and Stade/St. Cosmae. The Ott workshop’s most profitable years were in the 1960s and 1970s, when numerous instruments were built for European and overseas clients, including Norway’s largest organ with some 7,000 pipes in the Konserthus in Oslo (1977/78).

Dieter Ott and Martin Ott

Paul Ott’s contribution to organ building

Paul Ott was one of the pioneers of the Orgelbewegung. He tried to incorporate or adapt its tenets in a more moderate approach, while retaining historical concepts and radical realizations of its principles. He became a leading authority within the movement as a result of the interest in positives and continuo organs by the "youth music movement (Jurgndmisikbewegung).

Ott’s tonal approach, with narrow scaling, low wind pressure, and minimal nicking needs to be understood as an effort against the extremes of the late-nineteenth century Romantic organ. Ironically, this approach would lead to another extreme, which remained hidden from the majority of fellow organbuilders and musicologists for almost two decades. Other organbuilders preferred lesser extremes, although their instruments may not have achieved the quality and character of Ott’s work. On the other hand, it is this particular style that complicates the conservation of Ott organs today. Ott’s students (and their students) have carried his influence as far away as North America.
(Source: The organ: an encyclopedia. By Douglas Earl Bush, Richard Kassel (extract) : ISBN 9780415941747)

Nathanael Ritz



Photo: Opus 54, C. Bassett ©


The Opus 54 film project was created and produced by Caleb Bassett and Ian Welch.

Opus 54 features interviews and commentary from several key figures from the history of the organ, as well as the talented musicians who make the instrument sing. (90 minutes DVD). You can order your copy at:

Photo: (BACK FROM LEFT TO RIGHT) Paul Ott, Julius Ott, Emil Koser (the technical director at Paul Ott company), Ludwig Doormann, (Godfather to Dieter Ott), Alfred Ott, Dieter Ott. (FRONT) Martin Ott.

The Grand Organ designed by Ronald Sharp for the Sydney Opera House

Circa 1930, Paul Ott build several positiv organs. He became quite known for these smaller instruments. He also build several box organs during his carrier and called them, early on, Continuo.

The naming of Continuo organ.

According to his nephew, Martin Ott, the appellation "CONTINUO"—and the first use of it—can be attributed to his uncle Paul Ott to describe an instrument between the size of a portativ and a positiv organ. Sized, amongst other design considerations to fit perfectly into the popular 1950-60 Wolkswagen Van, another "German engineering icon". Such an instrument is illustrated below. (This opus is part of the collection of Martin Ott, St. Louis, Missouri.)

CONTINUO organ, build in 1964 by Paul Ott. This 4 stop instrument, inclusive of a Cocobolo wood regal, features divided sliders for each 4 ranks. (Photo by Thorsten Ott, 2011)

1949 Pen Sketch by architect Wulf Knipping for St.Katharine Kirche, Osnabruck. Knipping designed several instrument cases for Paul Ott, this organ was build in 1961. (Paul Ott's St.Katharinen Organ 2011 photos, above and organ console below, by Arne Hatje, music director and organist at St.Katharinen)

Christopher Oertel, featured this instrument in his Selig contemporary composition in 1992.

Paul Ott's father, Julius Ott.

Martin's paternal grand parents are Julius, senior and Karoline Ott; they lived near Ulm in Leibheim; a small suburban village situated on the River Danube. Ulm is primarily known for having the church with the tallest steeple in the world, the Gothic minster (Ulmer Münster) and it is the birthplace of Albert Einstein.

During the Reformation, Ulm became Protestant (1530). Martin's grandparents observed the Lutheran tradition faithfully; they had 4 boys, and 4 girls. All there children sang in the church choirs. My grandfather encouraged his children to participate as lay musician. As young adults several joined the “Jugendmusikbewegung“.

Julius junior was born in 1901 and as the “first born son” received a formal university education in Architecture and Music, he enjoyed conducting choral music at family reunions he conducted the “Ott Choir”.

Paul the second son, born in 1903, was chosen to continue is father’s dairy business to produce “Limburger Cheese”, that was not to his likings.

Checked valid HTML (June 8, 2011).