Freiburg, with its aerial suspension-bridges, is also on a peninsula, formed by the Sarine; with its old walls, old watch-towers, its piled-up old houses, and streets that go upstairs, and its delicious cherries, which you can eat while you sit in the square by the famous linden-tree, and wait for the time when the organ will be played in the cathedral. For all the world stops at Freiburg to hear and enjoy the great organ,—all except the self-satisfied English clergyman, who says he does n’t care much for it, and would rather go about town and see the old walls; and the young and boorish French couple, whose refined amusement in the railway-carriage consisted in the young man’s catching his wife’s foot in the window-strap, and hauling it up to the level of the window, and who cross themselves and go out after the first tune; and the two bread-and-butter English young ladies, one of whom asks the other in the midst of the performance, if she has thought yet to count the pipes,—a thoughtful verification of Murray, which is very commendable in a young woman traveling for the improvement of her little mind.
One has heard so much of this organ, that he expects impossibilities, and is at first almost disappointed, although it is not long in discovering its vast compass, and its wonderful imitations, now of a full orchestra, and again of a single instrument. One has not to wait long before he is mastered by its spell. The vox humana stop did not strike me as so perfect as that of the organ in the Rev. Mr. Hale’s church in Boston, though the imitation of choir-voices responding to the organ was very effective. But it is not in tricks of imitation that this organ is so wonderful: it is its power of revealing, by all its compass, the inmost part of any musical composition.
The last piece we heard was something like this: the sound of a bell, tolling at regular intervals, like the throbbing of a life begun; about it an accompaniment of hopes, inducements, fears, the flute, the violin, the violoncello, promising, urging, entreating, inspiring; the life beset with trials, lured with pleasures, hesitating, doubting, questioning; its purpose at length grows more certain and fixed, the bell tolling becomes a prolonged undertone, the flow of a definite life; the music goes on, twining round it, now one sweet instrument and now many, in strife or accord, all the influences of earth and heaven and the base underworld meeting and warring over the aspiring soul; the struggle becomes more earnest, the undertone is louder and clearer; the accompaniment indicates striving, contesting passion, an agony of endeavor and resistance, until at length the steep and rocky way is passed, the world and self are conquered, and, in a burst of triumph from a full orchestra, the soul attains the serene summit. But the rest is only for a moment.