Author Topic: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family  (Read 4946 times)

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Ian van Deurne

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The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« on: March 02, 2017, 07:28:13 AM »
I hadn't intended to visit these organ builders again, but in my last offering about Arp Schnitger, I managed to get Anthoni Hinsz's natal and fatal dates slightly wrong. This is because I was writing from memory which has been known to go slightly askew at times, so I feel I need to put the record straight while I can.

Albertus Anthoni Hinsz was born in Hamburg in 1704 and it appears that he served an apprenticeship with the local firm of organ builders Richborn. Later, he went to live in the Netherlands, and settled down in the city of Groningen. This must have been around 1721.
       It is therefore unclear when he first met Frans Caspar Schnitger, although this conjectural date suggests that it was at the time when Schnitger was working on, or had just completed the large organ for the Michaeliskerk at Zwolle. So when he moved to Groningen we don't know if he was a fully qualified organ builder by then or was still an apprentice. However, by the time of Schnitger's early death in 1729,  Hinsz was undoubtedly the foreman of his workshop.
       Schnitger, when he first moved to the Netherlands adopted an itinerant lifestyle, moving from town to town where his work took him. This was common at this point in time. It wasn't until he married and had a son, Frans Caspar Schnitger Jr who was born in 1724, did he too set up a permanent home, first at Alkmaar and then in Groningen.
       Around 1730,  Hinsz married Schnitger's widow and thus her six year old son because his stepson and was subsequently trained as an organ builder by him. During the next few years the work poured in, the reason for this was that Hinsz had adopted the now highly sought after Schnitger style of building and voicing organs. One of his most important contracts came in 1741,  when he was asked to build a virtually new instrument for the St Nicolaaskerk in Kampen  (also known as the " Bovenkerk " or Upper Church ).  The organ is still there and in fine voice, thanks to the recent renovation by the firm of Gebr.Reil  (Reil Brothers ) of Heerde.

Some specific details about this interesting organ deserve mentioning.
Hinsz, like Schnitger, knew the value of retaining old pipework and the earliest pipes still in use are those in the Bovenwerk  (Manual III ) Woudfluit 4 and 2 which date from an earlier organ built here by Jan Morlet in 1629.
       During the second half of the 17th century, repairs to the west end tower became necessary due to storm damage, but as a new larger organ was being planned at the time it was decided to have it built in the north transept instead of it the west end occupied by the previous instrument.  The contract was awarded to the Dutch organ builder Jan Slegel  (1637 - 1715 )  from Zwolle, who was allowed to use as much material from the old organ as he saw fit. The contract was signed in 1670 but due to a break during the war years  (1672 - 74 ), the organ was not completed until 1676.  Another Dutch organ builder,  Johannes Duytschot  (1645 - 1725 ) overhauled and enlarged the instrument between 1694 -96.
       Then in 1741 Anthoni Hinsz appears on the scene, which involved him dismantling the entire instrument and build what was a completely new organ within a new case he had designed himself, and place this instrument back in the west end in front of the tower.  Like Duytschot before him and as with Schnitger, Hinsz reused much of the old pipework and the organ was completed in 1743, containing three manuals and 34 speaking stops but with only an attached pedal as was customary for many Dutch organs at the time.
       In 1790 Frans Caspar Schnitger Jr, 1724 - 1799, and another of Hinsz's former apprentices Heinrich Hermann Freytag 1759 - 1811 who, after the death of Hinsz in 1785, (correct this time! I ) had taken over the business between them, were commissioned to build an independent pedal organ of eight voices as the lack of one had by now become a serious drawback.  At no extra cost they enriched the instrument with the so called Borstwerk of four voices  (I say so called because this small department is not in the traditional Borstwerk position ), and transferring the former Rugwerk Dulciaan 8' to this department, replacing it with a stronger - toned Fagot 16'.
       During the 19th century various organ builders kept the organ in good repair.  The most radical alteration occurred in 1866 when Petrus van Oecklen  ( 1792 - 1878 ) from Groningen added a second Bovenwerk of eight gentle - toned ranks within a swell box, more in keeping with the style of the times in which he lived although with complete respect for the older work, so that the characteristic sound of the organ was not in any way compromised, since this was the age when many organs from the 18th century were either modernised or completely destroyed.
       In 1954 the organ was dismantled because of restoration work on the church and rebuilt without alteration again in 1968 by Bakker & Timmenga of Leeuwarden, under the advisory supervision of organists Feike Asma, Dr. Maartin A.Vente and Willem Hendrik Zwart.  Further restoration of the historic pipework was carried out by the same firm in 1975, who replaced some of the original registers that had been lost over the organ's long history. 
       The instrument now possesses 56 registers, spread over four manuals and pedal with an almost fully independent pedal division, with just one stop being transmitted from the Hoofdwerk.

Summary of the pipework with the dates of construction.


Prestant 8    1743
Holpijp 8    1676
Octaaf 4    1743
Fluit 4    1676/ 1743
Gedakt quint 3    1743 / 1975
Octaaf 2    1676
Fluit 2    1743 / 1975
Sifflet 1    1975
Mixtuur 3 - 4 sterk    1676 /1743
Sexquialter disc 3 sterk    1975
Fagot 16    1975



Prestant 16    1743
Bourdon 16    1676
Prestant 8    1676 / 1743
Holpijp 8    1676
Octaaf 4    1676
Fluit 4    1676
Quint 3    1676
Super-octaaf 2    1676
Tertiaan 2 sterk    1975
Mixtuur bas 3 - 4 sterk    1676
Mixtuur disc 4 - 5 sterk    1676
Scherp 3 sterk    1975
Trompet bas 16    1743
Trompet disc 16    1743
Trompet 8    1743


Prestant 8    1676 / 1743
Roerfluit 8    1743
Quintadeen 8    1676
Octaaf 4   1975
Woudfluit 4    1629
Speelfluit 4    1743
Woudfluit 2    1629
Nassat 3    1975
Scherp 3 sterk    1975
Vox Humana 8    1676 / 1743



Holpijp 8    1866
Salicionaal 8    1866
Fluit travers 8    1866
Principaal 4    1866
Spitsfluit 2    1866
Flageolet 1    1866
Carillon disc 3 sterk    1866
Trompet 8    1866


Gedakt bas 8    1790
Gedakt disc 8    1790
Fluit bas 4    1790
Fluit disc 4    1790
Woudfluit 2    1790
Dulciaan 8    1743

Afsluiter   ( When closed no wind is admitted to the Borstwerk windchest ).


Prestant 16    1743   ( transmission Hw ).
Subbas 16    1790
Octaaf 8    1790
Gedakt 8    1790
Roerquint 6    1790
Octaaf 4    1790
Open Fluit 2    1975
Bazuin 16    1790
Trompet 8    1790
Cornet 4    1790


Pedaal / Hoofdwerk
Hoofdwerk / Rugwerk
Hoofdwerk / Bovenwerk
Bovenwerk / Bovenwerk II
Bovenwerk / Borstwerk   ( shove coupler )

Pitch :   a =  449 Hz
This is the old " Choir Pitch " which is a whole tone higher than the 18th century chamber pitch.

First generation  -  Freytag;

Heinrich Hermann Freytag was born in Hamburg in 1759 and became an apprentice of Anthoni Hinsz. Together with his stepson, Freytag took over the business upon Hinsz's death in 1785.  When Schnitger died in 1799, he took the lead.  When Freytag subsequently died in 1811, his widow managed the firm for the next five years because their children were too young at the time.

Second generation;

Herman Eberhard Freytag  1796 - 1869
Together with his brother Barthold Joachim Freytag 1799 - 1829,  he took control of the firm from his mother in 1816 and after his brother's death he went on by himself.  The firm grew weaker, slowly but surely on account of the competition fight with the Lohman family.

Third generation;

Herman's son, Willem Frederik Freytag  1825 - 1861 died before his father, which meant that there was no successor to take over the firm.  Then in 1862 his only daughter died as well, so he had no option but to give in and sell what remained of the firm to the Lohman brothers, before retiring from the business in 1863.

I do hope that you find this story interesting, and if so I will do some more at a later date, including some pieces on the Silbermann and the Stumm dynasties  (no less than six generations of the Stumm family built organs ).
However, to do this I'm going to need biographical notes,  which seem to have been permanently "borrowed " by my eldest daughter. She does this kind of thing at times so the next time I'm in Germany I'll search her house from top to bottom until I find them.  (This used to be our main family home when we lived in Germany so I still have a perfectly legitimate right to do so! )

With very best wishes,


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Re: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2017, 10:20:54 PM »
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David Pinnegar

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Re: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2017, 10:44:46 PM »
How fascinating? Thanks so much.

Does this instrument possess the record for the greatest proportion of remaining 17th century pipework?

Best wishes

David P
« Last Edit: March 02, 2017, 10:46:23 PM by David Pinnegar »

Ian van Deurne

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Re: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2017, 05:22:50 PM »
Hello David!!

Thanks for your question.
About this organ having the greatest amount of 16th century pipework is difficult to answer.
It depends on several different things. This may be one of the largest instruments that contains the greatest proportion of 16th century pipework, but there are other smaller organs that posses almost all of their original packaging pipes. I will try to get informed about the Kampen organ and let you know.

Incidentally, I made another small ommission in my last post.  The Bovenwerk  I  (Man III ) also contains an Octaaf 2 from 1743

With best wishes


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Re: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2017, 04:14:41 PM »
I would astounded if Kampen has more 17th century pipework than, for example, Alkmaar, Leiden (Pieterskerk) or, in Germany, Hamburg Jacobi or, especially, Tangermünde for example. Retention of a certain amount of pipework from previous generations was very normal in the 18th century in the Netherlands and often even later (the 1830s Batz organ in the Utrecht Dom has probably the largest collection of 16th century pipework in the world, over 800 pipes).

By the way, the most important modern restoration in Kampen was undertaken by Bakker and Tammingha in the 1970s. This, together with their restoration of the Leeuwarden Müller organ must be considered amongst the most successful of the era.

Chris Bragg

Ian van Deurne

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Re: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2017, 10:29:27 AM »
Thanks very much for your comments,  but it would seem that I need to clarify certain points.

The Hinsz organ at Kampen contains a good percentage of pipes from the 17th century, made by Jan Slegel in 1676 in the Rugwerk and the Hoofdwerk which retains much for the principal chorus from this time, plus another two ranks from Slegel and two ranks from the earlier organ by the elder Jan Morlet in 1629.  This amounts to around 1, 600 pipes in total.

The Van Hagerbeer organ, constructed for the St Pieterskerk in their home town of Leiden between 1638 - 43 is a very important instrument for the performance of 17th century organ music, mainly because the principal manual  ( Hoofdwerk ), with a couple of additions, still retains its basic medieval " Blockwerk " design, although somewhat split up from its original shape.  Some of the pipes from the original organ, which are attributed to the organ builder Jacob van Bilsteijn  ( built c. 1448 ) date from this time, and can be counted among the oldest pipes still in use in the world. 
       In 1518, after the collapse of the west end tower, this organ was restored by Jan van Covelens, the builder of the Koororgel  ( Choir Organ ) at the Laurenskerk in Alkmaar. This now famous builder  ( c. 1488 - c. 1555 ) was in fact a German immigrant  ( John from Koblenz ) who settled in what was then the Spanish Netherlands, long before any of his fellow countrymen had arrived to eventually dominate the entire organ building industry.
       After the reconstruction in 1643, the organ was furnished with an impressive new case with double doors, undoubtedly influenced by the great organ at Alkmaar.
       In 1687, the structure of both the Mixtuur and Scherp in the Rugwerk were altered and lowered by father and son Roeleff and Johannes Duytschot from Amsterdam, to adapt them to the needs of a more congregational - based accompaniment. Furthermore, the Duytschot family added a Vox Humana 8 ' to the Bovenwerk in 1691, and another local builder Pieter Assendelft added a 4 - rank Cornet between 1744 - 45.
       The organ suffered a painful intervention between 1843 - 46 when the Lohman brothers drastically altered the instrument even further away from its original form, uncompromisingly bending it to suit the romantic tastes of the time.
       The most extensive restoration / reconstruction was undertaken between 1994 - 98 by Verschueren Orgelbouw  ( from Heythuysen ), who returned the instrument to somewhere near it's original condition, so it can once again speak as an impressive example of the golden age of Dutch organ building.

The organ in the St Jacobikirche in Hamburg, containing four manuals and pedal with 60 speaking stops, is the largest surviving example of the great Hanseatic instruments. It is also one of the few surviving organs which we definitely know was played by both Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Sebastian Bach, who admired the organ so much that he  (unsuccessfully ) applied for the organist's job there in 1720. 
       Although the instrument as we see it today was mostly built by Arp Schnitger, it's history reaches much further back in time. The church archives tell us that between 1512 and 1516 a new large organ was completed by Jacob Iversand and Harmen Stueren.  This was subsequently enlarged and by 1619 it had reached the size of 53 speaking stops with four divisions on three manuals and pedal  ( Oberpositiv and Brustwerk sharing the same keyboard ).  Further during the 16th century Hans Scherer Sr. worked on the instrument, while the famous organ building family Fritsche took over in the 17th century; a major restoration being undertaken by Gottfried Fritsche between 1635 - 36.  He separated the Oberpositiv and Brustwerk by adding an extra keyboard and thus the Jacobi organ became one of the first organs in the world with four manuals.  Twenty years later, the organist Matthias Weckmann requested a new Oberpositiv to be built, and this was supplied by Hans Christoph Fritsche in 1656.  Finally, between the years 1689 - 93 saw the building of the present organ by Arp Schnitger, who reused 25 stops from the preceeding instrument.
       While all the other historic organs in Hamburg have disappeared, either through replacement, fire, or war damage, this organ fortunately survived without any major changes until the 20th century.  Between 1760 -61, repairs were undertaken by Johann Jacob Lehnert, who also added a the Viola da Gamba 8 ' to the Werck  ( Hauptwerk ) and the Trompete 8' to the Ruckpositiv.  In 1890 the addition of five 8 ' stops of a romantically voiced nature, installed on a separate pneumatic windchest was incorporated  ( now of course removed ).  However, it was during the 20th century that the organ suffered most.  In 1917 all the Schnitger case pipes of tin dating from 1683 were taken down and donated for war purposes, and melted down to make bullets, and then in 1944 the organ case, bellows, key and stop action were completely destroyed when the church was bombed.  Fortunately, all the historic pipework, the windchests, along with the case sculptures had been transferred to a safe place two years before so the musical parts of the organ survived intact.
       After a provisional re - installation in the south nave, the first reconstruction was attempted between 1959 -81, but this proved to be unsatisfactory.  A new reconstruction was carried out by the organ builder Jurgen Ahrend from Leer / Loga in East Friesland between 1989 - 93, precisely 300 years after Arp Schnitger had completed one of his most important instruments in the Jacobikirche in his native city of Hamburg.

Of the organ in Utrecht Dom  (Cathedral ) I will comment on at a later date, as well as with the great Van Hagerbeer / Schnitger organ in my home town of Alkmaar, which really needs it's own thread, but I will just say something about the organ in the St Stephanskirche in Tangermunde, since quite a few people seem to have a great misunderstanding about this instrument for some reason.

This organ was originally built in the Hamburg workshops of Hans Scherer the elder in 1624, but ALL that remains of this instrument is the handsome case and the front pipes in all four cases  ( Ruckpositiv, main case and the two pedal towers ).  However, the organ within has been altered and rebuilt many, many times since Scherer completed it.  So much so that we are unable to determine what, if anything else from the 17th century still remains anywhere near to its original condition.
       I visited this organ myself as far back as 1986 when the organ was still in the GDR and therefore not so easily accessible as it is now, when I gave an organ concert there, as a guest  (among others ) of the East German government.  Therefore, being there primarily as an organist and not in the capacity as an organ builder, I never had the opportunity to examine the instrument internally myself at the time, so I had to rely on what I had been told by local organists who knew the organ well.
       When I was there, the organ contained 32 speaking stops on three manuals and pedal, but since this was now over thirty years ago, I feel certain that some kind of meaningful restoration must have occurred since that time.

With very best wishes,
from Ian.


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Re: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2017, 10:28:31 PM »
Yet more fascinating information.  Thank you, Ian.
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