Author Topic: Utrecht Cathedral  (Read 2992 times)

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Ian van Deurne

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Utrecht Cathedral
« on: August 14, 2017, 11:25:31 AM »
I promised earlier to say something about this wonderful instrument, so firstly, the tonal disposition as it stands today;


Prestant 8
Holpyp 8
Quintadeen 8
Octaaf 4
Roerfluit 4
Quint 3
Octaaf 2
Fluit 2
Cornet (disk)
Mixtuur 3-6 sterk
Scherp 3-4 sterk
Trompet 8
Touzyn 8 (bas/disk)


Prestant 16
Bourdon 16
Octaaf 8
Roerfluit 8
Octaaf 4
Gemshoorn 4
Quint 3
Octaaf 2
Woudfluit 2
Sexquialter 2 sterk  (disk)
Mixtuur 6-8 sterk  (bas/disk)
Fagot 16
Trompet 8


Prestant 8
Baarpyp 8
Viola de Gamba 8
Holpyp 8
Fluit travers 8
Octaaf 4
Openfluit 4
Roerquint 3
Woudfluit 2
Flageolet 1
Carillion 3 sterk  (f)
Trompet 8
Vox Humana 8


Prestant 16
Subbas 16
Octaafbas 8
Fluitbas 8
Roerquint 6
Octaaf 4
Mixtuur 4 sterk
Bazuin 16
Trombone 8
Trompet 4
Cinq 2




C-f'''  (54-Man)
C-d'  (27-Ped)




Ventiel  (emptied organ of wind  - now redundan)
Kalkanteklok. (Bellows signal - now redundant)

50 Register

The present organ in the Domkerk  (St Martin) in Utrecht incorporates parts of an earlier organ, built by Pieter Janszoon de Swart between 1569-1571. From this famous and very capable builder, six stops on the Rugwerk, three on the Bovenwerk and two on the Pedaal still remain in the instrument virtually unaltered, most notably the plenum formed by the Octaaf 4, Quint 3, Octaaf 2, and the Mixtuur and Scherp, located in the Rugwerk are from De Swart. In manufacture as well as sound quality these pipes are the best in the organ. However, due to the usual short compass of instruments constructed in the 16th century, these very old pipes are in the compass of F, G, A  - a'', the remainder of each rank being extended and made new in either 1640  (Van Hagerbeer), 1709  (Duytschot), or in 1831.

The Batz organ company was active for four generations. In 1739, Johann Heinrich Hartmann Batz set himself up as an organ builder in Utrecht, having learnt the trade from Christiaan Muller. After his death in 1770 his younger brother looked after the firm until Johann's young 21 year old son, Gideon Thomas Bath  (1751-1820) was experienced enough to take over running the company in 1772. However, the organ builder we are dealing with here comes from the next, or third generation, Jonothan Batz  (1787-1849) who was Gideon's son. In 1833 he took on a partner, Christian Gottlieb FiFriederich Witte (1802-1873, who had been apprenticed to Baethmann in Germany, but on completion of his training moved to Utrecht and started to work for Jonothan Batz in 1824. After the death of Jonothan in 1849, Witte became the sole owner of the firm but he kept the name of Batz & Co. Once again, the company become very prosperous and was building many good organs throughout the country. Utrecht is of course, conveniently situated as it is right in the centre of the Netherlands. The Batz company survived for one more generation through Christian's son, Johann Frederick Witte  (1840-1902) who succeeded his father in 1873. However, as he had no son and heir to take over the business, the company was bought and taken over by another organ building company, De Koff in 1902 after he died.

The Utrecht Domkerk organ, as seen today was newly built by Jonothan Batz in 1831, although several old ranks of pipes as mentioned above were reused in the new instrument. The organ precisely conforms to the type of instrument that was being built in the Netherlands throughout the 19th century. The church architect, Tieleman Franciscus Suys, who came from Brussels, designed the case and ornaments, as well as constructing a small building at the back of the church to house the nine wedge-shaped bellows. The case is in a kind of neo-classical style, although in size and proportion  (the length of many of the front pipes are far longer than what is required for the pitch needed ), not strictly functional. Nevertheless, this style became somewhat popular, because another organ which was built along the same lines by the same architect and builder was completed at the Amsterdam Ronde Lutherse Kerk in 1843, although somewhat smaller in size and propotion.

The organ in the Domkerk itself has been superbly designedinternally so that every pipe and each division, with all of its parts can be easily accessed for maintenance and tuning, which was very favourably commented on by probably the greatest organ builder of the 19th century, Aristide Cavaille'-Coll  (1811-1899),about the spacious internal layout during a visit he made here in November 1844.

In 1865, the Batz company, which by then had been fully taken over by Witte, removed the Sexquialter on the Hoofdwerk and replaced it with a mounted treble Cornet of 5 ranks. Then in 1895, after a further overhaul, the same company revoiced all the reeds, in line with the heavier sound preferred at that time.
During the years between 1911-1935, the Touzyn 8 and the Fluit 2 on the Rugwerk were removed in favour of more romantic-sounding stops. The Hoofdwerk Trompet 8 was completely replaced, as well as the Gemshoorn 4 and Woudfluit 2. Then finally, in 1935, a swell-box was fitted to enclose the entire Bovenwerk, with its Roerquint 3 and Vox Humana 8 also being replaced by other more "up-to-date* stops. This was also the time when the outside bellows chamber was demolished, as was considered to be out of keeping with the rest of the gothic building, and so instead, a rudimentary, improvised wind supply was incorporated into the relatively shallow organ case itself, which to say the least was hardly adequate.

The organ finally underwent an extensive restoration between 1972-73 by the firm of Van Vulpen, who are recognised as the most experienced in the maintenance and restoration of Batz organs. They replaced all the stops that had been removed over the last 107 years, and a new modern wind supply with internal regulators was built within the main case, because there was nowhere outside to house a bellows chamber based on a nine wedge-shaped bellows system as originally constructed. The only concession to later times that was retained was the swell-box, which had enclosed the Bovenwerk pipework since 1935 as it had proved to be a useful addition for accompaniment purposes on many occasions.

The organ today is widely acclaimed for its mild tone and expessive tremulants which makes the instrument far more suitable for the late romantic or modern periods of composition, rather than for the strict Baroque counterpoint or fugal music of Buxtehude and Bach.

The building itself is vast, really generous in space. However, it is only a fraction of its original size. The nave and side aisles were completely destroyed during a great storm in the late 17th century, so only the transepts, the choir and high altar remain, along with the great west-end tower, now separate and around 100 metres from the rest of the building.

With best wishes,


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