Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Messages - Ian van Deurne

Pages: [1] 2 3
Organ History / 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,

House Organs / Re: Baron Albert de L'Espee
« on: June 03, 2017, 07:20:09 PM »
[Hi David,
Yes, I was also amazed when I first heard about him and I will try to find out more about him if I can. However, he does seem to be a difficult man to track down. I've tried to find a portrait or a photo of him, it would be great if one existed of him playing one of his organs.  By what I've already found out about him,  it would appear that he was a painfully shy man so despite his obvious wealth might never had consented to such a intrusion into his own closeted world, but I'm still hoping that there maybe such a picture of him somewhere.
As to your two pictures, the lower one is the first organ that he had installed at Biarritz. The upper picture which I hadn't seen before must be of the second instrument installed in the mansion after he could find no buyer for it but couldn't bear to be without an organ to play the Ride of the Valkyries or other such Wagnervarian offerings. Incidentally, I would love to know what publications of Wagner's works that were transcribed for the organ and who transcribed them.  My first thought was Sigfrid Karg-Elert but of course I quickly realised that he would have been far too young for the period we are dealing with here.
Anyway, I'll try to get more information about our favourite Baron if and when I can.  I must admit that I have been  totally intrigued by this guy and that he's the most wonderful personally Ive found in the world of the organ for a very long time.

With best wishes

House Organs / Baron Albert de L'Espee
« on: May 25, 2017, 02:26:26 PM »
Whle doing some further research into Aristide Cavaille'-Coll, I came across this man, who must have been the most prolific builder of house organs ever, and who must have also been Cavaille'-Coll's best customer.
He was born on 17th September 1852 at Metz. His father Edouard wast the regional governer of Metz, his mother was Marie-Josephine de Gargan, whose own mother was a member of the De Wendel family,, one of the most powerful in the province of Lorraine who controlled the greatest iron and steel empire of the mid-19th century.
He learned the piano, harmonium and organ as a child,, and with the Paris World  Exhibition in 1867, discovered more about the wider world without ever having to leave the banks of the Seine. He visited Paris regularly to see other members of his family on th Rue Las Cases,, very near to the church of Sainte-Clotilde where he may have heard Cesar Franck playing the organ. Anyway,, it seems that his desire to own a large organ himself dates fro this time.

From 1870 he made several journeys by train to Paris, exploring churches and listening to their organs, comparing the qualities of various instruments, as well as visiting the Paris Conservatoire where Cesar Franck taught. He also made several visits to Cavaille'-Coll's workshops on the Avenue du Maine. His family connections had made him extremely rich (according to his sparse Wikipedia entry). However, he was weak in health, protecting himself from any pollution and always searching for the ideal climate. He was an extremely intelligent man and a great builder, and so Albert de L'Espee came to own, among the estates he inherited and the acquisitions and the places he built for himself, some ten large properties throughout France, of which seven of them he furnished with organs.

In 1880 he installed a small Cavaille"-Coll instrument with ten stops, identical in specification to the one owned by Eugene Gigout, in the family chateau at Antibes. For the World Exhibition of 1878, Cavaille'-Coll installed a large organ in the Trocadero Concert Hall in Paris. This was exactly the kind of organ that Albert hoped one day to own himself. However, he quickly realised that the acoustic in the place was appalling. Therefore, he decided that after consulting with Cavaille'-Coll, he would have his own concert hall built that would provide a faultless acoustic for an organ. In 1890 Cavaille'-Coll was given the commission for an instrument around which the Baron would have a house built. For the location he settled on Biarritz in the far south-west of the country, and the house would be named "Chateau d' IIllbarritz". The mansion (still there) was completed in 1897 and the great organ installed, an instrument of four manuals and pedal, 72 speaking stops, complete with three swell boxes. In addition, a full chorus of Chamade Trompettes of 16, 8 and 4ft pitch was included, along with three full-length 32ft pedal stops. Very soon after completion, the quietness of the night was violently disturbed by the sounds of "Parsifal" and "Tannhauser" by the Baron's favourite composer.
After disappointment in love and divorcing his wife, Albert decided to sell the chateau but could find no buyer. He played the organ for the last time in 1902 and the following year, Charles Mutin (Cavaille'-Coll's successor) bought it back and installed it in the company's workshops. It stayed there until 1913, when a place for it was found at the church of Sacre-Coeur de Montmartre, Paris, with a new case but keeping the original console. After that Albert decided not to sell the chateau, and so he ordered from Charles Mutin, a new three manual and pedal organ of 62 stops. Part of this instrument was later re-used in the organ at Uzerbil, near Bilbao, Spain.

At the same time, the Baron had bought in 1892 an enormous private mansion: Nr.50, Avenue du Bois de Bolugne in Paris (now knwn as Avenue Foch, the same street where Claude Debussy lived from 1905 until his death). Once again Cavialle'-Coll was asked to build an organ with three manuals and pedal with 47 stops. This, however, was never going to work out well from the start. The late night noise that Albert was making, playing Wagner's music on the full organ, soon brought objections from his neighbours who were just trying to get a good night's sleep. The problem became so bad that they eventually joined together to make a formal complaint. Reluctantly, Albert realised he had no option to get rid of the organ rather than to lose favour with the whole district. It was then either bought, or was given as a gift, to Count Christian Berthier de Sauvigny in 1907, another good amateur organist who had in his own home on the Rue Legendre, a two manual and pedal, 20 speaking stop organ build by Joseph Merklin, another great Parisien organ builder.

Also around the same time, the new church of Saint Antoine des Quinze-Vingts (started in 1903) was nearing completion and it was suggested to the parishioners involved in the project that they slould perhaps donate an organ to the church. Therefore, the Count donated the organ to the church and it was moved from the Baron' mansion and installed in its new home by Merklin in 1909, with a new case but retaining the original console once again. Count Berthier was also installed as its first organist and he was followed by successors that included Jean Langlais and Gaston Litaize.

The organ is still there, virtually intact as Cavaille'-Coll had left it and is nowconsidered to be the best symphonic organ in Paris, and having played it several times myself I would completely agree.

Well now, you'd have thought that would have been it, but no....
In 1893 Albert started to build another chateau on a new site at Belle-Ile. Once again, Cavaille'-Coll installed a new organ there with three manuals, pedal and 46 stops, very similar to the one now in Saint Antoine. Unfortunately, this instrument, along with the chateau was completely destroyed by fire when the Germans left Paris in 1945.

Around 1897 the Baron succeeded in having yet another mansion built on the banks of Lake Montrion. Here he had Joseph Merklin install an Orchestrion, a curious entity, something like a cross between a piano and a barrel organ, operated by punched rolls as with a street organ.

For his other property at Saint Vallier de Thiery, near Cannes, we find the Baron's final instrument, built by Merklin for the Villa Henriette, which lies between Monaco and Menton. Having learned from his bitter experience in Paris and the legal action with which he had been threatened, Albert greatly modified his ambitions, commissioning an organ containing just tweny speaking stops. When the villa was sold in 1913, the greater part of this organ was incorporated into the rebuilt instrument in Monaco Cathedral.

Albert died on the 4th January 1918 athis house at Antibes aged 65 years.
I think you'll agree that he was quite a remarkable man, and there's probably no one in that period who could have been more in love with the organ!

Best wishes,

Organ History / The Arp Schnitger Organ at Cappel
« on: April 15, 2017, 05:28:25 PM »
There has been quite a lot of misunderstanding about this organ in recent times, including here so I'm going to put the record straight.

The most common misconception is that this organ was built for this church. It was not.
It was in fact built by Arp Schnitger for the Johanniskirche in Hamburg and was his first instrument built in the city in 1680, that replaced but incorporated some of the pipework from the earlier organ built here in 1657  ( I don't know the builder ). The Johanniskirche occupied an internal space of approximately 32. 900 cubic meters. The volume of the church at Cappel is only approx 1. 800 cubic meters. In other words, the church is far too small for the organ!

The first mention of an organ at Cappel, a small village in the fen region of Lower Saxony, east of the river Weser, dates from 1582 but nothing is known concerning the size, disposition or the builder. Information from later periods is equally as scant, since most official documents concerning Cappel have perished by fire.
       In 1800, the organ builder Georg Wilhelmy of Stade received a commission to build a new organ for Cappel but again, no detailed information about this organ has survived.  It was inaugurated on 4th March 1801.  On 18th December 1810, this organ, together with all the valuable church furnishings was destroyed in a fire.  Once the church had been repaired, the search for a suitable replacement organ began.  In 1816 a favourable opportunity presented itself in Hamburg.  During Napoleon's French occupation  ( 1806 - 14 ), the monastic Johanniskirche had been turned into a depot and stables.  The organ was dismounted in 1813 by the organ builder, Joachim Willhelm Geycke and stored in another room in the monastery.  The church itself and adjoining buildings were demolished in 1829.  As mentioned, this organ had been built by Arp Schnitger in 1680 containing 30 speaking registers, two manuals and an independent pedal.  In a letter written by the organ builder Johann Georg Willhelm on 12th April 1816 to the Cappel organist Herr Gehilken said that this organ, which " is still a very fine organ " was for sale.
       Negotiations between the church authorities in Hamburg and Cappel were concluded with an agreed price of 600 Talers in Louis d ' or.  The name of Arp Schnitger, however, was never mentioned in any of these transactions.  The organ duly arrived in packing cases at Cappel on 29th June 1816, and by December of that year it had been reassembled by Johann Georg Willhelm, in time for the Christmas festivities.
       During the next few decades this builder continued to maintain the organ; major repairs were not to be found necessary.  Upon his death in 1848 other organ builders from Stade cared for the instrument.  The only significant alteration during this time was carried out in 1891 by Heinrich Roever, who replaced the original six bellows with three larger diagonal ones with associated alterations to the wind system.
       In 1928, as a result in the now great interest in organs from the Baroque period, the particular importance of the organ at Cappel was recognised and the church commissioned a full examination of the instrument.  In 1932, the firm of Fuertwangler & Hammer of Hannover replaced the original action with pneumatic and the instrument was tuned at regular two - year intervals after this.  Between 1937 - 39, Paul Ott of Goettingen carried out extensive reconditioning.  In addition to mechanical repairs, all the pipework was regulated and any recognisable deviations from the original disposition were corrected.  The Pedal was again provided with its 2ft Cornet, which had been changed to a Trompete 4' when the instrument was still in Hamburg.  In the Ruckpositiv the Sifflote, which had been changed to 1ft pitch was reconstructed to the original 1.1/ 3 pitch and the correct balance of the 2 - rank Terzian, which had had its third - sounding rank converted to a higher - pitched Rauschpfeife was restored.  Unfortunately, a large proportion of the leathering of the reed shallots was removed and in consequence, the size of the orifices were altered, in some cases considerably.  The Ott firm maintained the organ until 1963.  After the renovation of the church between 1963 - 65 it was apparent that the organ was in an alarming state.  Most windchests, particularly those of the Hauptwerk and Pedal were so severely damaged by cracks that many notes began to cease to function.  The church authorities in Hannover, who were officially responsible for the maintenance of the organ appointed a committee to examine it and offer suggestions for ways to repair these faults.  They concluded that the necessary reconditioning should be directed towards preservation of the original material, as well as just repair of the damage.  In other words, a return to the original state of the instrument as completed by Arp Schnitger, as far as this was practically possible.  Because the organ case had been reduced in size in 1816 in order for it to be able to fit into the church, alteration to the equal temperament, which was implemented in the late 19th century, could not be attempted as this would have meant lengthening and altering most of the original pipes which had been cut down at the time.  The Hamburg firm of Rudolph von Beckerath received the commission for this extensive restoration, which included reinstatement of mechanical action, was carried out between 1976 - 77 and financed through generous donations.

The last time I was in Cappel to visit this organ was in 2005 and I thought then that it would soon need some loving attention, but the instrument was basically sound.
The tonal disposition is as follows;


Quintadena 16
Prinzipal 8
Hohlflote 8
Oktave 4
Spitzflote 4
Nasat 3
Gemshorn 2
Rauschpfeife 2 fach
Mixtur 5 - 6 fach
Zimbel 3 fach
Trompete 8


Gedackt 8
Quintadena 8
Prinzipal 4
Rohrflote 4
Oktave 2
Sifflote 1.1 / 2
Sesquialtera 2 fach
Terzian 2 fach
Scharf 4 - 6 fach
Dulzian 16


Untersatz 16
Oktave 8
Oktave 4
Nachthorn 2
Rauschpfeife 2 fach
Posaune 16
Trompete 8
Cornet 2

Tremulant  ( whole organ )
Calcant  ( bellows signal )
3 Sperrventile  ( saving valves )

Manual shove coupler  (no Pedal coupler )

Compass :  C D Es E F G As A -c'''  (47 - Man )    C D - d'  ( 26 -Ped )

With best wishes

Organ building and maintenance / Re: Organ Pipe Making observations
« on: March 20, 2017, 01:01:00 AM »
Greetings and welcome.

This sounds totally ridiculous.  This forum was set up to be for lovers of the organ,  whether professional or amateur or just for the curious, so I don't see why there should have to be such a deterrent for anyone.  Any of these Internet " Trolls " would I'm sure be given short shrift by anyone here, either by ridiculing their nonsense or by simply ignoring it.

Firstly, your question on the Spitz Flute and Erzaeler.
The Spitz Flute is a medium sized, in bore and cut- up, a robustly - toned flute.  The word ' Spitz " implies that it has an open, invertly tapered body, and it has been traditionally used in the main 8 ft or 4ft flute chorus on the principal keyboard of the organ.  However, different organ builders might have their own interpretation on this.

Secondly, the Erzaeler, which is a little more difficult to explain.
In the USA, it generally denotes a mild - toned string stop, often paired with a Vox Celeste which gives an undulating effect when the two are used together.
       However, my own interpretation of the Erzaeler  (German : Narrator ) has always been a reed register, somewhat similar to a Vox Humana but of a more gentle tone, with emphasis on the vowel sounds on individual pipes within the compass of A, E, O and U, which gives it, when voiced correctly, the nearest sound to a human voice that is actually possible.  I will also admit that this has always been one of my more passionate obsessions when voicing fractional - length reed stops, so I would always devote a great deal of time to these ranks of pipes in order to satisfy my need for perfection.  Because of its subtle nature, this rank has only ever been included in my smaller or medium - sized instruments, but the superb effect of the end result is far more than worth the extra hours of labour in order to get this rank of pipes absolutely perfect.

To return to the original subject.
The craft of making organ pipes has been for many long years a separate apprenticeship.  The training needed to perfect the art of bending, shaping and perfectly soldering metal organ pipes is an art in itself, and only the very largest organ building companies have either the time or money to train their own pipe - making department.  Most organ building firms buy in their organ pipes from specialist companies.  Even the biggest firms who have their own pipe - making department, when faced with delivering large instruments don't have the capacity for manufacturing all their organ pipes on site.
       My own company, which on average is probably middling in size, has always made the principal pipes  (8 ' 4'  2 ' ) of various ratios of a tin alloy, plus all the wooden pipes, which includes the basic stops such as the pedal Bourdon 16, Basfluit 8 ' and the manual Holpijp 8 ',  Fluit dous 4 '  and Woudfluit 2 ',  but all the upper pipework such as the Mixtuur, Cimbel and Scherp, as well as the higher mutations above 1.1/3'  are all outsourced from these companies.  The largest metal pipes, however, such as the 16ft Principals etc, always have to be bought in because there just isn't the space to make them!  The same applies to all the reed stops,  which,  if I was to give a professional secret away, with very few exceptions, are always bought from specialist pipe- makers, whatever the size of the company.
       This doesn't mean that the organ builder who buys these pipes has any less control over how they will eventually sound.  The dimensions of each rank of pipes have already been specified by the customer, and upon delivery each individual rank of pipes will still be voiced to realize their own interpretation of how they want their organ to speak.

With best wishes

Organ Builders / Re: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« 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.

Organ Builders / Re: The Hinsz -Schnitger - Freytag family
« 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

Organ Builders / 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,

Organ Builders / Arp Schnitger
« on: February 24, 2017, 11:13:31 AM »
Arp Schnitger was born on 2nd July 1648 at Schmalenfleth, in the district of Golzwarden ,  near the city of Oldenburg. In this small village his father ran an important carpentry workshop, and after school his son would be taught the carpentry trade. His initiation into the art of organ building was due to his uncle Berendt Huss  (?-1676 ) who had just moved his workshop to Gluckstadt on the river Elbe and was in need of a young apprentice / carpenter to assist him.

So in 1666 the young eighteen year old Arp Schnitger left home to work for his uncle. At the time that Schnitger joined the company, Huss was completing the organ in the local parish church and was also beginning to extend his workshop to deal with much larger contracts. It would appear that Schnitger excelled in his uncle's firm, because when Huss secured the contract for the building of the organ at St. Cosmae et Damiani at Stade in 1675 after the previous instrument had been destroyed by fire in 1659, Schnitger began to take on far more responsibility for the technical planning and voicing of his uncle's organs.In particular, this organ at St Cosmae, still extant, gives us a valuable insight into Arp Schnitger's early development as an organ builder. The principal manual for example, (Oberwerk ) employs a Springchest  (Springlade ), the kind of windchest typical for Huss's day. Schnitger, however, always employed the more modern type of slider windchest  (Schlieflade ), which is the kind of mechanical windchest still in use today.
       When Huss died, leaving the organ at St Wilhaldi at Stade unfinished, Schnitger was able to complete it himself in 1678, after which he set up in business on his own.
       In the beginning he took over his uncle's workshop at Gluckstadt, but by 1679 he had already made a name for himself as far away as Hamburg where he was commissioned to rebuild the organ at the St Johannis Monestery in the city in 1680. (This organ is now in the village church at Cappel, of which more will be said at a later date.

Three years later he secured the valuable contact to rebuild the organ of the St Nicholaikirche in Hamburg, and on the strength of this he decided to move his entire workshop to Hamburg where he took up the oath of citizenship in 1682. He worked on this great organ for five years between 1682-87,and with four manuals and a fully independent pedal with 67 speaking stops, it was not only the largest organ in Germany, but also in the rest of the world as well! (Unfortunately this organ was completely destroyed by fire in 1842

Although there is some evidence that he was previously married for a short time, the information we have proof of was that he married Gertrude Ott in 1684, from whom he inherited a farm at Neuenfelde  (once a separate village but now a suburb of southern Hamburg ). She bore him six children;  Arp II ( 1686- 1712), Hans  (1688-1708),  Johann Jurgen  (1690-1739), and Frans Caspar  (1693-1729).
All his sons became organ builders but only the two youngest outlived him. Of his two daughters nothing unfortunately is known, not even their names, because records at that time apparently never considered girls to be of any real importance! Of all his sons, it was the youngest, Frans Caspar, who was to perpetuate the name of Schnitger well into the 18th and early 19th century, and it was Frans Caspar who was to found the Schnitger workshops in the Netherlands, which through his foreman, Albertus Anthoni Hinsz, (1704 -1795), after Frans Caspar's early death aged 36, adopted his son Frans Caspar Schnitger Jr. (1724-1799), married his widow, and through this carried the Schnitger tradition on until well into the early 19th century.

The rebuilding of the organ in the Nicholaikirche in Hamburg was to spread Arp Schnitger's fame far beyond the German frontiers and opened up a large field of activity for him. From Flensburg in the north, to the Dutch provinces of West Friesland and Groningen in the West. East to Stettin on the river Oder, South to Zellerfeld in the Hartz mountain area of Germany - he even deliverd one -manual or small positive organs to Russia, England, Spain and Portugal.

Arp Schnitger is known to have worked on over 160 different organs, of which at least 99 were completely new instruments. Even ignoring the enormous technical and artistic elements involved, this represented a quite remarkable talent for organisation. Although he was involved in the planning of the great organ at the Michaeliskerk at Zwolle in the Netherlands., it was his son Frans Caspar who was given complete freedom in the completion of that instrument in 1721.
       Arp Schnitger had originally specified a three - manual organ of 46 speaking stops, but after his death his son added a fourth manual at no extra cost, increasing the number of speaking stops to 64, and so making it the largest organ by far in the United Provinces. This would suggest that this was done to further his ambition to supply many new organs in the Netherlands, and in this he proved to be completely successful. In fact, the arrival of Schnitger and other German organ - builders in the Netherlands was soon to dominate and virtually eradicate most of the indigenous Dutch organ - builders completely.

Like his former master, Arp Schnitger died leaving an organ unfinished, the organ of St Laurens at Itzehoe which he began in 1715. (Case still there but nothing much else. ) He was buried in the north transept of the St Pankratiuskirche in his home village of Neuenfelde on the 28th July 1719.
(People who like to remark on strange coincidences point out that the death of Johann Sebastian Bach occurred on the exact same day 31 years later. )
       Apart from the organ in the church at Neuenfelde, built by Arp Schnitger in 1688  (still there and lovingly restored ), the church also bears other souvenirs of the great master. After he renounced the final payment of 800 marks that the church owed him on completion of the organ, he was granted the right to build a private family pew next to the altar. It is inscribed "To the Glory of God and for the ornament of the church " and it bears the Arp Schnitger trade mark; a compass intercrossed with two organ pipes.

With best wishes.

Miscellaneous & Suggestions / Re: Is this forum dead? Is the organ dead?
« on: February 23, 2017, 07:34:51 PM »
My own experience of Orchestral Oboes is that the sound is generally  much thinner than the usual type of Oboes found in the Swell division of English organs, although  the wind pressure may be greatly increased when installed on a Solo manual.

As for the Rohrflote, known as Roerfluit in the Netherlands, my own examples are of a fairly wide scale, with detachable soldered hats. Between the hat and the body of the pipe is a strip of felt to ensure an airtight connection. The wide ears are of traditional construction, which is the way I have always tuned this rank, although tuning by tapping the hat with a reed knife is also an option.

As regards Oboes in my organs, they always follow the French style of construction to a certain extent, and so always appear as Hautbois, at either 8' or 4' at the console. The reason for this is that during my apprenticeship I became greatly influenced by the instruments of the family Stumm, who were active from the early 18th until  the early 20th century in the Rheinland area of Germany, more about who I will talk about another time, since they are virtually unknown in England, but whose instruments, many of which are still extant deserve to be better known.

Yes, it's sad that this forum has been quiet for a while and because of this  I have thought that I might write something about some of the greatest organ builders, such as Arp Schnitger in my next post.

With best wishes

Miscellaneous & Suggestions / Re: Seasons Greetings
« on: December 16, 2016, 11:11:20 PM »
A joyous Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone wherever you  may  be

This is something that needs to be seriously discussed, especially amongst organists.
During my many years of experience in first playing and then building the instrument, I very quickly came to the conclusion that pipe organs are not well suited to equal temperament, the main reason being their complex harmonic structure. The earliest verified, recorded documentation that I have seen concerns an organ rebuilt in 1847 by C. F. Naber in the Netherlands when equal temperament was specifically asked for by the organist, which means that it was probably already extensively employed elsewhere, since this country has never embraced change in musical matters that quickly.
       One other thing; modern standard pitch is now set where a = 440Hz, which means that in equal temperament "middle C" (c') will equal 523.3Hz.
       Many people are under the misinformed opinion that unequal temperament sounds "wrong", or even "out of tune", whereas the exact opposite applies.
With organs, unequal tuning seems far more pleasing to the ear. Mixtures tend to blend far better and cease to "scream" - bearing in mind that although they are tempered to the rest of the instrument - the pipes in each rank are always tuned "pure" to each other.
       Of course, I do not advocate the universal return to 1/4 or 1/5 comma meantone tuning, where modulation into various other keys is severely restricted, but having organs tuned to a good "well-tempered system" means that the extensive modulation into more of the remote keys can still be acheived without the musical structure suffering at all.
In fact personally, I find that even Widor's famous fifth symphony toccata can sound really exciting on an organ tuned this way, and I know that I'm far from alone in this.
       It is up to the serious musical community to make the general population more aware of this kind of tuning keyboard instruments - many are not even aware if it. A few weeks ago I was attempting to explain to a friend about all of this, until I found myself getting into an unavoidably far too technical explanation of what is involved. Either that or it was a question of drinking far too much Grolsch at the same time!

Best Wishes to everyone from   

Organ Builders / Birthday Greetings
« on: February 04, 2016, 02:46:08 PM »
Today marks the birthday anniversary of two organ builders, one very famous, and the other, well probably more infamous than anything else!
Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, born 4th February 1811, who was one of the geatest organ builders of the 19th century, if not THE greatest. His instruments alne stand as testimony to this fact.
Not only were they constructed to the highest standard possible at that time, their sound was, and still is, absolutely outstanding when sympathetically restored. I know of several smaller instruments standing in out of the way places in the French countryside that have never had a comprehensive renovation, other than a general cleaning and regulation, yet they still sound, although with a few wheezes and puffs, almost as good as the master left them.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to make a visit to France/Paris for his anniversary as I always try to do, because there is always something going on somewhere to celebrate this fact. I usually attend a Cavaillé-Coll organ concert, and perhaps also get the chance to have a spin on one of his instruments if I'm in the right place and time. Just to get my hands on some of those fabulous reeds is a truly rewarding experience.
"Father Willis, eat your heart out!" was the somewhat ingenerous thought that I had the very first time I encountered one of his organs, far too many years ago to think about now!
They do, however, represent a very important milestone in the history of organ building.
If you have never experienced a Cavaillé-Coll organ "in the flesh" yet, and you love the organ, then stick it on your life list as something you have to do before you're off.

What about the other organ builder mentioned at the beginning then?
Well, it's none other than yours truly!
I may never be so famous and successful as the great Aristide, but I have always tried to build organs that will stand the test of time, and who knows, someone, somewhere will be posting something about me here in 205 years time!

Best wishes


Organs in danger / Re: Christian Science Church Godalming
« on: January 29, 2016, 02:28:17 PM »
Thank you Tony for the input.
Since yesterday I've found out a little more information about the Methodist Church in Guildford. My original thinking that it was constructed in the 1950's is incorrect, and the building actually dates from 1966, as does the organ.
However, the church has been closed since 1st September 2013 when the congregation merged with the congregation of the C/E church of St Mary, Quarry Street in the town centre.
Since I don't often travel past this way I hadn't realised this fact.
But there's another problem.
     On 19th May 2015 the church was accidentally damaged by a fire breaking out at the inside rear of the building, most likely from rubbish left there by squatters who had taken up residence. Fortunately the damage seemed to be slight.
     This ponders the question about what has happened to the organ. In light of this new information it would seem likely that it had already been removed and either broken up or re-homed. Let's hope the latter is correct.
      In the meantime I will try to gather some more information

Best Wishes,

Organs in danger / Re: Christian Science Church Godalming
« on: January 28, 2016, 01:45:15 PM »
I'm now back in the UK again and have two things to report.
Firstly, the Christian Science Church in Godalming has of this week, been completely demolished. During the early part of last week I went to the site and looked through one of the portals. The "West End' of the church had been pulled down but leaving the organ chamber still there and open to the elements. I managed to attract the attention of one of the demolishers and asked him if any parts of the organ had become a victim  i.e. if there were any parts of an organ now lying amongst all the dust and debris.
"Dunno mate, don't know where the organ would have been." he replied.
"Well, it was in that chamber up there in front of us." I said.
"No, there wern't nothing in there at all, definately no organ pipes!" he told me.
So then it appears that he organ has been saved after all. The new church has planning permission to be built so presumably it is being stored somewhere for the time being.

Secondly, this concernes the Methodist Church in Woodbridge Road, Guildford.
It appears that over the course of the last few months this church has also now closed as the entrances ar boaded up and there's a 'For Sale' sign hanging outside.
The pipe organ if Imremember correctly was an early 2-Manual Mander, built on the extension principle ring the mid 150's which is when the church was built.
Whether the organ is still in residence I don't yet know but will try to find out.
The other URC Church in Portmouth Road contains a 3-Manual Hill, Norman & Beard Organ dating from c.1965 and is reported to be in very good condition. I performed a concert there during the late 1980's but haven't been back inside since.
Meanwhile I will try and find someone who was connected with the other church to see if they know what has happened to the Mander Organ.

Best Wishes

This is something else that I cannot understand.
Harpsichord recitals seem to be way too rare in Britain. Looking at last week's television magazine and the promenade concerts, I notice that there have been several Bach concerts this year; solo cello and violin, yes, but the works for keyboard have only ever featured one instrument - the piano!


After the comprehensive research during the last eighty or so years into Barock performance techniques, this state of affairs borders on the ludicrous!
       The piano was still in it's infancy at the time of Bach's death, in fact another quite unknown fact is that the person responsible for first introducing and developing the piano in Germany was none other than the organ-builder Gottfried Silbermann, although where he found the time to devote to it is unknown. All I can say is that it must have been a pet project or a hobby of his, outside of the time he devoted to organbuilding. It is also known that Bach developed an interest in his work on the piano and even made certain recommendations as to how the construction might be improved.
       Nevertheless, the piano at the close of the Barock period still remained remained a work in progress and it wasn't until 130 years later with the development of the iron frame and other vast improvments to the action by Steinway and others that the modern piano was born.
       So why on earth do these people still insist on giving concerts of Barock keybord music on a modern piano when the harpsichord should always be the obvious choice?
This at least might make the casual listener/viewer realise that there is far more choice in realizing this music than just on a modern piano, and who knows, they might even enjoy it!


Organs on eBay or for urgent sale / Re: Is this the meltdown of the organ?
« on: September 11, 2015, 01:05:21 PM »
I cannot agree more, but please be assured; there are also a great many awful organs in the Netherlands as well, some of which I have been able to rebuild in a satisfactory condition, both mechanically and tonally, but there are some which are so bad the only possible answer was to build a new organ entirely, perhaps using some of the existing pipework, especially the Pedal basses which are usually the most expensive to replace.
As far as Britain is concerned, unlike the Netherlands, the organ doesn't have the same history of being the primary instrument for music for the general population to listen to as it was in times gone by. The organ in Britain seems to have specifically evolved during the last half of the nineteenth century for use solely in the religious services. The strict Calvinist church in the Netherlands at one time regarded organs as 'playthings of the Devil' or other 'Popish nonsence' and specifically forbade them to have any kind of role within the church. They were originally put there to entertain the townsfolk during evenings in the week or on Saturday afternoons. It wasn't until the 1640's that this stance was softened and the organ was first put to use to accompany the now popular congregational singing, mainly due to such influential people like Contantin Hugyens, who was the secretary to the Princes of Orange and a great lover of music. Before this the organ was an object of civic pride, with many towns trying to outdo their neighbours by building even larger and spectacular organs, the legacy of which we can enjoy in abundance today.
   This of course elevated the town organist to a high status, whereas in Britain there has never been such favourable conditions for musicians to take the organ so seriously. Therefore, even today, apart from the major churches and cathedrals, the organist has usually been originally a pianist who, out of a sense of duty to the church, or even to God, has played the organ on Sundays and at other times just to help out. He or she has never been encouraged to regard the church organ more than as an adjuct to services, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why many churches seem to be more than happy to employ a band of amateur musicians with guitars and tambourines etc, rather than give the organ much attention, especially when the time comes to have to spend a great deal of money in repairs and restoration. One English organ-building friend of mine told me a story about one particular church in Kent whose organ was on its last legs. Everytime he went to tune it during the past five years he had made notes in the tuner's book about what needed to be done urgently to keep the instrument playing, only to be consistantly told that the church had no money, so please could he continue to keep it playing for a few more years. The following visit, six months later, he was surprised and very annoyed to see that the same church had spent just over £2.500 in restoring and repainting the stone pulpit since the last time he was there.
This then seems to be the fundamental problem in Britain. Any church who regards restoring the pulpit over spending the same amount of money on restoring the organ deserves no music.  Unfortunately the organ will never enjoy the same status as it has in the Netherlands, or in Germany, where the organist is regarded as a civil servant and so enjoys a living salery, even in some more out of the way places.
   As regards the clergy, I don't think the organist can expect to receive much encouragement there, since most of them, with a notable few exceptions, seem to be oblivious to any kind of meaningful devotional music at all. Hence all the strumming and wailing and 'happy clapper' sort of inane tripe that seems to be on the increase.
   However, I do sincerely believe that the organ itself will come through all of this. It may never enjoy the same elevated adoration as it had in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it will prevail.
No other musical instrument reflects the grace of the human soul as it has always done, even in these days of material gain, its influence may be diminished, but it will never be completely silenced

Going on a bit now so I'll shut up

Best wihes from Ian   

Dresden was completely unnecessary. The war was more or less over by then and there was nothing of stratigic importance anywhere near it. Churchill only sanctioned the bombing raid to "break the German spirit". It's not just a case of the destruction of priceless organ that is the problem here. Other German cities were bombed relentlessly, and many for good reason. Bremen, for example had its mediaeval heart ripped out of it, thus destroying the Martinikirche and the its organ. However, there was an aircraft factory located there which had to be destroyed. Likewise, Luebeck, anothe ancient Hanseatic city bombed mercilessly, and here, several historic organs were completely destroyed, including the two in the Marienkirche, which for organists is a total disaster, as the main four-manual organ, built by Haering in the 1540's was the instrument on which Dietrich Buxtehude composed all his later organ works. Likewise the three-manual organ in the so-called 'Totentanz Kapelle' in the same building, dating from a hundred years earlier, completely destroyed. But yes, this was war and so we cannot really wonder why this happened, since Luebeck also contained an ammunitions factory.
The Frauenkirche in Dresden has now been completely rebuilt, just as it was, both inside and out.
The organ case by Silbermann in 1735 has also been reconstructed, while the gold cross on the top of the building was made and donated by the people of Coventry in the spirit of friendship and unity with all the Christian churches in Germany.
     While I'm at it, although the case has been reconstructed, the organ inside it bears no resemblance to a Silbermann organ at all. I haven't yet played it, but my eldest daughter has but when I asked her about it she was strangely quiet;

Ian: "So, you've had a spin on the Frauenkirche organ then?"
Karina: "Yes, last Thursday week actually."
Ian: "So how did you find it?"
Karina "Was okay, I suppose...."

and that was it!

Best wishes,

Thanks everyone for your kind comments about my last post. I'll therefore start this one where I left off, at Dresden and with Gottfried Silbermann, who in his Saxon homeland is still held in the same high regard as Antonio Stradivari enjoys for stringed instruments.
This is the main reason why so much of his work has been preserved unaltered, even throughout the 19th century when many organs from the Baroque age were taken down, rebuilt or altered beyond recognition.
       Silbermann built three organs in Dresden, which was known throughout Europe as an architectural masterpiece. The first organ was in the Sophienkirche (Lutheran), containing three manuals, pedal and 31 stops. The original contract which still exists, was signed on May 10th 1718. Work on the organ in the church began sometime in June 1720 and was completed in the middle of November the same year. This is one organ that we know was played frequently by Johann Sebastian Bach, at least from 1733 when his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann obtained the organist's position. The second organ was built in the Frauenkirche (RC, which was regarded as one of Dresden's finest buildings). The organ contained three manuals, pedal and 43 stops. The contract was signed on 13th November 1732 but has disappeared. Work in the church started at the end of January 1736 and completed ten months later, and it is also known that Bach had also played this organ on several occasions.
       Silbermann's last and largest organ in the Hofkirche (later the Cathedral), Bach could not have known since he had died long before work had started. Silbermann himself had died before the instrument had started to be erected in the cathedral. This was carried out by his young nephew, Johann Daniel Silbermann (1717-1766) who made the journey from Strasbourg especially to do so, and Zacharias Hildebrandt (1688-1757), a former apprentice of Silbermann and now an independant organ builder. The organ was completed by the end of January 1755, after which it had its dedication service on 2nd February 1755. The organ cost the enormous sum of 20,000 Talers, excluding the case, the cost of which is not clear but was said have been around 10,000 Talers.
       During the night of 13th February 1945 the cathedral was reduced to a burnt-out shell during the unnecessary wanton destruction of this beautiful city by English bombers. Both the Sophienkiche and the Frauenkirche along with their Silbermann organs were completely destroyed. Fortunately, the Dean of the Cathedral, Heinrich Beier, with the help of local organ builders Jemlich, was able to remove all the historic pipework, keyboards, pedals, stop action, windchests, bellows, as well as the complete mechanical action of this priceless organ a few months earlier and store it in Kloster Marienstern, near the town of Kamenz, far away from any harm. However, there wasn't enough time to rescue the organ case, which on that horrendous night was turned into a heap of ashes. Today, organists and enthusiasts the world over owe a great debt to this noble man for his amazing foresight, who nevertheless that night was to perish himself during the fire-bombing of the city, along with 35,000 other inhabitants.
       The rebuilt cathedral was re-dedicated on 8th July 1960, after which restoration of the organ commenced. This was again carried out by the local firm of Jemlich Orgelbau. Apart from the mechanical and musical parts of the organ, the reconstruction of the original case was made by a careful study of old photographs. Finally at Whitsun 1971, the last and largest work by one of the greatest organ builders in history was reinaugurated during a joyous festival of music.

So far today. I have to go now because I have to tune a three-manual organ before I'll be allowed any dinner, but I hope to continue with this next time

With best wishes from Ian

Although I must be completely biased, the organ in the St Lauenskerk in my home town of Alkmaar has got to be my all time favourite instrument, although pressure of work makes it very difficult for me to find the time to visit it these days. This was the organ that first aroused my interest at the tender age of eight when I was first taken to see it by my grandmother who was a professional teacher in organ, harpischord and piano. In fact I began to play under her guidance aged four on a small spinet, but after I first heard this organ I could not think of anything else but to want to learn to play it.
       I also learnt from her that one of our ancestors, Nicolaas Willenbroek (1688-1754), by great (x7) grandfather had worked with Frans Caspar Schnitger on the rebuilding of this organ in 1723, and this is one of the reasons why I subsequently took up organ-building as a profession when I left school.
       I count myself as very lucky when growing up because not only is this organ truly exceptional, but other instruments in the town and surrounding area are also a joy to play, for instance the organ a Purmerend, built in 1738 by another German, Rudolph Garrels, probably because of the success of the rebuilding in the Laurenskerk by Schnitger, although at the time of completion there was a real row about "why a German should be allowed to come here and ruin one of the best organs in the Netherlands" was certianly a view amongst several Dutch organists at the time, but by the presence of the Pumerend organ built only a few years later, it suggests that the preduce was quickly overcome.
       For me, some of the English organs that stand out is the modern masterpiece by Harrison in Coventry Cathedral which has already been mentioned, the Willis organ at Salisbury, although I still believe that in order to hear the finest reed stops ever made you need to visit an (unspoilt) organ by the great Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, such as at St. Sernin in Toulouse. Another English organ I used to love to play when in my teens was the Hill/Willis organ in All Saints on the Isle of Wight, but I don't know what condition it is in at the present time.
       Then we should move to Germany, just as I did aged nineteen, to learn to build organs properly with one of the most famous organ-builders in the country, and visit other organs by Schnitger, not by his son, as at the Laurenskerk, but by his father Arp Schnitger (1648-1719) Then drive further south-west to Thueringia and Saxony to listen and/or play organs by Gottfried Silbermann (1683-1753) who has always been my guiding influence when designing my own organs. The organs at Fraureuth, Reinhardtsgrimma, Ponitz, Crostau, as well as the bigger ones in Freiburg and Dresden Cathedrals stand out in my mind, although the Dresden organ has had certain alterations made to it in the voicing.

I'll stop now now or this could go on all day

Best Wishes from Ian

Pages: [1] 2 3

Locations of visitors to this page

Organ Design

Latroba Holidays