Maybe you will permit me to clarify a few things about the organs in the Oude Kerk and in Haarlem St. Bavo which have appeared in other threads.
A lot of romantic ideas have grown up about some of these famous organs in the Netherlands. So here are a few comments about recent postings.
AMSTERDAM OUDE KERK
Someone wrote about the main organ:
However, the organ (which I adore) has quite a dark and heavy sound - it certainly encourages a broad and grand approach to music, with real commitment to every note and musical detail. I also love the heavy, deeeep touch of this organ - nothing can be rushed on it. You can rush Haarlem if you want but Oude Kerk will stop you straight away. People who try to to rush on this organ will hate it and think it's unplayable. I really hope nothing happens to it during the restoration.
This organ has almost mythical properties, due mostly to protestant religious fervour of a certain sort. It is not by Christian Müller, it does not sound typical and has a bad action, so no conclusions can be drawn from its sound. I really hope a lot happens during its restoration!
Here is a short history of the Oude Kerk organs
1724 – 26: Built by Christian Vater from Hannover, in north German baroque style.
The organ case made new by Jurriaan Westerman, Amsterdam.
This organ replaced the 1539 instrument by Hans van Coelen & Hendrik Niehoff . (Sweelinck’s organ c. 1577 tot 1621
1738 – 42: Shortly after completion of the Vater organ the church tower showed signs of collapse. The organ was taken down and after repairs to the tower, Johan Caspar Müller, (Christian Müller’s brother) was given the contract to re-install it. The opportunity was seized upon to alter the instrument, to make it louder and more like the Dutch instruments of the period. It was enlarged by 9 registers, (including a new Cornet of 9 ranks from 5 1/3) and received new or altered wind chests and a new action. The results of this work were from the first moment unsatisfactory. The appalling action remains almost as bad until this day. Johan Caspar Müller was not in the same league as his brother.
In 1869 – 70 the organ was drastically changed by C.F.G. Witte and was revoiced in the contemporary taste.
The organ as it stands today looks like this:
Voicing of flutes reeds and mixtures: Vater-Müller-Witte.
Voicing prestant registers 16-8-4 .: primarily Witte, 1870.
Pitch: ± 1/8 tone above a-440, orig.. ± 1/2 tone above a-440
Tuning: equal, presumably since 1824.
Wind pressure: 95 mm
Action & keyboards: Witte 1870.
Windchests: Müller 1738
Wind system: Vater or Müller, of the original bellows 4 are in use.
The transept organ
Originally an organ made in 1658 Hans Wolf Schonat, builder of the main organ in the Nieuwe Kerk, which replaced an older instrument of 1545 by Hendrik Niehoff. Sweelinks choir organ is therefore lost.
Already in 1823 the organ was broken up and the pipework spread among several instruments
In de empty Schonat case Ahrend & Brunzema built a new organ in 1964-65, based on the Schonat disposition. In recent years it has been retuned to mean tone.
So you can see that nothing remains for the “authentic” playing of Sweelink. The main organ sounds utterly different from its original concept, and the small organ, although very beautiful of its sort, remains a conjecture of the 20th. Century.
ps The church is open every day (but you have to pay, it's a museum).
HAARLEM, ST BAVO
Muller organs have quite a dark, solid, bold tone, which is how you know that the Bavo-orgel is nothing like it was before.
But, as well as this organ, I would urge everyone to see Leeuwarden and Beverwijk. Well restored Instruments by Christian Müller which are poles apart in style, but both utterly concincing. Leeuwarden especially would force you to think again. The Waalse Kerk I personally find a little too Ahrend in sound.
At this web address you can find a history of the Haarlem organ in English.
For convenience here are the salient points.
The organ remained almost unaltered for more than 125 years until 1866.
It was then in need of a thorough revision. The bellows and windchests were leaking, the action was worn out in many places, and many pipes were damaged. This led to a desire by the Town Council to renovate the organ technically and mechanically, and, at the same time, to adapt it to requirements of the contemporary musical taste.
The preference at the time for powerful basses, mild overtones and a stable sound played a significant role here.
C.F.G. Witte described the sound of the organ thus: “the voicing of the principal pipes can be said to be generally weak, especially in the bass octaves.
On the other hand, the voicing of the reeds is strong and cutting so that the former are overshadowed by the latter. Also, the pedal is too weak.”
The improvements in the sound envisaged by Witte were achieved by means of altering the wind supply, increasing the wind pressure and by adapting the voicing of the flues and reeds accordingly. In addition, Witte made a number of alterations to the specification.
In 1904, the organ was again renovated, this time by the Maarschalkerweerd. The wind supply was again altered: the 12 original Müller wedge bellows were replaced by three large reservoirs, manually operated. The pedal action was converted to pneumatic.
Finally, the organ was rebuilt by the Danish firm of Marcussen & Son followed in the period 1959-1961.
Important changes by Marcussen included:
- the reinstatement of Müller's stoplist with the addition of two new Mixtures.
- the replacement of the wind supply with a modern system providing a lower wind pressure than previously.
- the replacement of the action with a new balanced mechanical action
- the reconstruction of the keyboards.
- the substantial overhauling and modernisation of the windchests.
It's rumored, (I could never comment,) that Marcussen's restoration of the pipework was very intrusive.
In recent years much of it has undergone "voicing correction" by Flentrop, with considerable succes. Despite all the alterations and uncertainty of its original sound, it remains a stupendous instrument, and one of my favourite places to play.
Ther is no substitue for playing hearing these organs yourself. Do try. I would issue one warning, drummed into me by my Dutch colleagues. Approach the instruments on their own terms. Make no assumptions about what to play. Holland is not Thüringen in 1750. Dutchmen know the answer. Improvise!
Best wishes from a sunny Amsterdam