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Müller Organs And Witte


sauer1889
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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.

 

MH:

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

 

Someone wrote:

Muller organs have quite a dark, solid, bold tone, which is how you know that the Bavo-orgel is nothing like it was before.

 

MH:

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.

 

http://www.organfestival.nl/_private/historymuller2008.html

 

 

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

 

Michael Hedley

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HAARLEM, ST BAVO

 

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.

Do you know if the pedal action is still pneumatic, and when the tuning was changed to equal temperament?

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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.

 

MH:

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

 

Someone wrote:

Muller organs have quite a dark, solid, bold tone, which is how you know that the Bavo-orgel is nothing like it was before.

 

MH:

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.

 

http://www.organfestival.nl/_private/historymuller2008.html

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

 

Michael Hedley

 

Michael - thank you for this fascinating information.

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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.

 

MH:

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

 

Someone wrote:

Muller organs have quite a dark, solid, bold tone, which is how you know that the Bavo-orgel is nothing like it was before.

 

MH:

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.

 

http://www.organfestival.nl/_private/historymuller2008.html

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

 

Michael Hedley

 

 

================================

 

Re: The Bavo orgel

 

I think that I would tentatively challenge some of this information, because much of that which is relevant has been omitted, and some of that which is relevant appears to be overstated.

 

Allow me to explain my reasons for saying this.

 

The very idea that Witte and his contemporaries were the Netherlands equivalent to Arthur Harrison, is completely wrong, and to understand why, you really need to understand the conservative pace of change in the Netherlands on a number of fronts.

 

Unlike the UK, the Netherlands was a slow developer in economic terms, and in 1866, they were only just beginning to industrialise. It was still very much a country of rural farmers and marriners, and in economic terms, very low on the index of relative national wealth. Even a city like Rotterdam was a old fishing port with a few larger docks tagged on to it.

 

Thus, things changed only slowly, and if organs worked, they didn't indulge in extravegant and unnecessary work; hence the preservation of so many historic instruments, which served their purpose without need for radical change.

 

It is very easy to read too much into statements such as "they increased the wind pressures," when in point of fact, most organs remained hand-blown. So forget the idea that the usual 2.75" - 3" wg (the usual wind-pressure across the Netherlands to this day), was suddenly 4.5". It just didn't happen. If there was any increase at all, which is probably unlikely, it would not have been more than about 0.5"wg.

 

There is considerable evidence to support the view that light pipe-nicking was as prevalent in 1730 as it was in the mid-19th century in the Netherlands: a fact born out by the existence of original nicking in the organs of Johannus Snetzler, whom it is said, worked on the Haarlem instrument with Christian Muller.

 

I don't know enough about Witte to make too much comment, but certainly, they did explore penumatic-action and sought to introduce the romantic organ to the Netherlands, but not to a massive extent. In point of fact, if you go to Delft, where there are Batz organs from much the same period, you will not hear a romantic sound at all. What you will hear is much the same as a baroque-organ, but with slightly stronger bass and mid-tones. You will also hear upperwork which is less powerful, and more often than not, very strong tierces as part of the chorus. So the change is more conservative than radical, and it is still possible to play the baroque repertoire very convincingly, but with a slightly throatier, broader sound.

 

I would never regard the "restoration" of the Bavo-orgel as an unmitigated disaster, because what we now hear is SO good, and so wonderful, it tends to silence the critics. However, you should be aware that during the Marcussen restoration, there was an agenda which went beyond mere restoration, and which followed the fashionable neo-classicism of the day. As a consequence, much of the pipe-nicking was radically erased, and the organ completely re-voiced. At the same time, the changes to the wind-system included the use of Schwimmers; then the latest innovation in organ-building. Add to this the inclusion of new Mixtures and an entirely new action, and what emerged was a very different instrument. It is said by some, that the reduction in wind-pressure (not by very much at all) was both ill-informed and unfortunate, and that the original Muller sound was much bolder.

 

Some of the older Netherlands organists and pundits still hate what was done at St.Bavo, and have never forgiven those involved.

 

My own view, is that the instrument is so perfect, it is no less good than what Christian Muller created, but make no mistake, a lot of history was lost when Marcussen "had a go" at it.

 

Since then, Flentrop have possibly improved the organ quite a bit, and every time I go there, I learn of bits being re-voiced. Now less severe, and perhaps ever so slightly more "romantic" (for lack of a better word), the Bavo orgel is probably half-way back to where it started originally, but without evidence, it is impossible to state that as fact.

 

It remains a fairly good organ, I suspect!!!!!!!! :lol:

 

MM

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Do you know if the pedal action is still pneumatic, and when the tuning was changed to equal temperament?

 

 

=========================

 

 

The action is mechanical throughout, but not original. I can't tell you when the tuning was changed, or even what it changed from.

 

MM

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  • 3 weeks later...
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.

 

MH:

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).

<snip>

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

 

Michael Hedley

 

Thank you for this information - most interesting.

 

It is difficult to know what to do with the Oude Kerk organ. My fear is that something too intrusive is done - a little like Haarlem in 1960s. I would be more inclined to keep the old material where possible, respecting the work of previous builders. It would appear it isn't feasible to restore it to any time in history but I'm not sure there is a need to preserve this organ in aspic in one time period.

 

Is there is enough evidence to restore it to its orignal Vater state? If so, would people want to do that? I read the original Vater organ was very unsatisfactory too and J.C.Muller was asked to improve it.

 

The action wasn't that bad - very heavy and very deep - but at least it worked when I played it, despite its ghastly state. I know it has a reputation. My fear is that a modern builder would try to replace it with something that is too light and fast, which would sit unhappily with the older (and less old) parts of the organ.

 

I wish them luck at the Oude Kerk!

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So.....back to the Oude Kerk.

 

"It is difficult to know what to do with the Oude Kerk organ. My fear is that something too intrusive is done - a little like Haarlem in 1960s. I would be more inclined to keep the old material where possible, respecting the work of previous builders. It would appear it isn't feasible to restore it to any time in history but I'm not sure there is a need to preserve this organ in aspic in one time period."

 

The organ will be restored in its present situation, ie as left by Witte in 1870. Haarlem is the only organ which was so radically changed in the Netherlands - even in 1960 the degree to which it was altered was exceptional. Compare it with Flentrop's restoration in Zwolle in the mid 1950s for example.

 

"Is there is enough evidence to restore it to its orignal Vater state? If so, would people want to do that? I read the original Vater organ was very unsatisfactory too and J.C.Muller was asked to improve it."

 

There are several factors which play a role here. The first is that although the organ was deemed "unsatisfactory" as you say the year in which it was altered is also important; 1738 was also the year in which Haarlem ws completed. A degree of jealously of the neighbours almost certainly led to the organ being changed. There would be no question of restoring the organ to its original 1724 (Vater) situation because the Muller material is of equal historical significance.

 

The organ in the Oude Kerk is perhaps the last big organ in the Netherlands not to have received a modern restoration. There have been several restorations in recent times which have determined the current philosophy of restoration practice here. The (over-simplified) key issue is whether one keeps 19th century material (or in the Lutherse Kerk in The Hague even a pneumatic Swell division by Mr Bik from 1948!!!) in a 17th or 18th century organ. Now it has become normal to do exactly that. The large 1742 Garrels organ in Purmerend has been restored preserving the 19th century stops of Flaes. The 1640-something Bader organ in Zutphen was restored 10 years ago with its 1815 Bovenwerk (Timpe) completely intact.

 

In the Oude Kerk, the organ as it stands is a unique and rather compelling instrument which deserves to be preserved. Witte's Cornet of 1870 in the Rugwerk is one of the best stops in the organ for example. Witte also removed the back wall of the organ (the sound goes directly up the tower!) removed the doubled principal ranks, raised the wind pressure etc. But to "correct" one of these elements in isolation would lead to a potentially unhappy compromise.

 

At present a substantial church restoration is just beginning, the organ will be restored when this is completed. In recent weeks I understand a significant winding problem has finally made it virtually unplayable, but it is due to be sealed off anyway due to the work on the tower.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Guest Cynic
Thank you for this pithy and erudite response. This all sounds very well informed and encouraging! I wish the Oude Kerk the very best for the restoration of their organ!

 

Best regards,

 

Colin

 

 

I totally concur, it is refreshing to hear such sound common sense. Bravo Holland!

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The organ in the Oude Kerk is perhaps the last big organ in the Netherlands not to have received a modern restoration.

 

=======================

 

 

What about the wonderful mongrel at the A-akerk, Groningen?

 

I don't think I would like to be on a committee involved in the "restoration" of this instrument, and as "Bazuin" will know, they've been arguing about it for decades.

 

MM

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"What about the wonderful mongrel at the A-akerk, Groningen?"

 

This was partly restored by Reil in 1990. The case is presently in the church, the remainder has been in storage for around a decade while the arguments rage. Here the question is whether to keep 19th century pipework by Timpe, and by Petrus van Oeckelen in an organ by Arp Schnitger. Both Timpe and Van Oeckelen were outstanding organ builders, plentiful examples of the latter's instruments especially are preserved. I think it is still unknown when the organ will be completely restored and returned to the church, where it enjoys an audible decay time of nearly 12 seconds incidentally.

 

In one of the transepts of the same church there hangs an empty pair of organ cases which originally housed an organ built around 1550 by one Raphael Rodensteen. In one of the Dutch magazines it was reported late last year that a new instrument will be built in the cases by the American organ builder Paul Fritts. Given that he is undoubtedly one of the 3 or 4 finest organ builders in the world, and that this would be his first European project, this is very exciting news indeed.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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“Bazuin” opens up a real can of worms about organ-restoration in the Netherlands, which of course, (quite rightly), they take terribly seriously.

 

We may be veering slightly off-topic, but the Aa-kerk organ is a very special instrument with the most complicated history; yet at last hearing, was an absolute gem of an organ.

(I am reduced to recordings these days!)

 

It is possible to see just how complicated it can all get, when the details of the Aa-kerk organ in Groningen become clear.

 

The organ has a history which covers just over 300 years, with pipework and windchests from two churches, four different periods and four organ-builders. In addition, it has a very important organ-case carved by Jan de Rijk to the design of Allert Meijer. It is a restorer’s nightmare because of this, further enlivened by the fact that the church is built on very insecure sub-soil, the tower of which has shifted or collapsed at various moments in time.

 

The story starts at another church known as the Academiekerk, in 1702, when Arp Schnitger built an organ with 32 stops, using much of the old pipework from the previous instrument by Andreas de Mare and Hendrick Harmens of 1676-9.

 

Schnitger had already built an organ in the Aa-kerk, but in 1710, the church tower collapsed and destroyed that particular organ in the process.

 

So the organ which found its way into the Aa-kerk, and which is currently in storage (save for the organ-case), actually began life at the Adademikerk, and was taken down and re-erected in the Aa-kerk by Johan Wilhelm Timpe in 1816, but not without alterations to the organ case, with new statues being carved added. To all intents and purposes, the organ was much the same as that left by Arp Schnitger, but now speaking into a vast acoustic. (As “Bazuin” suggests, around 12 secs of reverberation….one of the longest, if not THE longest organ acoustic in Europe).

 

Sadly, tonal revisions were subsequently undertaken by Johan Wilhelm Timpe in 1830; possibly in line with the current musical thinking of the day. The Borstwerk (Brustwerk) was replaced by a Bovenwerk, while in 1857, further drastic changes were made by Petrus van Oeckelen to the case, the action and to the Hoofdwerk (Hauptwerk); the latter being enlarged somewhat. At the same time, the voicing was altered and the pitch was changed.

 

Further changes were made after this in the 20th century, with pipework by Jan en Klaas Doornbos.

 

All this may seem an unfortunate way to treat an organ by Arp Schnitger, but actually, it wasn’t quite so bad as the written evidence suggest, for the simple reason that both Johan Wilhelm Timpe and Petrus van Oeckelen were outstanding organ-builders in the very celebrated Groningen-style.

 

To think in English terms about what Fr Willis might have done to a Snetzler organ, is not even imaginable, because even by the start of the second-half of the 19th century, the Netherlands organ-builders (especially in the Groningen region), were very conservative indeed, and didn’t take anything to extremes. Thus, the tonal fashion of the day was towards milder tones and stronger basses, but not usually at the expense of tonal integrity and adequate upperwork.

 

So what worked before, would work equally well after the attention of the 19th century organ-builders, but of course, this means that the organ is no more authentic Schnitger than it is authentic 19th century Groningen-style organ-building.

 

Unfortunattely, not even this represented the status-quo until recently, because in 1977, during restoration of what was always a very insecure church, the organ was snatched out at break-neck speed when the tower yet again threatened to collapse. When the organ went back in again in 1989, it was not in restored form, but merely repaired where necessary and made playable.

 

Of course, what this does not tell us, is the sound that this organ made, which was utterly stunning; irrespective of the chequered history of the instrument.

 

The specification is worth writing out, and with it, the sources of the pipework and the windchests. Here it is, with capital letters to denote the origins of the pipes:-

 

M = Andreas de Mare 1676-9

S = Arp Schnitger 1702

O= van Oeckelen (1857)

D = Jan en Klaas Doornbos (1924, 1935, 1939 and 1946)

R = Reil (Repaired 1989)

 

Hoofdwerk (windchest by van Oeckelen)

 

Prestant 16 S (M)

Bourdon 16 O

Octaaf 8 M

Salicionaal 8 O

Holpijp 8 M

Octaaf 4 M

Nacthoorn 4 M

Nasard 2.2/3 D

Octaaf 2 M (S) (Hinsz)

Cornet V O

Mixtuur III –V D

Trompet 16 O

Trompet 8 S

 

Bovenwerk (windchest by Timpe)

 

Praestant 8 T (S)

Viola da

Gamba 8 T

Holfluit 8 T

Octaaf 4 T/S

Fluit 4 T

Fluit 2 T

Flageolet 1 D

Clarinet 8 T/O (S)

 

Rugposotief (windchest by Schnitger)

 

Quintadena 16 S

Praestant 8 S

Gedekt 8 S

Octaaf 4 S

Roerfluit 4 M

Gemshoorn 2 S

Sifflet 1.1/3 M/T

Scherp IV – V S

Dulciaan 8 S

Trompet 8 T

 

 

Pedaal (Windchests by Schnitger and van Oeckelen)

 

Bourdon 16 M

Subbas 16 O

Quint 10.2/3 O

Praestant 8 S

Holpijp 8 O/D

Octaaf 8 M

(Spare - Mixture IV-V previously)

Bazuin 16 D/Reil

Trompet 8 S

Trompet 4 S

 

Couplers

 

RP – HW

HW–BW

RP – Ped

 

 

NOTE: 3 COUPLERS IN TOTAL!!!

 

So you can all see what a complex undertaking any sort of proper (not to say “correct”) restoration is going to be.

 

What would I do?

 

Get a new Pedal Mixtuur, and leave the organ exactly as it was before it was last removed to storage. Nothing could ever sound better, that’s for sure, and I have a strange feeling that Pierre will agree with me.

 

MM

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"What would I do?

 

Get a new Pedal Mixtuur"

(Quote)

 

Even that I would not dare. Leave it alone would have been my idea.

This said, it is clear the people there know what to do 100 times better

than myself -only an occasionnal visitor!-.

 

Pierre

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  • 11 months later...
"What about the wonderful mongrel at the A-akerk, Groningen?"

 

In one of the transepts of the same church there hangs an empty pair of organ cases which originally housed an organ built around 1550 by one Raphael Rodensteen. In one of the Dutch magazines it was reported late last year that a new instrument will be built in the cases by the American organ builder Paul Fritts. Given that he is undoubtedly one of the 3 or 4 finest organ builders in the world, and that this would be his first European project, this is very exciting news indeed.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

Thank you gentlemen, for this discussion. Bazuin, if I am ask, in what publication did you see that mention of Mr. Fritts in connection with the Raphaelis organ in the Aa Kerk? You are right, it would be exciting news indeed.

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"Thank you gentlemen, for this discussion. Bazuin, if I am ask, in what publication did you see that mention of Mr. Fritts in connection with the Raphaelis organ in the Aa Kerk? You are right, it would be exciting news indeed."

 

I believe it was De Orgelvriend, the magazine of our esteemed fellow-boarder Gerco1956. This was a while ago now and it occurs to me that I haven't seen anything about it since.

 

I notice Mr Fritts is your local organ builder, you are one lucky Hesperion.

 

:)

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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"Thank you gentlemen, for this discussion. Bazuin, if I am ask, in what publication did you see that mention of Mr. Fritts in connection with the Raphaelis organ in the Aa Kerk? You are right, it would be exciting news indeed."

 

I believe it was De Orgelvriend, the magazine of our esteemed fellow-boarder Gerco1956. This was a while ago now and it occurs to me that I haven't seen anything about it since.

 

I notice Mr Fritts is your local organ builder, you are one lucky Hesperion.

 

:rolleyes:

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

Thank you for your reply. I will see what I can find out. Yes, we are blessed with close proximity to Mr. Fritts. I visited his shop recently and it is a model of neatness and efficiency. I would love to work with him someday.

 

On the subject of Herman Raphaelis' organs. Of course the remains of his work at Roskilde is well enough known. Also, as you have mentioned, the empty cases at de Aa Kerk usually comes up. I have stumbled upon one of his other creatures located in the Queen's chapel in the castle at Sonderborg, Denmark from 1557.

 

I have created a thread about this builder beginning with this instrument. I would be interested in what other members might uncover.

 

http://www.mander-organs.com/discussion/in...?showtopic=2299

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I have a recording by Harald Vogel with a beautifully sounding Aa-Kerk organ. If he ist still involved and did not change his attitude in recent years, he will try to lead the organ back to a Schnitger stae, may it be ficticiuos in details or not.

I always joked that he is the "Let's restore the organ to the 12th February 1644!"-guy, and in Germany the influence of this attitude is noticeable. But as it is decreasing (Pierre will be happy to hear that), it will be associated more and more with completed projects, less and less with coming ones or considerations of restoration projects ("My" organ here will confirm that tendency, as it will presumably preserve all its previous historic layers, but maybe get a little newer one (removable) added...).

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The Aa-kerk organ is an absolute gem.

(And one of my preffered organs, quite high on the list. Of course,

this is Nebensache!)

To want to try to "better" that one would be to play with matches

just under a gasoline tank.

Leave it alone!

 

Pierre

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The Aa-kerk organ is an absolute gem.

(And one of my preffered organs, quite high on the list. Of course,

this is Nebensache!)

To want to try to "better" that one would be to play with matches

just under a gasoline tank.

Leave it alone!

 

Pierre

 

A gem, indeed, with so many indescribably beautiful individual registers and mélanges. I was privileged to sign the visitors' book on the same page as M-C Alain who voiced similar sentiments.

 

Beauty such as this should be left alone. Say no to soulless Teutonic historicism. So much would be lost in any attempt, however well-meant, to return to an 'ur-Schnitger' state.

 

JS

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"Thank you gentlemen, for this discussion. Bazuin, if I am ask, in what publication did you see that mention of Mr. Fritts in connection with the Raphaelis organ in the Aa Kerk? You are right, it would be exciting news indeed."

 

I believe it was De Orgelvriend, the magazine of our esteemed fellow-boarder Gerco1956. This was a while ago now and it occurs to me that I haven't seen anything about it since.

 

I notice Mr Fritts is your local organ builder, you are one lucky Hesperion.

 

:)

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

Follow-up: I ran into Mr. Fritts the other day and asked about the Aa Kerk transept organ. He said it was in discussions and the deal was still on, the obstacle being the funding. So if any of you wants to underwrite this venture I am sure it would be appreciated. Just wanted to update us on this exciting possibility. :)

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"Follow-up: I ran into Mr. Fritts the other day and asked about the Aa Kerk transept organ. He said it was in discussions and the deal was still on, the obstacle being the funding. So if any of you wants to underwrite this venture I am sure it would be appreciated. Just wanted to update us on this exciting possibility. :)"

 

Many thanks! Good to hear about these things - in Holland obtaining such information is difficult indeed.

 

Groetjes

 

Bazuin

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