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Bach Organ At Dordrecht


Nick Bennett
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Has anybody heard (or played) the new "Bach Organ" in the Grote Kerk, Dordrecht? It's by Verschueren and is based on the principles of Silbermann, especially his organs at the Dom Church, Freiburg and the Hofkirche, Dresden.

 

The church has apparently spent a million euros on it, whilst at the same time restoring the impressive 1859 instrument by Hendrik Kam at the west end of the church. Where do they get all this money from?

 

I had the pleasure of hearing it a lot and playing it a little on the Dutch organ tour the week before last. Thought it was a very distinguished and exciting instrument, and worth enduring the piercing cold for (as I tried to keep my fingers warm enough to play, my breath was condensing on my fingernails at one stage).

 

The organist, Cor Ardesch, described it as his new toy.

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Has anybody heard (or played) the new "Bach Organ" in the Grote Kerk, Dordrecht? It's by Verschueren and is based on the principles of Silbermann, especially his organs at the Dom Church, Freiburg and the Hofkirche, Dresden.

Yes, I have, in the same small party that Nick was with.

 

As a clavichord player who has only just taken to the organ I have often thought about the fact that many organists used the clavichord as a practice instrument, which was logical enough considering how unpleasant it must have been to work in a cold (as Nick said), and dark church, plus the difficulty of finding a willing person to pump. Two clavichords stacked one on top of each other, plus a pedal clavichord or pedal with pull-downs would have made it possible to practice most of the repertoire, and also to use this arrangement for improvisation, composition and teaching.

 

Of course one wonders about the differences. Instead of the organ's infinite sustain, clavichords have very little sustaining power. Organs are generally reckoned to have very little touch sensitivity (which is why so many people were satisfied with pneumatic or electric action) although tracker enthusiasts have always insisted that touch is important. While, once speaking at its set volume, an organ pipe is beyond the control of the organist, the dynamic range of the clavichord is very wide, even though it is never very loud, and it is even possible to apply a controlled vibrato. It's much harder to play a fugue on a clavichord, as it is difficult to maintain the equality of voices. Many post-Bach organs are rather slow and imprecise in their speech, while the clavichord is very prompt. Organ actions can be quite heavy with a deep touch, while clavichord keys are extremely light and touch depth may only be a few millimetres.

 

After briefly trying the "Bach Organ" I now understand why players thought the clavichord a suitable practice instrument for the organ. The Dordrecht keyboard was extremely light and the pipes very responsive, and to me that organ felt much nearer to the clavichord than any other that I have tried. (Of course it was MUCH louder!)

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Yes, I have, in the same small party that Nick was with.

 

Oh, hello David - I hadn't made the connection.

 

Speaking of weight and depth of touch, perhaps someone can explain this.

 

At the Lutheran Church in den Haag I played a piece in F sharp minor, following which the organist of the church, Aart Bergwerff, commented that it was a difficult key to play in because of the depth of touch.

 

Why would depth of touch make F sharp minor more difficult than any other key?

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Oh, hello David - I hadn't made the connection.

 

Speaking of weight and depth of touch, perhaps someone can explain this.

 

At the Lutheran Church in den Haag I played a piece in F sharp minor, following which the organist of the church, Aart Bergwerff, commented that it was a difficult key to play in because of the depth of touch.

 

Why would depth of touch make F sharp minor more difficult than any other key?

That certainly seems very odd.

 

It is well known that F sharp minor is a problem key for mean-tone organs (did Buxtehude ever play his praeludium in Fis BuxWV 146 in that key?). Saorgin plays this on an ET instrument, Harald Vogel on the Aa-Kerk at Groningen on an instrument with slightly modified ET, and Spang-Hanssen on the Aubertin at Vichy in Kirnberger 3. We have yet to hear what Davidsson will do on the Gothenberg mean-tone organ.

 

The organ in den Haag is tuned to ET.

 

I have no idea why depth of touch would be a problem in this key.

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Oh, hello David - I hadn't made the connection.

 

Speaking of weight and depth of touch, perhaps someone can explain this.

 

At the Lutheran Church in den Haag I played a piece in F sharp minor, following which the organist of the church, Aart Bergwerff, commented that it was a difficult key to play in because of the depth of touch.

 

Why would depth of touch make F sharp minor more difficult than any other key?

 

No logical reason I can think of. It could conceivably be something to do with higher incidence of sharps (i.e. black notes) in F# minor and where the increased leverage needed to depress the shorter keys becomes more noticeable with a deep touch.

 

JS

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Ah, the Dordrecht Bach organ. Based on principles by Silbermann, but not a straight copy/reconstruction, and what do we know about Bach and Silbermann? And what do we know about Thuringian/Saxonian organ building since the IronCurtain went down?

 

Haven't heard it yet, no doubt it will be a good instrument by Verschueren, but if it's really THE organ for Bach?

 

 

BTW. has anybody counted the number of 'Bach-organs' built over the last 50 years?

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"And what do we know about Thuringian/Saxonian organ building since the IronCurtain went down?"

(Quote)

 

Something, though. You can see it on the french forum: the Casparini and the Silbermann

schools, with builders like Trost, Scheibe, Wagner, Hildebrandt etc.

Of course these organs do not conform to the modern idea of a "baroque" organ, so do not

expect any reference recording with them before another 20 years, save maybe the

Hildebrandt of Naumburg, less surprising for the "neobarrokies"(1).

 

"has anybody counted the number of 'Bach-organs' built over the last 50 years?"

(Quote)

None!

 

Pierre

 

(1) Zegt men dat in beschaafd nederlands?

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Hello everyone

 

I haven't yet been to play the new Dordrecht organ, although I have played the big Kam organ on the west wall. The restoration of the Kam organ (Reil) and the new organ (Verschueren) are/were paid for by completely different foundations incidentally. The tag of 'Bach organ' was simply a useful tool in sourcing funding I think. Still, it is the only organ of its kind in The Netherlands, even if the 'Mariakoor' in the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht is a far-from-typical acoustical situation for a Thuringian style organ....

 

"has anybody counted the number of 'Bach-organs' built over the last 50 years?"

 

Another new member of the Bach organ family (!) is the Reil reconstruction of the 1739 Wiegleb organ in Ansbach. If I remember correctly all bar around 400 pipes are new. The organ is large, more than 40 stops. According to sources who have been and played it, Reil have succeeded spectacularly in what was clearly a challenging assignment. There is no surviving Wiegleb of any size, and the style is very specific, many string stops for instance, (even a 2' 'Sallicinettgen!) and a very primitive swell box housing a stop entitled 'Echo' which is in fact a 5 rank cornet. This organ has received no coverage whatever in the English language organ press I'm aware of, perhaps interesting therefore to look once at the website of Reil:

 

http://www.reil.nl/doc/orgeloverzicht/2007-ansbach.html

 

On disc it sounds wonderful.....

 

This seems also a good moment to point out the extraordinary flexibility of Verschueren. Their next big organ will be the 3 manual Cavaillé-Coll copy for the Orgelpark in Amsterdam. This is already their second big essay in this style, following the 3/40 Cavaillé-Coll for Gothenburg University, which I have played. It is very fine, one of the first results of the (necessarily expensive) multi-disciplinary approach to research-based organ building in Gothenburg. At the same time a large new organ in their developing 'house style' (which borrows heavily from König) is being built for the Abbey of Wilten (Austria). There are VERY few organ builders in the world who can so impressively produce such widely differing style copies and develop a house style with its roots in yet another sound world....

 

A brief comment about the clavichord. I was fortunate to study the clavichord as a 'bijvak' (secondary subject) in Amsterdam. The greatest benefit to the modern organist from the pedal clavichord seems to me to be the 'window' it affords you to your own technique. This is especially beneficial for learning to play on historic organs where the relationship between posture and sound production is so important. The (pedal) clavichord is merciless in showing up your shortcomings!

 

"less surprising for the "neobarrokies"(1).

(1) Zegt men dat in beschaafd nederlands?"

 

ben ik nog nooit tegen gekomen, maar mijn Nederlands is niet zo beschaafd......

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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"mijn Nederlands is niet zo beschaafd...... "

(Quote)

 

'tferdeke, bij u ook niet ?

 

This Ansbach organ looks very interesting indeed.

Not at all a neo-baroque interpretation, it deserves

to be listened to. the CD can be bought here

for those who can read german:

http://www.wiegleb-orgel-ansbach.de/

 

"Die erste Doppel-CD

von der Wiegleb-Orgel

erschein zur Orgelweihe am 17.6.07:

 

Johann Sebastian Bach

Achtzehn Leipziger Choräle

BWV 651–668

 

Rainer Goede an der Wiegleb-Orgel

in St. Gumbertus Ansbach

können Sie hier zum Preis von 34,- € bestellen"

 

Pierre

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Another new member of the Bach organ family (!) is the Reil reconstruction of the 1739 Wiegleb organ in Ansbach. If I remember correctly all bar around 400 pipes are new. The organ is large, more than 40 stops. According to sources who have been and played it, Reil have succeeded spectacularly in what was clearly a challenging assignment. There is no surviving Wiegleb of any size, and the style is very specific, many string stops for instance, (even a 2' 'Sallicinettgen!) and a very primitive swell box housing a stop entitled 'Echo' which is in fact a 5 rank cornet. This organ has received no coverage whatever in the English language organ press I'm aware of, perhaps interesting therefore to look once at the website of Reil:

 

http://www.reil.nl/doc/orgeloverzicht/2007-ansbach.html

 

On disc it sounds wonderful.....

 

Bazuin

 

 

I had the good fortune to visit the Reil workshops in Heerde last month. We were shown a fascinating and beautifully produced 45-minute DVD on the restoration of the Ansbach organ, in which no effort (and no expense!) was spared in achieving a painstaking historical reinstatement of the Wiegleb original, even down to recreating the massive bellows stack situated in the roof space above the organ. So impressed were we by the video that we urged Hans Reil to make it commercially available.

 

We then went on to visit an outstanding modern example of the firm's work in the Bovenkerk in Kampen, a most exciting musical instrument. The workmanship is superb and the organ is beautiful both to look at and to play. It would be nice to think this firm could secure a contract in this country one day.

 

Kampen

 

JS

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"We were shown a fascinating and beautifully produced 45-minute DVD on the restoration of the Ansbach organ, in which no effort (and no expense!) was spared in achieving a painstaking historical reinstatement of the Wiegleb original, even down to recreating the massive bellows stack situated in the roof space above the organ. So impressed were we by the video that we urged Hans Reil to make it commercially available."

 

I'm 99% sure that copies can be obtained from Reil, the English language version should also be ready by now I think. They were selling copies of the Dutch version at their open day last year. Well worth having!

 

"We then went on to visit an outstanding modern example of the firm's work in the Bovenkerk in Kampen, a most exciting musical instrument. The workmanship is superb and the organ is beautiful both to look at and to play. "

 

I understand why JS likes that organ, although I have some reservations about the concept, which, although it takes its inspiration from Bader and the Westphalian organ style of the 17th and early 18th centuries, covers rather the same repertoire areas as the big 1743 Hinsz upstairs. The Hinsz is one the great monuments of 18th century Northern European organ building! The acoustic in that church is incredible incidentally, around 8 audible seconds of decay time. Makes both organs enormous fun to play.

 

"It would be nice to think this firm could secure a contract in this country one day."

 

Occasionally I hear rumbles of an organ going from these shores to those, (not yet from Reil) but unfortunately awareness of 'continental' organ building developments, outside the middle-of-the-road builders from the German speaking regions, is at an all-time low in the UK. (Aubertin aside!)

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Occasionally I hear rumbles of an organ going from these shores to those, (not yet from Reil) but unfortunately awareness of 'continental' organ building developments, outside the middle-of-the-road builders from the German speaking regions, is at an all-time low in the UK. (Aubertin aside!)

 

 

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

 

Indeed, indeed!

 

:rolleyes:

 

MM

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Occasionally I hear rumbles of an organ going from these shores to those, (not yet from Reil) but unfortunately awareness of 'continental' organ building developments, outside the middle-of-the-road builders from the German speaking regions, is at an all-time low in the UK. (Aubertin aside!)

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

 

 

It's a disgrace, I agree. It's a sorry state of affairs when contributors to this forum - most of them mere amateurs like me - seem to me more knowleadgeable about the current state of European organ building than many of the so-called professional advisers and consultants who just can't be bothered to look further afield than an uninspairing shortlist of "middle-of-the-road" German factory organbuilders.

 

JS

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Hello everyone

 

I haven't yet been to play the new Dordrecht organ, although I have played the big Kam organ on the west wall. The restoration of the Kam organ (Reil) and the new organ (Verschueren) are/were paid for by completely different foundations incidentally. The tag of 'Bach organ' was simply a useful tool in sourcing funding I think. Still, it is the only organ of its kind in The Netherlands, even if the 'Mariakoor' in the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht is a far-from-typical acoustical situation for a Thuringian style organ....

 

"has anybody counted the number of 'Bach-organs' built over the last 50 years?"

 

Another new member of the Bach organ family (!) is the Reil reconstruction of the 1739 Wiegleb organ in Ansbach. If I remember correctly all bar around 400 pipes are new. The organ is large, more than 40 stops. According to sources who have been and played it, Reil have succeeded spectacularly in what was clearly a challenging assignment. There is no surviving Wiegleb of any size, and the style is very specific, many string stops for instance, (even a 2' 'Sallicinettgen!) and a very primitive swell box housing a stop entitled 'Echo' which is in fact a 5 rank cornet. This organ has received no coverage whatever in the English language organ press I'm aware of, perhaps interesting therefore to look once at the website of Reil:

 

http://www.reil.nl/doc/orgeloverzicht/2007-ansbach.html

 

On disc it sounds wonderful.....

 

This seems also a good moment to point out the extraordinary flexibility of Verschueren. Their next big organ will be the 3 manual Cavaillé-Coll copy for the Orgelpark in Amsterdam. This is already their second big essay in this style, following the 3/40 Cavaillé-Coll for Gothenburg University, which I have played. It is very fine, one of the first results of the (necessarily expensive) multi-disciplinary approach to research-based organ building in Gothenburg. At the same time a large new organ in their developing 'house style' (which borrows heavily from König) is being built for the Abbey of Wilten (Austria). There are VERY few organ builders in the world who can so impressively produce such widely differing style copies and develop a house style with its roots in yet another sound world....

 

A brief comment about the clavichord. I was fortunate to study the clavichord as a 'bijvak' (secondary subject) in Amsterdam. The greatest benefit to the modern organist from the pedal clavichord seems to me to be the 'window' it affords you to your own technique. This is especially beneficial for learning to play on historic organs where the relationship between posture and sound production is so important. The (pedal) clavichord is merciless in showing up your shortcomings!

 

"less surprising for the "neobarrokies"(1).

(1) Zegt men dat in beschaafd nederlands?"

 

ben ik nog nooit tegen gekomen, maar mijn Nederlands is niet zo beschaafd......

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

 

With all respect for named organbuilder, I can't really sympathize with there work: copying a certain style may seem interesting, but realize that there are just as much persons who denounce the success of the copies as those who hail them (why build a Bach organ with a pedal to d' - to name a vast point of criticism).

For me, their copying is not so interesting: we have REAL Silbermanns (and Thuringian 'Bach'-organs) and Cavaille-Colls readily available and they might be considered 'better' anyday, no matter the workmanship of the copy. If we then look at an instrument that (only) present the firms 'style' (like we know an 'Aubertin-organ', or our hosts organ in NewYork ie.), to me they fall short, as many Dutch organ builders.

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Guest Cynic
With all respect for named organbuilder, I can't really sympathize with there work: copying a certain style may seem interesting, but realize that there are just as much persons who denounce the success of the copies as those who hail them (why build a Bach organ with a pedal to d' - to name a vast point of criticism).

For me, their copying is not so interesting: we have REAL Silbermanns (and Thuringian 'Bach'-organs) and Cavaille-Colls readily available and they might be considered 'better' anyday, no matter the workmanship of the copy. If we then look at an instrument that (only) present the firms 'style' (like we know an 'Aubertin-organ', or our hosts organ in NewYork ie.), to me theyfall short, as many Dutch organ builders.

 

 

To clarify, do you mean by they the style copies rather than those designed and constructed de novo in a builder's own style? If so, I am inclined to agree with you. IMHO A 'work of art' is that much more true when it is not simply a copy of something else.

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To clarify, do you mean by they the style copies rather than those designed and constructed de novo in a builder's own style? If so, I am inclined to agree with you. IMHO A 'work of art' is that much more true when it is not simply a copy of something else.

 

I meant the organbuilders hailed for copying instruments and/or presenting variations on historical entities as 'their own', while not really defining their own style.

 

Lookup the organ in the Catharinakerk in Eindhoven, that's an organ by named builder in a style recognised as of this builders firm, even though it dates from around 1930/50. And yes, I know time has passed on, the firm may have progressed, and have new/younger leadership .....

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I meant the organbuilders hailed for copying instruments and/or presenting variations on historical entities as 'their own', while not really defining their own style.

 

Lookup the organ in the Catharinakerk in Eindhoven, that's an organ by named builder in a style recognised as of this builders firm, even though it dates from around 1930/50. And yes, I know time has passed on, the firm may have progressed, and have new/younger leadership .....

 

Well, to me this organ is a "néo-classique" one, not quite different from a Gonzalez or a Delmotte of

the period....

 

An instrument needs to have, above all, a strong character. I see no problem with a builder

offering a baroque organ today, provided it is a credible one.

And here is the problem with "Bach organs"!

We have been sold chips for fish, because it is clear the organs Bach knew are in complete

contradiction with the "reform" conception of a "baroque" organ.

In England the "enlighted" people refused.....The english baroque organ, because you could

not "play Bach" on them.

Same thing in Belgium, where absolute gems of baroque organs have been disfigured by

added independant Pedals (with 30 notes!) and others oddities of the kind.

(I mean here baroque organs the romantic guys had left untouched!)

 

Now if a builder comes and offers a true Wagner or Trost inspired organ, I would sign on,

but of course the builder knows then, that we can compare with the few originals that

still exist...

There would be place for such re-creations as very few of us can afford the trip to Waltershausen,

Altenburg and the Brandenburg; more, it will be even more difficult in the future as oil prices

continue to rise above the rockets in the sky...

 

Pierre

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To clarify, do you mean by they the style copies rather than those designed and constructed de novo in a builder's own style? If so, I am inclined to agree with you. IMHO A 'work of art' is that much more true when it is not simply a copy of something else.

 

 

So what do you actually think of the Dordrecht instrument, Paul? I mean, do you like the sound it makes?

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'Heva' is correct to state that Verschueren's style copies have been criticised, it is difficult for the British audience to imagine the difference in organ criticism (especially in the organ press) between the two countries. Whether Verschueren have been successful in creating a real new Silbermann organ in Dordrecht or not, the quality of their organs in the wider context is very high, better in fact than all bar 3 or 4 builders in the English or German speaking European countries.

 

It seems to me important to say something about the role of style-copies in modern organ building, because it is by-and-large misunderstood. I will never forget being in Göteborg in 2000 for the opening of the North German organ with hundreds of organists from every conceivable place except the UK, (there were 3 Brits as I recall, all students). The point about what happened in Göteborg with Verschueren's organ, the North German organ project etc wasn't the fact of the organs themselves, but rather the re-learning of the techniques (not just the results) which went into making them. The research has since been applied elsewhere in restoration and new organ projects in various places. The nature of 20th century organ building is completely different to pre-20th century organ building precisely because industrialisation and modernisation meant that many skills were lost, as was the concept of the apprentice, as Schnitger's apprentices would have understood the idea.

 

For those who say that style-copying is a dead end because of its lack of creative artistry, look at the oeuvre of Paul Fritts. He did nothing other than style-copying for 20 years, now he builds organs for large Catholic Cathedrals in the US where they have to do everything. These, and the organs of Martin Pasi, are arguably the finest statements in modern organ building in the world, quite literally the 'state of the art'. How do you fancy one of these?

 

http://www.frittsorgan.com/opus025.htm

 

If anyone is interested in an excellent detailed description of this organ by David Dahl I will forward the link.

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Though undoubtly very interesting, and very well made -no doubt- we are still, there,

in a mix of "romantic" and "baroque" features.

And this is made since 1925 !

(In a desperate attempt to "play all". But play all of what? Of a "Repertoire"

which we decreet is "good": Grigny, Bach, Franck, and some Messiaen...)

So, what ?

 

Pierre

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Guest Cynic
So what do you actually think of the Dordrecht instrument, Paul? I mean, do you like the sound it makes?

 

I regret I have never been there. I am reluctant to judge any organ from a recording.

 

What we were discussing was a philosophy. Some firms set out to copy, some set out to create something after their own ideas. Both methods can and do produce good instruments but I know which I would rather try.

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"Try this one also - you can download a podcast (via the music section on the left) of music by a whole gamut of composers. A very significant instrument!"

 

I mentioned it last week in another thread. Its siginificance is enormous, its quality is breathtaking. If you haven't heard it, look out for the Naxos Buxtehude CDs (volumes 5,6,7 I think) and the Widor Organ Favourites. And listen to the Messiaen on the podcast mentioned above. I believe these are the cutting-edge instruments in today's organ building world.

 

In response to cynic's comment.

 

"Some firms set out to copy, some set out to create something after their own ideas. Both methods can and do produce good instruments but I know which I would rather try."

 

I would suggest that virtually every one of the really great organ builders today builds (not necessarily exclusively) or has built style copies, often, significantly, as a process towards creating something "after their own ideas".

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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The nature of 20th century organ building is completely different to pre-20th century organ building precisely because industrialisation and modernisation meant that many skills were lost, as was the concept of the apprentice, as Schnitger's apprentices would have understood the idea.

Greetings

 

Bazuin

 

The whole world has changed more in the 20th century than in a couple of pre-dating ones, organbuilding somewhat followed. I don't see how this evolution will be changed, doing what already has been done, for me, simply won't do. Even if we can imitate a style exactly, what have we learned from it? I don't believe we can think like Schnitger, Silbermann (Treutmann, Wagner, Trost, Wender et.al), or Cavaille-Coll (Mutin, Puget, et.al) because, as you say, our 'world' is different, and for me, our perception and anticipation is/will be different.

Do you really believe named firm would build the same organ as ACC did in St.Ouen-Rouen, should they get the job today?

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I suspect that few of the good citizens of Dordrecht who hear this will ever hear a real Silbermann, and those who are lucky enough to do so may hear a demonstration, perhaps a couple of recitals and, if they are really lucky, may be able to play one for ten minutes.

 

An accessible local copy of a Silbermann, even if imperfect, would be of far more use to most organists and audiences than a real instrument in Freiberg.

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