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Aa-Kerk, Groningen


MusingMuso
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I was checking out the Reil (NL) organ-building site on the web and stumbled across some very significant news.

 

It seems that after a very long delay, countless arguments and an empty organ case, the famous (largely) Schnitger organ is to be restored by Reil in 2010.....work may have commenced already.

 

This is exciting news, because this organ was truly one of the finest sounds in the world even in an unrestored state, as a CD recording of the organ amply demonstrates. It is a CD I absolutely treausre, with the Aa-kerk organ being the final "piece de resistance."

 

Not only that, the organ case and the acoustic of this strangely square building, (in what seems like two sections), are quite wonderful. I have been into the church and seen the empty case, but the organ has been silent for many years; the pipework removed to safe keeping.

 

Of course, there is an intersting and chequered history to the Groningen churches, in that the sub-soil is anything but stable. I would have to go back to my notes, but I seem to recall all sorts of problems, with church-towers collapsing, at least one organ being destroyed and, if memory serves me right, the very rapid removal of the Aa-kerk organ when the tower shifted and seemed on the point of collapse.

 

The following is the link to the Reil web-site, which shows a photograph of the Aa-kerk organ-case and the disposition of the instrument:-

 

http://www.reil.nl/pagina/nieuws/95/nl/

 

When the work is completed, I think it would be fair to say that no other town will have a greater concentration of Schnitger's work, as well as organs by other notable builders.

 

MM

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  • 2 weeks later...
It seems that after a very long delay, countless arguments and an empty organ case, the famous (largely) Schnitger organ is to be restored by Reil in 2010.....work may have commenced already.

 

When the work is completed, I think it would be fair to say that no other town will have a greater concentration of Schnitger's work, as well as organs by other notable builders.

 

MM

 

Excellent news. A wonderful instrument - with outstandingly beautiful individual stops and choruses - and truly inspiring, even humbling, to play. My CD alarm clock wakes me each day with the delectable flute sounds of a Pachelbel Ciacona played by Stef Tuinstra.

 

For my money, it had a slight edge over the Martinikerk - although such comparisons are almost certainly irrelevant. I agree that Groningen should become a place of pilgrimage for all.

 

Reil's work - from admittedly only limited acquaintance - is of the highest quality. Their 1999 two-and-a half manual instrument in the choir apse of the Bovenkerk in Kampen is most impressive, filling the building with sound and continuing the great classical tradition of organbuilding in the Netherlands.

 

JS

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Excellent news. A wonderful instrument - with outstandingly beautiful individual stops and choruses

 

 

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

 

Something of the history of the organ in the Aa-kerk, Groningen.

 

The organ in the Aa-kerk was built by Schnitger in 1702, but not for the Aa-kerk. It was actually built for the Academiekerk, and utilised older pipework from an earlier instrument by Andreas de Mare. (This was common practice, and nothing was usually discarded).

 

In 1710, the tower of the Aa-kerk collpased; destroying the original Schnitger organ of 1697: something of a loss, one must presume. In 1816, Johan Wilhelm Timpe moved the Schnitger organ of the Acadmiekerk to the Aa-kerk; the church being without an organ for a mere 106 years by the looks of it.

 

Unfortunately, some of the fashions of the day prevailed, and during the 19th century various fairly drastic changes were made, including some new windchests, some new ranks of pipes and a general enlargement of the instrument. From an English perspective, we might assume that the organ was ruined in the 19th century, but actually, such was the general quality of organ-building in the Netherlands, tonal changes were often not a disaster in the Netherlands as they often were in England.

 

Perhaps the worst change was the removal of the Borstwerk; its replacement being a Bovenwerk. At the same time 1830-1857, various tonal changes and pitch changes were carried out by Johan Wilhelm Timpe and then Petrus van Oeckelen, and this is how the instrument remained until the mid/late 1970's, when a restoration of the church began. Klass Bolt was involved with this organ for much of his professional life, and I understand that there have been constant arguments aned counter-arguments about how best to restore the instrument. In 1977, the tower threatened to collapse, and the organ was hurriedly removed to safe-keeping.

 

It was reinstalled in 1989, but not restored in any waym but simply made playable by Reil of Heerde. By this time, in addition to the pipework by Schnitgerm Timpe and van Oeckelen, the organ also contained historic pipework by Hinsz, other pipework by an unidentified builder, (someone will know who), as well as new pipework by Reil.

 

It all sounds a bit of a mongrel on paper, but in the flesh it is one of the most superb and important organs in the Netherlands, with the most magical sounds, including a 10.2/3 Quint which produces an extraordinary gravity in the cavenous acoustic of the church. The sound of the full pleno and the quality of the flutes are the stuff of pilgrimage; so good is the effect.

 

It must be a duanting task for any organ-builder to approach a restoration-project such as this, because long before any restoration, there were clashes of opinion as to how best to achieve it, but with their experience of the Aa-kerk organ, Reil will probably be well able to achieve something very, very special indeed.

 

We may only hope that the organ-builder will produce another Netherlands "wow" instrument to rival the best of them.

 

I'll end with a link to a fascinating YouTube clip, showing the organ builder Jurgen Ahrend talking about the Schnitger restoration at the Martinikerk, about half a mile away close to the town square.

 

 

MM

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This organ ranks very, very high on my "top-list"; one of the very

finest we have.

I cross my fingers. There, I would have changed nothing. Not a nail,

nor the (thin) cushions of the chairs. Maybe not even their color !

 

Pierre

 

 

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

 

 

Something instinctively tells me that Pierre is absolutely right; so special is this wonderful instrument.

 

MM

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