Jump to content
Mander Organs
Paul Isom

Expreriences in the North Netherlands

Recommended Posts

I've just returned after a choir and concert tour of the North Netherlands.  It's all been a bit of a revelation for me organ-wise, having played A Schnitger (finished by a pupil), van Oecklegem and Marcussen organs.  We choose the repertoire at the express request of our various hosts, although we were aware of the potential limitations the organs presented us.  Having a Hauptwerk setup at home, I was even able to practice on one of the organs!

 

To the various instruments:

1. Anloo - an organ seemingly started by Schnitger but finished by a 'pupil' of his.  A well-stocked 2m which has just celebrated it's 300th birthday.  It plays like a dream and sounds superb.  Everything blends together and according to the organist, there are no rules (I though there were....)!  Stanford in G ended up in Ab as the pitch was a semitone sharp, much to our soloist's delight.  The stoplist promises little, but deliverers a lot in terms of flexibility.  My only problem was getting even vaguely comfortable.  The keyboards were fine, but the pedalboard (CCC-d 27 notes) was wider than our normal 30 notes and very short indeed.  A complete rethink of pedal technique was called for which wasn't too traumatic.  The stops were very widely spaced indeed and certain key stops seemed to have a bend in them indicating that there may no always be a registration assistant.

2. Middelstum (Hippolytekerk) - a very well stocked 2m with 16/8 reeds on the Hoofdwerk.  The console on this organ was from hell, with stoknobs above the head and pulling out a very long way.  Also quite crippling was the fact that the Hoofdwerk main chorus was divided treble and bass - so to pull out Hoofd Mixture with 16/8 reeds required yanking out 6 stops. This was made worse by the fact that the order of the stops followed the order of placement on the windchest, so there was no method at all.  Nevertheless a fine organ which coped with everything thrown at it, including the Adagio from Widor 2.  The only real downside was a complete nutter (a woman) gaining access to the organ gallery during the Widor, during which she shouted at me constantly!!

3.  Groningen, Doopgezindekerk (Mennonite) - a beautiful modern church with an organ by Marcussen designed for Cor Edskes (he was organist here for many years).  Outwardly the organ promised almost no flexibility with spit and scream in equal measure.  How wrong I was - it was warm and really quite superb as an accompanimental instrument.  One of their organists (Erwin Wiersinga) told me on a previous visit that anything worked on this organ and he was right. I shared the stool with Janny Knol-de Vries, also a very talented player and she really turned the organ inside out.

 

It was absolutely fascinating to experience these quite exceptional instruments and see them in a completely new light.  One particular fascination was seeing a professional organist (and I mean a real pro) make some of the music from the Mayhew organ albums really sing!!!

 

Do visit the Netherlands, you'll be made most welcome!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You could arrange Haarlem next time.....organs for every occasion/style/period.....Muller (of course) Cavaille-Coll,  Cavaille Coll sound-a-like by Adema at the RC cathedral.

If you're a Schnitger freak.....Groningen!  

You need registrands....the social alternative to thumb-pistons. If you snarl at them and threaten them with sharp, pointed sticks, they become fully programmable.

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've played Uithuizen and also Groningen - it helps to have friends who have friends......The last time I heard the Martinikerk organ it was accompanying a performance of Stainer's Crucifixion!  The staggering thing is the number of truly professional organists in the area that have piles of the Mayhew organ albums.  At the Mennonite church, the organist played some very attractive pieces despite being more than capable of playing serious organ works.  The Schnitger instruments are amazingly flexible and a real joy to play.  It's the toes only technique that caused me some grief!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Friends who have friends!     Oh yes!

My first sortie to the Netherlands, with a Netherlands friend acting as host, got me onto the following organs in just ten days:-

Rotterdam, St Laurens
Rotterdam, Der Doelen
Amsterdam, Oudekerk
Groningen, Martinikerk
Groningen, Aa Kerk

An old Fr Smith organ somewhere. I forget the name. The heaviest action I have ever encountered.

Haarlem, Concertegbouw
Haarlem, St Bavo RC cathedral

Haarlem, St Bavo

The last one involved being pushed onto a train, and told to "Report to the church office" at St Lauren's, Alkmaar

The day after, a new Ahrend organ somewhere on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

Add the Rijksmuseum, the Frans Hals museum, the street organs......good coffee........I didn't even want to return to Britain!!

A trip of a lifetime for an organist!

MM




 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 30/05/2019 at 17:51, Paul Isom said:

Stanford in G ended up in Ab as the pitch was a semitone sharp, much to our soloist's delight. 

Then your task was much easier than that of a former Oxbridge organ scholar.
The story may be apocryphal, but is alleged to be true. I have heard names and locations quoted. 
DoM to Organ Scholar at pre-Evensong rehearsal: "We'll do Stanford in G in A flat today, please, Mr X." 🤣

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, DHM said:

DoM to Organ Scholar at pre-Evensong rehearsal: "We'll do Stanford in G in A flat today, please, Mr X." 🤣

It's probably easier in A flat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re Anloo - I don't know this organ myself but I do know of it. It is essentially by Arp Schnitger but it might well have been altered somewhat throughout the centuries. Arp Schnitger died in 1719 so it also would have been completed by someone else. However, Schnitger never actually employed "pupils", he didn't need to because he had two very capable sons who had learnt the trade from him. And because this is the Netherlands, it could only have been finished by either one or the other person. By far the most likely is his youngest son Frans Caspar Schnitger (1693-1729) who on his father's death took over the entire business in the Netherlands as well as finishing all of his works still in progress i.e. his last major organ at St Laurens in Itzehoe (Germany - only the case still there) and one of his most famous instruments at the Michäliskerk in Zwolle in 1721. This organ, having four-manuals, pedal and 64 speaking stops made it the largest organ by far in the country at that time. Upon Frans Caspar's early death aged 36, the business then was taken over by his foreman Albertus Anthoni Hinsz (1704-1785), who was to also marry his widow and adopt his four-year-old son Frans Caspar Schnitger jr. Hinsz would continue to build in the same style as the Schnitger family. One of his last commissions was the rebuild of the organ from Arp Schnitger at Uithuizen (1700-01) in the last year of his life. His most famous organ is probably that at St Nicolaaskerk in Kampen, completed in 1743 and subsequently enlarged in 1790 by Frans Caspar Schnitger jr (1724-1799) and Hermann Freytag (1759-1811) who had been apprentices of Hinsz. Both the organs at Kampen and Zwolle are well worth visiting, as are many others, too many to single out here, although while you're in Kampen you must visit the Buitenkerk down the road. This contains a two-manual and pedal instrument, some of whose pipework dates back to the late 15th century and still has the upper part of the original 'Blockwerk' preserved. as well as later additions, mostly by Jan Morlet  - both father and son at different times in the 17th century.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 08/06/2019 at 23:16, DHM said:

Then your task was much easier than that of a former Oxbridge organ scholar.
The story may be apocryphal, but is alleged to be true. I have heard names and locations quoted. 
DoM to Organ Scholar at pre-Evensong rehearsal: "We'll do Stanford in G in A flat today, please, Mr X." 🤣

This sounds like Edward Higginbottom, late of New College, Oxford. Apparently, it was not unknown for him to 'request' that the outgoing voluntary was transposed, in addition to canticles, or an anthem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, pcnd5584 said:

This sounds like Edward Higginbottom, late of New College, Oxford. Apparently, it was not unknown for him to 'request' that the outgoing voluntary was transposed, in addition to canticles, or an anthem.

I'm fairly sure it was.  I can't find it now, but I recall reading some online interview around the time he was retiring in which he mentioned the high level of transposition and other keyboard skills that his organ scholars needed to have.  I also seem to recall him making some oblique comment about giving them a day or two's notice of such gymnastics - for the trickier stuff, I suppose.  He must have known his organ scholars' capabilities and I feel sure that he was far too much of a professional to risk courting disaster.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...