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Ionarts-at-Large: Orgelreis naar Groningen en Ost Friesland

In the beginning of July 2007, the organ class of Jacques van Oortmerssen of the Conservatorium van Amsterdam took an organ trip to the Dutch region of Groningen and the German region of Ost Friesland. This rural region contains the highest density of intact historical organs in the world from the 17th and 18th centuries. We had the pleasure to visit six of these instruments from the late Gothic (1457) to Romantic (1865) periods, among them two Arp Schnitgers.

Organ in Rysum (Ost Friesland, Germany)Rysum (Ost Friesland, Germany):

Purportedly built by Master Hermannus of Groningen in 1457, this is one of the oldest playable organs in the world. Although it has only six stops, playable on one manual (no pedal). The sound of each individual stop is very intense and expressive. A deeper dimension of the music of Conrad Paumann, Arnold Schlick, and Paul Hofheimer, etc. may be discovered when experienced on this instrument.

Organ in Westerhusen (Ost Friesland, Germany)Westerhusen (Ost Friesland, Germany):

For this organ built in 1642, Jost Sieburg used materials from earlier times, including parts of a medieval case and supposedly the oldest trumpet stop (16th century) in the world. This instrument has a very sharp sound to help lead the congregational singing in the Protestant Church, which had been only recently been allowed. A single manual and short pedal share seven stops.

Noordbroek (Groningen region, Netherlands):

Built in 1696, this is one of the best-preserved instruments of the famous organ builder Arp Schnitger. After Schnitger, Hinsz and Freytag – who were also working in the Schnitger tradition – added some stops in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As one of the only historical organs in the Netherlands that has not been completely restored, this instrument has a unique combination of poetry and harshness of sound. Link to stoplist.

Norden (Ost Friesland, Germany):

Built between 1686 and 1691 by Arp Schnitger, this instrument was adjusted to current tastes throughout the ages and finally reconstructed by German organ builder Ahrend in the early 1980s. The sound of the Norden instrument is very refined, though clearly different from the un-restored Noordbroek Schnitger (see above). This instrument contains an original case, around half of the stops were reconstructed by Ahrend (the other half Schnitger and earlier), and there is a new console copied from the destroyed Lübeck Dom organ. Link to pictures and stoplist.

Marienhafe (Ost Friesland, Germany):

Built in 1713 by the possible student of Schnitger, Von Holy, this instrument is the best-preserved Baroque organ in Ost Friesland. Compared with the organs of Schnitger, its sound is milder (especially its individual stops) and looking toward the Galant style.

Oude Pekela (Groningen region, Netherlands):

The organ in the Reformed Church of Oude Pekela was built by Petrus van Oeckelen in 1865. Van Oeckelen was not an avant-garde builder, but his work is of very high quality. The instrument in Oude Pekela has an almost classical stoplist and lacks a swell box, much like the other instruments built by Van Oeckelen. The sound of the organ has considerable warmth and is well suited for Classical and early German Romantic repertoire (e.g., Mendelssohn, Schumann).

Special thanks to Gijs Boelen and Gerben Gritter for their help in compiling this post.

The Conservatorium van Amsterdam will move to a brand new building called Dok 5 next to the brand new library near Centraal Station.

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