Groningen, der Aa Kerk
Many photo's of this organ can be seen at
1697: In 1697 Arp Schnitger already built an organ for the der Aa-Kerk. This instrument was destroyed by the collapse of the tower in 1710.
Click at the picture for a larger view
Design of the organ 1697 by Arp Schnitger
Text from the booklet of the CD: "Organworks of Dietrich Buxtehude volume 4" (MDG MD+GL3424) by Harald Vogel
1702: Schnitger originally built the organ for the Academiekerk or Broerekerk in Groningen. When constructing the organ he used pipe work from the previous instrument built by Hendrick Hermans van Loon in 1679.
1756: A.A. Hinsz added a coupling between Hoofdwerk and Rugwerk.
1784: Repairs by A.A. Hinsz
1815: J.W. Timpe moved the organ to the der Aa-Kerk, as, following a Government measure, the Academiekerk had to be restored to the Roman-Catholic Church.
1830: J.W. Timpe changed the specification. The Borstwerk disappeared and was replaced with a Bovenwerk. Rugpositief: Quint 1 1/3' -->
Terts 1 3/5', Sexquialter -->Trompet 8'. The composition of the Scherp of the
Rugpositief was altered.
Before 1858: Bovenwerk: Fluit does --> Fluit travers 8'.
1858: Restoration by Petrus van Oeckelen. New wind chests for
Hoofdwerk. Addition of Bourdon 16', Salicionaal 8', Quint 2 2/3', Quint 5 1/3',
Nachthoorn 2', Cornet and Trompet 16' to Hoofdwerk. Different composition of
Mixtuur. On the new Pedal-windchest Subbas 16', Quint 10 2/3 and Violoncel 8'
18xx: Mixtuur and Cornet 2' were removed from the Pedal.
1919: Old wedge-shaped bellows were replaced by a single reservoir-bellows by Jan and Klaas Doornbos.
1924: Jan en Klaas Doornbos: Bovenwerk was placed in a swellcase and a Voix Celeste 8' was added.
1935: Jan en Klaas Doornbos: New Bazuin 16' added on a pneumatic Pedal windchest.
1939: Klaas Doornbos: Pedaal: Violoncel 8' -->Holpijp 8'.
Hoofdwerk: Quint 5 1/3' --> Nasard 2 2/3'. New Mixtuur for Pedal.
1946: Klaas Doornbos added a Quint 1 1/3' to the Bovenwerk.
1950: Flentrop changed the Doornbos Bazuin 16'.
1952: Klaas Doornbos modified the Rugpositief Terts 1 3/5' into Sifflet 1 1/3' and installed a new Tremulant.
1959: Mense Ruiter altered the Bovenwerk Quintfluit 1 1/3' into a Flageolet 1'.
1977: The organ was taken apart by J. Boody and G. Taylor on account of major restoration work on the church.
1990: Reil reinstalled the instrument in a fully restored church. The 1st
restoration phase comprised the following activities: restoring the Schnitger
windchests; repair work done on the other windchests; removal of the pneumatic
windchests; reconstruction of Bazuin 16'; repair of bellows; organ case;
manuals; tracker action mechanism and pipe work; removal of the Bovenwerk Voix
Celeste and the Hoofdwerk Bourdon bass section.
1997-2011: The organ was transferred to the Reil workshop for the 2nd
restoration phase. At the moment a vehement discussion is going on among various
specialists about the procedure to be followed.
2011: The organ has been restored by
Reil and wil be inaugurated at
||Viola da Gamba
Text from the booklet of the CD:
"Organworks of Dietrich Buxtehude Volume 4" (MDG
MD+GL3424) by Harald Vogel
to the left is from: www.groningenorgelland.nl
The designation “Aa-Kerk’ goes back to the period
following the Reformation: During the Middle Ages this important town church,
which was greatly enlarged during the fifteenth century, was dedicated to the
Virgin Mary (“Onze Lieve Vrouwe ter Aa-kerk”) and situated along a small river
bearing the name of “Aa.” The name of the river has stayed with the church over
1694-1695: The organ history of the Aa-Kerk reached its zenith with the
large new instrument built by Arp Schnitger during 1694-97. It had four manuals
(Hoofwerk, Rugpositief, Bovenwerk and Borstwerk along with the pedal and forty
stops and thus was the largest organ built by the Hamburg master in the
Netherlands. It was, then, a very costly instrument which Schnitger described as
follows in his records (see G. Fock: Arp Schnitger und seine Schule,
Kassel, 1974, p.285): “I have spared nothing and have made everything
magnificent; I have even added 6 registers on a separate windchest, and have
still made money on this organ.”
1710: Sadly, Schnitger’s masterpiece was destroyed on April 12, 1710,
when the tower collapsed. Only the original conceptual drawings make it possible
to obtain an impression of the external form of the instrument.
1814: For nearly 100 years, the Aa-Kerk remained without an organ.
Finally in 1814, through a gift of King Willem I, the Schnitger organ of the
Academiekerk came into the possession of the Aa-Kerk. The Academiekerk
(university church) was, during these years, given over to the use of the
catholic congregation. This instrument of Schnitger’s was built between 1699 and
1702, with a case by Groningen’s official masterbuilder, Allart Meijer, as was
also true of the other Schnitger organs in the city and province of Groningen.
Schnitger retained certain stops from the existing Academiekerk organ, which
had been built 30 years earlier by Hendrick Hermans van Loon and Andreas de
Mare, with 32 registers on 3 manuals (Hoofdwerk, Rugpositief, Borstwerk) and
pedal, probably utilizing older materials. Hendrick Hermans van Loon was
organist of the Aa-Kerk organ until 1671, and Andreas de Mare had worked on the
large Aa-Kerk organ until 1663. Considering the fact that major work was also
under way on the organ of the Martinikerk, one sees that very intensive organ
building activity was taking place in Groningen at this time. During this period
Groningen was the most famed “organ city” in the Netherlands. Besides expanding
the Martini organ with a pedal, including a 32’ Praestant, Schnitger also built
new organs in the Pelstergasthuiskerk and in the Lutherse Kerk. The instrument
in the Pelster-Gasthuiskerk (with alterations made in 1774) has been preserved,
so that today Groningen is the only city with three Schnitger organs.
This specification of the Academiekerk organ, which came to the Aa-Kerk in
1815-16, was first preserved in Nicolaas Arnoldi Knock's collection of organ
specifications, published in Groningen in 1788.
“In addition: 2 tremulants, 4 ventils, 1 bellows signal, 2 couplers, one for
the Manual, and one for the Borstwerk; by means of these all 3 manuals may be
played on one.”
“The organ has 6 bellows, and was made by Arp Schnitger in 1702, and repaired
by A.A. Hinsz in the year 1784.”
Albert Antonius Hinsz, who carried on the work of the Schnitger organ shop in
Groningen in the 18th century, had created the possibility of playing
all three manuals together with the installation of a manual coupler between the
Hoofdwerk and the Rugpositief.
The erection of this richly-appointed instrument in the Aa-Kerk was completed in
the years 1815-16 by the Groningen organ builder Johann Wilhelm Timpe. The
Groningen wood carver Matthijs Walles carved classical figures on the Hoofdwerk
and Rugpositief cases, as well as Atlas figures under the pedal towers. Thus,
the entire width of the lower casework was utilized in this way.
1830: A short time later, in 1830, the instrument was altered tonally.
Timpe replaced Schnitger’s Borstwerk with a Bovenwerk which was placed behind the central tower of the Hoofdwerk.
1857-1858: Further alteration, in accord with the tastes of the period,
was carried out in 1857-58 by the Groningen organ builder Petrus van Qeckelen.
He replaced the keyboards and set up new chests in the 1815 case for enlargement
of the Pedal; three new stops (Subbas 16’, Quint 10 2/3’, Holpijp 8’) were
added, as were the C-sharp and D-sharp, missing in Schnitger’s pedal. Later, he
built a larger chest in the Hoofdwerk for an expanded specification, for which
the back wall was partially removed.
It is in this form that the organ is preserved today.
1919-1928: The alterations of the intervening years consist of
replacement of the six wedge bellows with one large reservoir-bellows (placed in
the tower room by Klaas Doornbos in 1919), and the installation of swell shades
for the Bovenwerk in 1924. Following a cleaning in 1928, the Cornet 2’ and
Posaune 16’ were, unfortunately, removed. A new Posaune was temporarily erected
on a pneumatic chest off-set behind the organ; a Voix Celeste was added to the
Bovenwerk, and three other stops were replaced (Nazard and Mixture in the
Hoofdwerk as well as the Mixture in the Pedal).
1946: The Quintfluit 1 1/3’ built in 1946 was later converted to a
*Beginning in 1936, Johan van Meurs was organist of the Aa-Kerk for more than
four decades. He trained an entire generation of organists and awakened great
enthusiasm for the unusual tonal qualities of the instrument entrusted to him.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the organ was a source of inspiration for organists
and builders who concerned themselves with the North German organ art.
1977: In 1977, at the beginning of restoration work in the church, the
insides of the organ were dismantled and stored in the choir of the Martinikerk.
After the completion of the church restoration, reconstruction work was
undertaken on the stored parts of the organ, including repair of wind chests,
playing action, and damaged pipes in the Bovenwerk, by Reil of Heerde. Neither the pneumatically appended Posaune 16’ nor the Voix
Celeste were reinstalled; only the resonators of the Posaune were retained for a
transitional phase, in which they have been combined with blocks and shallots
reconstructed by Reil and placed on Schnitger windchests. After the
reinstallation and sealing of the chests, the wind pressure was set at 76 mm,
the proper level for Schnitger pipework.
1990: At the time of the reinstallation of the organ in the renovated
church, both a thorough renovation and a reconstruction of the original
(Schnitger) organ were consciously abandoned. This reinstallation was a
precautionary measure, taken for the purpose of protecting this monument and its
present outstanding tonal characteristics, while at the same time keeping open
the various possibilities for restoration (preservation of the 19th-century
condition, or reconstruction in the spirit of the Schnitger organ of the
Instruments, Works, and Registrations
The two Schnitger organs in Noordbroek and the
Groningen Aa-Kerk reflect the continuity of eighteenth and nineteenth century
developments, but did not undergo thorough renovation transforming their basic
original design. The old stops of both instruments are in an extraordinarily
good state of preservation. This means that the exclusive use of ranks from the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (including the beautiful Noordbroek front
principals of 1809) produces a homogeneous tonal picture.
Every thorough renovation entails a loss of old material. Organ restoration, as
it has developed during the last twenty years, has been distinguished by a
marked increase in historical knowledge, craftsmanship, and musical
understanding in matters of voicing. The first phase in the attempted
restoration of historical organs in Northern Germany, beginning around 1930 and
continuing into the late 1960s, was marked by limited historical knowledge,
insufficient experience with old building practices, and a misunderstanding of
sound aesthetics dictated by the antiromantic orientation of the neobaroque
ideal. Almost all the restorations of those decades brought with them
unnecessarily large losses of material. In most cases these efforts fell short
of even a satisfactory degree of technical operational reliability.
Fortunately, organ builders were more careful with the old instruments in the
Netherlands and especially so in Groningen. During this phase of development the
Schnitger organs in the Groningen area were not restored. Only the Groningen
Martini organ was rebuilt and equipped with electric action during this phase,
in 1938-39 to be exact. Seven important Schnitger organs, instruments that had
not undergone substantial modification during the previous decades, were
presented at the Groningen Schnitger Conference in 1969. At the time the
Groningen organs offered an important point of orientation in the planning of
ways to remove the damage resulting from the attempted restorations of the
historical organs of Northern Germany.
The successful restoration projects of the past twenty years and in many cases
second restorations, have ameliorated the situation so much that it is now
possible to undertake a complete recording of Buxtehude’s works on instruments
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries restored to their original form.
The selection of works recorded in Noordbroek and Groningen favours the “remote
keys” because both organs are tuned according to well-tempered systems. The
Aa-Kerk organ departs only slightly from equal temperament, thus lending the
F-sharp-minor and E-major preludes a mild character. The sound produced by
individual pipes, ranks in different combinations and the full ensemble is so
harmonious that the “sour thirds” of the near- equal temperament do not disturb.
The “pulling effect” in the tuning can be heard very clearly in the long chords
and is produced by the mutual influence of the pipes which are arranged in
thirds on the windchest.
Along with this we have the extraordinarily fine acoustical circumstances in the
Aa-Kerk and in Noordbroek. The combination of presence and spacious sound in the
Aa-Kerk acoustics is ideal for the presentation of the North German organ
repertoire with its characteristic features of complex polyphony and numerous
rests which make reverberation and fading out integral parts of the music.
The registration of the plenum on this recording follows the eighteenth century practice instead of the seventeenth century style of
separately registered divisions: the divisions are coupled to form a tutti.
This modification in registration practice was dictated by the current
condition of the Noordbroek and Groningen organs. In both cases original
mixtures are available in only one division; in Noordbroek in the Hoofdwerk and
in Groningen in the Rugpositief. Therefore, as a rule the pedal coupler has been
employed for the plenum.