During Holy Week it seemed to me a good opportunity to republish a historical recording of the beautiful organ of the Groningen Noordbroek with a performance of the monumental ‘Partite Diverse Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig’ by Johann Sebastian Bach. The accompanying text to the YouTube publication contains a more detailed explanation of this beautiful ‘organ oratorio’ and the accompanying performance practice. The article is designed in three languages as if it were an online private masterclass.The recording is from 1989 but has not lost any of its topicality in my opinion.
The Noordbroek organ is the ultimate appearance of the work of three successive generations of the Schnitger School: Arp Schnitger (1696 – new organ), Albertus Anthoni Hinsz (1768) and Heinrich Hermann Freytag (1809). The two activities after Schnitger were extensive, Freytag’s even more so. What makes Freytag’s work so special is that at a time when that was completely ‘not done’, he expanded the organ in the existing style. The new work therefore almost seems as if it could still have been made by Schnitger.
It would go too far in this context to tell the details of the history and construction. However, various publications already mention this. A detailed and up-to-date description can be found in a brochure (in Dutch) that I, as an organ consultant involved in the restoration of the windchests in 2015, wrote by Mense Ruiter Orgelmakers. This can be downloaded from my website. See https://www.nnoa.nl/?page_id=180. Some photos of that restoration are on the video. On the occasion of this partial restoration of this extremely important organ, a large research report has been made with a lot of detailed information that was previously unknown.
It is well known that the organ has been well preserved. A little less known is that in 1958 the fa. DA Flentrop in collaboration with Cor and Bernhardt Edskes and organist Simon Graafhuis did more work than had been assumed until 2015. For example, there is a photo of some pipes of which the languid nicks have been rubbed away and the flues have been pressed narrower, typical work from the aesthetics of neo-Baroque organ building in the period around 1960. That is why it was also necessary to increase the wind pressure a little more, a pressure which has since been too high for some registers. There is also a remarkable piece of wind channel from 1768, or possibly 1696, as a connection piece of approximately 1 meter in length to the HW windchest. This is much too narrow, so that the Hoofdwerk in the plenum suffers from some windsickness. The pressure drop is then 15 mm, as a result of which the normally well-tuned organ is partly out of tune in full work. Hence, during the wind chest restoration in 2015, as a preliminary and experimental construction, an easily reversible ‘wind bypass’ from the main channel to the HW windchest was made by means of a large westaflex tube, which can be seen in a photo of the wind supply.
The bellows case shows an illustration in which Herman Eberhard Freytag is most likely depicted as a caricature. He was the son of Heinrich Hermann who maintained the organ from 1817 to 1854. This can be seen in the photo series of the video.
The recording was made in 1989, 6 years after a major maintenance of the organ by Orgelmakerij Van der Putten. The windchests of the organ were still in reasonable condition at the time, all leaks that were present at the time were then repaired and the worst damage of the reed pipes was repaired. The organ was therefore in a (sound) state that corresponds fairly closely to that after the wind chest restoration of 2014-2015. However, during the restoration in 2015, in which the worst damage to the pipes was also repaired, a number of pipes that were completely out of tune (too loud, too soft or too slow to respond) were slightly leveled out. The criterion was that a defect had to be clearly visible and audible as different from the other series of pipes. In this recording, the trained listener will still hear some of those ‘outliers’ that were still present in 1989. A number of photos in the video show the restoration of these windchests. It is also visible how bad the drawers were when they were dismantled in 2014, full of tears, decayed leather, etc. NB, the recording result corresponds to the not yet restored condition of the windchests. Striking in its current appearance is the completely weathered tin foil of the front pipes. This is still foil by Van Oeckelen from 1855(!). There are some foliage parts painted white or gilded. In 1855, the previously red-stained cabinet was stained dark brown. Its color can still be seen from the panel above the keyboard where the change by Van Oeckelen is mentioned. Originally, the foliage was gilded with natural gold leaf or possibly with a patinated gold leaf technique. All curtains have been patinated white. The basement molding and the columns were provided with marble imitation. Examples of what the organ may have looked like can now be seen again at the Freytag organs in Bellingwolde (1797) and Warffum (1812), where the old color scheme has recently been reapplied on the basis of extensive ERM color research.
Despite the above changes, the Schnitger character of the organ is still largely present, the monumental instrument makes a great impression on the player and listener and it is still characterized as one of the most beautiful Schnitger organs that have survived. This is also possible because the sounds of Hinsz and Freytag are so close to those of Schnitger. Last but not least, the beautiful church with its beautiful acoustics adds a great dimension to the sound splendor and the listening experience. ‘Noordbroek’ is a must for every professional and amateur organist, organ enthusiast or ‘just’ listener or interested in old churches!
Translated with Vertalen.nu.
Read in the attachment my explanation about this partita (Three languages available)