Schnitger, European organ builder in past and present

by Han Leentvaar | Het ORGEL | Year 94 | (1998) | Issue 24

Stef Tuinstra

Schnitger, European organ builder in past and present

Het ORGEL 94 (1998), nr. 4, 34-42 [summary]

Our present knowledge of Schnitger can be described in three theses. 1. The Schnitger organ does not exist. One can distinguish three periods. Up to the end of the 1690s the influence of Huesz, Scherer and Fritzsche can be observed: these were in turn influenced by Van Covelens and Niehoff. Between 1690 and the beginning of the 1710s Schnitger made the bass of the principals louder, the treble more cutting, the reeds darker and as a result the mixtures sharper. After the beginning of the 1710s reeds become again wider, the mixtures even sharper. Very wide and extremely narrow stops appear.

2. Our picture of Schnitger is not complete. A Schnitger organ is not just a juxtaposition of rough and unrefined sounds; pipes in original state are characterised instead by a correct attack, well-balanced tone colour and volume, all this made possible by sufficient wind. Inflexible wind was not as important as in the 19th and 20th century.

3. A large number of popular Schnitger organs are artistically and technically not restored to their original state; they often contain horizontal instead of diagonal bellows, pipes made otherwise than Schnitger’s own, wind canals often made too wide, the wind pressure too high et cetera.

Well restored Schnitger organs convince by their sweet singing sound, not spiky but ‘rustling’ mixtures; they are not characterised by an overall sound which presses massively upon the ear, but one which fills the church/hall gently and has great carrying power.