Dutch organ building in the early 20th century: German backgrounds by Hans Fidom

by Hans Fidom | Het ORGEL | Year 97 | (2001) | Issue 5

Hans Fidom Dutch organ building in the early 20th century: German backgrounds
Het ORGEL 97 (2001), nr. 5, 27-40 [summary]

Dutch organ art traditionally follows developments in Germany and France. At the end ofthe 19th century the German ‘moderne Orgel’ was particularly influential.Consequently, understanding Dutch organ building in this period implies observing Germandevelopments first.

The roots of the German ‘moderne Orgel’ can be found in the early 19thcentury. Organ building became ‘rationalised’ then: Abbé Vogler presented his‘simplification system’ and Johann Gottlob Töpfer published his Theory of OrganBuilding. Organ builders e.g. Walcker followed Vogler, organ builders like Ladegastfollowed Töpfer.

At the end of the 19th century, the ‘rational’ ‘moderne Orgel’appeared to be an instrument with one basic pitch (represented by the 8’ stops) andone basic tone colour (which could be varied endlessly). Electro-pneumatic action and stopchannel chests made this organ type possible.

After 1900, the ‘moderne Orgel’ was modified by Oscar Walcker according tothe ideas of Emil Rupp and Albert Schweitzer (Rupp named this the ‘Alsacian OrganReform’), resulting in giant organs with relatively more reeds and mixtures andlarger swell boxes than the ‘moderne Orgel’.

The First World War broke this development. The ‘Orgelbewegung’, which wasoriented toward baroque organ culture, became important: leader Christhard Mahrenholzhoped to conceive a contemporary organ type based on antique principles.

In The Netherlands, the Alsacian Reform was not very influential. Later on, after the1930s, organ builder Flentrop seemed to make a strong Orgelbewegung-related statement withhis new organs with slider chests, tracker action and baroque-like dispositions, but inthe 1950s the Danish firm Marcussen received the important Dutch projects. After 1970, the‘Scandinavian Episode’ made way for the historicism of many Dutch organbuilders.

Meanwhile, a contemporary organ style developed abroad, based on the Alsacian Reforminterpretation of the ‘moderne Orgel’ and some of the principles of the‘Orgelbewegung’. As the builders of these organs are dependent on research, theyare related to historicising organ builders: both are rationalists in several respects.