Flentrop and the organ in the Grote Kerk of Zwolle

by Cees van der Poel | Het ORGEL | Year 119 | (2023) | Issue 6

Zwolle, Grote Kerk. (Foto collectie beeldbank Overijssel)

Dirk Andries Flentrop and his workers performed a remarkable feat in 1953-6:  the reconstruction and restoration of the Schnitger organ in the Grote of St.-Michaëlskerk in Zwolle.  The approach to this project was in sharp contrast with the way in which in 1938 a different large Schnitger organ, that in the Martinikerk in Groningen, had been restored.  Important Personages in the strongly criticized Martini-project played a role in Zwolle as well.  The turmoil, first kept from public view, eventually developed into a public affaire in which Dirk Andries Flentrop (1910–2003) gradually became involved and of which he ultimately determined the outcome.

Maarten Albert Vente wrote in Vijf eeuwen Zwolse orgels (1971) that “lively discussions” preceded the restoration.  Flentrop himself in 1956 and 1957 published an article in four parts about his work in Het Orgel.  He didn’t mention the discussions beforehand, concentrating on the main points of the work as carried out.

Using material from the archives of Flentrop Orgelbouw and the personal archive of Arie Bouman, the preparations for and the execution of the work can be followed in detail.  This article sketches the “lively discussions” during the preparatory phase of the restoration, the increasing role of Flentrop, and the way in which he carried out the work.