Leonhardt Hagerbeer - Schnitger Orgel
The Grote of St. Laurenskerk at Alkmaar
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
The church has a length of 92 m. The erection of the late Gothic building was started in 1470 and around 1519 reached its present state. Above the nave and choir is a wooden vaulted ceiling with a height of 35 m., whilst above the side-aisles the vaulted ceiling is of stone. There are many large windows. On the arched ceiling at the end of the choir is a painting of the Last Judgement. Above the main organ at the west-end of the nave is a picture of the "triumph of virtue". A large tower had been planned for the west-side, but only the foundation was laid. The inner walls were unfortunately stripped of their plastering during the last restoration and this has had a negative influence upon the acoustics of the building. On the south-side there is a large sacristy and next to it above the vaulted main entrance, is the library. At the east-end there is a beautiful stone porch. The oak pews in the choir are of a simple design. The screen is also made of oak. The pulpit, some pews and the chandeliers in the nave are from the 17th century.
History and description of the organ
In 1634 organist Bouchain requested that the town council to build a large new organ. He complained about the two small choir organs which had no pedals. One of these organs has survived and is still present in the choir. The first plan was to join the two organs into one large organ, but in 1638 the organ builder Eekmans died before he could start the work. In the same year new contracts were completed with the very able and famous Dutch organ builder Van Hagerbeer. At first the original plan was adhered to, but soon after that it was decided that an entirely new organ with 3 manuals with a 24' prestant on the great organ be constructed. In 1639 the organbuilders started work. The architect Jacob van Campen was responsible for designing the case. Caesar van Everdingen painted the outside of the hinged doors, probably the largest ever made. The case of the organ of Alkmaar is in many respects nationally and internationally unique and has been imitated many times by others. It is a masterpiece of classical architecture and the first organ in Holland with a "soffiet" (a sculptured decoration underneath the positive).
The great organ was in fact a split-up blockwork with contra F, G, A, B Flat and B Natural for the praestant 24' and 12'. The pedal organ had only a few stops (in the first contract with Van Hagerbeer no pedalstops had been provided for). The pedal organ was coupled to the great organ and went down to contra F (3 free stops C-f). The Sesquialterae were only in the treble. There were sub-semi-tiones (for E Flat/D sharp and B Flat/A Sharp) throughout the instrument. In 1685 and 1704 the instrument was restored by Duytschot.
1722-1725 Rebuilding by Frans Caspar Schnitger
On the 3rd of September 1722 Gerhardus Havingha was appointed organist. It was he who introduced organ builder Frans Caspar Schnitger to Alkmaar. Havingha had many complaints about the Van Hagerbeer organ. The technical layout of the instrument was very complicated. The pedal division was much too small. The temperament in which the organ was tuned had too many restrictions. Moreover, Havingha had seen a number of organs which had been built by Arp Schnitger between 1690 and 1710 in the north of the country and he knew also the organ which F.C. Schnitger had built at Zwolle.
The contract between the town council and Frans Caspar Schnitger was completed on the 7th of May 1723. The specifications were drawn up by Havingha. Within the existing cases an entirely new instrument was to be built with slider chests, new tracker action and 3 additional bellows. The disposition of the pedal organ was to have 11 stops, to which the Praestant 24' had been added. Suitable pipework from the old organ was to be incorporated. The specification was for an instrument with 52 stops, but finally 56 stops were supplied.
Schnitger retained from the pipework of the previous organ the following stops:
a. On the great organ all single stops and two ranks for the Rauschpyp.
b. On the swell organ Praestants 8', 41 and 2', whereas the Fluit Dous 4' was made from refashioned old pipework from Van Hagerbeer. The Baarpyp from Duytschot was also retained.
c. On the choir organ the flutes 8', 4' and 2' as well as the front praestant from Van Hagerbeer including its double pipes in the treble. A 3' was made from refashioned pipework from Van Hagerbeer.
d. On the pedal organ a large proportion of the Van Hagerbeer pipework was re-used.
Schnitger made new mixtures of narrow scale and mostly of pure tin. In the choir organ the new Octaves 4' and 2' as well as the new Quintanus 11/2' were also made of narrow scale, contrary to the custom in Holland. Schnitger made full compass Sesquialterae, which moreover were based upon 16' in the treble. Many new types of reeds were introduced by Schnitger to Holland. The construction also differed from what had been done before. In 1734 and 1751 the organ was repaired by Christian Muller. Strumphler changed the instrument in 1781. Then the case was repainted dark-brown. In 1794, 1823, 1854 (Naber) and 1898 (Witte) the organ was restored. Between 1947 and 1949 an excellent restoration was carried out by D.A. Flentrop.
Between 1982 and 1986 the instrument was very thoroughly overhauled by Flentrop Orgelbouw. The situation of 1725 was reestablished, with the exception of a few features dating from 1781. The old bellows were reconstructed and the case was repainted in the original colours.