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Renaissance Organ in Grote Kerk in Ossthuizen The Netherlands

The Renaissance Organ at Grote Kerk in Oosthuizen (Netherlands)

The Renaissance Organ at the Grote Kerk in Oosthuizen was long considered to be one of the oldest organs in the Netherlands, built in 1521 and sometimes attributed to Jan van Covelens. The meantone temperament introduced in 1966 was at the time a revelation for many lovers of early organ music, and this contributed considerably to the instrument’s fame.

Through the limited number of facts available, concerning the history of the organ prior to 1829 we are entirely dependent on information that the instrument itself may yield. In view of its flat front design, the case must date from the early sixteenth century. It cannot be excluded, therefore, that the oldest parts do indeed date from when the church was built. The keyboard is fitted into the case without its own frame, as was originally done in Jan van Covelens’s choir organ in St. Laurenskerk in Alkmaar; this also points to the sixteenth century, as does the keyboard compass FGA-g2 a2. Although more difficult to date, the stop action, operated by pushing instead of pulling the shanks, may also indicate the sixteenth century. At least some of the technical fixtures, therefore, appear to stem from this period, and could indeed have belonged to the organ first refered to in 1548.

The pipework, on the other hand, is very heterogeneous and would appear to be an assemblage of largely very old pipes of different origins. Although the present concept therefore goes back to Backer, and the stoplist reveals several typical features of his age, the sound is still largely determined by the many sixteenth-century pipes, which lend this organ its very specific character. Some of this pipework is among the oldest that has survived in the Netherlands.

In 2002-03 this important Renaissance Organ was restored once more by the Flentrop company. On this occasion, a new and appropriate winding with two double-fold diagonal bellows was installed in the old position on the gallery. Since the meantone temperament of 1966 was ‘imposed’ on the pipework, irrespective of lengths changed later to facilitate other tunings, many pipe mouths were pushed in or opened up too far. These were repaired and the pipes lengthened as required. The wind pressure, which was apparently too high, was lowered, and the sound is now considerably more relaxed, while losing nothing of its intensity.

For a recording of this magnificent organ click here

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