Thursday, September 9, 2010

Grote Sint-Michaëlskerk Zwolle 1721 Schnitger Organ

Builders Frans Caspar and Johann Georg Schnitger
Completed 30 September 1721


The first organ

The first indication of the presence of an organ in Great or St. Michael’s Church is from 1505. It is not clear who 'Johan meister' (master Johan) was, who was responsible for that instrument. He could have been any of the following: Johan at Damme; Johan Jacobsz. of Bilstein, Jan Graurock or Jan van Covelens.
The organ had three manuals with Pedal: a Blokwerk (no separate stops; 32-34 ranks) playable as the Hoofdwerk (main manual; 24-foot); a Bovenwerk (upper manual) with 4 or 5 stops and a Rugpositief (back positive) with four voices.
In 1641 it was felt the time had come to modernise the organ. The organ builder Jan Morlet III from Arnhem was instructed to provide a scheme for the conversion. He found an inventive way to make the lowest two ranks from the Blokwerk independent and playable on the pedals. The Blokwerk was left as it had been. The work was completed in 1643.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Passacaglia et thema fugatum in C minor BWV 582
1. Passacaglia

Wouter van den Broek at the Schnitger organ of the Michaelskerk in Zwolle

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) Passacaglia et thema fugatum in C minor BWV 582
2. Thema fugatum

Wouter van den Broek at the Schnitger organ of the Michaelskerk in Zwolle

When the tower collapsed in 1682 the old organ was damaged irreparably. There was evidently no money available for the repair and rebuilding of the organ nor for the construction of a new organ, because the instrument was dismantled and put into storage in anticipation of better times.
The church was thus deprived of a main organ for many years, until in 1718 Bernard Huet, a Zwolle burgomaster and doctor, made a generous donation for the construction of a new organ. His brother Thomas then added a further contribution for the organ.

Got in der Hohe sei Ehr performed by Klaas Jan Mulder


Contact was made with Arp Schnitger through a Zwolle merchant, who invited him to visit Zwolle, and on the advice of the Amsterdam organist and carrillonneur, Evert Haverkamp, he was the one chosen, on 23 December 1718, to build a new organ in the Great Church. After drawing up a draft contract, Arp Schnitger travelled back to Hamburg. Later on his son Frans Caspar Schnitger agreed to some additions to this scheme, and a contract was signed on January 3rd, 1719.

The sum of f 11.000 was assigned to build the instrument, excluding the case. Schnitger was to build an organ with 46 voices — using a portion of the old pipe material — consisting of a Ober (Over) Manual (16-foot), Unter (Under) Manual (8-foot), Rückpositiv (8-foot) and a Pedal (16-foot). All the necessary stone, wood and iron was to be supplied by the city. Workspace was made available in the Church of Our Lady (Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk) for the casting of the new pipes and in April 1719 Arp’s sons Frans Caspar and Johann Georg began the building. Their father, Arp, did not live to see the completed instrument as he died in his hometown, Neuenfelde, where he was buried on July 28, 1719, at the age of 71.

Dietrich Buxtehude - Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott
Dick Sanderman - Schnitger Organ Zwolle

The final version of the contract was made on 30 april 1720 in order to enlarge the instrument with one more manual — a Borstwerk (Breast division) with 11 stops. The organ was built with a total of 63 stops, according to the ‘Werkenprinzip’, meaning that each werk or division is equally balanced and completely independent.

In September 1721 the organ was inspected by three renowned organists from that time, namely, Evert Havercamp, Nicholas Woordhouder and Aeneas Egbertus Veldcamps. Their report was full of praise for the work of the North German organ builder, but it also included some critical observations and even suggested a few modifications. The Schnitger brothers took no notice of these criticisms. The organ remained unchanged.

The organ case

The case of the organ is also very impressive, both in its design and for its baroque style onamentation.

Maintenance and modifications

Over the centuries the organ was regularly maintained, but it was subject to changes in fashion and at certain times some rather far reaching alterations were made.


After the Second World War it became obvious that a major restoration was necessary. The organ was entrusted to the care of Flentrop, the organ builder from Zaandam, and during 1953-1955 it was restored as far as was possible back to its original state.

Recent maintenance and restoration

During the major cleaning operation in 2000-2001 it was seen that this splendid instrument still had many years of life left of first rate performance, but work would be needed to improve its condition. A scheme of work to restore the organ back to its best began in 2007, the work being implemented in phases

Fantasie en Toccata on Hymn 432 Wat God doet dat is welgedaan by Klaas Jan Mulder

Schnitger-organ Grote or Sint-Michaëlskerk


Praestant 16'
Quintadena 16'
Octaaf 8'
Roerfluit 8'
Octaaf 4'
Speelfluit 4'
Nasaard 3'
Octaaf 2'
Ruispijp II st
Mixtuur VI st
Cimbel III st
Trompet 16'
Trompet 8'
Vox Humana 8'


Praestant 8'
Holpijp 8'
Quinta 6'
Octaaf 4'
Holpijp 4'
Quint 3'
Octaaf 2'
Woudfluit 2'
Sifflet 1 1/2'
Tertiaan II st
Scherp V st
Viola di Gamba 8'
Trompet 4'


Praestant 8'
Quintadena 8'
Flûte douce 8'
Octaaf 4'
Fluit 4'
Quintfluit 3'
Octaaf 2'
Sexquialter II
Scherp IV
Cimbel III
Fagot 16'
Schalmey 8'


Fluit gedekt 8'
Praestant 4'
Roerfluit 4'
Spitsfluit 3'
Octaaf 2'
Woudfluit 2'
Quintanus 1 1/2'
Nachthoorn 1'
Sexquialter II st
Mixtuur IV st
Dulciaan 8'
Regaal 8'


Praestant 16'
Subbas 16'
Octaaf 8'
Holpijp 8'
Octaaf 4'
Vlakfluit 2'
Mixtuur VIII st
Fagot 32'
Bazuin 16'
Trompet 8'
Trompet 4'
Cornet 2'


Bovenpos.-Borstwerk (sliding coupler)

6 afsluiters

12 spaanbalgen, waarvan 4 in werking

Tremulant HW-BP-BW
Tremulant RW

Postludium by Marius Monnikendam performed by Feike Asma

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