Rediscovering the Church organ

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Yesterday I had the pleasure to assist my good friend and great organist Philip van den Berg to manage the registers of the organ of the St. Anton Kirche (Church) in Zurich for a Wedding Mass.  The St. Anton Kirche is Zurich was built between 1906 and 1908 by the famous Swiss architect Karl Moser (1860-1936), who was also responsible for the ‘ Kunsthaus’ in Zürich (the main art museum). I haven’t included any pictures of the facade of the church, because it was covered for a renovation.

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Until this week I never knew that the registration of a church organ was so complex. The organ, build by Kuhn from Männedorf (CH), has around 200 valves . These need to be set before and, which is much more stressful, during the performance.

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Philip van den Berg played a number of beautiful works – most of them extremely challenging from a technical point of view:

  • Johann Gottfried Walther, Organ Concerto in F. (Albinoni transcription)
  • Georg Friedrich Händel, “Lascia ch’io pianga” aus Rinaldo
  • Camille Saint-Saëns, Bénédiction nuptiale
  • Sigfrid Karg-Elert, Nun danket alle Gott

I personally do not particularly like church organ music. Main reason is that in the protestant churches I attended in the Netherlands, most organists seemed to be specialized in distorting the bass sound of their organs with the same intensity as Jimi Hendrix when he distorted the sound of his Fender guitars. Until the day of today I still wonder if and why people actually enjoy listening to this. I absolutely love Bach, but I am always trembling when, after the first couple of bars, the organists start moving to the lower registers and use their organ pedals in his Toccata.

Coming back to the playlist, I absolutely love the pieces by Johann Gottfried Walther, Organ Concerto in F. (Albinoni transcription) and Camille Saint-Saëns, Bénédiction nuptiale. For me this is a completely different class of performance and of organ music then I was used to. It opened my ears (and eyes!) to the beautiful music church organs can produce.

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All pictures are taken with an Olympus OMD-EM10 camera in combination with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 35mm f/1.8 fixed lens. I really love this lens: it is fast, built extremely sturdy and the optics are fantastic. The pictures were taken without flash, in RAW and post-processed in Adobe Lightroom.

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Photos Huis Doorn – Home of Kaiser Wilhelm II

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Last weekend I visited Huis Doorn in the Netherlands, home of the former German Kaiser (Emperor) who lived from 1859 – 1941. After Germany lost WW I, Wilhelm II obtained asylum in the Netherlands (which had been neutral during WW I). Wilhelm II subsequently bought Huis Doorn and ordered extensive alterations. Fortunately enough he did not have to worry about furnishing his house; the German government enabled him to take whatever he wanted from his palaces in Germany. All in all 59 railway carriages were needed to transport his selection of furniture and other possessions to the Netherlands.

The transition from Kaiser to civilian provided him with lots of spare time. One of the hobbies of Wilhelm II developed was felling trees from the estate and chopping them up. It was rumored that he was so dedicated to this activity that he was solely responsible for significantly reducing the number of trees in the woods surrounding the house.

Important persons in his life in Doorn included his wives, first Augusta Victoria van Sleeswijk-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, who died in 1921; and secondly, Hermine von Schönlach-Carolath. He married her in 1922, one year after the death of his first wife. After Wilhelm’s death Hermine returned to her estate in Silesia, where she died in 1947 during imprisonment by the Red Army. Another important person in the life of Wilhelm II at Huis Doorn was Sigurd Von Ilseman, his adjudant, who had followed him into exile at the end of WW I. Sadly, Von Ilseman committed suicide in 1952 on the premises of Huis Doorn.

The emperor always kept hoping that one day the monarchy in Germany would be restored and stated that he wanted his body only to be transported back to Germany once that would be the case. To no avail. Although Hermann Goering visited the Kaiser a couple of times in Doorn before Hitler came to power, Hitler was not interested in a political role for Wilhem II.

The attitude of Wilhem II towards the Nazis was a bit ambiguous. On the one hand, he sent Hitler a telegram to congratulate him with the victory over France; on the other hand, he did not want the Swastika symbol to be present at his funeral. His telegram of gratulations to Hitler was the reason for the Dutch government to confiscate Huis Doorn after the war. His wish of a funeral without Swastikas was ignored by the German authorities when they arranged Wilhelm’s funeral in 1941.

The relationship with the Dutch royal family also was interesting. Despite the fact that they were relatives, Queen Wilhelmina never paid him a visit, though her daughter Juliana and her husband Prince Bernhard did.

After his death Wilhelm II was put on a bier in the Mausoleum (which he had designed himself) on the premises of Huis Doorn. In the field in the front of the mausoleum there are also graves of five of his dogs.


All pictures are taken with an Olympus OMD-EM10 camera in combination with the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED wide angle lens. The pictures in the house were taken without a tripod with an ISO between 3200-6400, hence the noise level of the pictures. All pictures were taken in RAW and post-processed in Adobe Lightroom.

A selection of the Kaiser’s uniforms

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Emperor staff

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The guest room

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Sleeping room for guests

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The dinner table

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The dining room

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The reception room

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The smoking room

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Exterior Restroom of the wife of Wilhelm II

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Restroom of the wife of Wilhelm II

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The relaxation room of Wilhelm II

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The Hermine Salon, named after the second wife of Wilhelm II

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The master bedroom

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The bathroom of the wives of Wilhelm II

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Working room for the adjutant of the Kaiser, Sigurd von Ilsemann.

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The study of Wilhelm II – note the saddle chair at the left

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Vestibule

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The yellow lounge

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The relaxation room of Wilhelm II

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Kitchen

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Kitchen table

"Fungus in the palace garden" Olympus OMD-EM10 Olympus Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 9-18mm f/4-5.6 ED

Fungus in the garden of huis Doorn

 

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The mausoleum of the Kaizer seen through the windows of Huis Doorn (which could do with a cleaning). In the forefront the German eagle and the graves of five of his dogs can be seen.

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Grave of one the Kaiser’s dogs in the garden in front of the mausoleum of the Kaizer

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The mausoleum, designed by Wilhelm II himself

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The coffin in the mausoleum

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The rose garden

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The chapel of huis Doorn

I would highly recommend a visit to the estate, combined with a guided tour by enthusiastic volunteers. For more information go to www.huisdoorn.nl

 

 

 

Rapperswil (CH) with Olympus 9-18mm

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Recently I visited Rapperswil, a town situated on the southern end of the Lake of Zurich. It is a beautiful old town, built on a hill in a peninsula surrounded by the lake. Rapperswil boasts a number of historic monuments, including an old monastery, a castle and several churches.

Due to the fact that my Nikon D750 was being repaired by Nikon (as part of the recall program to fix the flare problems of their D750 model), I decided to take my Olympus OM-D EM10 camera with me.

With the exception of the pictures of the individual musicians of the band KabelBrand (for which I used the Olympus 14-42mm 3.5-5.6 lens), I took all the photos in this post with the Olympus 9-18mm 1:4-5.6 wide angle lens. Because the OM-D EM10 camera uses the micro four-thirds sensor, the equivalent full frame length of this lens is 18-36mm. The lens is extremely light; weighing only 155 grams, it almost feels like a toy, and certainly a lot lighter than the 640 grams of my old Nikon 20-35 mm (although that is a 2.8 lens).

It was an extremely sunny day and therefore an excellent opportunity to check the performance of the lens under these conditions. As you can see, the lens did a great job. The only thing is that the performance of the lens when it was exposed to direct sunlight was not great; I could not use a large number of my pictures, because they showed clear traces of flare when I reviewed them in Lightroom, despite the fact that I was using a lens hood. This provides a good reason to scrutinize pictures taken under these conditions more closely with the LCD screen of the camera next time. It is also a good reason to come back to Rapperswil another time to try and see whether the performance of the lens without a UV filter would be better.

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Open air concert by the band KabelBrand (unplugged)

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