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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