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Friday Night Organ: "The old man of Hamburg"
Johann Adam Reincken (1643 – 24 November 1722) was the successor to Heinrich Scheidemann at St. Katherine Church in Hamburg. He was one of the most important German composers of the 17th century however, very few of his works survive to this day. Reincken received primary music education in Deventer in 1650–54, from Lucas van Lennick, organist of the Grote kerk (Lebuinuskerk). In 1654 he departed for Hamburg to study under Heinrich Scheidemann, organist of the Katharinekirche and whom you may recall was a pupil of Sweelinck. In 1657 he returned to Deventer and became organist of the Bergkerk on 11 March; however, after only a year he left for Hamburg again, this time to become Scheidemann's assistant. When the older composer died in 1663, Reincken succeeded him at St. Katharine's. In 1665 he married one of Scheidemann's daughters, and their only child Margaretha-Maria was born three years later. (You will find in latter posts that this is a accepted tradition—if you want the post of an organist—you're stuck marrying his daughter.)
The composer kept his position at St. Katharine's until his death in 1722. He was succeeded by Johann Mattheson. Unlike many other contemporary organists, Reincken died wealthy. In his lifetime he was heralded as one of the best organists in Germany; he knew Dieterich Buxtehude, Vincent Lubeck and of course J. S. Bach. From 1700 to 1702 Bach attended St. Michael’s School in nearby Lüneburg, and it was probably Georg Böhm, organist at St. Nicholas in Lüneberg, who introduced Bach to Reincken in 1701. It is through Reincken that Johann Sebastian also probably became acquainted with Buxtehude. In 1720 Bach visited Hamburg again, this time to explore professional opportunities, including the position as organist of St. Jacobi and the music directorship of the five principal churches. During his stay Bach gave a highly celebrated organ concert at St. Catherine’s, which was “prearranged, advertised, and apparently attended by such prominent people as Erdmann Neumeister, the cantata librettist and senior minister at St. Jacobi, and Johann Mattheson. Mattheson relates: “he (Bach) made a journeyed to Hamburg and was heard for more than two hours playing on the fine organ of St. Catherine’s before the Magistrate and many other distinguished persons of the city, to their general astonishment. The aged organist of this church, Johann Adam Reincken, who at that time was nearly a hundred years old, listened to him with particular pleasure. Bach, at the request of those present, performed extempore the chorale “An Wasserflüssen Babylon” at great length (for almost half an hour) and in different ways, just as the better organists of Hamburg in the past used to do at the Saturday vespers. Reincken is said to commented upon Bach: “I thought that this art was dead, but I see that in you it still lives.” This verdict of Reincken’s was the more unexpected since he himself had set the same chorale, many years before, in the same manner. Bach’s early biographers linked this occasion to the composition of the Fugue in G Minor, BWV 542, because of its recognizable association with a Dutch folk song as one of its themes and therefore an allusion to Reincken’s Dutch heritage.
In conclusion I must comment on the organ of Katharinekirche. The church was one of the five principal churches of Hamburg dating from about 1250. The organ was among the foremost instruments in northern Europe. Christoph Wolff in his Bach biography states, “The organ of St. Catherine’s was the most famous and most beautiful large instrument in north Germany.” Bach's admiration of this instrument is well documented. In 1768 Agricola, a student of Bach reported: “In many old organs in Germany, for example in that of St.Catherine’s in Hamburg, among others, but also in many new fine organs in France, the number of reed stops (Rohrwerke) is quite large. The greatest organ expert and performer in Germany and perhaps in Europe, the late Kapellmeister Bach, was a great admirer of such organs: if anyone knew what and how to play upon them, it was he. The organ of St. Catherine’s Church in Hamburg contains no less than 16 reed stops. J. S. Bach, the late Kapellmeister of Leipzig, having once played for two straight hours on what he called a magnificent work of art, could not find high enough praise for its beauty and variety of sonority. The late Kapellmeister Bach of Leipzig reported that the response on the 32-foot Principal and the Posaune pedal stop was uniformly good and quite audible down to the lowest C. He also said that this principal was the only one of its size he had ever heard of such a high quality.
Well the allies put an end to this “magnificent work of art” in 1943 and a mere 520 of the original pipes survive.
Here is Reincken's most famous work a chorale fantasy on “Wasseflüssen Babylon”:
Fugue in g minor
“Hortus Musicus” IV in D minor:
And here is Bach's take on the foregoing: Sonata after Reincken ''Hortus Musicus'' BWV 965
Toccata in G Major
Toccata en la majeur par:
My old friend Yumbo sent me this article about a CD in which the NEW Flentrop organ of St. Catherine's is featured:
"The recent reconstruction of the famous Hamburg Katherininkirche organ was major landmark in the organ world. Its nickname of the ‘Bach organ’ (or ‘ an organ for Bach’) is misleading, and relates to the visit of Bach in 1720. But it could equally, and with far more accuracy, be described as the ‘Scheidemann’ or ‘Reincken’ organ (Katherininkirche organists for nearly 100 years from 1629-1722), both of whom had far more influence on its development, and whose music it better represents. Its roots go back to about 1400, and it had reached an advanced state by 1605 when Hans Scherer the Younger built the sumptuous case, which survived until 1943. This was the organ inherited by Heinrich Scheidemann when he became organist around 1629. His commissioning of work by Fritzsche (who added a Brustwerk in 1631) and Stellwagen made the organ one of the most important late Renaissance organs in the world.
Scheidemann’s pupil, Johann Adam Reincken became his assistant in 1658, and organist on Scheidemann’s death in 1663. As was the custom of the day, he married one of Scheidemann’s daughters. By the time Bach visited, in 1720, Reincken had commissioned further work to the organ, including adding the 32’ pedal Großposaune and extended the 26’ pedal down to 32’ pitch. One of the reasons for the organ’s importance is that it is one of the few organs of that period to retain its late Gothic and Renaissance roots, and the only organ in Hamburg that avoided the Baroque reconstructions by Arp Schnitger that created the later mature North German Baroque organ.
My initial surprise at finding no Scheidemann on the CD was only partially reduced when I read Sietze de Vries’s argument for including a piece by Jacob Praetorius (also a pupil of Sweelinck) instead. A shame, but at least the 14’ Praetorius four-verse piece demonstrates the style of those important early Baroque Hamburg composers. And Reincken gets a good showing with his extraordinarily complex 21’ chorale fantasia An Wasserflüssen Babylon, although I could have done without de Vries’s addition of his own bombastic version of the chorale segued onto Reincken final cadence. This was the piece that so impressed Bach that he copied it out when he was a 15 year-old student in Lüneburg. When he played the Katherininkirche organ in 1720, Bach improvised on the same theme for half and hour in honour of the aging Reincken – who returned the compliment by stating “I thought that this art was dead, but I see that it lives in you”.
After these two monumental works, the gentle Bach Von Gott will ich night lassen comes as a bit of a relief, but that is soon aurally shattered by the enormous registration used for his Fantasia super: Komm heiliger Geist, another chance to hear the organ at full blast. There then follows a 30’ improvisation in neo-baroque style. Although this does demonstrate some colours of the organ that has so far been unexplored, I wonder if a chorale fantasia on An Wasserflüssen Babylon might have given more scope for exploring the colours of the organ. That said, the improvisation is impressive, and finishes with a 9’ fantasia using the full registration of the organ.
Sietze de Vries’s playing is impressive, and shows an obvious understanding of the organ and the performance implications. But he does make a few curious registration choices, the most surprising being the omission of the distinctive solo and pedal registrations specifically recorded as being used by Jacob Praetorius (and, later, Matthias Weckmann) in Hamburg. The Katherininkirche organ is one of the very few capable of reproducing those registrations. On one occasion (track 12), de Vries gets frustratingly close to the Oberwerk solo registration of Trommete 8, Zinke 8, Nassat 3, Gemshorn 2, Hohlfleute 4, but only gets three of the five stops. Such an omission really deserves an explanation."
The same after "Operation Gomorrha" conducted 1943 by the RAF. Though the destruction is obviously widespread, this part of the city in comparison to the parts hit the worst remained quite untouched by the Allied bombs. Operation Gomorrha targeted mostly the eastern parts of Hamburg, where there was some heavy industry and where there were many, relatively poor workers´ districts. The inner city area around St. Katherinen is bordering to the western part of the city, where there has been (by far) less destruction among the unindustrialized districts and living areas of the richer (and filthy rich) citizens. Often times clusters of "Jugendstil" and "Belle Epoque" villas and buildings of otherwise almost completely devastated "low life" districts have admittedly been spared on purpose - to save some beautiful and historically relevant architecture.
Unfortunately and nevertheless all the to this point remaining interiors of St. Katherinen, including its famous organ, were destroyed in the process.
Operation Gomorrha has been very significant to the people living in Hamburg and Germany, because it introduced the Allied tactic to intentionally throw massive amounts of incendiary bombs on urban living areas (which has later also been done to Japanese cities).
These bombs would on impact and in concert with each other form so called "Feuerstürme" (firestorms), which were huge, extremely fast moving firerolls that sucked away all oxygen out of the streets and would completely burn a human to ashes, instantenously.
Between 2007 and 2013 the organ of Hauptkirche St. Katherinen has been rebuild by the Dutch instrument makers of Flentrop Orgelbouw to resemble its 1720 state, although of course with minor alterations - and the addition of Octava 4´.
520 pipes are historical (they survived the bombings deep down in the crypt of St. Michael´s Cathedral), while the rest has been reconstructed by Flentrop. The reconstruction has been made possible by a transmission of Johann Mattheson.
Now, the organ looks terrific.
This site has been a scam from the start. I am outta here.
WOW many thanks for the pics---It looks like Flentrop did a great job. Reminds me a bit of the Flentrop at Duke university Chapel. As I mentioned in a post some time ago the allies first experimented with fire-bombing at Lubeck in March of 1942 which cost us the famous Totentanz organ. So apparently by July 1943 they had the technique down pat.
Thank you very much for clarifying this, The Evil Genius! I knew, there was something off about my memory! See, a quarter of a century back in school we had this excursion through the city with a tourguide telling us about the ´43 devastation, the incendiary bombs and firerolls.
Another thing I found to be confusing was that one source would have the 520 St. Katherinen organ´s pipes being secured in the crypt of St. Michael, while the other had them stored safely in the crypt of St. Nikolai. I then -bold and swift- just went with St. Michael, because I like it more and it is the route I probably had taken, too. Unfortunately, the Allied bombers have not postponed their attack long enough for the remaining 4000 pipes to be saved there, as well. I found a picture of the organ and St. Katherinen´s interior before the destruction. The wooden antechamber and the circular staircase leading up to the pipes have been very beautiful and did help a lot in harmonizing the organ with the rest of the building. The steal-beam construction that took their place hopefully can one day be replaced, accordingly.
"Brick-Gothic" is the name of Hamburg´s main (and many North European) churches´ style.
With quarries often hundreds of Kilometers away, people burnt bricks near the construction sites.
This site has been a scam from the start. I am outta here.
Many thanks for finding the old pic. It shows that Flentrop was trying to be true to the original design: 🙂