Dordrecht, Grote Kerk

Opus 1100

The Verschueren organ in the Grote Kerk, Dordrecht

The organ in the ‘Mariakoor’ of the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht was commissioned by the Stichting Bach-orgel (Bach organ foundation) and built between 2005 and 2007 by Verschueren Orgelbouw. The goal has been to create an organ especially suitable for the performance of baroque organ repertoire, and in particular the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. For this reason the Silbermann organs in the Dom in Freiberg (Saxony) and the Hofkirche in Dresden served as important points of reference.  

Regarding the design of the organ case it was decided not to copy a specific existing example. It was, however, considered desirable to ‘translate’ a number of clearly recognisable Middle-German design elements to the setting of the church in Dordrecht. In this context, considerable attention was paid to the arched forms of the towers and pipe-fields, the decadence of the decoration on the top of the organ case, the shape of the pipe-mouths in the façade and the design details of the organ console. The geometric relationships incorporated in the design of the organ case, are specifically tailored to the organ’s position in the ‘Mariakoor’. The case is made of pine, while the carvings are made of lime-wood.

The technical design of the organ owes much to that of the Silbermann organs in the St. Petri Church in Freiberg (1735) and in the Hofkirche in Dresden. At the bottom of the organ case one finds a robust base, made of pine, upon which the various parts of the organ are placed. The windchests of both the Manual and the Oberwerk are situated directly behind the façade. The windchest of the Manual is situated at impost-level, the largest pipes being placed along the sides of the organ. The two windchests of the Oberwerk are situated one level higher; its largest pipes are placed in the centre. The Pedal windchests, meanwhile, are found at the back of the organ: those of the so-called ‘large’ pedal (in other words the two 16’stops) in the lower part of the case, the so-called ‘small’ pedal is placed at the same level as the Oberwerk. The dimensions of the chests, action, and winding system were calculated to a large extent using the historic measuring system common in Saxony in the 18th century.

The independent winding systems for manuals and pedal, are a characteristic of larger central-German instruments of the 18th century. In this organ the choice was made to employ five wedge-bellows; two for the pedal, three for the manuals. The bellows have pine leaves and are equipped with comparatively broad oak folds. These bellows can be activated either by hand or by use of the electric blower. The wind trunking is made of pine, its dimensions established following an analysis of preserved historic examples. The tremulant is internally installed in the windline to the Oberwerk.

Both the dimensions and details of the keyboards are copied from historic examples. The natural keys are covered with ebony, the sharps with bone. The order of the stop-knobs reflects the order of the stops’ placement on the windchests. The stop labels are engraved on parchment above each stop-knob.

The key-action for both manuals is comparatively uncomplicated; the pallet boxes are all situated on the front side of the soundboard. The action is unbushed. This arrangement guarantees a very precise and refined touch. The inter-manual coupler takes the form of a so-called ‘shove-coupler’. The pedal coupler is a so-called ‘windkoppel’ (Silbermann called it a ‘Bassventil’) which functions by employing an extra pallet box in the windchests of the Manual. The vast majority of the stop-action is made of oak. Its design is based on that found in the organs of Freiberg and Dresden.

The windchests are made of oak. Unusual features include the high grids, the extra pallet box for the ‘Bassventil’ and the clips on the faceboards. The pipes stand, as far as possible, directly over their related borings in the groove.

The metal sheets for the pipework originated in our own workshop. They were cast at virtually the thickness of the metal pipes, and thereafter hammered and planed by hand. The walls of the metal pipework become gradually thinner towards the top of each pipe. The wide pipemouths and ‘Labiumvorstand’, commonly used by Silbermann, have been applied. The alloys used in the metal pipework also reflect those typically used by Silbermann.

Both 16’ reeds have wooden boots and feature so-called ‘Bleikehlen’ (cast lead

shallots with leathered faces). The remaining reeds have metal boots with so-called ‘french’ shallots.

The lowest octave of the Bordun 16’ (Manual), the Principalbass 16’ and the resonators of the Posaune 16’ are made of pine.

During the voicing of the organ, particular attention was paid to the characteristics of the pipes’ initial speach, to the optimal blend of the different stops, and to the clarity of the plena. Due to the unusual placing of the organ, Silbermann’s working methods have been freely applied in a creative way. Cor Ardesch and Peter van Dijk acted as advisers to the project.