Hans Fidom Dutch organ building in the early 20th century: German backgrounds
Het ORGEL 97 (2001), nr. 5, 27-40 [summary]

Dutch organ art traditionally follows developments in Germany and France. At the end of the 19th century the German ‘moderne Orgel’ was particularly influential. Consequently, understanding Dutch organ building in this period implies observing German developments first.

The roots of the German ‘moderne Orgel’ can be found in the early 19th century. Organ building became ‘rationalised’ then: Abbé Vogler presented his ‘simplification system’ and Johann Gottlob Töpfer published his Theory of Organ Building. Organ builders e.g. Walcker followed Vogler, organ builders like Ladegast followed Töpfer.

At the end of the 19th century, the ‘rational’ ‘moderne Orgel’ appeared to be an instrument with one basic pitch (represented by the 8’ stops) and one basic tone colour (which could be varied endlessly). Electro-pneumatic action and stop channel chests made this organ type possible.

After 1900, the ‘moderne Orgel’ was modified by Oscar Walcker according to the ideas of Emil Rupp and Albert Schweitzer (Rupp named this the ‘Alsacian Organ Reform’), resulting in giant organs with relatively more reeds and mixtures and larger swell boxes than the ‘moderne Orgel’.

The First World War broke this development. The ‘Orgelbewegung’, which was oriented toward baroque organ culture, became important: leader Christhard Mahrenholz hoped to conceive a contemporary organ type based on antique principles.

In The Netherlands, the Alsacian Reform was not very influential. Later on, after the 1930s, organ builder Flentrop seemed to make a strong Orgelbewegung-related statement with his new organs with slider chests, tracker action and baroque-like dispositions, but in the 1950s the Danish firm Marcussen received the important Dutch projects. After 1970, the ‘Scandinavian Episode’ made way for the historicism of many Dutch organ builders.

Meanwhile, a contemporary organ style developed abroad, based on the Alsacian Reform interpretation of the ‘moderne Orgel’ and some of the principles of the ‘Orgelbewegung’. As the builders of these organs are dependent on research, they are related to historicising organ builders: both are rationalists in several respects.