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The much-celebrated 1646/1725 Van Hagerbeer/ Schnitger organ of the Laurenskerk, Alkmaar, is the star of this impressive release from Fugue State Films. Yet it is not the only historic instrument featured; the other three organs (including the 1511 Van Covelens in the same church) are each as important.

As a Catholic church, the Laurenskerk used the Van Covelens organ (high on the north wall of the choir twinned with a similar instrument on the opposite wall) to accompany alternatim chant and other liturgy. After the Reformation the church was reordered for use by a large Protestant congregation, which required hefty support for its wayward psalm singing. The City leapt at the chance to commission a prestigious organ from Van Hagerbeer, which was placed on the west wall.

An hour-long documentary is devoted to this instrument, a further 30-minute film to the Van Covelens, each with illustrated lectures from the Laurenskerk’s two organists, Pieter van Dijk and Frank van Wijk, plus contributions on architecture and organ building from other experts. The context of the organ building is informed by a further hour of ‘demonstration’ tracks featuring the organists of Leiden’s Pieterskerk and the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, each seated at the organs in their churches. Of particular interest is Schnitger’s innovative pipework, including two Vox Humana ranks always drawn in the ‘Dutch trio’ manner with the 8ft Baarpyp and Quintadena – a distinctive sound referred to by the builder as ‘the goat’. Ingenious internal layouts are explored, and mean-tone tuning is heard. Bonus tracks include interviews with Piet Kee and an introduction to Flentrop Orgelbouw. The accompanying CD features all four instruments with specifications and registrations in full; the informed playing does full justice to instruments and repertoire. This unique collection will reward many hours of watching and listening and is likely to inspire many visits to the Netherlands.

MATTHEW POWER Read the full review on Agora Classica


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