Hendrik Niehoff

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An extant example of Niehoff's work
St. Johannis Lüneburg - Orgel.jpg
The Niehoff-Dropa organ case at the Johanniskirche, Lüneburg
Niehoff organ at Delft, St. Hippolytus, 1545
Delft, Oude Kerk.jpg
Painting, c. 1850 by J. Bosboom: Organ in Delft, Oude Kerk

Hendrik Niehoff (1495 – c. 1561) was a Dutch pipe organ builder, who learned with noted builder, Jan van Covelen (c. 1470-1532). According to Liuwe Tamminga, Niehoff was born in Leeuwarden, the capital of Province Friesland. (Tamminga has been organist since the 1980s on the ancient organ {1471-75} of Lorenzo da Prato at the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna and also was born in a nearby Friesland village.) Following Jan van Covelen's death in 1532, Hendrik Niehoff established his shop in 's-Hertogenbosch to continue building new and upgrading organs throughout the Netherlands and in major Hanseatic cities and, thus, can be considered the most significant organbuilder in northwestern Europe in the middle third of the 16th century due both to the fabulous visual architectural quality of the cases and the exquisite sounds these instruments make for the eye and ear.nen

The pipes in Niehoff's organs are remarkable in that they use an alloy of over 98% lead, with only about 1.3% tin and minimal amounts of antimony, copper and bismuth - the latter probably due to the not highly refined ores available to the builders of that time. (The use of lead plate to make organ pipes probably stems from its use to fabricate the roofs of European churches of the time.) Pipes made of this alloy are noted for producing sounds with the "vocale" characteristic of the organs of the high Renaissance/early Baroque period. To enhance their appearance, the façade pipes usually were covered with thin, bright tin foil that was held to the underlying lead pipe with a glue made of duck egg white.

American organbuilder John Brombaugh (b. 1937, retired 2005) used several surviving examples of pipes from the 1539 Schoonhoven Niehoff organ given to him in 1971 by Dr. Maarten A. Vente as models for many instruments his firm made after their first new examples were made and used in the organ at Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, Oregon, that was dedicated in 1976. (Respected Belgian organologist, Koos van der Linde, disputes Vente's assertion that Niehoff made Brombaugh's sample Dutch pipes; he contends they were made by the hand of Peter Janz. de Swart, who built the Leiden Hoogslandskerk organ ca. 1565. Could de Swart have been an apprentice with Niehoff when the Schoonhoven pipes were being made?) This instrument also uses vertical pallets in its Ruckpositive windchest, a method that was normal in Niehoff's organs but seldom found anytime since. It gives a remarkable light touch to the keys - like a harpsichord.

Major Niehoff projects - BOLD entried organs still extant in 2006[edit]

  • 1534 Breda - Groote / OLV (Onze Lieve Vrouwe - Our Lady's) Kerk. (Dutch) The positive case on the current organ survives from 1534; information on the 1534 case is taken from a book about the organs in this church which was published in 1989. Jan van Biezen states this organ was built by Jan Graurock; whether or not Niehoff helped is debatable.
  • 1528 Franeker - St.-Maarten. Van Biezen and Vente say this instrument was a Jan van Covelen project but, upon his death in 1532 and at the request of van Covelen's widow, Niehoff brought it to completion in 1534. This project is likely the beginning of Hendrik Niehoff's career as an independent organbuilder.
  • 1539-1540 Schoonhoven - St.-Bartholomeüs. The case of this organ since 1958 houses the Marcussen organ located in the south transept of the Groote / Laurenskerk in Rotterdam. (Dr. Vente recovered the case when the Schoonhoven congregation abandoned this historic organ in the 1930s to purchase a new organ. He gave it to the war desecrated Rotterdam congregation to use in its new replacement organ as the demolished church was being restored.)
A pictorial description of the Oude Kerk. More views of the Oude Kerk. and more.
  • 1545-1549 Zierikzee - St.-Lievensmonster. An interesting description of this organ is written in "Beschrijving van het oude en nieuwe orgel in de Groote of St. Lievens Monsterkerk der stad Zierikzee" by Willem Lootens, 1771.
  • 1548 Enkhuizen - St.-Gommarus / Westerkerk. Niehoff's organ case remains, but the organ was rebuilt by the van Hagerbeer and Duyschot (Dutch) families ca. 1645 and 1679-83. Some of its pipes are still extant in the organ at the St.-Pancras / Zuiderkerk church in Enkhuizen.
Go here for further information on the church. (Dutch)
  • 1548-1550 Hamburg - an upgrading rebuild of the existing organ at the Petrikirche. Following the terrible Hamburg fire of 1842, nothing remains of this organ.
  • 1551-1553 Lüneburg - Johanniskirche, built together with Jasper Johansen. In 1699, Georg Böhm became organist here and, beginning soon after (according to Christoph Wolff) gave Johann Sebastian Bach lessons on this instrument during Bach's student tenure at the Michaeliskirche from 1700 through 1702. Böhm had the Niehoff organ considerably rebuilt and upgraded in 1714 by Arp Schnitger's student, Matthias Dropa. It has been restored on several occasions by Rudolf von Beckerath's shop (Hamburg); it probably has the most of Niehoff's work remaining in any of his large organs.
Go here for further history of the Lüneburg Johanniskirche organ (German)
  • 1556-1558 Gouda - St.-Jans Kerk (Dutch) The drastically altered remnants of this organ's case were placed in the 19th century Roman Catholic parish church in Abcoude.
  • 1557 Brouwershaven - St.-Nicolaas (Dutch), built together with his son, Nicolaas Niehoff. The historic case and upper case façade pipes were used when the Van Vulpen firm built a new organ in 1968 and 1980. Note the similarity between the Brouwershaven and Lüneburg Ruckpositive cases!

Published References[edit]

  • Jan van Biezen. Het Nederlandse Orgel in de Renaissance en de Barok, in het bijzonder de School van Jan van Covelens. Utrecht (1995): Koninlijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muiziekgeschiedenis. ISBN 90-6375-154-0.  (Dutch)
  • Dr. Maarten A. Vente (1915-1989). Die Brabanter Orgel, zur Geschichte der Orgelkunst in Belgien und Holland im Zeitalter der Gotik und der Renaissance. Amsterdam: H.J. Paris (1958 & 1963).  Gives another valuable description of work by the Niehoff family. (German)
  • Harald Vogel, Günter Lade, Nicola Borger-Keweloh & others. Orgeln in Niedersachsen. Bremen: Verlag H.M. Hauschild (1997). ISBN 3-931785-50-5.  Provides valuable information, especially on the Lüneburg Johanniskirche organ (German)
  • Lynn Edwards Butler, translation of book by Christoph Wolff & Marcus Zepf. the Organs of J.S. Bach: a Handbook. Urbana, Chicago, Springfield: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition (April 2, 2012). ISBN 978-0252078453.  A comprehensive handbook on the organs encountered by Bach (English)
  • Lootens, Willem. Beschryving van het oude en nieuwe orgel, in de Groote- of St. Lievens Monsterkerk der stad Zierikzee, beneffens ... ; Baarn, "De Praestantpers" (1966). (Dutch)

External links[edit]