Arp Schnitger

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Arp Schnitger
Born(1648-07-02)2 July 1648
Died28 July 1719(1719-07-28) (aged 71)
OccupationOrgan builder

Arp Schnitger (2 July 1648 – 28 July 1719 (buried)) was an influential Northern German organ builder. Considered the paramount manufacturer of his time, Schnitger built or rebuilt over 150 organs. He was primarily active in Northern Europe, especially the Netherlands and Germany, where a number of his instruments still survive.[1][2]


Schnitger was born near Schmalenfleth in Oldenburg, Germany, and was baptized on 9 July 1648 in Golzwarden. The exact date of Schnitger's birth is unknown; the scholar Gustav Fock hypothesises it was on 2 July 1648, a week before his baptism. Schnitger was born into a family of woodworkers and wood carvers. He was apprenticed at the age of 18. Between 1666 and 1671, Schnitger studied organ building with his cousin Berendt Huss (c. 1630-1676) in Glückstadt and worked as a journeyman. [3] In 1682, Schnitger and his workshop moved to Hamburg. In 1708, he was appointed organ builder of the Prussian court. In 1684, Schnitger was married to Gertrude Otte (1665-1707). His sons Franz Caspar and Johann Jürgen Schnitger trained with their father and continued his work after his death. His burial was recorded in the parish of St. Pancratiuskirche at Neuenfelde-Hamburg on 28 July 1719. [4] [5][6]

Schnitger was one of the most prolific builders of his time, having built approximately 95 new instruments, rebuilt about 30, and repaired or renovated another 30.[7] He ran several shops and had a team in Magdeburg, in Bremen and in Groningen. His organ designs typify the essential North German organ: multiple divisions, usually with a rückpositif (division on the gallery rail, behind the player's back); large, independent pedal divisions, often placed in towers on either side of the main case; well-developed principal choruses in each division with abundant reeds, flutes, and mutation stops; and meantone temperament. All of these features could be found on North German organs prior to Schnitger's activity; Schnitger's genius lay in his ability to synthesize these elements into a prototypical style of organ building, and in his prolific output. The latter was made possible by his good business sense: Schnitger was one of the first builders to use cost-cutting measures on a large scale to ensure the affordability of organs for small village churches.[8][9]

One of Schnitger's landmark instruments, the organ at St. Jacobikirche, Hamburg, was a renovation and enlargement of an instrument previously rebuilt in 1636 by Gottfried Fritzsche (1578–1638).[10]

Notable examples of his work still in use[edit]

  • St. Cosmae und Damianikirche, Stade (Schnitger's first organ, completed in 1676 after the death of his teacher Berendt Huss)[11]
  • St. Peter und Paulkirche, Cappel (perhaps the most authentic of Schnitger's organs still in existence, originally in the Johanniskirche, Hamburg, 1680)[12]
  • St. Ludgerikirche, Norden (1688)[14]
  • St. Jacobikirche, Hamburg (perhaps the most famous surviving Schnitger organ, completed in 1693)[16]
  • Grote or St. Michaëlskerk, Zwolle, the Netherlands (completed by his son Franz Caspar after Schnitger's death)[17]


Organs like these are credited with inspiring the renaissance in organ building during the early twentieth century, with a return to tracker action and smaller, more cohesive instruments, as distinct from the late-Romantic trend of extremely large symphonic organs. In particular, the organ at the Jacobikirche, Hamburg, played a pivotal role in the organ reform movement beginning in 1925, as a series of conferences taking place at historical organ sites in Germany and Alsace was inaugurated there.

A number of Schnitger's organs were featured on recordings by E. Power Biggs, who is generally credited with reintroducing them to modern listeners. More recently, Schnitger's organs can be heard on several recordings by German organist Harald Vogel. Schnitger's instruments in Groningen, Uithuizen, Noordbroek and Nieuw Scheemda were featured in the documentary Martinikerk Rondeau, in which Jurgen Ahrend, Cor Edskes and Bernhardt H. Edskes detail Schnitger's life and demonstrate his working methods. Schnitger's organs have also served as inspiration for many modern builders; GOArt, a Swedish organ building consortium, has even gone so far as to build an exact copy of a Schnitger organ for research purposes.[18]

Surviving Schnitger organs[edit]

year town church picture manuals stops original by Schnitger
1668–1675/1688 Stade (D) St. Cosmae et Damiani III/P 42 case, prospect, 35 stops (8 partly)
1677–1679 Bülkau (D) St. John the Baptist I c. 10 case, prospect; today II/P/22
1678–1679/1709 Jork (D) St. Matthias III/P 35 case, prospect; today II/P/22
1680 Cappel (D) St. Peter and Paul II/P 30 case, prospect, 18 stops, 10 other old stops re-used by Schnitger → Organ of St. Peter and Paul in Cappel
1678–1682 Oederquart (D) St. Johannis III/p 28 case, prospect; today II/P/17
1682–1683 Lüdingworth (D) St. Jacobi III/P 35 case, prospect, 14 stops (complete or partly), much old pipework reused by Schnitger (half of the organ)
1684 Elmshorn (D) St. Nicolai II/P 23 case; today III/P/33
1686 Hamburg-Bergstedt (D) Ev. Church I 8 case, 2-3 stops
1687 Blankenhagen (D) Village Church II/p 12 case, 4-5 stops
1687 Steinkirchen (D) St. Nicolai et Martini II/P 28 case, prospect, 13 stops, 8 other partly
1683–1688 Hamburg-Neuenfelde (D) St. Pankratius II/P 34

case, prospect, 18 stops

1688 Mittelnkirchen (D) St. Bartholomäus II/p 22 6-8 stops; today II/P/32
1688–1690 Hollern (D) St. Mauritius II/P 24 case, prospect, 13 stops (complete or partly)
1686–1688/1691–1692 Norden (D) St. Ludgeri III/P 46 case, 13 stops, 8 old stops reused by Schnitger → Organ of St. Ludgeri in Norden
1691–1692 Groningen (NL) Martinikerk (Groningen) III/P 53 case of the pedal, prospect, 6 stops, other old stops reused by Schnitger; today III/P/52 → Organ in the Martinikerk at Groningen
1689–1693 Hamburg (D) St. Jacobi IV/P 60 43 stops (complete or partly), some reused by Schnitger → Schnitger organ (Hamburg)
1693 Groningen (NL) Pelstergasthuiskerk II/p 20 case, 2 register (7 partly)
1693 Eutin (D) castle I 9 case
1693–1694 Grasberg (D) Luth. Church II/P 21 case, 14 stops → Organ of the Grasberg church
1695–1696 Noordbroek (NL) Hervormde Kerk II/P 20 case, 10-11 stops; today II/P/24 → Organ at the Dorpskerk at Noordbroek
1695–1696 Harkstede (NL) Hervormde Kerk I 7 case, prospect, 5 stops; today I/p/9 (10)
1696–1697 Peize (NL) Hervormde Kerk II/P 22 case, prospect, 4-6 stops, old stops reused by Schnitger
1697–1698 Strückhausen (D) St. Johannes II/p 12 case of the Hauptwerk, 2 stops; today II/P/15
1697–1698 Dedesdorf (D) St. Laurentius II/p 12 case of the manuals, 10 stops; today II/P/18
1697–1698 Golzwarden (D) St. Bartholomäus II/P 20 case; today II/P/22
1699 Nieuw-Scheemda (NL) Hervormde Kerk I/p 8 case, 4-6 stops
1696–1699 Mensingeweer (NL) Hervormde Kerk I 9 case, prospekt, 6 stops
1699 Ganderkesee (D) St. Cyprian und Cornelius II/p 16 case, prospect, 9 stops; today II/P/22
1700–1601 Uithuizen (NL) Hervormde Kerk II/P 28 case, 19 stops, 6 others partly → Organ in the Jacobikerk at Uithuizen
1701 Maia, Portugal Monastery Church San Salvador II 12 case, 11 stops
1701 Mariana, Minas Gerais (Brazil) Cathedral Nossa Senhora da Assunção II/p 18 case, prospect, 14 stops (complete or partly); probably by Schnitger's co-worker Heinrich Hullenkampf[19]
1699–1702 Clausthal-Zellerfeld (D) St. Salvatoris III/P 55 case; today II/P/29
1699–1702 Groningen (NL) Der Aa-kerk III/P 32 case, prospect, c. 13 stops, 10 old stops reused by Schnitger; today III/P/40 → Organ in the Aa-kerk in Groningen
1702 Estebrügge (D) St. Martin II/P 34 case
1704 Eenum (NL) Hervormde Kerk I 10 case, prospect, 4-6 stops; today I/p/10
1704 Godlinze (NL) Hervormde Kerk II/p (?) 16 case, prospect, 8-9 stops; today I/p/12
1705 Accum (D) St. Willehad II/p 14 case
1707–1708 Lenzen (D) St. Katharinen II/P 27 case partly, 2-3 stops
1707–1708 Hamburg-Ochsenwerder (D) St. Pankratius II/P 30 case, prospect, 5-11 stops; today II/P/24
1709–1710 Weener (D) St.-Georg II/p 22 case, 6 stops; today II/P/29
1710–1711 Pellworm (D) Old Church II/P 24 case, 11 stops (complete or partly)
1710–1711 Sneek (NL) Grote of Martinikerk III/P 36 case, prospect, 10 stops (complete or partly)
1711 Ferwert (NL) Hervormde Kerk II/P 26 5 stops
1710–1713 Abbehausen (D) St. Laurentius II/P 24 case, prospect, 2 stops
1715–1716 Faro, Portugal Cathedral II 22 probably by Schnitger's co-worker Heinrich Hullenkampf[19]
1714–1716 Rendsburg (D) Christuskirche II/P 29 case, 4 stops; today IV/P/51
1715–1719 Itzehoe (D) St. Laurentii IV/P 43 case, prospect; today IV/P/58
1719–1721 Zwolle (NL) Grote of Sint-Michaëlskerk IV/P 64 case, main part of the stops; finished by the sons Franz Caspar Schnitger and Johann Georg Schnitger

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Introduction to Arp Schnitger". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Arp Schnitger". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Huß, Berendt". Deutsche Biographie. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Arp Schnitger". Kulturportal Nordwest. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  5. ^ "St. Pankratius (Neuenfelde)". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  6. ^ "More than 350 years Arp Schnitger (1648-1719)". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  7. ^ Fock, Gustav (1974). Arp Schnitger und seine Schule; ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Orgelbaues im Nord- und Ostseeküstengebiet. Kassel: Bärenreiter. pp. 272–77. ISBN 3761802617. OCLC 1043813.
  8. ^ "Short biography of Arp Schnitger". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Introduction to Arp Schnitger". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  10. ^ Fock, Gustav (1997). Hamburg's role in northern European organ building. Lynn Edwards, Edward C. Pepe, and Harald Vogel. Easthampton, Mass.: Westfield Center. pp. 66–67. ISBN 0961675535. OCLC 53879976.
  11. ^ "Stade, St. Cosmae". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  12. ^ "Cappel, St. Peter und Paul". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  13. ^ "The St. Pancratius Church in Hamburg-Neuenfelde". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Norden, St. Ludgeri". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  15. ^ "Groningen, St. Martini". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  16. ^ "Hamburg, Jacobikirche". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  17. ^ "Zwolle, Grote kerk". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  18. ^ Bernhardt H. Edskes. "Betekenis van Arp Schnitger en de totstandkoming van zijn orgels". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  19. ^ a b Organ Tours of Brasil

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]