Pronkjuwelen in Stad en Ommeland
Martinikerk Rondeau focuses on the organs of the Dutch city and province of Groningen, the area that contains what is regarded as the finest collection of historic organs in the world. The film features footage of and performances on twenty of the region’s best instruments, and traces the development of the area’s tradition of organ building.
The narrative of the film is held together by the story of the organ of the Martinikerk in the city of Groningen. Parts of the organ date back to 1450, and several distinct styles are represented both in its case and its pipework: the gothic, the renaissance, the early baroque and the rococo. These different stages of the organ’s development can be shown by visiting other organs in the region, which belong wholly to each period. Therefore the gothic style of organ building is shown by the organ at Krewerd, the renaissance at Zeerijp, the early baroque at Uithuizen and so on. This structure allows more than a dozen disparate organs to be related to each other, and establishes the importance of the passage of time and the changing of taste.
Organ building in Groningen reached its peak with instruments built by the legendary German organ builder Arp Schnitger, and the middle section of the film is devoted to him and his approach to organ building. But his approach was not always valued, and the later stages of the film show how tastes changed in the Nineteenth Century, with the result that many historic organs, particularly the Martini organ, were rebuilt in a damaging way. But tastes swung back, and luckily these changes were reversible. The end of the film shows how the Groningen organs were triumphantly restored in recent decades.
The film makes the most of its musical possibilities. World-renowned young Dutch organist Sietze de Vries performs on all of the organs. In 2002 he won the first prize at the Haarlem International Improvisation Competition and since then has established himself as one of the foremost improvisers in historic styles. This film provides an opportunity to see him improvise in many different styles, from those of the fifteenth century to the nineteenth, as well as watching him play masterpieces from the organ repertoire by Scheidemann, Buxtehude, Reincken, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.
The point of view in the film is provided by Cor Edskes, a sprightly 85 year old whose career was devoted to the restoration of the historic organs of Northern Europe. His vast knowledge and experience makes him probably the greatest living authority on the subject, and his sparkling personality makes this subject enthralling and entertaining.
Cor worked in a partnership with Jürgen Ahrend, whose restorations of organs such as St Jacobi in Hamburg have brought him recognition as perhaps the greatest living organ builder, and the restoration of the organ of the Martinikerk is one of their most fascinating collaborations. Jürgen not only talks about his approach to the restoration of this organ, but also clambers around inside the organ to show particularly noteworthy features – the famous sixteenth century flute stop praised by Praetorius and especially the unique 24’ pipes, seen from the vantage point from inside the pedal towers.
Another contributor is Cor’s brother, the organ builder Bernhardt Edskes, who has restored a number of organs near Groningen. He is particularly adept at explaining how Schnitger’s brilliance and fame should not mask the fact that his approach to building organs was simple and economical, and how this can be an example to us today.
Click here to read an essay by 'Martinikerk Rondeau' director, Will Fraser
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