Day 2- Monday, May 9, 2011
We were off to an early start this morning, everyone was on the bus at 7:45, rolling on our way to Schwerin for our first stop of the day. Schwerin is beautiful and the Cathedral (or Dom) is in the center of this picturesque town, on the highest point of ground. The organist, Jan Ernst, knows his instrument and how to get every color out of it. I was very impressed by his playing. The 84-stop instrument was built by Friedrich Ladegast (1871), one of the premier German organ builders of the 19th century, and it was restored several years ago by Schuke of Potsdam. Everyone from our group who wished got to play. The organ is said to have an extremely heavy action, I didn’t find this the case; yes it is heavy but not more than a large Hook & Hastings Organ.
Next we drove to Luebeck, home of Buxtehude. I couldn’t help being impressed with all of the immaculately maintained homes and towns along our drive. The first organ we saw in Luebeck was at the Aegidienkirche, a jewel box of exquisite carvings. I had never before seen a choir loft for the singers on the screen separating the sanctuary from the nave of the church. The organ case is ornately carved and one of the most beautiful examples I have ever seen. Interesting that it was the one Michael Barone chose as ‘logo’ on the PIPEDREAMS t-shirts and sweat shirts, and the PIPEDREAMS CD albums. Though the case is antique, it now contains a modern 42-stop Klais organ from 1982.
After this we walked to the Luebeck Dom. This church was bombed by the Allies in WWII but has since been restored. As in the Aegidienkirche, the original carvings are spectacular. I was very impressed by the rood screen. The church has 2 instruments, a delightful small mean-tone organ from Southern Italy (1722) that was restored by Ahrend, and a large Marcussen (47 stops) from 1970 that makes an exciting sound in the room.
Free time was next, and a group of us stopped at Niederegger, a firm that I am told makes some of the best marzipan in the world; I could not disagree with this statement after having a few pieces. Then we went to have some dinner.
The group met after our free time and went to the Jakobikirche and heard Ulf Wellner play the 3 pipe organs in this stunning church. The 1636 Stellwagen organ with 31 stops was one of the organs I wanted to hear, as it had been used by Helmut Walcha for his first path-breaking Bach organ cycle for the Archiv label. It didn’t disappoint either, with its sweet and balanced tone. Buxehude had to have played this very organ, and Bach also likely played this organ while visiting in Luebeck, and that made it the experience very special for me. The other instruments (the 1984 Schuke of 64 stops, with some historic pipework, in the 1673 Richborn case; and a little 9-stop Richborn choir organ, reconstructed by Kjersgaard) were beautiful and well worth hearing.
We ended the evening at Buxtehude’s church, the Marienkirche. This immense building was fired bombed during WW II, totally destroying both organs. The church was rebuilt, but the original interior decorations…pulpit and galleries, were restored. Evenso, the church is very impressive, with a soaring stone vault ceiling more than 100 feet above the floor. I could only imagine the 20 year old Bach walking into this church for the first time, so much larger than anything he had known in Eisenach or Weimar. That evening we heard Johannes Unger conducting a concert of cantatas by Bruhns, Weckmann, Boehm and Buxtehude, and the ensemble music making was stellar. Afterwards we heard the 100-stop Kemper gallery organ (1958), upon which Walter Kraft had recorded the complete Buxtehude organ works back in 1959 (still available, now on CD). I also observed how low the noise floor was in churches in Luebeck. There was almost total silence, something I can’t find most places in the US.
We are now on the bus driving back to Hamburg, and tomorrow we are off to Lueneburg and have another 8am start.