Arp Schnitger | St. Peter und Paul Kirche . Cappel [Germany]

Photography by Beate Ulich
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The Cappel organ by Arp Schnitger is considered one of the best conserved instruments by this master organbuilder. The instrument is relatively big in proportion to the church, what is justified by its original construction to the Johannis Kirche of Hamburg, belonging to a beneditine monastery. During the Napoleonic occupation the Johannis Kirche was used as warehouse and the organ was disassembled and stored in 1813. Three years later, in 1816, the organ was sold and reassembled in Cappel, in the new church rebuilt after a major fire in 1810. The Cappel community hadn’t money to order a new organ so the Schnitger organ emerged as an opportunity. When the organ was reassembled on the new church the top statues had to be removed and were put on the front side of the church, next to the altar.

Fortunately on the subsequent decades, and due to the lack of funds from the church community, the organ didn’t suffer any major changes to adapt it to the musical taste of the 19th and 20th century. In addition to that there aren’t marks of intonation changes, what makes it one of the main references in terms of the intended sound and tonal equilibrium from Schnitger.

Some of the pipework was used from a previous Late Renaissance organ in Johannis Kirche, probably built by the Scheerer family. The facade pipes weren’t removed during the WWI, unlike what happened to most of the organs during the WWI, which means that the original pipes were preserved until today.

The organ tuning is Chorton, in this particular case approximately 3/5 tone above the actual pitch, and in equal temperament – probably since the organ change to Cappel. In the manuals the short octave presents the particular characteristic of having not only the C/D/E keys as usual in the short octave but also the F# and G# notes by duplicating the first two accidental keys (visible on the photo gallery below).

Proportionally the organ has a considerable amount of mixtures, following the characteristics of the North German organbuilding school, including the Pedal section that was frequently used to play virtuosistic passages.


1680 – construction of the organ for the Johannis Kirche, Hamburg
1816 – reassembly by Georg Wilhelm in Cappel church and change from meantone to equal temperament
1939 – restoration by Paul Ott
1978 – restoration by von Beckerath after damage from a new church heating system and addition of two new stops (Cimbel to Hauptwerk and Cornet to Pedal)
2009 – wind system restoration by Beckerath


Hauptwerk Rückpositif Pedal
Principal 8′ Quintadena 8′ Untersatz 16′
Quintadena 16′ Gedeckt 8′ Octava 8′
Hollfloit 8′ Principal 4′ Octava 4′
Octava 4′ Flute 4′ Nachthorn 2′
Spitzfloit 4′ Octave 2′ Rauchspfeife II
Nasat 3′ Siffloit 1 1/3′ Mixtur IV-VI
Gemshorn 2′ Sesquialtera II Posaun 16′
Rauschpfeife II Tertian II Trompet 8′
Mixtur V-VI Scharff IV-VI Cornet 2′
Cimbel III Dulcian 16′
Trompet 8′

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