Arp Schnitger | Grote of Sint-Michaëlskerk . Zwolle [Netherlands]

web ArpSc Zwo A.A.W.J. Rietman 3_CC BY 3.0 crop

Photography by A.A.W.J. Rietman
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The Zwolle organ was started by Arp Schnitger in 1719, after the decision to build a new organ in the 23rd December 1718. The contract was signed on the 3rd January 1719. The initially planned sections were Hoofdwerk, Rugwerk, Onderwerk and Pedaal, but a Borstwerk section was added later in a third contract on the 30th April 1720. Materials to build the organ were supplied by the Zwolle city and a workspace was provided in Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (Our Lady Church). The construction lasted until 1721, after Arp Schnitger’s death in July 1719, under the subsequent responsibility of Schnitger’s sons – Johann Georg Schnitger and Frans Caspar Schnitger.

After the construction the instrument was inspected by Evert Havercamp, Nicholas Woordhouder and Aeneas Egbertus Veldcamps, with positive critics and some notes regarding possible changes and improvements. The instrument maintenance was carried until 1729 by Frans Caspar Schnitger.

In 1787 the organ is repaired by Frans Caspar Schnitger Jr. and Heinrich Hermann Freytag, and in 1837 several changes are carried by Petrus van Oekelen, from the introduction of equal temperament to the substitution of some stops and changes in wind supply system. In 1853 Johann Christoph Scheuer replaces Vox Humana in Hoofdwerk by the Trompet 4′ rank from the Borstwerk. After some years, in 1867, Jan van Loo substitutes the Pedaal’s Wijdgedekt 8′ by a Quint 10 2/3′ and changes some reeds.

Petrus van Oekelen proceeds to an intervention in 1882, replacing façade pipes of Pedaal’s Prestant 16’, changing several registers and lowering the tuning by one semitone. In 1926 a Vox Humana is added to the Rugpositief and an Aeoline 8′ to Onderpostief, by Van Dam, and the Rugpositief is placed in a swell box.

After the large set of interventions in the 19th century it is decided to restore the instrument to its original state of 1721. This restoration is carried by Flentrop in 1955, with repairs in pipework and restoration of trackers, keyboard and windchests. A new repair work is carried also by Flentrop from 1985 to 1989, with windchest repairs and the restoration of four of the twelve bellows.

More recently a new long term restoration project was created, with already two phases finished. The first one intended to restore the keyboard and stops traction mechanisms and was carried in 2008; the second phase consisted on the restoration of all the remaining bellows and was finished in 2013.

The organ case was built by Jurriaan Westerman and sculptures were created by Herman van den Burg. The organ case is more related to its context – the Dutch style – than to the traditions of Arp Schnitger’s homeland from North Germany, reflecting the subtle local influences in case design and organ composition.


1719-1721 – organ construction
1751 – organ repairs by Hinsz
1787 – organ repairs by Frans Caspar Schnitger Jr. and Heinrich Hermann Freytag
1791 – organ repairs by A. van Gruisen
1837 – organ changes by Petrus van Oekelen
1853 – organ changes by J. C. Scheuer
1867 – organ changes by J. van Loo
1882 – organ changes by Petrus van Oekelen
1926 – organ changes by Van Dam
1936 – electrical pedal traction added
1955 – organ restoration to the 1721 state by Flentrop
1971 – organ repairs by Flentrop
1985-1989 – organ repairs by Flentrop
2000-2001 – organ intonation by Flentrop


Hoofdwerk Rugpositief Borstwerk Bovenwerk Pedaal
Praestant 16′ Praestant 8′ Fluitgedekt 8′ Praestant 8′ Praestant 16′
Quintadena 16′ Quintadena 8′ Praestant 4′ Holpijp 8′ Subbas 16′
Octaav 8′ Roerfluit 8′ Roerfluit 4′ Viola 8′ Octaav 8′
Roerfluit 8′ Octaav 4′ Spitsfluit 3′ Quinta 6′ Holpijp 8′
Octaav 4′ Fluit 4′ Superoctaav 2′ Octaav 4′ Superoctaav 4′
Speelfluit 4′ Quintfluit 3′ Gemshoorn 2′ Holfluit 4′ Vlakfluit 2′
Nasaat 3′ Superoctaav 2′ Quintanus 1 1/2′ Quinta 3′ Mixtuur VIII
Superoctaav 2′ Sexquialtera II Nachthoorn 1′ Superoctaav 2′ Fagot 32′
Mixtuur VI Scherp IV Sexquialtera II Woudfluit 2′ Basuin 16′
Ruispijp II Cimbel III Mixtuur III-IV Sifflet 1 1/2′ Trompet 8′
Cimbel III Fagot 16′ Dulciaan 8′ Tertiaan II Trompet 4′
Trompet 16′ Schalmei 8′ Regaal 8′ Scherp V Cornet 2′
Trompet 8′ Viool di Gamba 8′
Vox Humana 8′ Trompet 4′

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