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Arp Schnitger (2 July 1648 – 28 July 1719 (buried)) was a highly influential Northern German organ builder. 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 survive to the present day.[1][2]

Arp Schnitger
Born(1648-07-02)July 2, 1648
DiedJuly 28, 1719(1719-07-28) (aged 71)
OccupationOrgan builder
Schnitger, Schriftzug.jpg



Schnitger was born near Schmalenfleth in Oldenburg, Germany and was baptized on 9 July 1648 in Golzwarden. Schnitger was born into a family of woodworkers and wood carvers. He was apprenticed at the age of 18. Between 1666 to 1671, Schnitger studied organ building with his cousin Berendt Huss (c. 1630-1676) in Glückstadt. [3] In 1682, he moved to Hamburg with his workshop. In 1708, he was appointed Prussian court organ builder. 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, completing more than 150 instruments and running several shops. He 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.[7][8]

Many of Schnitger's landmark instruments were actually rebuilds or expansions of existing organs as at St. Jacobikirche, Hamburg, a renovation and enlargement of an earlier instrument from 1635 by Gottfried Fritzsche (1578-1638). Often, the expansion of the pedal division required the addition of pedal towers on either side of the case. This feature has come to be one of the most-typically associated with the North German style, despite the fact that a majority of smaller organs did not have pedal towers.[9][10]

Notable examples of his work still in useEdit

  • 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 organsEdit

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
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
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
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
1695–1696 Noordbroek (NL) Hervormde Kerk   II/P 20 case, 10-11 stops; today II/P/24
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
1700–1702 Groningen (NL) Der Aa-kerk   III/P 32 case, prospect, c. 13 stops, 10 old stops reused by Schnitger; today III/P/40
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 alsoEdit


  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. ^ "Short biography of Arp Schnitger". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  8. ^ "Introduction to Arp Schnitger". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Fritzsche, Gottfried". Deutsche Biographie. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  10. ^ "Kirchenmusik St. Jacobi". Ev.-luth. Hauptkirche St. Jacobi. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  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 sourcesEdit

  • Peggy Kelley Reinburg (1982). Arp Schnitger, organ builder; catalyst for the centuries. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). ISBN 978-0-253-30927-3.
  • Cornelius H. Edskes, Harald Vogel (2002) Arp Schnitger and His Work (Organ Historical Society) ISBN 9783954940929

External linksEdit