Gwendolyn Toth

Gwendolyn Toth is the director of the New York City-based early music ensemble, ARTEK, and a soloist on early keyboards (organ, harpsichord, fortepiano). She is married to harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, and they have three children.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Arp Schnitger organ in Noordbroeck

July 19, 2010

Willem-Jan and Leny accompanied us in the morning to the church in Noordbroeck, about 40 minutes southeast of Zeerijp. My friend Peter Westerbrink, organist there, met us and let us in to play the church’s fabulous Schnitger organ. This instrument, which is one of the most famous Schnitger organs surviving, is to be the location of my next CD. My appointment was to spend 3 hours there trying out various pieces to find which repertoire I would record. I had some music from the generation just past Scheidemann (Tunder, Weckmann), some Bach, some Krebs, some Boehm, Leyding, some other random things. Tunder & Weckmann: no. I missed meantone tuning too much, and the Noordbroeck organ’s division of stops between great organ and positiv just seemed not quite right. Bruhns, Bach, Leyding, Boehm...ahhhhh....I still will have to decide eventually which Bach to play, not an easy decision; maybe the E minor Prelude & Fugue...My biggest worry had been the pedal board. In previous visits, I had found the pedals difficult to negotiate. Much larger compass than the Zeerijp/17th century type organ, but nothing like anything modern I’d find in the US either. If I could not manage the pedals, I would have to choose repertoire very carefully. But, no worries: Peter Westerbrink had told me "three hours practice, and you will be fine". He was right. I could manage anything by the time I left. That was encouraging!

After the organ visit, we had a picnic lunch, then caught the train in Zuidbroeck, saying goodbye to Willem-Jan and Leny, such good friends. We will miss Willem’s informative commentary (he’s a retired history professor) on all aspects of local Dutch history and church history – as well as the wonderful stories of his youth! He told us some hair-raising stories about living through World War II – stories of humanity on the part of both Dutch and Germans as well as some of the inhumanity that was a sad part of the local history.

Our train journey was a bit lighter load, having left our largest suitcase behind with 100 CDs for the Zeerijp church to sell in its gift shop. Still...not as light a load as one would like. Three trains and a tram later, we arrived in Antwerp at the home of our friends Ellen Delahanty and Geert van Gele.

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