history organ

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The organ treasures of the province Groningen are famous troughout the world. One of the most famous of these treasures is without doubt the organ of the Petruskerk in Leens. Already in 1774 Joachim Hess wrote of this instrument: “Toen ik dit orgel bij het binnenkomen van eene maar middelmatige dorpskerk Anno 1747 in ‘t oog kreeg, stonde ik verwonderd over deszelfs trotse vertoning……..Leens, een Dorp, waarlyk niet van den aanzienlykste, waarom ik ook als verbaast stonde, toen ik voor de eerste maal desselfs Kerk-Orgel in ‘t oog kreeg, en bespeelde, zo wegens desselfs grootte als fraaiheid in gezigt en gehoor.”[ When I saw this organ upon entering this not more than middle-sized village church in 1741, I marveled at its imposing appearance….I was equally amazed. When I saw and played this organ for the first time, by its size and its beauty to eye and ear.] The organ was built in 1733-4 by Albertus Anthoni Hinsz of Groningen at the behest of Anna Habina Lewe, dowager Van Starkenborg, advowee of the church at Leens. The Lady of Verhildersum manor was the widow of Edzard Jacob van Starkenborg. As sole advowee she had control of the properties of the curch of Leens, and could thus quite independently grant the commission for the new organ. The still young organbuilder Hinsz had established his reputation with the rebuild and enlargement of the organ in the Martinikerk (St. Martin’s Church) at Groningen in1729, at the request of the widow of Frans Caspar Schnitger (three years later he married her). Schnitger had been commissioned to rebuild the organ of the Martinikerk in 1728, but had died shortly before the work was to have begun. After this renovation Hinsz completed an organ in 1731 for the church in Zandeweer; this work was commissioned by Onno Tamminga van Alberda, resident at Scheltkema Nyenstein in Zandeweer. This organ increased Hinsz’s fame to such an extent that the widow Van Starkenborg gave him the commission, in January of 1733, to replace the old organ of the Petruskerk with an entirely new instrument. Hinsz undertook the work for f 3.400,–, “waarvoor hij moest leveren alles wat tot het nieuwe orgel nodig was. Echter de kast, het beeldhouwerk, het fondement en het balghuis bleven ten laste van de Uitbestedersche.” [for with he was to make everything necessary for the new organ. But the case, the sculptures, the support and the bellows house were to be paid for by the client.] The instrument was built with 27 stops, divided among hoofdwerk, rugpositief and independent pedal. It was completed in December of 1734. The case design and details were borrowed from the organ of the Michaëlskerk (St. Michael’s Church) at Zwolle. This design was repeated a number of times by Hinsz: in Almelo, Midwolda, Harlingen, Bolsward and Uithuizermeeden. Of all these instruments, that at Leens is the most brilliant and the closest in sound to the Schnitger tradition. The carvings and statues of the richly decorated case were made by Theodorus van der Haven and Caspar Struiwig. The organ was renovated in 1843-1844 by Geert Pieters Dik, in 1867 repaired by Petrus van Oeckelen (after the building of a new tower for the church), and in 1922 restored by Jan Doornbos. On each of these occasions one or more stops were replaced. The church was restored in 1948-52, and the interior layout altered. The organ, which had been cased up during the restoration of the church, was made playable by Mense Ruiter. But it was immediately apparent that rthe instrument had endured so much that a complete restoration was required. This was performed in 1963-7 by Van Vulpen of Utrecht; the original disposition was reïnstated. The instrument was reïnaugureted on April 26, 1968.


Since 1968 concerts are given on this organ each Saturday evening from May to September. Prominent Dutch and foreign organists are invited, and the series enjoys an outstanding international reputation. The concerts are organised by the Stichting (foundation) Hinszorgel Leens, which views as its primary goal the conservation of this organ in optimal condition for posterity. This is achieved by the effort to increase public interest in the instrument, in particular by the yearly concert series. In addition, the Stichting is the originator of tha Annual Organ Day in the northern Netherlands. The goal of this undertaking is to provide as many organists as possible with the opportunity to play on historical organs.