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In the footsteps of J S Bach


DOUGLAS HOLLICK, awarded a Churchill Fellowship 2000,
explains a special quest


My objective is to visit Lüneburg, Celle, Hamburg and Lübeck just as Bach did as a young man, and to hear and play as many later 17th and early 18th century organs of this area as possible within the space of about 4 weeks. Important parts of this experience are the acoustics in which an instrument sounds, which in many cases will tell much about the musical rhetoric of the repertoire written for these organs, and the action and layout of keyboards and pedalboards. This will help to clarify questions of technique. In parallel with this I plan to visit museums where there are early keyboard instruments, either harpsichords or clavichords (chamber or positiv organs?), again with an interest in the instruments specific to the period of Buxtehude and the young J S Bach.

I am aware that much of this heritage has been lost, either through rebuilds or wartime bombing, but there is more than enough surviving to make such a trip worthwhile. In Hamburg for instance there is the recent restoration of the Jacobi Schnitger organ by Ahrend, and at Stralsund there is the famous Stellwagen organ. Stade and Lüdingworth are also accessible from Hamburg, and there are many others. I hope to get up to Denmark as well, and visit the historic organ at Roskilde. Apart from being a player of early keyboard instruments, with the organ the longest established, I also made copies of early instruments - mainly harpsichords - for 15 years up to 1990.

This professional experience in different areas, both making and playing, has given me an unusual balance of knowledge. I also worked with Flentrop in Holland in the late 1970s, so whilst my knowledge of making is centred on clavichords and harpsichords, I have also acquired building and playing experience of the organ. Because of the importance of historical restoration of organs today, I would also hope to meet organ builders involved in this sort of work, and in discussion to understand their attitudes and ways of working.

I have experienced 17th and 18th century instruments in France, Holland and central Europe (mainly in the Czech Republic), and quite recently have played a number of Silbermann organs, including recitals in Dresden and Pfaffroda. North Germany is an area I've not before visited, hence this ambitious plan. The outcome should be a much greater awareness of the relationship between organ and repertoire, filling in with practical experience all the reading and listening of my past years, and thereby illuminating playing and teaching.


Copyright © 2 May 2000 Douglas Hollick, Stathern, Leicestershire, UK


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