To re-discover, to re-assess and to apply the conditions that
make pipe organs to the superlative musical
instruments they are, that is the clear mission in all our activities.
When Hendrik Wicher Flentrop first set up the organ building company in 1903, the aspect of reassessment referred mainly to disposition and voicing.
After the 1930s, the re-discoveries by Dirk Andries Flentrop were increasingly connected with tracker actions, wind chests and the new perspective on sound connected with it.
Under the leadership of Johannes Anthonie Steketee in the 1970s, the accent shifted towards the application of historical constructions, proportions and materials.
In that same periode Cees van Oostenbrugge was a driving force in this search, especially in the technical area. Under his direction it was decided to cast organ metal on a sand bed.
Right up till today we keep learning from our many restoration activities. The application of our expertise and experience in new-built organs deepens that knowledge more profoundly.
Hendrik Wicher Flentrop set up an organ building company in
Zaandam, North Holland in 1903.
One of the incentives had been his dissatisfaction with the acoustic result of a radical renovation, in 1900, of the organ of the Westzijderkerk in Zaandam, where he had been the organist since 1893. The instrument was originally built by Johannes Duyschot and completed in 1712.
During the revision in 1900 the organ was equipped with the disposition fashionable at the time and a pneumatic action.
In the first few decades the company's activities included mainly maintenance, restorations, transfers and extensions of existing organs. The first new organ was finished in 1915.
In 1922 the first contacts with Albert Schweitzer were made and the mental legacy of the German Orgelbewegung, the Organ Revival, became part of the philosophy of father (H.W.) and son (D.A.) Flentrop.
If their attention was initially focused on disposition and voicing in order to achieve the tonal ideal, later on there was growing awareness of the importance of the tracker action and slider chests.
Dirk Andries, the son, gained the necessary experience in
organ building from 1927 onwards while working in
various companies abroad before entering in his father's service.
Particularly his period with Frobenius in Denmark was very important for his later work. In 1940 D.A. Flentrop took over his father's business.
In the preceding years a number of restorations had been carried out on the principle that the original instrument should not be adapted to the current musical taste. That led to some remarkable results.
One example is the restoration, in 1939, of the choir organ in the St Laurenskerk in Alkmaar, an instrument built by Johan van Covelens in 1511.
From 1943 onwards the classical, mecanical organ was the model for new instruments. Because the newly re-discovered construction was considered too risky in a tropical climate, a last non-mechanical organ was built in 1948. After that date only mechanical organs were built.
As a direct consequence of this decision the firm also started up its own pipe making workshop.
By opting for the classical organ Flentrop played a pioneering role in the Netherlands, which also led to recognition abroad.
The expertise built up when restoring the large Schnitger organ in the St Laurenskerk in Alkmaar (1949) and the reconstruction of Schnitger's organ in the Grote Kerk in Zwolle (1953) was decisive for the direction taken when building new organs in the 1950s.
The experience gained while applying the new knowledge led to its deepening and to a more contemporary style in the sixties.
In this period the opportunity frequently arose to build instruments abroad, particularly in America.
The two honorary doctorates D.A. Flentrop received were in acknowledgement of the influence he had on the development of organ building in the United States.
Not only new instruments were built; many restorations were carried out as well, including those of the two organs in the cathedral of Mexico City.
J.A. Steketee succeeded D.A. Flentrop in 1976.
He had started as an apprentice organ builder in the company in 1958. One of the first projects under his directorship was the reconstruction of the Duyschot organ from 1712 in the Westzijderkerk in Zaandam.
In subsequent years more and more attention was paid to restoring or introducing the exact proportions and measurements as found in classical instruments. More and more organological details were being taken into account in the process of realising the desired qualitative result.
While he was the director Flentrop went far afield: apart from the United states, where obviously the organ for the Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago appeals to the imagination, organs were built or restored in Taiwan, Riga, Tokyo, Dunblane, Kazan and Yerevan.
Among the important restorations carried out in the Netherlands were those in the Westerkerk and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and the Sint Jan in Den Bosch.
Cees van Oostenbrugge came to Flentrop as an apprentice organ
builder in 1969.
In 1998 he succeeded J.A. Steketee as Director. Since he had been involved for many years in the preparations for new instruments and restorations it was only natural that the classical line was continued.
The result of the restoration of the choir organ of the Grote or St. Laurenskerk in Alkmaar testifies to this. The restoration of this organ, built by Jan van Covelens in 1511, contained a large number of reconstructive elements in which trace research played a large role in achieving the perfect tonal result.
It is interesting that 2000 was the same year in which the reconstruction of the last organ by Schyven, from 1907, in the Petrus and Pauluskerk in Ostend (Belgium) was completed. It is almost impossible to conceive of a greater contrast within one workshop: the earliest organ in the Netherlands that is still playable and an instrument built on industrial principles, each assessed and treated with a view to its individual, widely varying qualities.
Cees died while still in active service on 10 December 2008, a short while before he was to retire.
Deputy Director Frits Elshout started his career as a pipe
maker with Flentrop in 1971.
Under his leadership the first complete reed stops were produced in the seventies. In the course of the years he acquired extraordinary craftsmanship and expertise in that area.
Later he worked as a voicer on many projects large and small. The remarkable results achieved by him resulted in him being entrusted with the supervision of all voicing activities in 1998.
Frits worked as General Director from 2009-2016.
General Director, came into service in 1998. Some years later, after having made acquaintance with all departments of the company, he came to work in the drawing room.
He was assistent to Cees van Oostenbrugge and cooperated intensively with preparations and supervision of many projects, so that much knowledge acquired over the last half century could be conveyed.
From January 2009 Erik acted as Deputy Director with Frits Elshout. Since January 2016 Erik works as General Director.
The important role of music
Being active as musicians, especially in church music, has played an important role in the lives of all of the above people.
H.W. Flentrop first played the organ in the Hervormde Kerk in Koog aan
de Zaan, after 1893 in the Westzijderkerk in
D.A. Flentrop was for many years the organist in the Hervormde Kerk in Westzaan, as was J.A. Steketee in the St. Jozefkerk in Zaandam.
Cees van Oostenbrugge was the organist of the Hervormde Kerk in Zaandam, which means that the organ of the Westzijderkerk also belonged to his sphere of activity. Frits Elshout is organist in Zaandam as well.
Erik Winkel is very active as amateur-singer and continuo-organist.