Short Introduction and History
The Hus-Schnitger organ in the St. Cosmae church in Stade, Lower Saxony, with its three manuals and 42 speaking stopson a 16 foot basis is one of the most important large North-German Baroque organs of this day. This organ gives an insight into the North-German organ culture of the 16th and 17th century and offers an authentic representation of organ compositions from this period. The instrument has an exceptionally large number of original pipes. Most reed ranks are original. The first organist in 1675 was Vincent Lübeck who worked here for 30 years.
After the end of the Thirty Year’s War in 1648 (the birth year of Arp Schnitger) which had culturally destroyed a large part of Germany, the building of a new large organ, that of the St. Cosmae in Stade, was a noteworthy project in a new era. At the time, Stade was the governmental capital of the Swedish Dukedom of Bremen.
After the great city fire of 1659, which also destroyed the Cosmae church with its original organ and the period of rebuilding, organbuilding master Berendt Hus of Glückstadt was delegated to build a new large organ for the St. Cosmae church.
In 1666 Arp Schnitger entered the employment of his uncle Hus at the age of 18. In 1670, at the age of 22, Arp Schnitger officially became his uncle’s journeyman. The uncommonly high salary shows how highly Arp Schnitger was esteemed and the importance of his role in the organ building trade.
The organ for Stade was built in several steps. A contract for the complete organ does not exist. In 1670 the bellows and the Hauptwerk (called Oberwerk) with double spring chests were completed and a start was made with the Rückpositiv. The organ front of the Hus-Schnitger organ shows the typical style of the “Hamburger Prospekt” , with Pedal, Hauptwerk, Brustwerk and Rückpositiv divisions.
The organ was finally completed in 1675. The instrument had 42 speaking stops and was tuned a whole tone higher than normal. Arp Schnitger was lauded with a gratification for his valuable labour. It is likely that Lübeck urged Schnitger to buildfour new stops for the organ in 1688: A Trommet 16, Cimbel for the Hauptwerk, a Krumphorn 8 and Schalmey 4 for the Brustwerk.
Various changes were made in the centuries that followed. A systematic restoration by Jürgen Ahrend of Loga including a reconstruction of the original organ loft took place in 1972-75. Additional repairs by Jürgen Ahrend were carried out 1993-94. A new paint job of the organ case based on a modern analysis of the historical substance followed in 2008.
The organ clearly carries the signature of both organ builders. While the Hauptwerk contains double spring chests, the Rückpositiv, Brustwerk and Pedal contain slider chests. The pipework has different characteristics than other existing Hus organs. The late Renaissance/early Baroque pipework and voicing of Hus produced a mild sound while that of Schnitger a much clearer, brighter and sharper sound, especially in the Mixtures, as is characteristic of the St. Cosmae organ. The reed stops blend well with the other stops as well. This shows that Arp Schnitger clearly had a large influence on the building of this organ.
The Hus-Schnitger organ is currently one of the most important large North German baroque organs and is the venue for many concerts, organists, organ study trips as well as workshops and was the foundation of Arp Schnitger’s exemplary career.