Monday, March 25, 2013

Germany: Paul Hindemith

Germany issued this stamp (Scott 1910) of Paul Hindemith on 9 November 1995 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth. The stamp image include a profile of the composer against a plain solid color background; no organ is referenced.

However, Hindemith composed a very small handful of organ works. The three sonatas for organ are staples of many organists. Hindemith was an active musician during the period when Nazism was in the ascendancy in Germany, and his relationship with it is complicated. Ultimately he left Germany for Switzerland for a period of time. Hindemith was also in Turkey and finally the US; he became a US citizen for a time. In 1953 he returned to Switzerland and ultimately died in Frankfurt, Germany at age 68.

Hindemith was a very detailed composer with meticulous markings in his scores, such that while the music itself may not be considered overwhelming, the performer has no question about how to perform it. He was a compelling music theorist who wrote a text describing his composing method, and a set of piano fugues outlining the same. In addition to the three sonatas there is a concerto for organ with orchestra written in 1962. He wrote music for vocalists and choral ensembles, but none with organ accompaniment.

Germany: Bruckner

Germany issued this stamp (Scott 1947) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Anton Bruckner on 9 October 1996. The stamp itself shows Bruckner and a musical score, but no reference to the organ. Bruckner was however an organist and wrote a handful of pieces for the instrument. In fact his Opus 1 is a set of four organ preludes. After his father's death, when Bruckner was 13, he was sent to the Augustinian School in St Florian. There he studied violin and organ, and became enamored of the Baroque organ at the school. In 1845 Bruckner returned to St Florian now as a teacher at the school and organist. The instrument he played now bears his name, "The Bruckner Organ." The instrument itself has been featured on an Austrian stamp. In 1868 Bruckner accepted a teaching position at the Vienna Conservatory, previously held by his own teacher, Simon Sechter. Bruckner remained an active organist while in Vienna, concertizing in France in 1869 and in England at the Royal Albert Hall in 1871. Bruckner died in 1896 and was buried in the crypt of the St Florian monastery. Though his oeuvre contains no significant organ works, there are a handful.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

France: St John's, Luneville

The organ in the Church of St John, Luneville was originally built by Nicholas Dupont of Nancy  between 1749 and 1751. Like most historic organs it has seen its share of renovations and rebuilds, some designed to "improve" the instrument, so intended to "restore" the instrument to some preferred state in its history. The Luneville instrument is unique because there are no pipes visible in the facade of the organ. It was conceived as a treat for the eyes, and the decision being made that the pipework would be totally hidden from view. The most recent work on the instrument was in 1998, with re-dedication taking place in 2003. The Friends of the Organ Association maintains a site dedicated to the organ which includes a stoplist and other historical information. The stamp issued by La Poste is a mini-sheet of two stamps denominated 89c and 1.45Euros. It was issued in 2012 and thus I do not have a catalog number yet. Both of the individual stamps show details of the instrument. The selvage of the sheet shows the entire instrument. Only one aware of the unique design nature of the organ would realize that it is indeed an organ, since there are no visible pipes.

France: St Andrew, Issenheim

This cover has a cachet which shows the facade of the Callinet organ in St Andrew's Church, Issenheim. The Decouverte Orgue site has a nice summary of the organ. The instrument was built in 1835 by Joseph Callinet. A donor made financial provision for the upkeep of the instrment and for training young organists in 1869. The most recent work on the instrument seems to have been in 1996 by the Schwenkedel firm.

The cover features a pre-printed stamp image. There is no copyright date on the envelop, so it's not possible to determine when it was issued. It has a self-adhesive closure on the back, with a removable paper strip revealing adhesive.

Spain: Seville Cathedral

Spain issued this souvenir sheet in 2012. The stamp itself shows the exterior of the Seville Cathedral. The selvage surrounding the stamp shows an interior view of the cathedral including the facade of the organ. The cathedral was completed in the 16th century and at that time replaced Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral building in the world. It remains 4th largest today. It was declared a UN World Heritage site in 1978.

The Biographical Dictionary of the Organ site gives a straightforward stoplist. Gerhard Grenzing's site gives a little more general information of the organ (scroll down to get to the information about Seville Cathedral) plus the stoplist and some nice images. This is the firm which I believe maintains the instrument presently. Apparently a roof collapse destroyed previous instruments in the cathedral, leading to a new instrument in 1903. This stamp is a new issue, such that I don't not have a Scott catalog number for it yet.

German Democratic Republic: Musical Instrument Museum

I got this cover from my friend Mark Jameson in Great Britain. While the stamp does not show a pipe organ, both the postmark and the cachet show an organ. The stamp shows a German tenor flugelhorn from about 1850. The postmark shows an indeterminate organ; the cachet shows an Italianate positiv from around 1500. Looking through the Museum's website I could not find an image of any of these instruments. It seems that this cover was posted August 21, 1979. The stamp was issued in that same year. The museum was founded in 1886 by Paul de Wit, near the St Thomas Church in Leipzig. It's not quite clear if 1979 was an anniversary year for any other point in the museum's history. There are two additional small stamps in the upper left corner of the cover, perhaps to pay additional postage to Uruguay. With the music-related stamp, the postmark and cachet, along with special postal markings, this is a very compelling cover even if the stamp itself is non-organic. Though I could not find the two specific instruments shown on this cover, here are a couple other instruments from the museum's collection.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Czech Republic: Cistercian Monastery

This instrument is in the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at the Cistercian Monastery in Plasy, Czech Republic. There is a wiki page dedicated to the instrument, but sadly no pictures are included. This stamp was issued in 2011. It's not clear if the issue of the stamp coincided with any anniversary related to the instrument or its locale. I do not yet have a Scott catalog number for the stamp. The organ was built in 1688 by Abraham Stark of Loket; I have not yet found any more information about him. Most recently in 2000 the organ received a major overhaul from Vladimir Slajch; that coupled with another bit of work 2004-2006 was intended to restore the organ to its 1688 state. The monastery site has lots of photos; I found two of the organ.

Austria: St Stephen, Stockerau

I recently received this envelop from a friend. The item of interest is the postmark. It features the 19th century organ at St Stephen's Church, Stockerau Austria. It seems the organ was built in 1888 by Johann Kaufmann of Vienna. I have not been able to find a modern image of the instrument. But I believe this is the stoplist. The image below is from the church's website. In the background one can see the organ. I believe there is enough of the instrument showing to declare it a match to the envelop image.

As I mentioned, it is not the stamp on this cover that is of interest, but rather the postmark. It is used to cancel the stamp as one would expect. But it also appears again on the left side of the cover. It seems the postmark was created to celebrate the 275th year of the church's tower. It was produced December 1, 2000 for the Christmas season. In the US an entity may petition the USPS for permission to produce a special postmark for an event of limited scope. Usually the postmark is used for a limited time, and within a limited area (a single ZIP code). I'm not sure how things work in Austria, but because of conventions of the Universal Postal Union, I suspect similarly.

The 6 shilling stamp (Scott 1606) is a detail of a stained glass window located at the Mariastern-Gwiggen Monastery. The script above the male figure seems to read "Sanctus Benedictus." The figure is holding a bishop's crozier and a communion chalice. A building in the lower right corner may be the monastery itself. There is a second stamp of some sort on the left side of the cover. It seems to be a 50 groschen surcharge, perhaps to pay for the special postmark? The cover was sent to Spain. Eventually wound up in the hands of my colleague Mark Jameson in Britain, and now to mine. All in all a nice piece of organ information.

Elsewhere on the church website, I found this image of the console. Without looking at every image on their gallery, I still haven't found the complete instrument; plenty of pictures of the east end however!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Maldives: Beethoven

The nation of Maldive Islands issued a large set of stamps commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of Ludwig van Beethoven in 1977. The Maldive Islands are a collection of many small islands in the Indian Ocean. They were at one time a British Protectorate, but gained independence and formed a republic in 1965/1968. This stamp is part of a set of eight stamps (Scott 669-676), plus a small souvenir sheet (Scott 677). The low-value of the set depicts Beethoven as "court organist" in Bonn and includes a rendering of what is presumed to be the Court Organ.  I had never thought of Beethoven as an organist, but apparently early on, he did indeed play the organ.

Since this was an aspect of Beethoven I had never encountered, I did some checking of sites that included biographies of the composer:

First this: The most notable of his teacher was Christian Gottlob Neefe, who was responsible for introducing young Ludwig to the music of JS Bach. By 1782, Beethoven was already assisting Neefe as deputy court organist in Bonn, and it was in the same year that his first work, a set of variations on a march theme by Dressler, was published.

Then this: In June 1784, on Neefe’s recommendations Ludwig Van Beethoven was appointed organist of the court of Maximillian Franz, the Elector of Cologne. Beethoven was 14 years old. This post enabled him to frequent new social circles, other than those of his father and family. Here he met people who were to remain his friends for the rest of his life: The Ries family, the Von Breuning family, and the charming Elenore, Karl Amenda—the violinist, Franz Gerhard Wegeler—a doctor, and a dear friend who also went to Vienna.

And finally: By the age of eleven, Beethoven was studying with Christian Gottlob Neefe, who became court organist to the elector in 1781. Neefe gave Beethoven lessons in theory, composition, organ, piano, and continuo playing, as well as opening Beethoven up to the world of J. S. Bach. Neefe then hired the promising boy as his assistant while continuing his musical education. When Neefe left Bonn for a few weeks in 1782, the eleven year-old Beethoven successfully took over Neefe's duties.

However, despite all of this, I cannot find any information about the organ itself. I would be happy to hear from anyone who can provide such information. Though it's obvious he played the organ, I have not ever encountered any compositions for the instrument among Beethoven's oeuvre, though I've been wrong before.

Netherlands Antilles: Fort Church, Curacao

Netherlands Antilles issued this stamp in 1980 as part of a set of three stamps that included one stamp for regular postage and two with a surcharge (the Scott catalog does not state the designation for the surcharge). The 100c regular postage stamp (Scott 448) featured the cupola of the Fort Church in Curacao. The two semi-postals feature a brass chandelier and the church's organ (Scott B172-173). The stamp design does not include the whole faced of the instrument, but only the portion that sits on the gallery railing, most likely the Ruckpositiv division. A photo below shows the whole front aspect of the instrument.

The present-day Fort Church in historic Fort Amsterdam is the oldest church still in daily use on Curaçao. Construction took place between 1767 and 1771 and the facade bears the date 1769. It is known that the construction cost 5,500 pesos (approximately 11,000 guilders), but nothing is known of the architect (although both Hendrik de Hamer and Frederik Staal were closely involved in the work). The vicarage stood next to the church on the spot that is currently the seat of the Government.

The Precentor-Sexton Hendrik van Hulst originally designed an organ with ten registers, but in 1785 - at least in the eyes of Ds. Rudolf Widrik - this was too small and he enlarged it by a further four registers. The organ now in use dates from 1963 and was totally restored in 2000. This organ has breastwork, backwork and two manuals, a foot pedal and 17 registers. It was built by Flentrop Orgelbouw N.V. Zaandam, in the Netherlands.

Estonia: Organ festival

This post updates and corrects information in my original post about this stamp. I've left the old post in place despite its errors of fact.

Some years ago organists in Estonia began an international organ festival. Andres Uibo was instrumental in bringing about this event. In 2006 that nation's postal authority issued a stamp to promote the 20th anniversary of that event. The stamp features a close-up of a few organ pipes on the right side, and a view of the facade of the cathedral organ in Tallinn. It is denominated in both Estonian kroons and Euros.

The organ has an interesting history (click on toomkogudus, click on muusikatoo, lick on orel in left column.). It was built by Ladegast in 1878, 3 manuals and 48 ranks. It was refurbished in 1914 by Sauer, adding new ranks (now totaling 71 ranks), replacing the mechanical action with a pneumatic action, while preserving the winding system and the facade.

In 1994 a campaign was begun to preserve the instrument. Funds were raised and work began in 1998 by Scheffler. The organ was re-dedicated in late-1998.

This site has good information about the organ also. Google translate seems to do a decent-enough job with the Estonia originals.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Comoro Islands

The Comoro Islands lie off western Africa as an island group. They were individual island entities until French colonization. For a time after the colonial era they were aligned with Madagascar. Three, Anjouan, Grand Comoro and Moheli united as a sovereign state in 1975. It became an Islamic state in 1979.

Comoro issued a set of stamps honoring "great composers" in 1978. The set included JS Bach, Mozart, Berlioz, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, George Gershwin, and a souvenir sheet picturing Beethoven. This set (Scott 301-307) used "Republique des Comores". Following the shift in politics in 1979, the set was issued again with an overprint of the new national name (Scott 454-458) and in some cases new values. The Beethoven souvenir sheet was not re-produced.

On the present stamp JS Bach is shown seated at an organ console. The instrument is not identified, and its not readily apparent what instrument it may be.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Belgium: Memling painting

Belgium issued this stamp (Scott 1560) as part of a set of two in 1994. This one features a detail from a painting by Hans Memling. The detail shows a woman holding an infant, a second woman on the left, and a musician playing a portatif in the background. It's not quite clear if the musician is indeed holding the instrument or if it rests on a table of some type. But it does meet the design features typical of portatifs: short compass, single set of pipes. The winding mechanism is not shown. I am not familiar with this painting, so I would be happy to hear information about the persons in the painting and any other details related to it. The other stamp in the small set of two features the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894). He died at a tragically young age of typhoid fever. Most of his pieces were for piano and strings, along with a dozen orchestral works.

Andorra: Mozart

The French/Spanish principality of Andorra, located in the Pyrenees mountain, issued this stamp (Scott 409) in 1991 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In addition to a line of music notation, there is a group of orchestral musicians (including a conductor who is playing a stringed instrument while leading the group. There is also a scene of a city (Vienna or Salzburg?), a row of keyboard keys, and a curious star pattern with what appear to be people walking toward it. Finally there is an anonymous row of organ pipes. This is curious in itself, because Amadeus Mozart is not known for playing the organ, though he may have; nor is he known for composing works for the instrument. The only works remotely connected to the organ are works for musical clock (with flute pipes) which have been arranged for standard pipe organ. It would be interesting to know what the stamp's designer had in mind with these various elements.

Germany: Children's choir, update

I've sent an email to the Cantor of the Church of the Ascension in Munich, asking if this church is indeed the locale for the stamp issued in 1988 featuring a children's choir and organ. Just for kicks, here is my English version of my query along with what Google translate did with it, plus a couple of my own corrections. I hope it makes sense to Herr Cantor!

I would like to know if the interior of the Himmelfahrtskirche has appeared on a German postage stamp. I have a stamp issued by Germany in 1988. It shows a children's choir and pipe organ inside a church. The stamp designer told me it was the Himmelfahrtskirche in Munich. However the image on the stamp does not resemble the interior of the church as shown on the website. However, I noticed that the church underwent renovations 1988-1992 and an organ dedication in 1994. So I wonder if the stamp shows the interior of the church before renovations to the facility. Otherwise, is there another Himmelfahrtskiche in Munich that is shown on this stamp. Thank you for any insight you can share.

Ich würde gerne wissen, ob das Innere der Himmelfahrtskirche auf einer deutschen Briefmarke erschienen ist. Ich habe einen Briefmarke von Deutschland im Jahr 1988 ausgegeben. Es zeigt einen Kinderchor und Orgel in einer Kirche. Die Briefmarke Designer sagte mir, es war der Himmelfahrtskirche in München. Allerdings wird das Bild auf der Briefmarke nicht ähnelt das Innere der Kirche als auf der Website gezeigt. Allerdings bemerkte ich, dass die Kirche renoviert 1988-1992 und eine Orgelweihe im Jahr 1994 unterzogen. Also ich frage mich, ob Die Briefmarke in das Innere der Kirche vor Renovierung der Anlage zeigt. Ansonsten ist es eine andere Himmelfahrtskirche in München, die auf dieser Marke angezeigt wird. Vielen Dank für die Einsicht kann man teilen. Ich hoffe, meine internet-Deutsch ist verständlich!