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Johan van Meurs Een studie over een pionierend orgeladviseur

In specialist organ literature a negative verdict is given on organs and organ specialists from the 1930’s. Did the same verdict apply to Johan van Meurs’ (1903-1986) work? Which role does Van Meurs’ collection of organ specifications play in the historical research on the organ?

Jaap Brouwer
08 June 2016
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Although organ consultants can be found in The Netherlands from the Renaissance period on, a thorough study on the work of an individual organ consultant has not yet been accomplished. A few publications have been made on a small number of consultants, which mainly focused on their biographies or catalogues. The context in which these organ consultants operated, and their contribution and influence was hardly discussed, leaving an important part of organ history in the dark.

For a long time, the building of organs in the 1930’s was viewed as a low point in the history of Dutch organ building. Now, this perspective is up for debate: in that period especially, several organ builders and consultants were on an active search for the “old organ sound”. In his research Brouwer questions the earlier verdict on organ building in the 1930’s, through researching the work of Johan van Meurs as an organ consultant. How was his work in that period esteemed?

To place Van Meurs’ work in the right context, he addressed national and local developments in the organ world of the 20th century, broadly, and with special focus on Van Meurs. Through the available documentation of his consultations Brouwer was able to create an image of his development as an organ consultant, in which he deviates considerably from his peers. Although he was, as it turns out, sidetracked by the status quo, he developed a model for organ restauration that was ahead of its time. Van Meurs was of major importance to the 1969 Groningen Schnitger conference, that gave rise to a new approach in organ building and restauration.

A last step in Brouwer's study is the comparison of Van Meurs’ collection of organ specifications and several collections published from 1774. Did Van Meurs develop his own method, or did he operate along the lines of one of his predecessors? With the inconsistent handling and loss of archival material, collections of organ specifications, in manuscript or print, are an indispensable link in historical organ research. Through this comparison the importance of Van Meurs’ collection is shown. His collection, with annotations, is made available for further research.

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