Finding Foreign Names Funny

Okay, if you think funny names are funny and not disrespectful, you might be as amused as I was by this.

Dirk A. Flentrop, a Dutch organ builder who influenced a generation of American counterparts in making pipe organs that play and sound like the classical Baroque instruments of Bach’s time, died at his home in Santpoort, the Netherlands, on Nov. 30, his company, Flentrop Orgelbouw, announced. He was 93.

Mr. Flentrop headed the company, which is based in Zaandam, from 1940 to 1976. He took over from his father, Hendrik Flentrop, an organist who founded the company in 1903.

Inspired by what his father had learned in restoring 17th- and 18th-century European instruments, Mr. Flentrop, who also played the organ, built hundreds of new instruments in the Netherlands and elsewhere using historical construction techniques – mechanical connections between keys and pipes, bright and clear tones, elegant wooden cases to focus sound.

His influence spread to the United States in 1958, thanks to his friend E. Power Biggs, the concert organist, whom Mr. Flentrop had guided on a tour of European Baroque organs in 1954.

Most American pipe organs in the mid-20th century were being made with remote-control electropneumatic playing action and pipes that often imitated the sounds of the orchestra – unresponsive and heavy sounding, to Mr. Biggs’s ears. He ordered an organ from Mr. Flentrop and in 1958 got permission to install it in Adolphus Busch Hall at Harvard University.

The Flentrop organ in Busch Hall, still frequently heard in concerts, became, in the words of the organ historian Jonathan Ambrosino, “the beacon of a new age.”

Mr. Biggs’s recordings on it, and his fervent advocacy of designing pipe organs along classical lines, brought scores of orders for Mr. Flentrop over the next 20 years from American churches and universities. Among the places where he installed notable instruments are St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, the conservatory at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and the Duke University chapel in Durham, N.C.

His instruments helped inspire such American builders as Charles B. Fisk, John Brombaugh and Fritz Noack and their followers to return to traditional methods.

The Flentrop company, now directed by Cees van Oostenbrugge, observed its 100th anniversary this year.

Mr. Flentrop is survived by his wife, Cynthia Flentrop-Turner; a daughter, Agaath Leeuwerik-Flentrop; and three grandchildren.


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