It is pretty rare to give a recital on three organs in the same room as was the case here in the ornate chapel of Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød. Once a residence of Danish monarchs, the castle is now a museum with an active chapel and music programme.
The most famous of the three instruments is the 1610 Compenius organ, which was a gift to Christian IV of Denmark from the Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, who was married to a sister of the Danish king. The first account of the organ was written by Michael Praetorius, in ‘Syntagma Musicum’, who said that ‘its unusual, soft, subtle and delicate sonority cannot be truly described’. The pipes are all constructed of wood, with ornamentation in silver, ivory and ebony. A snippet of the organ’s fluework can be heard below (the Regals had not yet been tuned). Apologies for the background noise and sticking note — both were rectified for the concert.
The composers Hartmann and Gade were consultants for the 1863/4 Marcussen organ, which replaced an earlier instrument which was destroyed by fire. I am very fond of the warm personality of this organ, which has something of an early German romantic accent (at least to my British ears). The marriage of the Marcussen with music by Elgar seemed to be a happy one, as can be heard below. The keen strings and ‘Euphonia’ (free reed) are particularly special.
The Marcussen was moved to the back of the organ gallery to make way for a new organ by P.G. Andersen in 1972, which is housed behind a façade from 1863. As one sits at the back of the case, in which the pipework speaks forwards into the building, it is necessary to play with headphones in order to hear — something of an out-of-body experience.
Organist, Ulla Handler was just great, and made Sonja and me feel completely at home. It was lovely to see young organist, Amanda Marie Mortensen again, and we laughed a lot at my feeble attempts to say a few Danish phrases! Many thanks to them both and also to Sonja and the nice lady who assisted me at the Compenius organ.
Being in Hillerød reminded me of my last visit to the castle with a group of students, one of whom had lost their passport. I had to make a mad dash back to Copenhagen by train to search the hotel, report it missing at the police station and go to the embassy.
Today my passport remained safely tucked away in my shirt pocket as I played.