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Now one of the five main churches in the center of Hamburg, St. Catherine Church was originally built to serve fishermen on an island in the Elbe river in 1250. Along with its bell tower soaring 117m into the air, the church’s great organ attracted many visitors, including keyboard masters Heinrich Scheidemann and Johann Adam Reincken, and in 1701, as a sixteen year old, Johann Sebastian Bach traveled 50km to St. Catherine Church from Lüneburg just to experience Reincken’s playing of the instrument’s four manuals and pedals.

Bach was fascinated with the beauty and diversity of the great instrument, and he was particularly impressed by its reeds. Luckily, seventeen stops of the organ survived the Second World War, and most of these 520 pipes fashioned by early organ builders, including Hans Scherer, Gottfried Fritzsche and Friedrich Stellwagen, are being incorporated by the Dutch builder Flentrop Orgelbouw into “An Organ for Bach,” a joint effort of St. Catherine Church and the Hamburg University of Music and Theatre to reconstruct an instrument typical of the early Baroque.

The newly reconstructed Rückwerk was installed in 2009 and since then has been used in church services and concerts. The second stage, the main case with Hauptwerk, Oberwerk and Brustwerk, is nearing completion, and the Pedal division, with its two towers, will be the third phase of this project. Final assembly and voicing will be undertaken during the first half of 2013, culminating in a solemn inauguration of the organ in June of next year.