The Funeral for Gustav Leonhardt
January 22, 2012
There has naturally been curiosity about the funeral arrangements for the great Dutch musician who died last week — and certainly about what music will be included. The service will be on Tuesday the 24th. Many people had, like me, assumed that it would take place where he has been the titular organist for many years, the nearest Dutch equivalent to Westminster Abbey, the Nieuwekerk, which is also very near his house. But the Nieuwekerk now has divine service only on royal and other state occasions (including coronations) and at the moment is occupied by an exhibition on Judaism that, by contract, may not be interrupted.
The other church with which Mr. Leonhardt was long associated (and where he gave me my organ lessons) is the Waalsekerk, which is on the other side of the Dam from his house and the Nieuwekerk,
and the Waalsekerk has a magnificent organ.
But it is too small for the crowd that is surely anticipated and, besides, holds its services in French. Presumably the funeral will be in Dutch, though I wonder how many people ever heard the man utter a single Dutch word besides Sweelinck! (He was content to teach in English, French, German, or Italian, but an American friend who took pains to learn Dutch was told that lessons were not to be in Dutch. Even the notice on the doorbell of his house to “speak distinctly” into in the intercom was in English.)
Thus, the funeral will be conducted in Mr. Leonhardt’s own parish church, the Westerkerk, pictured at the top of this post (which has also pinch-hitted for the Nieuwekerk for royal occasions when the latter was under restoration). It has generous proportions,
contains two organs,
is centrally located,
and is even said to have been designed by the same architect who built the Leonhardts’ great palace on the Herengracht:
We can hope that there will be a way of hearing the funeral on the Web. If it is available, I’ll post an update here (and will of course be grateful to hear from anyone who has early news of such a Webcast).