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Joseph Kelemen Norddeutsche Orgelmeister Vol. 3 OC 641 SACD
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FormatSuper Audio CD
Ordering NumberOC 641
Release date02.10.2009
Players/ContributorsMusicians Composer
  • Bruhns, Nicolaus
  • Schildt, Melchior

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      Nicolaus Bruhns: Das Orgelwerk
      Melchior Schildt: Orgelwerke
      Joseph Kelemen, Arp-Schnitger-Orgel, Norden

      Joseph Kelemen is now presenting the third album in his series of recordings on historic organs focusing on the North German school of organ-playing. For his recordings, Kelemen invariably chooses instruments which are linked as closely as possible with the respective composer.
      Nicolaus Bruhns was one of the most influential representatives of an increasingly emancipated, emotional, rhetorical style, the stylus phantasticus. Bruhns was born in 1665 near Husum, and his teachers included Dietrich Buxtehude. J.S. Bach was a particular admirer of Bruhns. The complete works for organ recorded here are rounded off by organ works by Melchior Schildt, who was approximately one generation older than Bruhns. His teachers included Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck in Amsterdam. Until his death in 1667, he was the organist of the market church in Hanover.

      The Stylus phantasticus

      [The Stylus phantasticus] is the freest and least dependent type of composition, and is neither limited by words nor by a harmonic subject…1

      For this style is the freest and most independent art of composition, singing and performing that one can imagine… because one is bound neither to words nor melody, although to harmony, only so that the singer or performer can demonstrate his ability… without adherence to the tempo or key… here quickly, there hesitatingly. These are the essential features of the fantastic style… in which tempo calls it a day.” 2

      Some of the earliest heights of organ music were reached in 17th century Northern Germany. As in other important centers for organ music (Italy, France and Spain), organ builders and performers mutually influenced each other. With their both technically and artistically innovative instruments, organbuilding dynasties such as the Scherer and Fritzsche families lastingly influenced the musical life of the region. Arp Schnitger (1648–1719) was one of the most highly profiled organ builders in Northern Germany. Some 150 instruments came from his workshop in Hamburg, among them the largest of the baroque era.

      The increasingly individual expression of sensibilities, or “affects”, which determined the Stylus phantasticus3, was highly significant for the development of 17th century music. This style featured great freedom for the performer, excessive rhetorical gestures as well as abrupt changes in musical thoughts. The above-mentioned quote by Kircher refers to the early development of the Stylus phantasticus and primarily emphasizes the emancipation of instrumental music from the primacy of vocal music. The later definition by Mattheson implies interpretive consequences.

      Nicolaus Bruhns (1665–97), one of the most important representatives of this style, can be temporally localized between the two quotes. He was born in 1665 in Schwabstedt (near Husum, Germany). In 1681 he went to Lübeck and studied violin and viola da gamba with his uncle Peter Bruhns as well as organ and composition with Dietrich Buxtehude (1637–1707). After a longer stay in Copenhagen, he was appointed organist in the Husum city church in 1689. He died here on March 29, 1697 at age 31; his successor in Husum was his brother Georg Bruhns. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) greatly admired Bruhns, and thanks to Bach, three of Bruhn’s works have come down to us. “[Bach] used Bruhns, Reinken and Buxtehude’s works as models for his own organ works.” 4 Like Bach, Bruhns was a violinist, a fact that occasionally makes itself apparent in his (organ) works.

      Bruhns’ complete organ works are supplemented in this recording by a selection of pieces by Melchior Schildt (ca. 1592–1667). Schildt, born in Hanover, was approximately one generation older than Bruhns. Today, however, he is unjustly neglected by organists. As did many of his Northern German colleagues – e.g. Samuel Scheidt (1587–1654) and Heinrich Scheidemann (ca. 1596–1663) – Schildt studied with the highly popular teacher Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621) in Amsterdam between 1609 and 1612. In 1623, Schildt was appointed organist in the Beatae Mariae Virginis church in Wolfenbüttel, where he inaugurated the new Gottfried Fritzsche organ with 40 registers in 1624. In 1626, the Danish king asked him to come to Copenhagen to be the royal organist and teacher to the princes. Schildt remained in the service of King Christian IV for three years. After the death of his father Antonius, he took over his father’s position as organist in Hanover’s Marktkirche until his own death in 1667.

      The choice of organ

      Bruhns’ large three-manual instrument5 in the Marienkirche that dominates Husum’s skyline,6 built by Gottfried Fritzsche in 1629–32, no longer exists. Despite his outstanding organ, Bruhns began considering a new post shortly after assuming his office in Husum. This is corroborated by records of negotiations with the city of Kiel.7 The diversity of musical expression in Bruhns’ organ music demands an instrument with extensive colors. For this recording, the largest baroque instrument in East Frisia was used: the Arp Schnitger organ8 in Norden’s Ludgerikirche, which was built in 1686–92, the same time as Bruhns composed his works. Visitors to the Ludgerikirche immediately notice the unusual location9 of the instrument. Apparently, Schnitger wanted to integrate the spatial effect of the church into the organ construc
      tion. In the fine acoustics of the church, the tonal impression changes with every step. Even when the listener stands in one place for a time, the distance to the individual divisions of the organ is very different. This results in the illusion that the sound comes from different sources. The Brustwerk can be closed by means of little wooden doors, which subdues the sound to a certain extent.

      The works and their registrations

      Bruhns and Schildt have one thing in common: very few of their organ works have come down to us. Those we have, however, are of very high quality. In that time, organists were primarily improvisers. Only a fraction of their works were written down – and then, mostly for didactic reasons. All total, only around a half a dozen organ works by each composer as well as a dozen vocal works by Bruhns and one single vocal work by Schildt are extant today. Bruhns left behind no secular song variations, while Schildt is represented in this genre by two works: Gleichwie das Feuer (02) and Paduane Lachrymae (13).

      The registration concept of this program foresees an important role for the 8’ principal register in the manual (Norden has two: in the Werck and in the Rückpositiv). Frequently, a single 8’ principal register serves as the sole accompaniment in the left hand; a rich tone color is achieved by the constantly varying registrations in the right hand. Variatio 2 of Schildt’s Gleichwie das Feuer (02) uses both principals in a soloistic manner, one after another.

      In Schildt’s works, stops from the age of the organ’s predecessor (1618) can occasionally be heard, i.e. ones that existed when Schildt was composing. These include the Gedact 8’ of the Rückpositiv in the beginning of the Paduane Lachrymae (13) or the Quintadena 16’ and Rohrflöte 8’ of the Werck in the introduction of Allein Gott in der Hohe sey Ehr (10).

      Bruhns’ Praeludium in G Major (01) follows the structure of the typical Northern German toccata, i.e. various free sections enclose a number of imitative ones. In this case we have three parts and two fugues. These have one basic subject; the second fugue, which has five voices, varies the subject of the first fugue (a six-voice fugue with double pedal) only in regard to meter. The opening section of the prelude alternately introduces the four plena of the four manuals.

      The folk melody of Schildt’s Gleichwie das Feuer (02) was internationally known at the time, and is probably English in origin. Its arrangement is one of only two preserved variations on secular songs by Northern German masters of the Sweelinck school.

      The authorship of the Praeludium in G Minor (03) is still not entirely clear. After a Northern German prelude with an expansive pedal solo followed by a short, recitative-like transition, we come to the fugue, whose subject includes the repeated tones typical for that period.

      The Primus Versus (04) of Schildt’s five-part Magnificat is a plenum movement. We hear it on this recording in a version with double pedal (stopped with 16’, 8’ and 4’ reeds). This is possible because of the special acoustics of the Ludgerikirche with its pedal tower jutting into the church nave. In a performance with double pedal, both the chorale melody in the the tenor voice as well as the supporting bass can be clearly heard, while the manual plenum ensures the festive character of the verse. The Secundus Versus (05) is a chorale fantasia that ranges far afield. Compositionally, it has four clear sections; its structure and artistic finesse show an affinity to Heinrich Scheidemann’s chorale and magnificat fantasias. After the quickly paced introduction, a joyous echo section follows in measure 36. This is superseded in measure 58 by a second, echo-like passage stopped with 8’ Flöten. In the fourth section (starting at measure 85), we hear a lengthy solo in the right hand above the recurring chorale melody in the pedal. This solo also uses – in addition to a reed mixture in the Oberpositiv – the Sesquialtera of the Rückpositiv from the first half of the 17th century, one of the most beautiful registers from this early time. The Tertius Versus (06), composed as a ricercar, uses extensive chromaticism that almost gives it the air of an essay on mean-tone temperament. The attraction of this expressive movement is the varying sizes of minor seconds in the chromatic progressions. Once – with the D-sharp” in measure 70 – Schildt leaves the tonal area of the meantone temperament. The cheerful solo in the Quartus Versus (07) uses a registration recommended by Mattheson10 (Gedackt 8’ and Waldflöte 2’). Here, this registration is heard above the chorale melody (Trompete 8’) in the pedal. In the treble voice of the Quintus Versus, Schildt cites the entire chorale one last time (08), performed here on the Werck plenum, before the piece comes to a festive close with the entrance of the Cimbelstern. When one considers that Schildt’s Magnificat does not exceed the tone a”, one must admit that this work is an amazing compositional achievement.

      The recently discovered short Adagio in D (09), found in the Husumer Orgelbuch11 and attributed to Bruhns, is certainly a fragment of an unknown composition by Bruhns. Here it is stopped with soft Flöten. The chorale Allein Gott in der Hohe sey Ehr (10), arranged in four voices and dominated here by Schnitger’s bright 1’ register, is framed by a short prologue and a short coda respectively. Whereas Schildt’s chorale fantasia (05) from the Magnificat embodies an early, virtuoso example of this genre, Bruhns’s tranquil work Nun komm der Heyden Heyland (11), radiates a meditative atmosphere. The well known Advent chorale, whose four lines divide the work into four compositionally different sections, is heard through the long piece like a leitmotif. Occasionally, however, genre-typical devices such as echo-effects and dramatic pauses break through.

      The well known “lesser” Praeludium in E Minor (12) captivates with its symmetric form, the middle of which contains a buoyant Italianate fugue. Especially effective here is the pedal solo heard under blocks of chords, the following echo passages as well as the conclusion with its “accelerated” chordal repetitions.

      S childt’s Paduana Lachrimae (13) is an arrangement of John Dowland’s famous melody, which had already served William Byrd, Giles Farnaby and Sweelinck as a model for keyboard compositions… …In his version… Schildt created possibly the most significant of all Lachrymae settings, with its alternation between the quiet introversion of Dowland’s original composition and the expansive, written-out ornamentation that is even found in the lower voices… It is a piece of the greatest and most intense expressiveness.12

      Bruhns’ “great” Praeludium in E Minor (14) is “the… most impressive example of a Northern German organ toccata ever.”13 This work, whose frequent breaks go hand in hand with new affects, has more changes in time signature than any single work before Bach. In the registration, every change of affect is presented with a new set of tone colors. Similar to the opening Praeludium in G Major, the Praeludium in E Minor follows the structure of a Northern German toccata with its free sections and two – here, completely different – fugues. Despite its many abrupt changes and dramatic rests, the work radiates a high degree of musical logic and decisiveness. While the beginning and end of the Praeludium in G Major were stopped on a 16’ basis in the manual with the restrained Quintadena, the truly “great” Praeludium in E Minor that concludes this program are registrated with the solemn Trompete.

      Joseph Kelemen
      Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler

      1 Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia universalis sive ars magna consoni et dissoni, Rome 1650, in: Matthias Schneider, Ad ostentandum ingenium, & abditam harmoniae rationem – Zum Stylus phantasticus bei Kircher und Mattheson, in: Basler Jahrbuch für Historische Musikpraxis XXII, Winterthur 1999, p. 204f., German translation by Matthias Schneider.

      2 Johann Mattheson, Der vollkommene Capellmeister, Hamburg 1739, Bärenreiter, Kassel 1999, § 93–94.

      3 A description of the Stylus phantasticus can be found in: Jürgen Trinkewitz, Historisches Cembalospiel. Ein Lehrwerk auf der Basis von Quellen des 16. bis 19. Jahrhunderts, Stuttgart 2009, Chapter 6.8.5.

      4 Quoted in: Schulze, Hans-Joachim, Dokumente zum Nachwirken Johann Sebastian Bachs 1750–1800, Kassel 1972, p. 82.

      5 The disposition can be found in: Nicolaus Bruhns, Sämtliche Orgelwerke, Edition Breitkopf, Wiesbaden 2008, Ed. Harald Vogel, p. 59.

      6 S ee the picture of the city of Husum printed on pp. 6–7.

      7 M artin Geck, Nicolaus Bruhns. Leben und Werk, Cologne 1968, p. 13.

      8 For a history and documentation of the organ, see Harald Vogel/Reinhard Ruge/Robert Noah, Orgellandschaft Ostfriesland, Norden 1997, pp. 27–31. The specification of the Arp Schnitger organ printed on pp. 18–19 of this booklet is taken from this volume (p. 162).

      9 S ee the back booklet cover.

      10 M attheson, op. cit., § 88.

      11 Das Husumer Orgelbuch von 1758, Carus Stuttgart 2001, Ed. Konrad Küster.

      12 Lied- und Tanzvariationen der Sweelinck-Schule, Ed. Werner Breig, Schott Mainz 1970, Preface.

      13 Geck, op. cit., p. 25.

      Tracklist hide

      SACD 1
      • 1.Bruhns: Praeludium en Gn. Pedaliter09:02
      • 2.Schildt: Gleichwie das Feuer05:01
      • 3.Bruhns: Praeludium con Fuga ex Gb Pedaliter04:33
      • Schildt: Magnificat 1. Modi
        • 4.[Primus Versus] Choral im Tenore01:44
        • 5.2. Versus auff 2 Clauier08:34
        • 6.Tertius Versus a 4 Voc.03:58
        • 7.Quartus Versus. a 3 Voc. in Tenore01:46
        • 8.Quintus Versus01:51
        • 9.Bruhns: Adagio in D (transposed to C Major)01:55
        • 10.Schildt: Allein Gott in der Hohe sey Ehr01:28
        • 11.Bruhns: Nun komm der Heyden Heyland08.59
        • 12.Bruhns: Praeludium ex E. Com Pedahl “lesser” (transposed to d Minor)04:39
        • 13.Schildt: Paduana Lachrymae after John Dowland04:55
        • 14.Bruhns: Praeludium en E b. Pedaliter. “great” (transposed to d Minor)09:44
      • Total:59:10