"Organum Antiquum - Earliest Organ Music until J.S. Bach"
Helga Schauerte, organ
Rec: Sept 2012, Arnsberg (Westphalia), Klosterkirche Oelinghausen
Syrius - SYR 141459 - DDD - (© 2012) (71'13")
CD : anonymus: Canzon para la Corneta con el Eco; Estampie ; Retrove ; Ricercar 1.toni on Vater unser im Himmelreich; Upon la mi re; Vater unser im Himmelreich; Hugh
ASTON (c1485-1558): A Hornepype; Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): St John Passion (BWV 245) (Dein Will gescheh); Vater unser im Himmelreich (BWV 636) ; Vater unser im
Himmelreich (BWV 737); Georg BÖHM (1661-1733): Vater unser im Himmelreich; Nicolaus BRUHNS (1665-1697): Prelude in e minor; Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707): Vater
unser im Himmelreich (BuxWV 219); Joachim DECKER (1565?-1611): Vater unser im Himmelreich, chorale setting; Hans Leo HASSLER (1564-1612): Canzon; Canzon V. toni; Regina
Clara IM HOFF (?-?): Bassa Imperiale ; Luys MILÁN (c1500-after 1560): Pavanes 1 & 2; Hans NEUSIDLER (c1508/09-1563): Der Zeuner Tantz; Judentantz; August
NÖRMIGER (c1560-1613): Der Mohren Aufzugkh; Witwen Mummerey Tantz; Caspar OTHMAYR (1515-1553): Vater unser im Himmelreich; Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706): Toccata in e
minor; Jacob PRAETORIUS (1586-1651): Vater unser im Himmelreich, chorale variations; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Vater unser im Himmelreich
Sources:  Robertsbridge Codex, 1360;  Clavierbuch der Jungfrau Regina Clara Im Hoff, 1629  Johann Sebastian Bach, Orgelbüchlein
The title of this disc is not very informative. It suggests that there is a kind of thread: a musical development which leads to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. That is only true, to a certain extent, in the second half of the programme. That is devoted to the way German composers of the 17th century have treated the well-known Lutheran hymn Vater unser - a rhymed translation of Pater noster - culminating in two arrangements by Bach. In fact, this disc is, first and foremost, a portrait of an historical organ.
The convent Oelinghausen in Arnsberg (Westphalia) was founded in 1174 by the order of the Premontarians. There is documentary evidence of an organ in the minster in 1390. It seems that it had a second organ which probably was replaced by a new instrument in 1499. Both instruments were destroyed during religious conflicts in the 1580s. In 1599 new organs were built, a small instrument and a large organ with one manual and a pull-down pedal. The present organ is the one which was built between 1714 and 1717, in which some of the material of the 1599 instruments was incorporated. In later years some rebuilding took place which was largely rectified during the last restoration from 1999 to 2002. Some of the pipework dates from the organs of the Gothic era. The organ has two manuals (Hauptwerk and Brustpositiv) and a pedal. The pitch is a=470,8 Hz, the tuning is "modified meantone".
The effect of this tuning immediately makes itself felt in the Toccata in e minor by Pachelbel which opens the programme. Composers of the 16th and 17th century made use of this kind of tuning to create harmonic tension for expressive reasons. That explains why organ music of the renainssance and baroque can sound rather dull on instruments in equal temperament. Helga Schauerte has selected several pieces which date from the time of the pre-1599 organs, in order to pay tribute to these instruments. It is music which was mostly not specifically intended for the organ or, as in the case of the two pavanes by Milan and the two dances by Neusidler, not at all. If they are written for the organ, it seems unlikely that they would have been played at a large organ like the instrument in this minster. The dances from the Robertsbridge Codex are a bit too slow which is inevitable considering the church's acoustic. These are all nice pieces, but I would have preferred compositions which were specifically intended for a larger church organ.
That is the case with the anonymous Canzon para la Corneta con el Eco which, as its title suggests, was written by a Spanish composer. Originally conceived for an organ with a split manual it requires a double-manual organ in order to realise the echo. Although the characteristics of this organ are not comparable to Spanish instruments this piece works quite well. Nicolaus Bruhns is more at home here, and Ms Schauerte gives a good performance of his Prelude in e minor, the 'little' prelude in this key, as Bruhns also composed a larger piece in E minor.
The rest of the programme centres around Vater unser, one of the best-known hymns in Lutheran Germany, whose melody has been used by many composers and which is still sung in Germany and has found its way into other countries as well. The cycle begins with a relatively simple arrangement by Caspar Othmayr, one of the earliest composers who arranged Lutheran hymns. Next come an anonymous arrangement, a harmonization by Joachim Decker and a Ricercar by another unknown master, which is also based on this hymn. The largest and most sophisticated piece is the series of variations by Jacob Praetorius, a member of a family of organists in Northern Germany and an early representative of what is now known as the 'North-German organ school'. It reflects the great skills of the composer and gives a good idea of the standard of organ playing in the northern part of Germany. Organists were held in high esteem and ranked among the highest paid musicians of their time. One has to inagine that a piece like this finds its origins in improvisation as that was the main skill expected from an organist. Its seven parts correspond to the seven stanzas of the hymn. The first and last are extended settings of the chorale which reflect the motet style of the 16th century. In several of the variations the chorale melody is highly ornamented, for instance in the 5th verse, where the pedal part shows the high standard of pedal playing in the region.
Georg Böhm's arrangement belongs to the most famous organ pieces of the German baroque and has a lightness and almost dance-like character which shows Böhm being influenced by the French style. The disc ends with a short arrangement by Telemann, whose organ works are hardly known, and two arrangements by Bach. To that Ms Schauerte has added the setting of one of the stanzas of Vater unser from the St John Passion.
Although I am not happy in every respect with the choice of repertoire this is a most interesting recording. Firstly, the history and features of the organ make it worthwhile being documented on disc. The second part of the programme is especially satisfying, not only because of the quality of the music but also on account of the fine performances. The chorale arrangements offer the opportunity to demonstrate the various registers of the organ. Only in the 5th verse of Praetorius' variations does the pedal almost overpower the manual; otherwise the registration is convincing. Ms Schauerte is a stylish interpreter who is well aware of the requirements of this kind of repertoire. The recording is excellent.
The booklet includes information about the history of the convent and the organ. Ms Schauerte gives a general overview of the programme, but the documentation of the repertoire is rather poor. The correct titles of the various pieces on the Vater unser hymn are not given, years of birth and death of the composers or any information about them are omitted. The disposition of the organ is given, but the registrations of the organ pieces are not mentioned.
Even so, for organ aficionados this disc is an interesting proposition which will enrich their collection.
Johan van Veen (© 2015)
This recording meets mainly works composed in Leipzig. Trading center, it is in this great city of Saxon Protestant tradition, hosting one of the oldest universities of Germany, Bach spend the longest period of his life, precisely the last 27 years of its existence. Appointed in 1723 by the City Council "Director musices et Cantor zu St. Thomas" (see the signing of Bach page 11), this is where he composed most of his cantatas, works as a major Christmas Oratorio, the Passions and the Mass in B and, for the organ, the third part of the Clavierübung, transcriptions of cantatas (Chorales Schübler) and teaching collections as trio sonatas. In terms of style his last organ works are of a more complex and built writing; the tones change frequently, not only from neighboring tones but also in distant tones. Large diptychs "Prelude and Fugue" form a dialectical rhetoric. The three Chorale Preludes of this CD are based on hymns that relate to death and the afterlife.
The melody (anonymous) of the hymn, as Bach used in eleven variations Partite diverse sopra Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig BWV 768, is published in 1715 in Gotha. The words (see the German text page 4) by Christian Keimann (1607-1662), were published in 1663 in Görlitz for the first five stanzas, and for the full version (seven stanzas) in 1666 in Gotha. The text, a meditation on death, ends with a prayer for a happy ending with reference to the Passion of Christ and recalling his sacrifice of love: Hail to you, kind Jesus / Beyond all measure gentle, / O, how you are dashed in pieces, / your whole body torn to bits! / Let me inherit your love and die happy in it!
More elaborate, but less homogeneous than other Partite by Bach, this series of variations probably has known a genesis spread over several years. According to the copyist of the score, the order of variations VI and VII is inverted. In terms of style, some variations reflect the influence of known models of Johann Pachelbel or Georg Böhm, the master of Lüneburg (town near from Bardowick). With a duration of nearly twenty minutes, it is the longest organ work of Bach. If most variations are probably composed towards the end of the Weimar period, it is not excluded that Bach carefully reworked or supplemented either of them in Leipzig.
Through her numerous concert tours, radio recordings and musicological research, organist Helga Schauerte has become one of the most outstanding musicians of her generation. She has recorded some thirty CDs featuring the complete organ works of Jehan Alain, Dieterich Buxtehude and Johann Sebastian Bach as well as her Composer Portraits series focussing on the music of Johann Heinrich Buttstett, Michel Corrette, Max Reger, Léon Boëllmann, Théodore Dubois and Jean Langlais. Schauerte gives recitals to great acclaim in Europe, Russia and the USA, is Staff Organist at the German Protestant Church (Christuskirche) in Paris and a professor at the Conservatoire Nadia et Lili Boulanger, Conservatoire Municipal of the 9th Arrondissement in Paris, lectures and sits on the juries of international organ competitions. In her work, the organist combines the traditions of the German and French schools. In 2006 she established the Bach Organ Academy in Pontaumur (Auvergne, France). Helga Schauerte wrote the first ever book about the music of Jehan Alain to be published in Germany, and for her own collection has tracked down and acquired almost forty of the composer's original manuscripts. She was involved in preparations to publish a new issue of the encyclopaedia Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Music in History and in the Present) for Bärenreiter-Verlag, has written articles about French organ music for The Manual of Organ Music and has prepared scholarly-critical releases of the full works of Léon Boëllmann, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Jehan Alain as well as vocal music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Helga Schauerte has composed several French and German Christmas carol-settings for organ and other instruments (published by Merseburger-Verlag). Schauerte made her first public appearance at the age of ten. At the age of thirteen she became an organist in Lennestadt (Germany). She studied music, pedagogy and philosophy in Cologne under Viktor Lukas, subsequently continuing her studies in Paris under Marie-Claire Alain. Jean Langlais entrusted her with the first performances of several of his works, among which Miniature II is dedicated to her. In 1987 Helga Schauerte received the cultural prize of the town of Olpe (Germany). Since 1990 her biography has been included in the International Who's Who in Music every year. The organist was also selected for inclusion in the encyclopaedia 2000 Outstanding Musicians of the 20th Century. She was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Cultural Minister awarded her the distinction of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters.