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"Puer natus in Gdansk - The organ in Franciscan Holy Trinity church in Gdansk"

Andrzej Mikolaj Szadejko, organ

rec: August 12 - 14, 2019, Gdansk, [Holy Trinity Church]
Ars Sonora - ARSO-CD-144 ( 2019) (72'49")
Liner-notes: E/PL
Cover & track-list

anon: Angelus Pastoribus; Colenda; Narodzil sie syn Bozy; Nuzesmy chrzescijanie; Puer nobis natus; Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Pastorella in F (BWV 590); Frantisek Xaver BRIXI (1732-1771): Pastorela in C; Dieterich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707): Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (BuxWV 188); Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (BuxWV 189); In dulci jubilo (BuxWV 197); Puer natus in Bethlehem (BuxWV 217); Petrus DE DRUSINA (1560-1611): Resonet in laudibus; Johann Caspar KERLL (1627-1693): Capricio sopra il cucu; Jan Krtitel KUCHAR (1751-1829): Pastorela in D; Bernardo PASQUINI (1637-1710): Pastorale; Jakub Valerian PAUS (c1705-1750): Pastorela in C; Andreas SCHADE (1674-17??): Pastorale; Preludium et fuga 3; Trio super Quem pastores laudavere; Cajus SCHMEDEKE (SCHMIEDTLEIN) (c1555-1611): Josep lever Josep mnn; Josef SEGER (1716-1782): Fuga; Fuga de tempore Natalis in C; Toccata VIII. Pastorell; Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621): Puer nobis nascitur (SwWV 315); Domenico ZIPOLI (1688-1726): Pastorale in C

Music for the large feasts of the ecclesiastical year are mostly vocal. The main exceptions are chorale arrangements for organ, and for Christmastide Italian composers wrote instrumental concertos for performance during Christmas night. The Polish organist Mikolaj Szadejko has recorded a programme of music, in which the word 'pastorale' appears frequently. Obviously, not all music of a pastoral character is necessarily - let alone exclusively - intended for Christmastide. However, the connection to this part of the year is a logical one, as the announcement of Jesus's birth to the shepherds and their visit to the manger is an important episode in the story of Christmas.

The present disc is interesting and important for several reasons. First, the programme includes many pieces which are hardly known, if at all. Second, Szadejko plays them on an interesting instrument, a modern reconstruction of a historical organ.

Let me start with the organ which seems to be the focus of this disc, as the booklet includes information about its character and history, but omits any data about the composers. The instrument is situated in the Holy Trinity Church in Gdansk, connected to the Franciscan Order. Here an organ was built between 1616 and 1618, probably by Merten Friese, who worked first in Danzig (today Gdansk) and later in the Duchy of Prussia. In 1703, the organ was extended by Tobias Lehmann, who added a separate pedalboard. Another extension took place in 1757. Many organs were adapted to the contemporary aesthetic preferences during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1914 the organ's inside was completely changed, which in fact meant that the organ was basically a new instrument. During World War II, the instrument was disassembled and transported to another place. After the war the historical remains were stored in the attic of the Holy Trinity Church. What was left of the original organ was a large part of the gallery, prospects and organ cases. Between 2008 and 2018 a large-scale restoration and reconstruction took place; responsible for this process was the Orgelwerkstatt Wegscheider from Dresden. What we have now, is a new organ built after historical principles, undoubtedly with respect to what is known about organ building in the region durin the 17th and early 18th centuries.

The programme includes music from the 16th to the late 18th century. The earliest piece is an anonymous work with the title Colendo, and is included in the famous tablature of Jan of Lublin. The track-list also gives a Polish title, which means something like "Let us, little children, sing". Apparently this is the arrangement of a Christmas song. Pieces from around 1600 are from the pen of Cajus Schmedeke, Petrus de Drusina and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. Only the latter is well-known; his Puer nobis nascitur is one of his most popular pieces. Cajus Schmedeke - that is the spelling of his name in the Low German dialect - is probably better known as Cajus Schmiedtlein; he was organist at St Mary's Church in Danzig. Josep lever Josep mnn is the arrangement of the song known in German as Joseph, lieber Joseph mein. Like Schmiedtlein, Petrus de Drusina worked as organist at St Mary's Church. Resonet in laudibus is the arrangement of a widely known carol from the 14th century, which was also set in polyphony by composers of the 16th century.

Whereas all these pieces are connected to Christmas, that is not the case with Johann Caspar Kerll's Capriccio sopra il cucu. The imitation of the cuckoo was quite popular at the time; we already find such a piece in the oeuvre of Girolamo Frescobaldi. Kerll was for most of his life organist at the imperial court in Vienna. I have not been able to find any information about Andreas Schade. He is represented with three pieces, one of which is specifically connected to Christmastide. Quem pastores laudavere is a Christmas carol, whose text dates from the 15th century; the melody was written in 1555 in Breslau (today: Wroclaw). That makes it a most appropriate choice for this programme.

The pieces by the Italian composers Zipoli and Pasquini are not specifically connected to Christmas and are of a more general pastoral character. That also goes for the pieces by the three Bohemian composers of the later 18th century: Seger, Brixi and Kuchar. Their music brings us into a different world, stylistically speaking, as here we have pieces in the galant idiom. Kuchar's Pastorela in D is not entirely free of trivialism, but overall these pieces are quite nice. I could not find much about Jakub Valerian Paus, except that he worked as Kantor in Dubrovice.

At the end of the disc we come into familiar territory, with pieces by Dieterich Buxtehude and Johann Sebastian Bach. The four chorale arrangements by the former are all connected to Christmas, and these three hymns belong to the best-known for this season. Bach's Pastorella is a rather odd piece, which raises many questions. It is not clear whether it was conceived as a unity, considering the keys of the four movements, and the fact that the first movement requires an organ with pedalboard, whereas the ensuing three movements are manualiter. It is a popular piece among organists, and rightly so, and therefore a nice Kehraus.

With this programme Szadejko proves that this organ is excellently suited to play the repertoire of the 18th century. Earlier music does well too, but there I would have preferred a meantone temperament. This organ's tuning is Bach/Kellner, which is appropriate for later repertoire. I have little but praise for Szadejko's performances. He catches the style of each single piece quite well. The Buxtehude pieces are well known, but Szadejko can compete with any interpreter here. The last two movements from Bach's Pastorella are played at a very swift tempo. It is well done, but to me these tempi are not entirely convincing. Maybe it is just something one has to get used to. One of the nice things of this disc is that many pieces are unfamiliar, or even completely unknown. That makes it all the more interesting.

Johan van Veen ( 2020)

Relevant links:

Andrzej Mikolaj Szadejko

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