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Melchior SCHILDT/Peter MORHARD: "Complete Organ Works"

Friedhelm Flamme, organ

rec: April 12 - 14, 2007, Dornum, Bartholomäuskirche
CPO - 777 343-2 (© 2008) (69'35")

Peter MORHARD (?-1685): Alle Welt, was lebet und webet; Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir; Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ; Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ; Herr Gott, dich loben wir; Kyrie; Meine Seele erhebet den Herren; Praeludium in e minor; Wacht auf, ihr Christen alle; Was fürchtest du, Feind Herodes, sehr; Melchior SCHILDT (1592-1667): Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr; Herr Christ, der einig Gottessohn; Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o mein Herr; Magnificat 1. modi; Praeambulum in G; Praeambulum in g minor

This disc is part of a series of recordings in which Friedhelm Flamme records the complete organ music of the composers who are representatives of the North-German organ school of the 17th century. I don't know whether the organ works of the main composer from North-Germany, Dietrich Buxtehude, are intended to be part of this project. There is hardly any reason for that as his oeuvre is well represented on disc, in contrast to the works of the composers who are on the programme of this disc, in particular those of Peter Morhard.

Many composers of the North-German organ school went to Amsterdam to study with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, who had the nickname of "the German organists' maker". Melchior Schildt, who was born in Hanover, was one of them, and studied in Amsterdam from 1609 to 1612. His activities in Germany after his return ultil 1623 are not documented. In that year he was appointed organist in Wolfenbüttel, and from 1626 to 1629 he was organist at the court of Christian IV in Copenhagen. When his father died in 1629 he returned to Hanover and succeeded him as organist of the Marktkirche.

Schildt was a man of considerable reputation. As late as 1732 the German composer and theorist Johann Gottfried Walther stated in his Musicalisches Lexikon "that it was said of him: he could play, according to his fancy, in such a way that one was forced to laugh or to cry". And his contemporary Johann Rudolph Ahle considered him one of the most important composers of his time. But little is known about his life or his activities as a teacher. And his oeuvre is very small: just one vocal piece has survived - at least nine vocal works have been lost - and the keyboard music recorded here. Although this series pretends to record all organ works by North-German composers, in this case two pieces are missing: Pavana lachrymae and Gleichwie das Feuer. It is possible that these two sets of variations have been omitted because they are for manuals only and therefore are intended to be played at the harpsichord. But that doesn't mean they can't be played at the organ as well.

Within his small oeuvre Schildt shows a great variety in compositional techniques. The five variations on Herr Christ, der einig Gottessohn are close to the style of his teacher Sweelinck. Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o mein Herr is a transcription of a 4-part vocal setting. Such transcriptions were frequently written by composers of the North-German organ school. Remarkable is the chromatic descending figure over one and a half octave towards the end. The Magnificat 1. modi is a large-scale series of five variations over the plainchant melody. In the second variation we find another frequently employed technique: the echo, which is also present in the oeuvre of Sweelinck.

Echo effects appear frequently in the oeuvre of the other composer on this disc, Peter Morhard. Very little is known about him, and that includes the year of his birth. The spelling of his name varies, and appears also as Peter Mohrhardt or Mohrhart. The first sign of his existence is that he acted as organist of the Michaeliskirche in Lüneburg. He held that post until his death and was succeeded by his eldest son. Apart from the short Praeludium in e minor he left only chorale arrangements and chorale fantasias. In almost all of them he makes use of the echo technique. The cantus firmus is mostly ornamented. Some pieces are based on plainchant: the Kyrie, but also Herr Gott, dich loben wir, which quotes the first two lines of the Te Deum. Meine Seele erhebet den Herren also uses two lines of the chorale, this time Martin Luther's setting of the Magnificat.

Friedhelm Flamme plays an organ which was built in 1710/11 by Gerhard von Holy, who was probably a pupil of the famous organ builder Arp Schnitger. As usual this organ was adapted to contemporary taste in the 19th century and in 1917 the front pipes were delivered for armaments production. In 1997/98 the organ was restored to its original state by Jürgen Ahrend. The booklet states that the temperament is "a transitional form between systematic mean-tone temperament and a well-tempered tuning, with this transitional form corresponding to the period around 1700". That is probably not the kind of temperament the composers of the music on this disc knew, but it is characteristic enough to allow a rather convincing performance of their works.

Friedhelm Flamme is a stylish interpreter and he delivers good performances. I would however have liked a more gestural interpretation, and a more vocal style of playing. A little more freedom in the articulation and in the timing would have made this disc even better. However the music is of superb quality and most of the repertoire played here has hardly ever been recorded.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

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