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"Complete Organ Works - Saxer, Düben, Schieferdecker"

Friedhelm Flamme, organ

rec: May 22 - 23, 2009, Helsingør, Sct. Mariae Kirke
CPO - 777 502-2 (© 2012) (73'47")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Andreas DÜBEN (c1597-1662): Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr; Praeludium pedaliter in a minor; Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält; Gustav DÜBEN (c1628-1690): Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren; Martin DÜBEN (c1599-c1649): Erstanden ist der heilig Christ; Praeambulum pedaliter in F; Praeludium in e minor; Ewald HINTZ (1613-1668): Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; Andreas NEUNHABER (1603-1663): Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; Gottlieb NITTAUF (1685-1722): Preludium auff 2. Clavier in e minor; Preludium in D; Preludium in d minor; Preludium in F; Preludium in G; Preludium in g minor; Preludium in a minor; Preludium pedaliter in C; Preludium (Toccata) in a minor; Georg Wilhelm Dietrich SAXER (?-1740): Praeludium in D; Praeludium in e minor; Praeludium in F; Johann Christian SCHIEFERDECKER (1679-1732): Meine Seele erhebt den Herren

In 2004 the German organist Friedhelm Flamme started a major project for CPO: the recording of the complete organ works by composers of the so-called North-German organ school. The most famous representative of that school is Dietrich Buxtehude, but among organists of his and previous generations there were many brilliant organists whose compositions reflect their great skills. In the North-German regions organists were held in high esteem and belonged amongst the highest paid musicians of their time.

Several important representatives of the North-German organ school have already been presented in this series, among them Vincent Lübeck, Nicolaus Bruhns and Franz Tunder. The previous volumes also included pieces by lesser-known masters, such as Peter Morhard, Andreas Kneller and Martin Radeck. The composers who figure on the present disc, belong in the same category. The name of Düben may be not quite unfamiliar, but that only concerns Gustav, who collected a large number of vocal and instrumental works - about 1800 in total - which have found their way into the so-called 'Düben-collection' which is preserved at the university of Uppsala. The composers on the programme - except Saxer - have in common that they didn't work as organists in Northern Germany. However, their compositions bear the stylistic trademarks of the North-German school.

The three preludes by Georg Wilhelm Dietrich Saxer are good examples as they comprise three sections of a contrasting character, including a fugue. Interestingly we can see here the development toward a formal split between prelude and fugue which would take place in the early 18th century and comes to the fore in the organ oeuvre of Johann Sebastian Bach. Unlike earlier North-German composers Saxer included only one fugal section in his preludes. The pieces close with a short section in slow tempo. Virtuosic passage-work and pedal solos are amongst the hallmarks of the North-German organ style and figure in these preludes as well. Improvisatory gestures also were characteristic of this school and Saxer's Praeludium in e minor is a striking example. Little is known about the composer: we don't know when or where he was born and from whom he received his musical education. His stature must have been considerable as in 1634 he was appointed as organist of the Johanniskirche in Lüneburg as successor to Georg Böhm.

The Düben family was from Leipzig. Andreas and his younger brother Martin were born there and settled in Sweden. They received their first education from their father, who was organist of the Thomaskirche. Andreas went to Amsterdam to study with Sweelinck, and it is possible that his brother followed his example. Andreas was appointed as organist of the Swedish court in Stockholm in 1620 and soon developed into a major figure in the Swedish music scene. Martin joined him in 1625. Little of their compositional output has come down to us. In the chorale-based compositions the hymn melody is treated in various ways, sometimes unornamented, sometimes with lively and extended embellishments. Their preludes are largely confined to slowly forward-moving chords, without motivic imitation. Gustav Düben has already been mentioned: he was a close friend of Dietrich Buxtehude, and thanks to him many of the latter's compositions have been preserved. Only one composition from Gustav's pen is known, the chorale fantasia Nun lob mein Seel den Herren which is treated in such a way that the uplifting character of text and melody is eloquently emphasized.

Gottlieb Nittauf was born in Stockholm, as the son of the German-born court trumpeter Johann Nicolaus. It is documented that he sang as a choirboy under Gustav Düben's direction which must have brought him into close contact with the Buxtehude idiom. He worked as an organist in Stockholm and Göteborg, and there is a document which states that he had studied with "a great master" in Hamburg which was probably Vincent Lübeck. Six preludes in various keys (in e minor, a minor, g minor, G major, d minor, F major), expressing different Affekte, could be meant as educational material for his pupils. The other three preludes show the features of the North-German organ school in the inclusion of pedal solos, virtuosic figures and contrasting sections. The Preludium in a minor, also known as Toccata, shows again the move toward a more independent fugue.

The remaining three composers on the programme are represented by just one piece each, the only organ works from their pen which are known. Ewald Hintz was from Danzig and was a pupil of Johann Jacob Froberger. He worked as organist in Danzig and was a member of the court chapel in Copenhagen in the last years of his life. The chorale fantasia Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ requires an organ with three manuals: the cantus firmus is divided over two manuals, whereas the accompanying figures are played at the third. The cantus firmus is strongly ornamented, which is also the case in Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ by Andreas Neunhaber. He was also born in Danzig, where he was a pupil of Paul Siefert. He worked here all his life in various churches as organist.

Lastly, Johann Christian Schieferdecker, who was from Saxony and attended the Thomasschule in Leipzig. Here he composed his first operas; later played a major role in the Oper am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg. In 1706 he became assistant to Dietrich Buxtehude in Lübeck, and succeeded him after his death in 1707. Very little of his output has been preserved. Lately several discs have been devoted to his vocal and instrumental works. Only one organ piece by him is known: Meine Seele erhebt den Herren is in five sections in which the chorale melody is treated in various ways.

Friedhelm Flamme plays an instrument which is strictly speaking not historical, but rather a modern reconstruction. It tries to bring to life again the organ which was built in 1641 by Johann Lorentz and renovated in the early 1660s - just after Buxtehude had taken up the position of organist in Helsingør - by Hans Christoff Frietzsch. The result is a beautiful instrument of three manuals and pedal. It is well suited to the music of the North-German organ school. Flamme effectively uses the various colours of the organ for the chorale-based compositions in such a way that the cantus firmus can be clearly heard. In the free pieces the improvisatory elements which are such an important feature of the North-German organ school are very well realised. Flamme plays here with more flair and freedom than in some previous volumes in this project. It results in a compelling disc with many little-known gems from an astonishingly rich musical culture of the 17th century.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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