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Delphin & Nicolaus Adam STRUNGK: "Complete Organ Works"

Friedhelm Flamme, organ

rec: March 26 - 28, 2010, Gräfenhain, Dreifaltigkeitskirchea; April 26 - 28, 2013, Salzgitter-Ringelheim, Kirche St. Abdon und Sennenb
CPO - 777 597-2 (2 CDs) (© 2013) (2.09'47")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Johann DECKER (1598-1668): Praeambulum in e minora; Christian FLOR (1626-1697)a: Ach Jesu dessen Treu; Auf meinen Lieben Gott; Aus meines Herzens Grunde; Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott; Gelobet seistu Jesu Christ; Helfft mir Gotts güte preisen; Ich danck dir schon; Jesu meine freüde; Jesu meines lebens Leben; Nun last uns Gott dem Herren; Nun Lob mein Seel; Praeludium in e minor; Praeludium in e minor; Suite in d minor (fugue); Treüer Gott ich mus dir Klagen; Werde munter mein gemüthe; Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern; Dietrich MEYER (?-1653): Praeludium in b minora; Marcus OLTER (1625-1684): Canzon in c minora; Delphin STRUNGK (STRUNCK) (1601-1694)b: Ecce Maria genuit nobis (Lassus); Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt; Lass mich dein sein und bleiben; Magnificat 9. toni; Surrexit pastor bonus (Lassus); Tibi laus, tibi gloria (Lassus); Toccata ad manuale duplex; Verbum caro factum est (Hassler); Nicolaus Adam STRUNGK (STRUNCK) (1640-1700)a: Capriccio in d minor; Capriccio in e minor; Capriccio in F; Capriccio in g minor; Capriccio in a minor; Capriccio in a minor; Capriccio über 'Ich dank dir schon durch deinen Sohn'; Ricercar in G; Ricercar sopra la Morte della mia carissima Madre in G

In 2005 the German organist Friedhelm Flamme and the label CPO started a mammoth project: the recording of the complete organ works by composers who are considered representatives of the north German organ school. The present set of two discs is the volume 11 in this series. So far some better-known composers have been recorded, such as Nicolaus Bruhns, Vincent Lübeck, Georg Böhm and Johann Adam Reincken, but also several 'minor masters', such as Georg Dietrich Leyding, Martin Radeck and the members of the Düben family. The 11th volume also includes music by composers who are largely unknown quantities.

The two dominating figures are Delphin Strungk (or Strunck) and his son Nicolaus Adam. It is not known for sure where Delphin was born, but he probably was the son of Joachim Strungk who was organist in Braunschweig. Here Delphin would spend the most part of his life: from 1637 until 1688 he acted as organist of various churches, assisted by his children Nicolaus Adam, Anna Margarete and Christian Friedrich. He also composed some occasional music for the town. His organ oeuvre is small: two pieces based on chorales, a Magnificat, a Toccata and four intabulations of motets by Lassus and Hassler. In his chorale-based pieces the chorale melody is strongly ornamented, a feature of the north German organ school. Lass mich dein sein und bleiben has the same melody as O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden. The Magnificat comprises two large sections (Primus Versus, Secundus Versus) each of which is divided into various subsections. The same goes for the unusually long Toccata ad manuale duplex. In several of these pieces Strungk includes echo effects, often used by north German organ composers and reflecting the influence of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, the Amsterdam organist who had so many Germans among his pupils. The four intabulations are much more than only transcriptions of vocal works. The upper voices are usually highly elaborated and ornamented; Surrexit pastor bonus includes strong chromatic figurations. The first three pieces are intabulations of motets by Lassus, the fourth is based on a motet by Hassler.

Nicolaus Adam was born in Braunschweig and received the first music lessons from his father. He was not only educated as an organist but also as a string player. In the 1680s, when he worked at the court of Hanover as court composer and Kapellmeister, he undertook a journey to Italy with his employer. In Rome he met Arcangelo Corelli who was deeply impressed by Strungk's skills as a violinist. Before he had been court violinist in Wolfenbüttel - the same town where his father took his first job as an organist in the early 1630s - and the court in Celle, where his father had also worked shortly as organist. In the late 1770s he worked in Hamburg where several operas from his pen were performed in the Theater am Gänsemarkt. In the late 1680s he worked in Dresden as assistent to Christoph Bernhard, who had succeeded his teacher Heinrich Schütz as Kapellmeister. In 1692 Bernhard died and Strungk was appointed his successor. In the early 1690s he founded an opera in Leipzig - the second public opera house in Germany. After his death in 1700 the company was directed by his widow and daughters. None of his dramatic works have survived except single arias.

In New Grove his extant organ works included here are not even mentioned. They are part of a Codex which is preserved in the Yale University Library in New Haven, Connecticut. He wrote them during the time he spent in southern Germany and Italy between 1678 and 1685; some are dated. That goes, for instance, for the Ricercar Sopra la Morte della mia carissima Madre Catharina Maria Stubenrauen Morsa à Brunsviga il 28 d'Augusto a[nn]o. 1685. This is a lamento on the death of his mother which show strong similarities to lamentos and tombeaux as they were written by, for instance, Johann Jacob Froberger. Most of Strungk's organ works bear the title of capriccio, a term which tells us next to nothing about the character of a piece as it could be used for compositions of strongly different character. Strungk's capriccios are dominated by counterpoint and are pretty well organized. There is little capriciousness here. That doesn't diminish their value which has been assessed rather negatively by musicologists. Gerhard Aumüller, in his liner-notes, disagrees and the performances here prove him right.

In addition we are offered the complete organ works by four other composers. The most important of them is Christian Flor, who in 1676 was appointed organist of the Johanniskirche in Lüneburg. He held this post until his death when he was succeeded by Georg Böhm. The chorale preludes recorded here were probably not intended for liturgical use but rather to be played in domestic surroundings. A small organ or, even better, a harpsichord would be the most appropriate instrument here, especially as they show the influence of the French harpsichord school, for instance in the ornamentation. That doesn't exclude a performance on a large organ, but it seems to me that they would fare better on a strung keyboard instrument. The two preludes are very much in the style of the north German organ school; the fugue is from a harpsichord suite the identity of which is not revealed.

Three composers are only represented with one piece each; all of them are unknown quantities. Johannes Decker was organist of Hamburg Cathedral and the son of Joachim Decker, organist of the Nicolaikirche. Nothing is mentioned in the booklet about Dietrich Meyer. Marcus Olter was organist of the St. Johannis in Meldorf since 1653; his Canzon in c minor has been preserved in the Lüneburger Orgeltabulatur, an important source of north German organ music.

This volume is another jewel in the crown of CPO's project as it brings music to our attention most of which is completely unknown. Not everything is of the same level; the small pieces by Decker and Meyer are little more than curiosities. However, the largest part of these two discs is very worthwhile. Delphin Strungk was a very good composer; his intabulations are brilliant and interesting specimens of the way composers adapted vocal music from the past. The capriccios by his son are fine pieces and substantial additions to the repertoire. Flor's chorale preludes are also nice, and I would like some harpsichordist to record them on his own instrument. That said, Flamme plays them well, although in some cases I found his registration a bit too heavy.

He delivers generally good performances, but I would have preferred fewer changes in registration within single works. He plays two historical instruments; the one in Salzgitter-Ringelheim is in equal temperament which seems not the most appropriate in Delphin Strungk. I wonder what difference a mean-tone temperament would make. That is the tuning of the organ in Gräfenhain which Flamme plays on the second disc.

Volume 12 of this fascinating project has already been released and will be reviewed in due course. I am looking forward to further instalments.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

Relevant links:

Friedhelm Flamme

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