musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Johann PACHELBEL (1653 - 1706): "Clavier Music Vol. 2"

Franz Raml, harpsichorda, organb

rec: May 30 - 31, 2008, Freiberg, Petrikircheb; Sept 21 - 22, 2008, Rot an der Rota
MDG - 614 1553-2 (© 2010) (60'56")

Allabreve in d minorb; Ciaccona in Fa; Ciaccona in f minorb; Fantasia in d minora; Fantasia in g minorb; Magnificat 7. toni, 4 fuguesb; Partita Ach was soll ich Sünder machenb [1]; Praeludium in d minorb; Ricercar in c minorb; Suite in Fa; Toccata (12) in g minorb; Toccata (14) in g minorb; Vater unser im Himmelreich, chorale preludeb; Vom Himmel hoch, chorale preludeb

(Sources: [1] Musicalische Sterbens-Gedancken, 1653)

The German organist and harpsichordist Franz Raml intends to offer a portrait of Johann Pachelbel as a composer of keyboard music. The first disc was released last year; this is the second and last disc of this little project. Like at Volume 1 we find here a mixture of organ and harpsichord pieces. In the corpus of organ music the various forms Pachelbel used are represented.

Historically Johann Pachelbel is one of the most important composers of keyboard music of the German baroque. He was clearly influenced by Johann Jacob Froberger - himself a pupil of Girolamo Frescobaldi - and probably also studied with Johann Caspar Kerll in Vienna. Because of that he is generally considered a representative of the South-German organ school. Pachelbel himself was the teacher of Johann Christoph Bach, the elder brother of Johann Sebastian. Johann Christoph passed on what Pachelbel had taught him, and this way Johann Sebastian became acquainted with the Italian and South-German keyboard style.

In his programma notes Franz Raml states that "Pachelbel's career as a musician moved between the poles of Catholic and Protestant sacred music". That may be historically correct, but Pachelbel's organ music shows that he is firmly rooted in the Lutheran tradition. He composed a large number of works which are based on Lutheran hymns. In fact, he is one of the most important composers of organ chorales in Germany. Especially notable are his chorale partitas. Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen is from a collection, called Musicalische Sterbens-Gedancken, a kind of musical memento mori. Pachelbel had a special liking for the form of the variation, as his collection Hexachordum Apollinis shows. It is available in various recordings; therefore it was a good idea not to include any of these variations here. The two ciacconas also use the form of the variation, this time on a repeated bass pattern.

The chorale variations are not specifically written for liturgical use. That is the case, though, with the Magnificat-fugues. Pachelbel has written no less than 98 of them, in the various modes. They are quite short and served as intonations to establish the pitch for the singers. Franz Raml is playing here four Magnificat fugues in the 7th tone. The two chorale preludes are very different, giving an idea of the various techniques Pachelbel used. Vom Himmel hoch is a slight Christmas chorale, whereas Vater unser im Himmelreich is in two sections: the first is a three-part fugue, the second is a kind of toccata.

Various free forms are represented. The disc begins with a prelude, which in its structure is close to the toccata. It is in six contrasting sections, the first of which is a pedal solo, which is then repeated on the manuals over a pedal point. The fourth section contains some chromaticism, which Pachelbel uses quite often, for instance in a number of his chorale partitas. The subject of the Ricercar in c minor also contains chromaticism. This piece is in three sections. The Allabreve in d minor is a fugue, and that is the reason Franz Raml plays it after the prelude, creating a kind of prelude and fugue.

The disc ends with three harpsichord pieces. The Suite in F consists of just three movements: allemande, courante and sarabande. Here Raml plays an instrument built by Bernhard von Tucher after an original harpsichord by Giovanni Battista Giusti. He had already used this instrument in the first volume. He also plays the same organ again, built by Gottfried Silbermann in 1714.

In general I am satisfied with this recording, although I have some reservations. The two toccatas which embrace the Magnificat fugues could have been more sparkling, and I also miss some contrasts in the Ciaccona in f minor. And I believe that this repertoire would fare better if played on an organ in meantone temperament.

The objective of this two-disc project was to offer a survey of Pachelbel's keyboard oeuvre and give an impression of its qualities. That objective has certainly been achieved. Hopefully it will encourage listeners to further explore Pachelbel's oeuvre.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Franz Raml

CD Reviews