musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Historical keyboard instruments

[I] "Charakterklänge - Orgelmusik der Renaissance" (Characteristic sounds - Organ music of the Renaissance)
Peter Waldner, organa, regalb
rec: August 19 - 21, 2020, Auer, Pfarrkirche zum H. Apostel Petrus
Musikmuseum - CD13052 (© 2021) (74'11")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Sebastián AGUILERA DE HEREDIA (1561-1627): Obra de 8° tono alto: Ensaladaa; anon: Expecta ung paucob [2]; La bounette - La douna cellaa [4]; Resonet [in laudibus]b [1]; William BYRD (1543-1623): Fantasiaa [5]; Christian ERBACH (c1570-1635): Canzona 6. tonia; Andrea GABRIELI (1532-1585): Capriccio sopra il Pass'e mezzo anticoa; Giovanni GABRIELI (1557-1612): O sacrum conviviuma; Matthias GREITTER (c1495-1550): Herbey, herbey, was Löffel seyb [3]; Hans-Leo HASSLER (1564-1612): Canzon; Paul HOFHAIMER (1459-1537): Ade mit Leidb [2]; Nach willen dinb [2]; Zucht, Ehr und Lobb [2]; Heinrich ISAAC (1450-1517): Bruder Conradb [1]; Robert JOHNSON (c1470-after 1554): Benedicam Domino omni temporea [4]; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1455-1521): Adieu mes amoursb [2]; Hans KOTTER (1480-1541): O Herre Gott, begnade michb [2]; Claudio MERULO (1533-1604): Toccata VIII all'ottavo tonoa; Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c1596-1663): Herzlich lieb hab' ich dich, o Herr; Jesu, wollst uns weisen (WV 78); Praeambulum III in d minor (WV 33); Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621): Ballo del Granduca (SwWV 319)a

Sources: [1] Orgeltabulatur des Fridolin Sicher, 1510/31 (ms); [2] Codex Amerbach, 1513/31 (ms); [3] Orgeltabulatur des Clemens Hör, c1540 (ms); [4] The Mulliner Book, c1560 (ms); [5] The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, c1610/25 (ms)

[II] "Francisci magnus amor"
Peter Waldner, harpsichorda, virginalb
rec: Dec 1 - 2, 2019, Corcelles (CH), Temple de Corcelles
fra bernardo - fb 2003534 (© 2020) (71'34")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

anon: Caza la veglia milaneseb; Gazollob; Il cramonesob; Io mi sono gioveneta à 4b; La morettab; Pavana - Saltarello de la pavanaa; Andrea ANTICO (c1480-1538): Che debbio fareb; Per dolor mi bagno il viso d'un liquor soave tantob; Francesco BIANCARDI (1570-1607): Fantasia IIIb; Girolamo CAVAZZONI (c1520-c1577): Canzon sopra Falt d'argensa; Marco Antonio CAVAZZONI (1485-1569): Madame, vous avez mon cuorb; Giovanni Paolo CIMA (c1575-1630): Canzon La Graziosab; Andrea GABRIELI (1532/33-1585): Capriccio sopra il Pass'e mezzo anticob; Giovanni GABRIELI (1557-1612): Congratulaminib; Fantasia in modo di canzon francese à 4 vocib; O sacrum convivium; Annibale PADOVANO (1527-1575): Toccata del 6° tonob; Peter PHILIPS (1560-1628): Amarilli mia bellab; Giovanni PICCHI (c1571-1643): Ballo ditto il Picchia; Ballo ongarob; Pass'e mezzo - Saltarello del Pass'e mezzob; Todescha; Ruggero TROFEO (c1550-1614): Canzon Ib; Antonio VALENTE (c1520-c1600): Tenore del Passo e Mezzoa


The use of historical instruments is one of the main features of historical performance practice. However, most musicians are not in the position to play real 'historical' instruments. They usually play copies of such instruments, as the number of instruments of the baroque period that have been preserved, is rather limited, and many are part of museum collections. Especially wind instruments are often too precious to be used for concerts or in recordings. String instruments are generally less vulnerable, but many of them have been modified in the course of history, in accordance with the taste of the time and the technical requirements deriving from that. In comparison, quite some keyboard instruments are available for recordings, either in museums or in private collections, and often they are still in playing condiction, or have been restored in such a way that they can be used for performances and recordings. On the two discs under review here, the Austrian keyboard player Peter Waldner demonstrates the features and qualities of four different instruments. On the first he plays two strung instruments of Italian origin, on the second two organs, one of which is strictly not historical, but rather a reconstruction.

The title of the fra bernardo disc refers to François Badoud (who died in 2020), who was the owner of the harpsichord and the virginal which are featured in this recording. He was a Swiss collctor of keyboard instruments, which have been used for several recording. One of them is a virginal from the 16th century, built in Florence. Recently Jean Rondeau played it on his disc "Melancholy Grace". The second instrument is a harpsichord, also from the 16th century, and built in Naples. Obviously Badoud held them in perfect state, which allowed performers to use it for recordings. The virginal is probably the most interesting of the two, especially because such instruments are not that often used. Virginals are mostly played in recordings of music of the English virginal school and pieces by northern continental composers such as Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. Those are usually copies of instruments built in England or Flanders. The instrument played here by Waldner is the perfect tool for the performance of Italian keyboard music of the 16th and 17th centuries. During the 17th century the virginal fell out of grace (probably with the exception of England), and Waldner confines himself to music from the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Obviously, there is no way to decide which music should be played on the virginal or on the harpsichord. Composers did not have a specific instrument in mind, and it is up to the discretion of the performer which instrument to play. The largest part of Waldner's recording is devoted to the virginal. I can't see a clear pattern here. Dances are played on either instrument, and the same goes for intabulations of vocal pieces. The latter are mostly secular - several of them are taken from a collection of Andrea Antico - but interestingly Waldner also plays a motet. According to the track-list O sacrum convivium is from the pen of Giovanni Gabrieli, but in his work-list in New Grove no motet with that title is included. There is such a motet in the oeuvre of Andrea Gabrieli, though, so it seems this is a mistake (which returns in the organ disc). Whatever is the case, it shows that sacred music could also be played on strung keyboard instruments (it comes off very well here) and Waldner is practising what keyboard players did in Gabrieli's time. The programme shows a wide variety of forms. Some pieces, like the ones just mentioned, are based on specific vocal models, but there are also dances, and various forms of instrumental music, such as canzonas and fantasias. The English-born composer Peter Philips is the odd man out here, but he stayed for some time in Italy, and was strongly influenced by Italian madrigal composers in his own vocal works. His Amarilli mia bella, which is included in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, is an arrangement - more than a mere transcription - of Giulio Caccini's most famous song.

As the programme includes quite some pieces that are not very familiar, and the two instruments are superb examples of the art of keyboard building in 16th-century Italy, there is every reason to add this disc to one's collection. Peter Waldner is an excellent player, who delivers stylish and compelling performances. The programme has been immaculately recorded.

Organs take a special place in the landscape of historical instruments. The appreciation and preservation of organs has never been specifically connected with historical performance practice. Even before its birth and also among those who don't or didn't care about it, historical organs were highly valued, and organists of all stylistic orientations were and are keen to play them. They recognize the superior quality and unique features of such instruments. One of the things in which they differ from other instruments, is that each organ is unique; no organ is exactly like another. What organs do have in common with, for instance, violins is that they were often adapted to the taste of the time, in particular when they were used for the liturgy. In our time, many instruments have been restored on the basis of their state at some time in the past. And sometimes the instruments have changed so much that more than a restoration is needed, and at least parts of the organ has to be reconstructed.

The organ Peter Waldner plays on the second disc has not escaped such a process of adaptation. It was built in 1599 by Hans Schwarzenbach as a swallow's nest organ in the parish church of St Pauls in Füssen. When there a new organ was built in 1688/89, the Schwarzenbach organ was installed in the parish church of St Peter in Auer (southern Tirol). In the 19th century substantial adaptations were made, which were rectified in the 1980s, and the original disposition was restored. It has one manual and pedal.

The second instrument is a regal, known as "apple regal". "The instrument was constructed in the manner of the old masters using materials that were known or customary around 1500 (for example bone instead of ivory, bog oak instead of ebony). The bells of the pipes are made of gold-plated apple wood. As all such instruments of its time, it has a single choir manual. Its range is 'gothic': F,G,A,B-g'',a''. The sound displays characteristics of the trombone, bassoon and sordun - due to the apple-shaped pipe bells it produces a somewhat muted sound that, compared to conventional regals, is less direct and 'screaming'" (booklet). It is not the copy of an existing instrument, but rather a construction based on a piece of art. In a woodcut by Hans Weiditz from 1518 emperor Maximilian is depicted attending a mass in Augsburg in 1506, accompanied by his courtly retinue. The woodcut also depicts an organist playing a regal, and this was Paul Hofhaimer. It is this instrument that inspired the modern construction.

The programme is divided into three sections. Waldner starts at the large organ with pieces from the northern part of Europe: pieces from several English collections, by Sweelinck and one of his main pupils, Heinrich Scheidemann, who is considered the 'founder' of the north German organ school. The odd man out is here Sebastián Aguilera de Heredia. The second section consists of pieces from the environment of Maximilian I, and several pieces are transcriptions of vocal music. This was a very common practice at the time. Maximilian's court organist Hofhaimer figures prominently in this part of the programme, which is played at the regal. The third section brings us to Italy, with pieces by the Gabrielis (I commented on 'Giovanni's' O sacrum convivium above), Claudio Merulo and two German organists who were strongly influenced by the Italian style. Hassler was a pupil of Andrea Gabrieli and Erbach may also have studied in Venice.

The liner-notes point out the rich palette of colours that is a feature of organs of the 16th and 17th centuries. The colours such organs can produce, reflect the instruments of the time, especially the winds. The organ in Auer is a particularly impressive example, and Waldner's programme allows for a compelling demonstration of what the organ can produce. The regal is more limited in its possibilities, but it turns out to be the perfect instrument for the pieces that Waldner selected. Often its sound reminded me of that of a shawm. Whatever its qualities, it is not an instrument one wants to hear for an hour at a stretch, and therefore it was a clever decision to put the section with the regal in the centre, and confine it to around 17 minutes, and play mostly shorter pieces.

Again, Waldner proves to be a fine player, who knows exactly how to bring the selected repertoire to life and use the features of the two instruments to its advantage. This is a disc no organ lover may want to miss.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

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Peter Waldner

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