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"Orgeln in Thüringen" (Organs in Thuringia)

Rainer Goede, organ

rec: August 19 - 22, 2010, Altenbeuthen, Ev. Filialkirchea; Neustadt/Orla, Stadtkirche St. Johannisb; Vierzehnheiligen, Ev. Pfarrkirchec
Querstand - VKJK 1425 (© 2014) (78'47")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list
Scores Armstroff
Scores Buttstedt
Score Vetter

Andreas ARMSTROFF (Armsdorff) (1670-1699)b: Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr; Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt; Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend & alio modo; Jesu, meines Lebens Leben; Mitten wir im Leben sind; Johann Heinrich BUTTSTEDT (Buttstett) (1666-1727): Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehra; Christ lag in Todesbandena; Prelude and Capriccio in d minorb [1]; Prelude and Ricercar in Cb [1]; Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schara; Wo Gott zum Haus nicht gibt sein Gunsta; Nicolaus VETTER (1666-1734)c: Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr; Christ lag in Todesbanden & alio modo; Fugue in C; Fugue in C; Fugue in G; Fugue in A; Jesu, meine Freude

Source: [1] Johann Heinrich Buttstedt, Musicalische Clavier-Kunst und Vorraths-Kammer, 1713

The names of Arp Schnitger, Andreas Silbermann and Zacharias Hildebrandt will be familiar to most organ aficionados. These are some of the most famous German organ builders of the 17th and 18th centuries. However, many instruments in Germany - a number of which are still extant - were constructed by organ builders who are hardly known today. That is often due to the fact that they worked in a relatively small region in Germany, and their organs can only be found in smaller towns or villages. As a result they are seldom used for recordings, despite their qualities. From that perspective discs devoted to such organs or to a relatively unknown organ builder are very valuable. The present disc is a good example as it sheds light on the activities of Johann Georg Fincke, one of the main organ builders in Thuringia in the 18th century. Rainer Goede presents three of his extant organs in appropriate repertoire. In one case there is even a direct link between a composer and an organ. In 1728 Nicolaus Vetter inspected and accepted the organ which Fincke had built in the St Johannis in Neustadt/Orla.

Fincke was born in 1680 and died in Saalfeld in 1749. Little is known about his life, but it is certain that he was held in high esteem in his time. The fact that several important organ builders were among his apprentices attests to that as does the fact that in 1724 Johann Sebastian Bach "examined, approved and inaugurated" the Fincke organ in the Johanniskirche in Gera. In 1708 he settled in Saalfeld and here he was ordered to build an organ in the city church. That same year he completed the organ in the Pfarrkirche of Vierzehnheiligen. In 2007 this organ was restored. It has one manual and pedal; the pitch is a=497Hz, the temperament Werckmeister VI (Halberstadt 1691). The organ in the Filialkirche (succursal) in Altenbeuthen dates from 1716. It is the only organ by Fincke that has been preserved in almost its original form. However, its temperament must have been changed at some time as it is in equal temperament. The pitch is a=467,6Hz; it has one manual and pedal. These two organs are played on this disc; the third, in Neustadt/Orla, has already been mentioned. It is the largest of the three as it has two manuals and pedal. Its pitch is a=440Hz, its temperament Kirnberger III.

The three composers who are represented in the programme are largely unknown quantities, although some music by Vetter and Buttstedt has been recorded before. The connection between them is Johann Pachelbel, one of the most prominent German organists and organ composers in the second half of the 17th century. All three composers are influenced by him, and Buttstedt and Vetter were among his pupils. Johann Heinrich Buttstedt (Buttstett) was from Bindersleben which is close to Erfurt where Pachelbel worked as organist from 1678 to 1690. In 1684 Buttstedt was appointed as organist of the Reglerkirche in Erfurt and three years later he moved to the Kaufmannskirche; he also became teacher at the school associated to the church. In 1690 Pachelbel moved to the court in Stuttgart; his successor was Nicolaus Vetter who one year later moved to Rudolstadt to become castle organist. Buttstedt succeeded him; he held this position until his death. It is remarkable that at the same time he was organist of a Catholic church in Erfurt. He even composed vocal music for the liturgy; two masses have been preserved. Among his organ pupils were Georg Friedrich Kaufmann and Johann Georg Walther. The latter described him as a "quirky scholar" (Goede). In 1716 he published a book in which he attacked the views which Johann Mattheson had laid down in his Das neu-eröffnete Orchestre (1713). In his book he defends the traditional views of the past against the modernity of which Mattheson was the advocate.

Buttstedt's extant oeuvre is not that large. The collection Musicalische Clavier-Kunst und Vorraths-Kammer comprises eleven keyboard pieces; two of these are included here. The Prelude and Capriccio in d minor is certainly one of the oddest pieces I have ever heard. The prelude opens with a single quaver which is followed by a whole bar of silence. There are several short phrases followed by rests in the first section of this piece. It also includes some brilliant passage work. The ricercar from the Prelude and Ricercar in C is a triple fugue. Buttstedt's oeuvre also includes 23 chorale arrangements and five chorale partitas. Here we find clear influences by Pachelbel, for instance in the application of Vorimitation. Some are in the modern trio form.

Vetter is also from Thuringia; he was probably born in Herschdorf, near Königsee. In 1681 he became a pupil of Georg Caspar Wecker in Nuremberg who in 1686 was appointed organist of the St Sebaldus. From 1688 to 1690 he was a pupil of Pachelbel in Erfurt. He succeeded his teacher when Pachelbel moved to Stuttgart. In 1691 he was appointed organist of the court in Rudolstadt and was succeeded by Buttstedt. His extant oeuvre comprises a handful of fugues and 13 chorale arrangements; one of them has also been attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 771). A number of his chorale arrangements are for manuals only which indicates that they can also be played at the harpsichord. The partita Jesu meine Freude includes several bicinia. The chorale melodies are treated in different ways, sometimes ornamented, mostly in the upper voice or in the bass.

The least-known composer represented here is Andreas Armstroff (Armsdorff) who was born in Mühlberg, near Gotha in Thuringia. He studied at the Ratsgymnasium in Erfurt and then theology at the University. In 1691 he was appointed organist of the Reglerkirche, in 1696 he moved to the Andreaskirche and then to the Kaufmannskirche. He died at the age of 29. Several of his keyboard works have been lost; 31 chorale preludes are extant and the number of copies in manuscript circulating across Germany attest to their popularity. Armstroff seems to have had a strong preference for the canon technique; he uses it in Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr and in Mitten wir im Leben sind. Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt has the cantus firmus in canon in the outer voices. In Jesu, meines Lebens Leben the fourth variation has the cantus firmus in the tenor.

This disc is a happy combination of three interesting historical organs in Thuringia and music by three composers from the same region. That makes this a release of considerable importance. I don't know how many of the pieces played here are available in other recordings but it is safe to say that they are very unfamiliar, certainly outside Germany. It is nice that the booklet includes liner-notes about the music and the organs in English. Rainer Goede is a stylish interpreter who uses the possibilities of the organs to good effect. Here and there I would have liked a somewhat sharper articulation and in the free compositions by Buttstedt there are too many changes in the registration. However, this disc deserves the attention of organ aficionados as it gives them the opportunity to substantially supplement their CD collection.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

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