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"Musik aus der Dresdner Schloßkapelle" (Music from the Dresden Court Chapel)

Britta Schwarz, contraltoa; Sebastian Knebel, harpsichordb, organc
rec: June 27 - 29, 2007, Coswig, Alte Kirche
Raumklang - RK 2702 (© 2008) (72'54")

Christian ERBACH (c1570-1635): Canzon a 4 del 4° tonoc; Canzon in Cc; Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667): Affligée et Tombeau sur la mort de Monsieur Blancrocherb; Fantasia VIIc; Toccata XV in g minorb; Hans-Leo HASSLER (1564-1612): Canzon ("ist guet")c; Toccata e Fuga 9. tonic; Johann Caspar KERLL (1627-1693): Toccata VIIIc; Johann KLEMM (c1595-after 1651): Fuga XXII à 10. tonic; Christian MICHAEL (?-1637): Praeludium à 4 in mic; Toccata à 4 in a minorc; Jacob PRAETORIUS (1586-1651): Magnificat germanicec; Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c1595-1663): Jesu, wollst uns weisenc; Praeambulum in Gc; Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654): Magnificat 4. toniac; Matthias WECKMANN (c1616-1674): Fantasia in d minorc; Partita in d minorb; Toccata in d minorb

This disc brings music which can be associated with the court in Dresden in the 17th century. At the same time it aims to present an interesting organ from Saxonia, which with a little imagination can be associated with Dresden and therefore is used to perform the largest part of the repertoire on the programme. The thread of this disc is the contest between Matthias Weckmann, court organist in Dresden from 1632 to 1655, and Johann Jacob Froberger in 1649 or 1650. There was no winner, but the meeting resulted in a close friendship. Six of the 17 pieces in the programme are written by either Weckmann or Froberger, two of which are played on the organ and four on the harpsichord.

Only some of the other composers represented on this disc can be directly connected to the court in Dresden. Hans-Leo Hassler was appointed "electoral chamber organist" which he remained until his death in 1612. Johann Klemm was court organist since 1625, and was the organ teacher of Weckmann. Christian Michael was the son of Rogier Michael who was Hofkapellmeister in Dresden from 1587 to 1629, but who himself worked as organist of the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig.

The other composers are included because of their connections with the above-mentioned musicians, and the assumption that their music could have been played at the court in Dresden. The Toccata VIII by Johann Caspar Kerll is included in the programme because Weckmann copied this work himself, when Kerll visited Dresden. Christian Erbach acted as organist in Augsburg, and Johann Klemm studied with him for some time. Heinrich Schütz, Rogier Michael's successor as Hofkapellmeister in Dresden, sent Weckmann to Hamburg to study with Jacob Praetorius. Here he also met Scheidemann, and for that reason pieces by both composers from Hamburg are included in this programme of music at the court in Dresden. Lastly Samuel Scheidt: when he published his collection of keyboard music, Tabulatura Nova, in 1624, he sent a copy to the court in Dresden. As a token of thanks he received a silver goblet, at the instigation of his friend Heinrich Schütz.

Even though the choice of music for this programme is in a way speculative, it is certainly plausible to assume these pieces could have been played at the court in Dresden. Ironically the most speculative part of the programme are the compositions by Weckmann: it is anything but certain that they were composed before Weckmann became organist in the Jacobikirche in Hamburg in 1655.

The choice of the organ is also partly based on speculation. As Sebastian Knebel writes in the booklet: "According to oral tradition, the organ is supposed to have come to Coswig from the Dresden court. Even though this is hardly likely, we decided to record music from the Lutheran court chapel of the Dresden court on this beautiful instrument, since it is the only preserved organ of this era in the environs of Dresden". Hartmut Schütz states that the date of construction is unknown and so is the name of its builder. But it seems it dates from around 1680. "The specification and style are typical of the simple village-church instruments of that period, of which only a very few have survived in Saxony". It is a shame the specification of the instrument - meaning the disposition, pitch and tuning - are not given. Also lacking is a specification of the stops used in the various works played at the organ. In addition to this instrument a harpsichord is used which was built by Jan Kalsbeek, a copy of an instrument by Michael Mietke.

As far as the programme is concerned: on the positive side are the unknown pieces by Christian Michael and Johann Klemm. Organ works by Hassler and Jacob Praetorius are also not frequently performed and recorded. Erbach's two canzonas are pretty well-known and, of course, so are the works by Weckmann and Froberger. And that is the drawback of this production. The harpsichord pieces are the least convincing parts of this disc as Sebastian Knebel is a skilful but not very imaginative player. The twists and turns which are so characteristic of the German keyboard music of the early 17th century don't come as surprises here as the playing is a bit too straightforward and predictable. The organ pieces fare considerably better. Some pieces contain pretty strong dissonances, which suggests the organ is tuned in meantone temperament.

Although this disc gives some reasons for criticism, it is very good that the beautiful organ in Coswig has been documented on disc, and that at least a number of pieces included in the programme are new to the catalogue.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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