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"Keyboard Music from Nuremberg"

Ralf Waldner, harpsichorda, clavichordb, regalc, organd

rec: August 2012, Fürth, St. Michaelskirche
TYXart - TXA13037 (© 2013) (76'05")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Johan Joachim AGRELL (1701-1765): Sonata VI in g minor, op. 2,6a [3]; Paul HAINLEIN (1626-1686): Capricciod; Hans-Leo HASSLER (1564-1612): Nun last uns fröhlich seinc; Ach weh der schweren peinc; Johann Erasmus KINDERMANN (1616-1655): Drifache Fuga super Christ lag in Todesbanden/Christus der uns selig macht/Da Jesus an dem Creuze stundd [1]; Fugad [1]; Johann KRIEGER (1651-1735): Giacona in g minora [2]; Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649-1725): Toccata and fugue in a minord; Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706): Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele, chorale partitaa; Benedict SCHULTHEISS (1653-1693): Suite in Gb; Johann STADEN (1581-1634): Allamanda varirtb; Balletto a 4c; Courantec; Georg Caspar WECKER (1632-1695): Partita in a minora (praeludium; ballet; aria; courante)

Sources: [1] Johann Erasmus Kindermann, Harmonia organica, in tabulaturam germanicam, 1645; [2] Johann Krieger, Anmuthige Clavier-Übung, 1698; [3] Johan Joachim Agrell, Sei Sonate per il Cembalo solo, accompagnate da alcune Ariette, Polonesi e Minuetti, Etc., op. 2, 1748

Nuremberg is a city in Bavaria, the most southern of the German states. Music lovers associate it with the Germanisches Nationalmuseum which owns a large and important collection of historical instruments. In the Middle Ages it was a leading trade centre on the route from Germany to southern and eastern parts of Europe. In the sixteenth century it developed into a centre of music printing. Many important collections of music by main composers of Europe were printed here. At the same time the city also became a centre of instrument building.

Several significant composers were from Nuremberg or worked there for some time. Among these are Leonhard Lechner and Hans-Leo Hassler. Organists always played a key role in the city's musical life. The main positions were those of organist of the churches of St Sebaldus and St Lorenz. These were held by, for instance, Conrad Paumann in the 16th century, and Johann Pachelbel in the 17th. This disc documents what is considered a 'Nuremberg School', as some composers represented in the programme were connected through a teacher-pupil relationship. Johann Staden was the teacher of Kindermann who was the teacher of Wecker. The latter was the teacher of Pachelbel, whereas Johann Krieger was the pupil of another of Wecker's pupils, Heinrich Schwemmer, Kapellmeister at St Sebaldus. There are also influences of Froberger, as Johann Philipp Krieger, elder brother of Johann, was a pupil of Froberger's pupil Johann Drechsel.

Hans-Leo Hassler was a composer at the transition from the renaissance to the baroque. He was the first German composer who went to Italy to study with the Gabrielis in Venice. For most of his life he was in the service of the powerful Fugger family. He left a large oeuvre of secular and sacred vocal music which has hardly been explored as yet. It also includes keyboard works; here we hear two intabulations of secular pieces from the so-called Turin Tablatures, and played at the regal. Such intabulations were quite common at the time. That said, I would have preferred some original organ pieces which are poorly represented in the catalogue.

Johann Staden was, from 1618 until his death, organist of St Sebaldus, the most important musical position in Nuremberg. Few keyboard works have been preserved; most of them are also included in the Turin Tablatures. Allamanda varirt is a short sequence of variations on the famous tune of More Palatino. Staden's pupil Johann Erasmus Kindermann is described in New Grove as a composer of the "most imaginative and adventurous music written in Nuremberg". He went to Italy to study and was influenced by the likes of Monteverdi and Cavalli. It seems likely that he knew Frescobaldi and Carissimi as well, as he published his own music alongside compositions by them. In 1640 he became organist of the Egidienkirche, the third important post. The Drifache Fuga recorded here is a remarkable piece as it combines three chorales about Christ's Passion, death and resurrection.

Paul Hainlain is one of the lesser-known names in the programme. He was active as organist and trombonist. In 1655 he succeeded Kindermann as organist of the Egidienkirche, and two years later he became organist of St Sebaldus. The Capriccio is his only extant keyboard work. When he died in 1686 he was succeeded by Georg Caspar Wecker who had been organist in several 'minor' churches. Very little music from his pen has been preserved. Six keyboard works have come down to us, and Ralf Waldner plays excerpts from one of them, the Partita (or Suite) in a minor. It does not yet follow the model of the French suite which was introduced into Germany by Froberger.

Wecker died in 1695 and was succeeded by his most important pupil, Johann Pachelbel. He was the greatest organist of southern Germany in his time whose influence spread across Germany. Before being appointed as organist of St Sebaldus he had worked in towns like Eisenach, Erfurt and Stuttgart. During his time in Thuringia he maintained close ties with the Bach family. He left a considerable corpus of vocal and instrumental music. His keyboard works rank with the most important in 17th-century Germany. Among them are various partitas on chorales, such as Freu sich sehr, o meine Seele. According to the track-list it is recorded here for the first time, which refers to the fact that Waldner plays it in a copy by Nikolaus Gerber which in some respects differs from the version which is usually performed. It is mostly played on the organ, but as it has no pedal part it is certainly suitable for the harpsichord. Such pieces were not only intended for ecclesiastical, but also for domestic use.

The Krieger brothers were from Nuremberg, but held no positions here. Johann Philipp spent most of his life as Kapellmeister at the court of Sachsen-Weissenfels. The largest part of his extant oeuvre comprises sacred cantatas. Only three keyboard works have been preserved, among them the Toccata and fugue in a minor which shows the influence of Frescobaldi and Froberger. Johann worked for 53 years in Zittau as organist and director chori musici. Two collections and a number of pieces preserved in manuscript document his skills as a keyboard composer. The Giacona in g minor is based on a basso ostinato which is repeated 29 times.

Benedict Schultheiß was also a pupil of Wecker. He held various positions as organist and was appointed in this capacity in the Egidienkirche in 1687. He published two collections of suites for the harpsichord, and was the first in Germany to follow the above-mentioned pattern of the French suite, with its sequence of allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. Technically they are not very demanding as they were aimed at the amateur market.

The last composer represented on this programme, Johan Joachim Agrell, is the odd man out as he was of Swedish origin. He went to Kassel in 1723 at the invitation of Prince Maximilian of Hesse. In 1746 he became Kapellmeister in Nuremberg. His keyboard works were published in several countries; the sonatas op. 2 were printed in Nuremberg in 1748. These pieces tend towards the galant idiom which was about to become dominant in the mid-18th century. With this music we are firmly in the 18th century. At that time there still was a kind of Nuremberg School in keyboard music, although of a different kind. It was more or less secularized as it was the form of the keyboard concerto which became its main focus. It is useful to refer here to a recording of three keyboard concertos by Georg Wilhelm Gruber (1729-1796) with Arthur Schoonderwoerd and the Ensemble Cristofori.

Ralf Waldner has produced a most interesting disc of little-known music. It is very useful and illuminating that the pieces he has selected are presented in their historical context. It shows the stylistic development from the late 16th to the mid-18th centuries. This production is even more attractive because of the use of four different keyboard instruments. This bears witness to the variety of instruments which coexisted during the 17th and 18th centuries. Waldner delivers technically immaculate and compelling performances. The booklet includes much information about the composers and the music but also about the instruments, with some very nice pictures. The only regret is that Waldner decided to use the motor in the organ for the wind production rather than bellow treaders as was common practice in the baroque era. That would have made the organ breathe more naturally.

Even so, every lover of early keyboard music will be interested in this survey of repertoire which has largely remained under the radar.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

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