DAS BUXHEIMER ORGELBUCH, Vol. 2 (Joseph Payne) (Naxos: 8.553467)
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DASBUXHEIMER ORGELBUCH VOLUME 2
The 15thcentury was a period of great richness in the history of organ music,particularly in Germany, and manuscript sources proliferate compared to theprevious century. But many are fragmentary or didactic, and only two containbona fide organ music exclusively. Perhaps the most important, certainly thelargest, is a collection containing more than 250 pieces at the Bavarian StateLibrary in Munich. It presents a conspectus of all the categories of keyboardforms known up to that time - liturgical pieces on plainchant themes,transcriptions of songs and motets of Flemish, German and English provenance,preludes and teaching examples - serving, perhaps, as a workbook for activechurch organists.
Until 1883the manuscript was preserved at a Carthusian monastery in the small Bavariantown on the Iller that bears its name. Das Buxheimer Orgelbuch reveals the workof at least eight different hands (though the first 124 folios were recorded bya single scribe) written between 1450 and 1470, presumably in Munich. They useda form of 'tablature' notation in which the uppermost line is written on astaff with everything below that in letters; not unlike the guitar symbolspublished in modern popular music.
The name ofConrad Paumann (c.1410-1473), a musician of international importance at thetime, appears only once in the manuscript; but there is an abundance ofsurrounding evidence indicating that he looms as the principal figure in itscreation, if not directly responsible for much of the music contained therein.
As he was blind, he could not have written down any of it himself and it isreasonable to assume that his pupils played an active part in the transmissionprocess. The manuscript also includes intabulations and arrangements ofwell-known polyphonic ensemble pieces by Dunstable, Binchois, Ciconia, Dufaye,Morton and Frye, whose famous names are sometimes given but more often not.
Then there are others whose identities are vague, and it is hard to ascertainwhether Putenheim, Gotz, or Boumgartner, for example, are the composers ofworks that have been adapted for the keyboard or whether they are, in fact,real composers of music specifically written for keyboard instruments.
Displayingthe stylistic culmination of keyboard composition during its first epochalstage of development rather than heralding a new age, the music of BuxheimerOrgelbuch evokes Gothic resonance. The cantus firmus settings, in particular,seem to preserve some quality of Notre Dame organum. Often the music is markedwith astounding voice crossings, dissonances, and flamboyant polyphonic lines,showing a gradual progression from two-part counterpoint, with a third noteadded now and then to complement the harmony. These denser textures suggest thegenuine four-part writing of a later period. The important preludes anddidactic works, in which the practice of improvisation is implicit, requireinsight into the compositional and performance conventions of the time.
Considerable information is to be gleaned from Johannes Buckner's Fundamentumof about 1525, a work that summarises much of the playing and fingering habitsapplicable to even the earliest tablatures. In the present recordings,Buckner's precepts have been carefully contemplated, with respect to theinterpretation of the singular trill symbol which appears in the text, andother elements of embellishment - flos harmonicus - appropriated to the organfrom the idioms of singing, and plucked and bowed string playing. These werenot fixed for posterity by the composer and fall within the domain of theinterpreting performer. Moreover, the application of musica ficta has beencarefully manipulated - 'by reason of necessity' and 'by reason of beauty' - asare the subjective resolutions to the copious corrupt passages in the manuscriptitself. One is ever aware of an amalgam of older medieval principles of voiceleading with the more uniform, smoother approach to dissonance of themainstream Franco-Burgundian style which seems to be characteristic of much ofthe music in the Buxheim collection.
TheBuxheimer Orgelbuch emerged at a time when organ design, particularly windingmethods, showed indications toward the incipient standardisation of two typesof instruments. There were the small, eminently transportable Portativ organsused in processions and ensemble (Positiv if they were too large to becarried), usually possessing a single rank of metal pipes and having a shortkeyboard range that did not require excessively large pipes. Much larger werethe permanently fixed church instruments that extended the unified Blockwerkconcept. Now came the variety of mixture and mutation stops, as different ranksof pipes could be used separately - the Tierce, Quint, Fourniture and Cymbale.
Reeds are mentioned by Arnaut de Zwolle in his treatise, around 1436, thoughthey were not commonplace in German organs until several decades later.
Mechanically, the organ had already attained all the essential attributes itwas to have until the technical novelties of the 19th century. Organs equippedwith two or three manuals and pedal board were not unknown; indeed, the Buxheimscore sometimes summons the use of pedals with which to emphasize the tenor orcontratenor line, or the execution of an independent bass part.
When JohannChristian Rindt (1670-1744) was commissioned to build an organ for his town'sparish church in 1706, he incorporated two ranks of pipes (Gross Gedact 8' andPrincipal 4' ) from previous instruments that date to the Late Gothic or EarlyRenaissance periods, and thus provided us with an extraordinary sample of anancient 'country' organ aesthetic spanning several centuries. It is the onlyextant organ made by this northern Hessian builder, and served the town churchof St. Johannes at Hatzfeld for over 160 years. After the rebuilding of aromantic organ by Peter Dickel (1868), the Rindt organ was relocated to theEmmaus chapel (formerly St. Cyriax), a twelfth-century edifice overlooking theEder Valley. It remained mute and in disarray until initial efforts by DieterSchneider prompted its complete restoration in 1984 by organ builder GeraldWoehl of Marburg. The original 45-note short-octave keyboard has been retained,along with its cone-tuning (A = 476 Hz), and mean-tone temperament.
@ 1995Joseph Payne