SCHEIDEMANN: Organ Works, Vol. 3 (Julia Brown/ Wolfgang Rubsam) (Naxos: 8.554548)
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Heinrich Scheidemann(c. 1595-1663)
Organ Works Vol. 3
In quantity, quality and historical significance the work of HeinrichScheidemann occupies the dominant position in North German organ music of thefirst half of the seventeenth century. Scheidemann was born around 1595, theson of the organist David Scheidemann. The young Heinrich travelled toAmsterdam in 1611 to study with Sweelinck for three years. In 1625 he succeededhis father as organist at St. Catherine's Church in Hamburg where he also becamethe clerk, and remained there until his death in 1663. Many German organistsstudied with Sweelinck, in fact, the master was known in Hamburg as 'theorganist maker'. Although a school of organ-playing had already flourished inGermany at the turn of the seventeenth century, the work of Sweelinck's pupilsmarked the beginning of the great period of North German organ music thatlasted throughout the seventeenth century. As part of the Hanseatic League, anassociation of merchant towns begun in the mid-twelfth century, Hamburgbenefited from close trading connections with more than two hundred towns,which brought with it a great cultural and economic flourish. By the mid-?¡seventeenthcentury, Hamburg had become one of the most prosperous and wealthy financialand cultural centres in Northern Europe. It was a cosmopolitan, progressivetown with an established musical life. The Hamburg organs were an importantsymbol of the prosperity and power of the free Hanse city. Scheidemann wasorganist for thirty eight years at St. Catherine's, a church that housed one ofthe most beautiful organs in Northern Germany, with its 56 ranks over fourmanuals and pedal. According to Mattheson, Scheidemann's playing was 'nimblewith the hand, merry and full of humour'; he was 'well grounded in the art ofcomposition and his chorale harmonizations were easily playable'. Scheidemannassimilated Sweelinck's language, combining his master's polyphony andvirtuosity with other elements, resulting in a new, independent style. Scheidemann'slarge and impressive surviving output contains settings of the Magnificat, freeworks, extended chorale fantasias, single verse chorale settings and a numberof arrangements of motets by Lassus, Hassler and others.
Scheidemann's brief praeambula are written-down improvisations,composed in a relatively unsophisticated style. Some of them, with the fugaldevelopments, foreshadow the later form of prelude and fugue. Praeambulum inD minor, WV 36, with its three sections, is an example of a"free" prelude for a fully developed North German baroque organ. Praeambulumin F major, WV 39 incorporates motivic repetitions, echo effects andsuggested imitations. Praeambulum in D minor, WV 32, is very brief, witha sequential middle section with descending scales in sequential pattern. The Canzona
in G major is typical of the genre with its light character and noterepetitions at the start of the theme. The writing is typically North Germanwith the ornamented soprano solo, accompanied by the left hand with the bass inthe pedal.
The practice of singing the Magnificat for Saturday Vespers isdescribed in a Hamburg order of liturgy from 1699: 'The organ plays a preludeto the Magnificat. The Magnificat is sung in German, and in this way, it isdivided into four sung sections and whenever a section is over, the organ playsin between until the last verse is sung'. Scheidemann's Magnificat settingsare composed on each of the Church Modes and they each consist of four verses MagnificatVII Toni begins with a four voices plenum. Noteworthy is the third verse,where the ornamented melody is beautifully woven between treble and bass withecho effects.
Intabulations are an often-neglected genre, but an important facet ofthe seventeenth century keyboard literature, and Scheidemann's examples rankamong the finest of the entire tradition. Verbum caro factum est, basedon a motet by Hassler, is a superb example of a "fantasy" styleintabulation where the florid top voice alternates in sections with a floridbass-line. This piece creativelyuses the resources of the North German organ, offering the opportunity tofeature different solo timbres of the instrument in the treble and bass. Jesu,wollst uns weisen is an intabulation of the five-voice Tanzlied Viverlieto voglio by G. Giovanni Gastoldi. It is written in a simple,transparent style. Ego sum panis vivus (after Lassus) is set for asingle manual and pedal, with the figuration focused largely on the top voice.
Scheidemann's broadspectrum of chorale settings includes extended chorale fantasias, such as Wirglauhen all an einen Gall, alternatim verses, and single-?¡verse choralesettings such as Herzlich lieh hab ich dich and Jesu wollst unsweisen. While these two manualiter pieces have a secular dance-likecharacter, Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet is a broad pedaliter setting.
Scheidemann typically begins the multi-verse chorale settings with the cantusfirums in long, sustained notes, often in the pedal. This is the case inthe Christmas chorale Es ist das Heil. The severe Kyrie summum isa good example of the variety of writing employed in alternatim verses.
This setting begins with a full-voiced plenum which is followed by a veryexpressive Christe in four parts, with the chorale tune laid out as a cantusplanus, occasionally lightly ornamented. The last Kyrie conceals thecantus firmus within the polyphony. Some of the multi-verse settings arecontinuous, with no break in between the verses, as in Jesus Christus, unserHeiland. The first three verses are written as bicinia with the cantusplanus is set against an ornamented counterpoint. These gain intensitythrough increasingly complex rhythms and changes in registration, until theentrance of the chorale melody in the pedal. The large North German organ withfully developed pedal encouraged a new manner of writing, where the(ornamented) tune is in the right hand on a solo registration, the pedalplaying a continuo-like bass and the two inner voices filling out the textureon a secondary manual. A beautiful example is the setting of Vater unser, inwhich the melody is presented as a delicately embellished cantus firmus inthe soprano voice. Also noteworthy is the second verse of Gelobet seist du,Jesu Christ.