Weckmann: Organ Works Vol. 2 (Zerer, Wolfgang) (Wolfgang Zerer) (Naxos: 8.5538.50)
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Son of a clergyman, Matthias Weckmann was born in Germany around 1619. He became a favourite pupil of Heinrich Schòtz, and gained a major organ post in Dresden in 1637, before following his mentor to Denmark for a period of five years. It was, however in the years following 1655 that were his most fruitful as a composer. By this time he had become the major organist in Hamburg, the city he made his home until his death in 1674. It was there that he formed an instrumental group of distinction. Further than this we know little of a composer who would have vanished into obscurity, had the interest in Bach's music in the late 19th century not unearthed Weckmann's music. How much had been lost in those years of obscurity is uncertain, but what remained was mainly religious music, including many fine choral works. This is further complicated by music written out by Weckmann, and which was later attributed to other composers. Of his private life, we know he left a son, Jacob, who was also a fine organist.
Most of Weckmann's music comes from his period in Hamburg, where he had at his disposal a large organ of four manuals and pedals. This leads to music that is often on a grand scale. He used a very diverse range of compositional structures, and we find evidence of variations; three, four and five voice passages; writing in canon; settings of motets . Much of it was based on Chorales, but he was also proficient in Toccatas, Canzonas and quite complex fugues. The items included on this disc are basically short in length, but within a short time frame Weckmann makes use of the full instrument. The most imposing work is the Secundus Versus, with a complexity of the writing that is later heard (and greatly admired) in Bach. If Weckmann had a shortcoming, it was a certain lack of immediately memorable melodic invention. This would, however, be untrue of the opening verse of Nun freut euch Liebe, a fine and imposing melody.
The disc includes one of Weckmann's finest works, the Magnificat Secundi, a score in four verses that becomes increasingly complex in the number of organ voices used. That he could also devise many 'new' sounds comes in the intriguing descending passage in the second verse of Nun freut euch Liebe. Equally fascinating is the jaunty theme that the composer puts through many twists and turns in the charming Canzon. The disc ends with the sixth verse of O Lux Reata Trinitas, one of the most imposing pieces written at that time.
The Arp-Schnitger Organ in the Jacobkirche, Hamburg, is the instrument played by Weckmann from 1689. He had enlarged the instrument to sixty stops, four manuals and pedals. It was later renovated, and in two World Wars suffered greatly. The version that was rebuilt after the second war was a very different instrument, brought about by a lack of understanding. However, in 1989-93 Jòrgen Ahrend went back to the description of the Weckmann instrument, and now it comes as close as possible to the 1693 description.