|Site review by Geohominid July 17, 2012
Performance: Sonics (MC):
|Heinrich Scheidermann (c.1596-1663) grew up in a small town in Holstein where his father was the organist (and also the organist at St Catherine's Church in Hamburg, at that time a rich Hanseatic city). Naturally Heinrich was given organ lessons by his father, which he followed up in Amsterdam from 1611-14, where he was one of Sweelinck's most talented pupils. By 1628 he had succeeded his father as organist at the Catherine Kirche in Hamburg, and he held the position until his death from plague.
He himself had two pupils at Hamburg; Johan Adam Reincken and Dietrich Buxtehude, who also became important composer/organists of the early Baroque. As well as being revered for his organ compositions, technical prowess and additions to the Catherine organ, Schneidermann was respected for his jovial approach to life and his treatment of everyone with openness and merriment, which aspects of his character find their way into his music.
Scheidermann's output had considerable influence on the development of Baroque organ music. Following Sweelinck, he made full use of an organ's resources, and was involved with organ builders in adding to existing resources. Unlike contemporaries Schütz, Scheidt and Schein who composed in a variety of genres, apart from a few songs and harpsichord pieces, Scheidermann devoted himself to the organ. Some of these were free works, i.e. were not concerned with the Lutheran Liturgy. Several examples of free works are on this disc, including the Galliarda and Variato WV 107. This is played with stops including a Quintadin 8', Gemshoorn 2' and Vox Humana, which give a wonderfully buzzy imitation of the wind instruments of a Renaissance dance band. There is also Padua Lachrymae WV 106, a set of variations after English lutenist John Dowland's famous song, another reminder of the Renaissance.
One of Scheiderman's main achievements was the development of the Lutheran chorale settings, from simple cantus firmus arrangements to chorale preludes and choral fantasias, which were original inventions of the composer. Again, Leo van Doeselaar plays a good selection of these. The programme aptly ends with one of the finest of Scheidermann's extended chorale fantasias, based on the Lutheran rallying hymn 'Ein Feste Burg', which lasts for over 13 minutes and is full of energy and brilliant invention. Doeselaar plays it with a gamut of colour from his organ which enhances its stature and is very satisfying. Other liturgical pieces include the Kyrie WV 12, played instrumentally rather than sung in the Lutheran Mass early in the Baroque.
The disc opens with a Motet by Hans Leo Hassler (1574-1612), reminding us of a remarkable predecessor of Schneiderman's generation. Hassler spent some time in Venice, and brought back over the Alps many of the newly-hatching features of the Baroque, such as polychoral styles, and a variety of new forms (as yet not fully defined) such as motets, ricercars and toccatas, several examples of which are also represented in the Scheidermann tracks. Hassler's complex motet launches itself with a near-full organ registration, and is majestic and brilliant, decked out with fiery mixtures and echoes from manual to manual. Hassler also produced a landmark publication of a Psalm Book, with 52 settings of chorale melodies in his elaborate motet form, and this was an inspiration to other organist/composers, Schneidermann included.
It is known that during his time of study Schneiderman played one of Amsterdam's great 'Town Organs' as they were called, and was much impressed, later introducing some similar registers to the Hamburg organ. The Hargerbeer organ at the Pieterskerk, Leiden is an ideal instrument for Schneidermann's works. Many of its pipes date back to the first organ in 1446, and others from 1512. The present restoration of the organ in 1994-1998 makes this instrument the only remaining Dutch "Town Organ".
From the cover photograph, you can see what a splendid Rococo case the organ has; incredibly imposing, with wing-like doors on both the Rückwerk and Hauptwerk divisions. It is known that Schneiderman played one of Amsterdam's great 'Town Organs' as they were called during his study period. MDT turned to the Hargerbeer organ at the Pieterskerk, Leiden. Many of its pipes date back to the first organ there in 1446, as well as others from 1512. The present restoration of the organ in 1994-1998 makes this instrument the only remaining Dutch "Town Organ". You can see the sumptuous Rococo style of the organ case on the disc's cover photograph, with many gilded towers and elaborate doors like wings to the Rückpositive and Hauptwerk departments. The organ has mean temperament, which means that in some keys there are out-of-tune notes for modern ears. The pitch is low at a' = 417Hz. In any case, Schneidermann seems to enjoy harmonic clashes in many of his works.
Leo van Doeselaar is the organist at the Pieterskerk, and thus very familiar with the instrument. He provides an essay on the development of Dutch "Town Organs" for the booklet, and his playing is simply superb, drawing out the varied resources of this splendid organ and giving us a picture of Schneidermann's mastery which is most convincing.
MDG's recording is exemplary, with plenty of ambience and little reverberation to smudge the image of the organ. This is a 2+2+2 recording, and I regret that I don't have the additional height speakers, for looking at the organ's high-stacked construction suggests that the multichannel sound could be even better than the 5.1 set up I was using. Unreservedly recommended.
Organ-lovers will appreciate the scholarship and high technical quality which has gone into this project, and it is an excellent way into Schneidermann's music and its legacy, which fuelled much of JS Bach's inspiration. The music is varied and hold's one's interest; full marks to the jovial composer.
Copyright © 2012 John Miller and SA-CD.net