>The Organ Works of Heinrich Scheidemann Vol.1 [ChA]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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In three volumes
Volume 1 - Double CD
Organ Works by Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c1596-1663)

CD 1: -1. Praeambulum in G, 2. Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (2vss.), 3. Magnificat 6. Toni (4vss.), 4. Praeambulum in d, 5. Christ lag in Todesbanden (3vss.), 6. In dich habe ich gehoffet, Herr (setting 1), 7. Fuga in d, 8. Verbum caro factum est, 9. Praeambulum in d 10. Vater unser im Himmelreich (setting 3), 11. Es ist gewißlich an der Zeit (2 vss.) 12. Dixit Maria ad Angelum, 13. Magnificat 5.Toni (4vss.) [72:14]
CD 2:-1. Praeambulum in G, 2. Magnificat 8.Toni, 3. Wir glauben all an einem Gott (2vss.), 4. Omnia quae fecisti nobis, Domine, 5. Praeambulum in d, 6. Jesus Christus unser Heiland (setting 3;2 vss.), 7. Vater user im Himmelreich (setting 1; 3 vss.), 8. Alleluia laudem dicite Deo nostro, 9. Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore, 10. Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr, 11. Canzon in F, 12. Surrexit pastor bonus [70:12]
Cleveland Johnson and Claudia Heberlein Johnson, Organists
Organs in Tangermünde, Stade (Germany) and Wellesley (USA)
Organs by: 1. Hans Scherer the Younger, 1624, in St.Stephens, Tangermünde, Germany, 2. Huß/Schnitger, 1675, in St. Cosmas and Damian, Stade, Germany, 3. Fisk organ,1981, in Houghton Chapel, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA
Recorded: 1996&1997

Werner Breig and Gustav Folk completed the publication of Scheidemanns music around 1970. This is the first of three double CD volumes which together present the Scheidemann organ oeuvre. This ambitious recording project was only recently completed by Cleveland Johnson, one of the performers on these CDs.

These recordings attempt, as the introductory notes inform us, to make most of this large repertoire available, played specifically for its unique needs. The booklet is quite informative about the organs used for the recordings (full specifications and the registrations of each piece). It also gives much needed information about Scheidemann and his world. This is very important thing in reaching an understanding of the ways and degree to which the composer was influenced by the world that surrounded him.

Unfortunately, there are printing errors, as well as a mistake(?) in the title of the CDs. Thus the booklet and CD cover only refer to the organ works of H. Scheidemann, when the CDs have as a title the complete organ works of H. Scheidemann. This is puts the listener on his guard about the reliability of these research-recordings.

Without doubt, Scheidemann was one the leading German composers of the 17th century. He was organist at the Catharinenkirche, in Hamburg, which was the flourishing commercial and artistic centre of North Germany. The musical life there offered very good opportunities for collaborations and friendship between musicians. Organ building during Scheidemanns life was in a state of change and rebirth, which actually influenced the way composers were thinking. Scheidemann, who was a pupil of Sweelinck, and his works carry his teacher's influence. This extends Sweelincks style into a specific organ idiom by employing the technical and musical resources of the North German Baroque organ. His praeambula are of historical importance as they are the ancestors of prelude and fugue form, whereas his chorale arrangements and Magnificat settings are in their finest forms.

The organs used for these recordings present the music properly, with a sound that is historic and pleasing but a real challenge for somebody with perfect pitch, hearing and looking at the score at the same time! The 1624 Hans Scherer the Younger organ in Tangermünde, reconstructed in 1994 by Schuke Orgelbau, must be similar to that Scheidemann would have enjoyed in Catharinenkirche so it gives a proper historical support for the music. The 1675 Huß/Schnitger organ in Stade was the first large, historically significant organ to be restored by Ahrend during 1970s and has proved itself important in the revival and reassessment of a vast repertory of North German music. The 1981 Fisk organ in Wellesley, Massachusetts, though a modern instrument, is based on historic North German organs particularly that of Fritzsche, who enlarged Scheidemanns organ in Catharinenkirche to four manuals. This organ incorporates Fritzsches concept of split keys for enharmonic pitches (D#/Eb and A/G#) and thus this organ too proved to be ideal for this music.

The recordings lack careful editing and the result is occasionally an unbalanced sound, within two consecutive bars. Since these happen to all three organs one cannot blame their age!

As far the playing is concerned I prefer Cleveland Johnsons performances. His chosen registrations are quite imaginative and colorful, though at times they show lack of clarity (8 Flute at the pedal cannot be heard if the manuals are loud enough, but it is a good cover for the player not to play the pedal line!). His playing extends the academic limits and is vocal and instrumental enough to meet the needs of the pieces. There is also a good sense of articulation, based on early fingerings, which presents a pleasant inégalité.

On the other hand, Claudia Heberlein Johnsons performances are much too academic. There are slips at times and also moments when the listener finds it difficult to follow the music even with the score! Vocal or instrumental treatment of the different forms of the pieces are insufficiently distinctive and the playing is rather square. The listener would expect more variety of the chosen registrations, in order to allow the organs to sound at their best.

As a whole, these recordings do justice to Scheidemanns music, but their lack of attention to detail is a negative point and something that may discourgae some listeners.

Christina Antoniadou


OBTAINABLE FROM: www.calcante.com

See review of Volume 2

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