|Founder: Len Mullenger|
THE ORGAN WORKS OF Heinrich
|Werner Breig and Gustav Folk began the publication of Scheidemann’s
music around 1970. Cleveland Johnson, one of the performers on these CDs,
only recently completed the publication, and this ambitious recording project
is the final step in this process. This is the second of the three double
CD volumes, which together presents the Scheidemann organ oeuvre.
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 in reaching an understanding of the ways and degree to which the composer was influenced by the world that surrounded him.
Without doubt, Scheidemann was one the leading German composers of the 17th century. He was organist at the Catharinenkirche, in Hamburg, which was by his time the flourishing commercial and artistic center of North Germany. The musical life there offered very good opportunities for collaborations and friendship between musicians. Organ building during Scheidemann’s life was in a state of change and rebirth, which actually influenced the way composers were thinking. Scheidemann, was a pupil of Sweelinck, and his works carry his teacher's influence. This extends Sweelinck’s style into a specific organ idiom by employing the technical and music 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/Scnitger organ in Stade was the first large, historically significant organ to be restored by Ahrend during 70s 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 Scheidemann’s organ in Catharinenkirche to four manuals. This organ ‘incorporates Fritzsche’s concept of split keys for enharmonic pitches (D#/Eb and A/G#)’ and thus this organ too proved to be ideal for this music.
This volume is made with more care than the previous one and certainly the result is far more pleasing.
As far as the playing is concerned, Cleveland Johnson’s performances are good most of the time. His chosen registrations are quite imaginative and colorful and his playing extends the academic limits. There is also a good sense of articulation, based on early fingerings, which presents a pleasant inégalité. Unfortunately this inégalité is applied selectively only to short motifs and not to semi-quaver patterns. Sometimes also, there is not enough vocal presentation to pieces with vocal character and the playing is static.
Claudia Heberlein Johnson’s performances in this volume are much too academic. A distinctive vocal or instrumental treatment of the different forms of the pieces is lacking and the playing for be too 'square'. The endings are rushed without the appropriate breathing. The chosen registrations in this volume seemed to work quite well though.
As a whole, these recordings do justice to Scheidemann’s music, but a more inspired playing would certainly help the music.
OBTAINABLE FROM: www.calcante.com
Bradley Lehman is a proponent of the clavichord,
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