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Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c1595-1663)
Organ Works, Vol. 4

Magnificat 1. toni [12:53]
Benedicam Dominum (after Lassus) [10:19]
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland (III) [03:44]
Praeambulum in F [01:59]
Canzona in F [01:01]
Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist [01:53]
Praeambulum in d minor [02:22]
Mensch, willst du leben seliglich [06:49]
In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr (II) [06:20]
Praeambulum in g minor [03:19]
O Gott, wir danken deiner Güt [02:56]
Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn (II) [04:55]
De ore prudentis procedit mel (after Lassus)
Magnificat 5. toni [10:43]
Julia Brown, organ
Recorded in September 1999 in the Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, Oregon, USA
NAXOS 8.555876 [79:02]

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Heinrich Scheidemann was one of the most important organists and composers of organ music in the north of Germany in the 17th century. From 1611 to 1614 he studied with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck in Amsterdam, who was the teacher of many more German organists. Scheidemann must have been one of his favourite pupils: when Scheidemann left Amsterdam Sweelinck wrote a canon for him.

In the late 1620s he succeeded his father as organist at the Catharinenkirche in Hamburg. He became a renowned organ teacher himself. One of his pupils was Jan Adam Reinken, who became famous for his chorale variations and whose music has influenced Johann Sebastian Bach.

Many organs in North Germany in Scheidemann's time were pretty sizeable. After an enlargement during his time as organist at the Catharinenkirche Scheidemann had four manuals, pedals and 56 stops at his disposal. Organs like this enabled the organist to use the different divisions of the organ to distinguish the sections of a piece from each other. This practice was used for example in pieces like 'Praeludium' and 'Praeambulum'. Three of this kind of works are played here, and it is a shame the sections are treated not very differently, both in registration and interpretation.

German composers of the 17th century held the classical polyphony of the 16th century in high esteem. This is reflected by Scheidemann's 12 intavolations - with added ornamentation - of motets, mostly by three late 16th century composers: Lassus, Hieronymus Praetorius and Hans-Leo Hassler. Two of Lassus' motets can be heard here: 'Benedicam Domino', a motet in two parts, and 'De ore prudentis procedit mel'. It is not quite clear which function these intavolations had. Perhaps we have to consider them as mere tributes to the composers, perhaps they were used as study material for the art of ornamentation.

This art is amply displayed in the chorale arrangements recorded here. In these Scheidemann followed the example of his teacher Sweelinck. Most arrangements on this disc consist of two or more 'versus', which allow the composer to treat the chorale melody differently every time. Sometimes it appears in the upper part, sometimes in the tenor or the bass. In some instances it is played in straight form, in other cases heavily ornamented. And in 'O Gott, wir danken deiner Güt' the chorale melody is split into two halves, with different metres in each of them.

Scheidemann also composed 8 Magnificat-settings in the eight psalm tones. It seems they were composed as 'alternatim' settings. Apparently the verses Scheidemann composed were to replace the voices in the verses 3, 5, 7 and 9. It is disappointing that the other verses are not sung here and that the opportunity to put these Magnificat-settings in their proper liturgical context has been missed.

In a way this is a feature of this recording. There is nothing really wrong with it, but it just leaves something to be desired. The articulation is basically non-legato, which is historically correct, but here it is a little stereotypical. I would like to hear more differentiation in the articulation. Sometimes the 'gap' between two notes could be wider, by making the first note shorter. Some transitional passages get a little too much attention. After all not every note is equally important.

The organ used here was built in 1976. It doesn't seem to be a 'copy' of some historical organ, but it is built according to historical principles. That is also reflected by the use of an unequal temperament. It is developed by Herbert Anton Kellner, pretending to be a temperament which does justice to the one Bach knew. Apart from the speculative character of this temperament, I donít think this is the most appropriate for the music of Scheidemann. I would strongly prefer a kind of mean-tone temperament, which was in vogue in the 17th century in Germany. In that case the chromaticism in the Praeambulum in g minor, for instance, would have come across much stronger than is the case here.

The booklet contains informative liner notes by Keith Anderson, and the disposition of the organ. I regret that the registration of the individual pieces hasn't been added. And since composers like Scheidemann were aiming at expressing the text of vocal pieces in their organ arrangements I strongly advocate the printing of those texts. They are sorely missed in most recordings of organ music, this one included.

Johan van Veen

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