When the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was over German musical
life struggled to regain its former glory. It was not going to
happen overnight. Even so, the second half of the 17th century
saw a pretty large number of compositions being published. In
addition a respectable corpus of music can be found in various
This disc presents examples of both: the works by Dietrich Becker
come from his collection 'Musicalische Frühlings-Früchte' which
was published in Hamburg in 1668 and which gave this disc its
title. The anonymous compositions and the works by Christian
Flor are from unpublished manuscripts.
The programme on this disc is interesting for various reasons.
Firstly, although Becker and Flor are not unknown quantities – each
has been recorded before. They aren't household names either,
and most of the music on this disc is recorded here for the first
Secondly the music is not what one would expect from composers
working in the north of Germany. The composers in this region
were mostly influenced by the Italian style - the so-called 'stylus
phantasticus' - which was especially translated in the organ
music of, among others, Dietrich Buxtehude. They usually mixed
this with typical German elements including the use of counterpoint.
And if they wrote dance movements these were often favoured English
consort music which was introduced in Germany by William Brade.
What we get here are examples of the French style.
Christian Flor was born in Oldenburg in Holstein - now part of
the German state of Schleswig-Holstein - and probably a pupil
of Scheidemann or Tunder. His first job was as organist in Rendsburg,
and later in Lüneburg. Here a manuscript has been preserved which
contains a number of harpsichord suites. These are fully French
in style, despite the fact that the first two of the three movements
of the Suite in d minor have Italian titles: aria and corrente.
The concluding movement is called sarabande. All of them are
followed by a 'variatio' - stylistically nothing else than a
The Suite in C contains the four classical movements of a French
keyboard suite: allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue. Interestingly
the suite opens with a 'praeludium' which was often preceding
a suite and used to test the instrument and the tuning. It is
strongly improvisatory in style and reminiscent of the North-German
toccata. Jörn Boysen has used this prelude as an excuse, as it
were, to improvise his own prelude at the start of the Suite
in G. That is a good idea but I think it is too long: it lasts
longer than any of the movements of the suite itself, and that
is a bit odd. I also have some reservations in regard to the
style of this prelude. This suite is different from the Suite
in C in that it begins with a 'ballet' and closes with two minuets.
Interestingly the middle movement, which is called 'air Rolandi',
is an arrangement of a piece from Lully's opera Roland.
Dietrich Becker was born in Hamburg. He was educated as a keyboard
player and violinist. After having worked in Ahrenburg, in Sweden
and in Celle he moved to Lübeck and then returned to Hamburg
where in 1662 he became a member of the Ratsmusik. In 1668 he
was appointed as Kapellmeister
of the city, and as a sign
of his appreciation he dedicated his collection 'Musicalische
Frühlings-Früchte' to the city council.
The disc begins with the Sonata and Suite in G, a combination
of Italian and French elements which is remarkable, considering
the fact that the mixture of Italian and French elements in German
music is a phenomenon of the 18th century. The combination of
sonata and suite is characteristic for Becker. The sonata is
written in the 'stylus phantasticus' and consists of several
short contrasting sections. Here we find the typical mixture
of Italian and German elements. But the suite then contains the
four dances which were the model of the French keyboard suite
as indicated above. In fact, Becker was the first in Germany
to write suites in the sequence of allemande-courante-sarabande-gigue.
The Sonata in G - without a suite - is partly French too: the
last section is a gigue.
This disc also contains two anonymous suites. They have been
preserved in the so-called 'Düben-collection', a manuscript with
music from North Germany, compiled by Gustav Düben, a German
composer working at the court in Stockholm and friend of Buxtehude.
These suites are unashamedly French: the Suite No 1 begins with
an overture in the style of Lully and ends with a chaconne, which
was so frequently used by French composers both in operas and
in instrumental music.
The Suite No 2 begins with an 'entrée' and the second movement
is a 'tombeau'.
As strongly French as msot of the music on this disc may be,
it is nevertheless also clearly German. There is more counterpoint
than in genuine French music, and it is hard to imagine French
composers of the 17th century making use of such strong dissonances
as we find here in the overture of the anonymous Suite No 1 or
the chromaticism of the 'final' from the Suite No 2.
The disc ends with a vocal piece which Christian Flor wrote at
the occasion of the wedding of his friend Heinrich Elers, pastor
of St Johannis in Lüneburg, where Flor was acting as organist.
The name of his bride is mentioned in the text: Margret-Katrina
Langen, which gave the poet an opportunity to play with the name
'Langen' (long) and the verb "verlangen" (longing).
It is exploited by Flor by setting 'Langen' on a particularly
long note. This piece is a combination of a song with basso continuo
and an instrumental dance suite. Allemande, courante, sarabande
and gigue plus a ballo are played as ritornellos between the
On this disc Musica Poetica presents a fascinating and very entertaining
programme of first-rate music which shed a light on an aspect
of North German music which is too often overlooked. When in
2007 several recordings were released of Dietrich Buxtehude's
keyboard music the strong French flavour of his suites was remarkable.
This disc shows he wasn't the only composer to be influenced
by the French style.
The playing is through and through German and rightly so. There
are strong dynamic accents and a clear articulation. The sound
is very transparent - which is especially important in the polyphonic
sections - and brilliant. Jörn Boysen plays the harpsichord pieces
very well, although sometimes I found his tempi a bit too slow.
Most pieces on this disc are recorded here for the first time,
but that is not the case with Flor's Suite in C. In contrast
to what is indicated in the booklet it was recorded previously,
by Richard Egarr on a disc with violin sonatas by Paolo Mealli
(with Andrew Manze on Channel Classics). Egarr plays three suites
(also one in A and one in d minor, different from the Suite in
d minor recorded here). In the booklet he writes about suites
which probably can be attributed to Flor. It would be interesting
to know why in the booklet of this disc there is no reference
to any uncertainty about the authorship of Flor at all. Has the
authenticity of these suites been established since Egarr made
I think very highly of this disc and I hope that more of both
Flor and Becker will be recorded.
Johan van Veen