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Vincent LǕBECK (1654-1740)
Praeludium in C [5:46]
Praeludium in g [9:15]
Praeambulum in F [2:59]
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich [1:32]
Praeambulum in E [6:40]
Praeludium in d [8:15]
Nun lasst uns Gott, dem Herren [5:35]
Praeambulum in c [5:00]
Praeambulum in G [5:39]
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ [13:19]
In dulci jubilo [2:58]
Friedhelm Flamme (organ)
rec. St Georg, Grauhof bei Goslar, 14-16 October 2005. DDD
CPO 777 198-2 [67:03]

Vincent Lübeck is an interesting figure in the development of the North German organ tradition. He provides perhaps the most significant late link from the stylus phantasticus, which had reached is zenith with the compositions of Buxtehude and the larger Praeludia of Bruhns, and the music of Bach. Lübeck’s Praeludia place an extended emphasis on contrapuntal passages, whilst, as Friedhelm Flamme perceptively notes in the booklet, the melodic writing and free passages signify a foreshadowing of the gallant. Several works may have been written by Lübeck’s son, namely the partita on In Dulci Jubilo, and the Praeambulae in F and G.

The organ Flamme has selected to record seems to me to be a curious choice. It was built by Christoph Treutmann in 1734-1737 and is the only surviving instrument of the Magdeburg builder. Flamme comments that its mix of Northern and Central German organ building traditions suits the transitional nature of the music well. I take his point, and the organ is undoubtedly very colourful and of superb quality, but to my ear the sound is too Thuringian to ideally suit Lübeck’s still very Northern music. We are fortunate today that two organs in particular survive with which Lübeck was personally associated. The first is the Huß/Schnitger organ at the St Cosmae and Damiani in Stade, where Lübeck himself was organist. The other is the 1721 Schnitger organ at the Grote of St Michaëlskerk in Zwolle, built following a letter of recommendation from Lübeck to the town authorities in Zwolle. The former instrument has already been used in a complete survey of the organ works of Lübeck by Martin Böcker, but the latter instrument has been less recorded in recent times than in the period following its restoration in the 1950s by Flentrop. The organ awaits a mature restoration, but even so it remains immensely poetic and monumental, and is the largest Schnitger organ to have its original winding system intact.

It is precisely the monumental quality of the Zwolle organ that I miss in Flamme’s playing. Lübeck’s free works, despite their transitional nature, confront the player with the same rigorous logic as the free works of Buxtehude. Flamme plays too fast, and too superficially to project the rigour and grandeur of the music. Sometimes I can’t make any sense at all of the tempo relationships between the time signatures. His over-complicated registration-plans in almost all the pieces may reflect the variety of textures in the writing, but don’t reflect the overall structure of the compositions.  Flamme plays with great control, and knows instinctively how to make an optimal sound from a challenging old organ, but for me this isn’t enough.

The interpretation of the North German school of organ music is a thorny issue, and my opinions reflect necessarily my own studies. This CD remains essential listening for anyone who is unfamiliar with Vincent Lübeck’s music. The highlight is perhaps the marvellous chorale fantasia on Ich ruf zo dir, perhaps the last composition of the genre and one of the crowning achievements of the North German musica poetica.

Chris Bragg

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