Neither of these composers are particularly familiar names, but
their pairing on this double SACD hybrid release is an entirely
logical one. Franz Tunder succeeded
Nicolaus Hasse’s father Peter or Petrus Hasse in the post of organist at
St. Mary’s church in Lübeck in 1641. Roughly 10 years senior to Tunder,
Nicolaus Hasse received tuition from his father, who in turn is reputed to have
been a pupil of Jacob Praetorius whose own musical line can be traced to Sweelinck.
Tunder in turn uses Praetorius’ example for his own chorale fantasias.
The familiarity in the titles of the pieces shows how both these composers were
part of a continuum of tradition which carried through to Buxtehude and J.S.
Bach, whose own preludes and choral fantasias represent the pinnacle of baroque
church organ music. The quality of the music on these two discs shows how well
established were these traditions by the mid 17th
century in Germany.
Spread over a nicely balanced programme, Tunder’s Preludes
a similar structure and a more archaic harmonic language than many of the chorale
fantasias. A short toccata-like introduction is followed by a chorale/chordal
sequence, and topped with a four part fugue. The little G minor fragment gets
no further than the introduction. These are attractive works nonetheless, and
form a sort of foundation for the rest of Tunder’s organ works. The chorale
fantasias vary in length and substance, from the relatively brief but delightful Jesus
Christus, wahr’ Gottessohn
to the remarkable Ein feste Burg ist
on disc 1 which is full of technical echo tricks, and shares similar
elaborate counterpoint to both versions of Was kann uns kommen an für
. The Canzona
is an animated little piece showing a lighter, more
playful side to Tunder’s character.
Nicolaus Hasse’s complete known organ works amount to two arrangements
and two chorale fantasias, but he also wrote numerous sacred songs and a miscellany
of occasional works. One might expect the older composer to have a more conservative
approach and this is indeed the case to a certain extent, but there are plenty
of moments in Hasse’s chorale fantasias which approach Tunder’s in
quality and stylistic content, the final work topping everything I terms of duration.
Of the two versions of Jesus Christus, under Heiland, der von uns den Gotteszorn
the first is an arrangement which sets the chorale for full organ,
and the second elaborates the cantus firmus in rather choppy segments, but using
similar echo effects to some of Tunder’s chorale fantasias. The final Komm,
heiliger Geist, Herre Gott
is of a similar structure but has a more ambitious
scale as well as some nicely quirky rising chromatic passages, and is an impressively
virtuoso work with which to close the programme.
Of the two composers, Tunder is the better known, but recordings of his organ
works are hardly thick on the ground, and having them collected here as a complete
set supplemented by Nicolaus Hasse is very much a worthwhile addition to the
organ catalogue. This release is volume VI in CPO’s Organ Works of the
Northern Baroque series, but with clever design this fact is neatly hidden inside
the jewel case insert, so that you don’t feel you’re obliged to chase
other volumes to complete the set or have to look at fragments of incomplete
sets as the titles appear on the shelves. Friedhelm Flamme’s playing is
top notch at all times, with a nice sense of flow and rhythm, tempering academic
accuracy with a pleasant sense of organic freedom. The SACD effect opens the
recording out nicely. Good enough in stereo, the extra sense of space and perceived
dynamic width helps with the organ sound fairly significantly. The organ itself
is by Christian Vater, and the original instrument dates from 1724 with a restoration
dating from 2000. It has a bright, typically baroque sound, but the church has
a pleasantly non-swampy acoustic and listening is in no way a hair-shirt authentic
experience. This is definitely a recording to be enjoyed, not endured. The 16’ principal
bass pipes are particularly impressive, and everything with the instrument is
very nicely in proportion and, as you would hope and expect, entirely suited
to the repertoire. This set of pieces is a breath of North German fresh air,
and will stand proudly in any collection of baroque organ music.