Founding Editor Rob Barnett Senior Editor
John Quinn Seen & Heard Editor Emeritus Bill Kenny Editor in Chief
Vacant MusicWeb Webmaster
David Barker MusicWeb Founder Len Mullenger
Complete Organ Works Martin RADECK (c.1600-1684)
Praeambulum in d minor [03:38]
Canzona in D [03:40]
Fugue in e minor [02:10]
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland [04:33]
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland [04:34] Arnold Matthias BRUNCKHORST (c1670-1725)
Praeludium in e minor [04:35] Johann STEFFENS (1560-1616)
Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein [04:51]
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland [04:12]
Veni redemptor gentium [04:27]
Fantasia in a minor [05:38] Daniel ERICH (1649-1712)
Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ [03:23]
Christum wir sollen loben schon [02:42]
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her [01:42] Christian RITTER (c.1645-c1725)
Sonatina in d minor [04:08] Johann Nicolaus HANFF (1664-1711/12)
Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein [02:25]
Auf meinen lieben Gott [01:21]
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott [02:13]
Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott [03:24]
Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott [01:39]
Helft mir Gott's Güte preisen [01:30]
Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit [01:55]
Friedhelm Flamme (organ Christian Vater, 1721/22)
rec. 22-23 September 2006, Church St. Cosmas und St. Damian, Bockhorn,
CPO 777 271-2
In the 17th century North Germany developed into one of Europe's
centres of organ playing. There was much employment for organists
as there were many - often large - churches in towns and villages,
and many of them had organs built by the best organ builders
of the time. Brilliant builders and brilliant organists mutually
influenced each other. The virtuosity of the organist in the
region required the best instruments and the often innovative
organ building inspired organists to develop their skills.
The result was the emergence of what today is called the 'North-German
organ school'. The most famous representative of that school
is Dietrich Buxtehude, but he is only the tip of the iceberg.
Many organists are forgotten today, in particular those who
left no compositions to evidence their art. Those whose names
we do know have often left only a handful of pieces as this
disc shows. It is one of a series to survey the complete organ
works of the North-German organ school. So far seven discs have
There are two reasons why we know so few organ works of most
representatives of the North-German organ school. First of all,
a number of pieces must have been lost in the course of history.
Secondly, and in this case more importantly, organ music was
almost never printed or even written down. Organists were supposed
to improvise during services, and not to play music written
by someone else. The organ music which has come down to us circulated
in manuscript. It was either written down from memory by someone
who heard an organist play or by the organist himself as teaching
material. Buxtehude is the only composer of the North-German
organ school for whom a substantial number of compositions have
The organ music which was written in this region is generally
characterised with the term stylus phantasticus. In 1650
the theorist Athanasius Kircher described this style as "the
most free and unrestrained method of composing; it is bound
to nothing, neither to words nor to a melodic subject; it was
instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design
of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases
and fugues". This results in compositions which contain
sequences of strongly contrasting sections in which one idea
suddenly makes way for another. Obviously free forms like toccata
and prelude are most suitable to practice this style. But this
disc shows that pieces which are based on hymn tunes also bear
the traces of that style. The hymns invited the composers to
express the Affekte of the texts in their music.
Listening to this disc one is struck by the variety of compositional
techniques these composers used in their chorale-based works.
The two arrangements of the communion hymn Jesus Christus,
unser Heiland by Martin Radeck bear witness to that. The
first is written in the form of a chorale motet in four sections
in each of which one line is elaborated. The chorale melody
appears at the end of every section in the descant. The second
arrangement is very different. The chorale melody appears almost
unornamented in all five episodes, twice in the descant, and
once each in alto, tenor and bass.
Buxtehude wasn't only the main representative of the North-German
organ school, he also had considerable influence on others,
even those who - as far as we know - were never his pupils.
The best example is Johann Nicolaus Hanff, whose seven chorale
arrangements all have the hymn melody as an ornamented cantus
firmus in the upper part. The same is true for Allein
zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ by Daniel Erich. He seems to have
been from Lübeck where Buxtehude worked as organist and he was
probably a pupil of Buxtehude. In Es ist das Heil uns kommen
her the chorale melody is broken up into small segments,
another technique used in chorale arrangements.
In most free forms we find fugal episodes, for instance in the
Praeambulum in d minor by Martin Radeck and in the Praeludium
in e minor by Arnold Matthias Brunckhorst. The former's
Canzona in D begins and ends with a fugal section. And
the Sonatina in d minor by Christian Ritter and the Fantasia
in a minor by Johann Steffens also contain fugal episodes.
All composers in this programme were active as organists in
various cities in northern Germany, and some also worked for
a number of years in Stockholm and Copenhagen. These organists
and others of their ilk were held in high esteem at the time,
and this disc impressively shows why.
Friedhelm Flamme is a skilful organist who has a good understanding
of this particular kind of music, and he delivers good performances
in the tradition of historical performance practice. Much as
I have enjoyed his interpretations, the character of this repertoire
isn't fully explored. Flamme should have allowed himself more
freedom, and also taken more time, for instance for the short
pauses within pieces. I also think his tempi are a bit on the
fast side. The chorale arrangements by Hanff are rather well-known
and often played, and I have heard more captivating performances.
A slower tempo also allows for some variety in the way the ornaments
Obviously the choice of organ is important in this kind of repertoire.
This one was built by Christian Vater in 1721/22. It was modernised
in the 19th century but restored to its original state in 1982/83.
What is particularly important is its tuning which is described
as "unequal temperament". It makes the dissonants
in this music clearly audible, for instance in Brunckhorst's
Praeludium in e minor.
Despite my critical remarks this disc is most welcome, in particular
as it contains several pieces which are hardly known.
Johan van Veen
from previous months Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the
discs reviewed. details We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to
which you refer.