Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c.1595-1663)
Magnificat I. Toni [12:42]
Magnificat II. Toni [16:07]
Magnificat III. Toni [16:16]
Magnificat IV. Toni [11:27]
Magnificat V. Toni [12:19]
Magnificat VI. Toni [17:46]
Magnificat VIII. Toni [11:01]
Magnificat VII. Toni [10:41]
Untitled ("Magnificat Fantasy VIII. Toni") [10:52]
Karin Nelson (organ)
rec. Örgryte New Church, Gothenburg,16-20 February 2010. DDD
INTIM MUSIK IMCD 116 [53:34 + 62:42]

A pupil of Dutch master Jan Sweelinck, Heinrich Scheidemann is one of the most important of 17th century organ composers. His works have survived the centuries in considerable quantity, not least because of the reputation he gained in his lifetime. The greatness of his music is only slowly becoming more widely acknowledged, and his seven Magnificat settings on this recording by Swedish organist Karin Nelson are, for all their apparent straightforwardness, among his finest works.

There are now several CDs available of Scheidemann's music, almost all of which was written for the organ. Nelson herself has already recorded a disc - volume 2 (8.554203) of 5 in Naxos's edition of Scheidemann's complete organ music. This series is in theory also available on three double CDs on the now apparently defunct label Calcante (CAL 023, 024, 025), the first two volumes of which were reviewed here and here.

Scheidemann's cycle of Magnificat verses is based on the eight psalm tones, Medieval formulas for plainchant recitation. However, Scheidemann's set is in fact incomplete: the Magnificat VII Toni was previously thought to be by him and is included as such in, for example, a Naxos release from 2001 (8.554548). Nelson, however, argues in her doctoral dissertation that, on stylistic grounds, this is not by Scheidemann but by a student. Certainly the hand behind this to date anonymous setting appears less expert, although the work itself clearly follows Scheidemann's models and still has plenty of interest. Meanwhile, there is actually a second Magnificat VIII Toni by Scheidemann, unusually in a single movement, not recorded here but played by Julia Brown on the Naxos volume 5 mentioned above (8.557804).

Like the Magnificat VII Toni, the last piece on this double disc was both anonymous and untitled in the Clausthal-Zellerfeld manuscript, the source of all these works. This lay undiscovered until the 1950s. In Nelson's words, the piece has "the character of a long chorale fantasy on the Magnificat VIII Toni and contains elements reminiscent of the next generation of organ compositions".

From the 15th century onwards Magnificat settings would have been played between texts sung by the congregation. The importance of the Magnificat to daily ritual meant that composers often used the Church's requirement for verses to hone their composition skills. That much is apparent from Scheidemann's authentic settings. They’re all in four verses that bristle with feeling, invention and gloriously uplifting melody. The chorale fantasies, in all but one case the second verse of each Magnificat, are particularly creative and virtuosic, whilst the ricercare third verses are immensely atmospheric.

Nelson performs every work with marvellous technique and understanding. The organ itself is new, the result of a project to reconstruct on scientific principles an organ in the northern German Baroque style, using the Lübeck cathedral organ as a model for its façade.

The sound recording is all one could wish for from an organ recital. The CD booklet is a paragon: notes on the historical significance of the Magnificat, its text in Latin and English, a biography of Scheidemann, a discussion of the music, a description and full specification of the organ, the registrations used for every verse by Nelson, full production details and a two-page colour photo of the beautiful organ, plus one of Nelson herself on the back page, looking friendly and homely!

An outstanding disc in every regard.

Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk

An outstanding disc in every regard.