The frontispiece of this disc is a little misleading. It refers to
the organ which Martin Rost plays. However, the music he has selected is by
composers who worked or lived in Hamburg, mostly in the capacity of organist
of one of the main churches. There is no direct connection between their
music and this particular organ. It was built by Friederich Stellwagen
between 1653 and 1659. Through the centuries it has undergone various
changes, and was restored to its former glory between 2003 and 2008.
Stellwagen was a pupil of Gottfried Fritzsche, who built several organs in
Hamburg. For that reason the Stralsund instrument is in the tradition of
organ building in northern Germany and Hamburg in particular. One of the
features of the latter is that organs which were adapted or rebuilt always
remained close to the work of previous builders. This resulted in a vibrant
continuity which is reflected in the music composed by organists who were
employed in Hamburg in the 17th and early 18th centuries. There were many
jobs for organists in Hamburg. The city included five principal churches,
the Cathedral - which was not under the jurisdiction of the city council -
and many smaller churches and chapels in the various parts of the
The programme of this disc includes music by some of the most famous
organists who worked in Hamburg. Jakob Praetorius was from a family of
organists whose father and grandfather were active in this capacity in the
Jacobikirche. Jacob (II, the younger) was organist of the Petrikirche having
been appointed in 1604. He studied for several years with Sweelinck in
Amsterdam. Christum wir sollen loben schon
may originally have been
part of a larger variation cycle.
Another Sweelinck pupil was Heinrich Scheidemann, son of David
Scheidemann who was organist in Wöhrden in Holstein and was appointed
organist of St. Katharinen in Hamburg in 1604. As late as 1629 he was
organist at the same church as his father's successor. He held this position
until his death. Dirung his time there he initiated the enlargement of the
organ by Fritzsche to an instrument of four manuals and pedal. A relative
large part of his keyboard oeuvre has been preserved, thanks to its wide
dissemination for which his colleagues in northern Germany were responsible.
It bears witness to the great and widespread appreciation of his
compositions. The influence of Sweelinck comes to the fore in his use of the
echo technique, for instance in the upper voice of the Fantasia in G
The second variation on Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott
embellished. Towards the end he turns to the echo technique again.
Scheidemann's oeuvre includes various intabulations. Sometimes these are
pretty strict adaptations of vocal items for the organ. Alleluia, laudem
is based on a motet by Hans-Leo Hassler and is more an
arrangement than a transcription as he reduces the number of voices and adds
extended embellishments to the upper voice.
His successor at St. Katharinen was Johann Adam Reincken who was
especially famous for his variations which exerted a great attraction on
Johann Sebastian Bach. He made a copy of Reincken's large-scale chorale
fantasia on An Wasserflüssen Babylon
. It is a highly virtuosic
work in which he makes use of the various variation techniques which were in
vogue at the time. He was greatly surprised when he heard Bach improvise on
the same chorale tune, as he thought that his art of variation had died
Several musicians from central Germany settled in Hamburg, among
them Christoph Bernhard, a pupil of Heinrich Schütz. He was
from 1664 to 1674 as successor to Thomas Selle. Another
Schütz pupil was Matthias Weckmann who was a member of his chapel,
first as a singer and then as organist. He went to Hamburg to study with the
above-mentioned Jacob Praetorius and also had close contacts with
Scheidemann. He had several posts, for instance in Denmark, and returned to
Hamburg in 1655 where he was appointed as organist of the Jacobikirche. It
was at his instigation that Bernhard was given the position of
. Weckmann played a central role in the city's musical
life. He founded a collegium musicum
which gave weekly concerts in
the Cathedral. Many of his organ works are highly virtuosic and elaborate.
One can understand that his audition which led to his appointment as
organist was called spectacular. The three verses on Nun freut euch,
lieben Christen gmein
show an increasing freedom in the treatment of the
chorale melody. The second is highly embellished, the third includes some
striking and daring harmonies.
Johann Nicolaus Hanff is also from Central Germany; he was born in
Thuringia. He lived in Hamburg for two periods, apparently without a
position as organist. Johann Mattheson writes that he was Hanff's pupil from
1688. He was appointed organist in Eutin in 1696 at the latest, and after
the death of his employer, the Prince-Bishop of Lübeck, he returned to
Hamburg. Very few organ works from his pen have come down to us: just six
chorale preludes. The cantus firmus
is in the upper voice and is
highly embellished. Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott
is different from
the others as it comprises two sections, the second of which is a fugue.
Vincent Lübeck was one of the last great organists in the
North-German tradition. His first post was that of organist in Stade, from
1674 to 1702. Here he played a large organ by Arp Schnitger. When he was
appointed as organist of the Nikolaikirche in Hamburg he played an even
larger organ of the same builder, with four manuals and 67 stops, one of the
largest in the world and considered the best in Hamburg. Lübeck was a
virtuoso at the organ and a sought-after teacher. He was also active as an
organ consultant. Only nine organ works have survived which include many
brilliant scales and pedal solos. The Praeludium in d minor
that Lübeck links up with the tradition of the stylus
of the North-German organ school.
Two composers remain to be mentioned. Hardly anything is known about
Johann Decker, who from 1624 until his death was organist of the Cathedral.
The Praeambulum in e minor
is the only extant work from his pen.
Lastly Telemann: he was appointed Musikdirektor
of the main churches
in 1721. However, he had no duties as organist, and organ music takes a very
small part in his huge oeuvre. Most of his compositions in this department
are written for either harpsichord or organ and omit a part for the pedal.
That is also the case with the two pieces recorded here.
Martin Rost is an expert in the field of historical organs and is
organist of the St. Marien since 1997. He has made many recordings of 17th-
and 18th-century repertoire, partly on his 'own' organ. Therefore we can
expect stylish interpretations in which the features of the organ are
demonstrated. He avoids a demonstration of the features of the organ: the
music comes first and he adapts his registration to the character of every
single piece. This disc bears witness to the magnificence of the Stellwagen
organ and to the brilliance and depth of the music written by the great
masters of the North German organ school.
Johan van Veen