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Johann Adam REINCKEN (c.1640-1722)
Toccata in A [06:11]
Ballet, Partite diverse [13:37]
Suite in a minor (attr.) [11:11]
Toccata in g minor (attr.) [06:09]
Fugue in g minor (attr.) [03:56]
Suite in C [12:42]
Holländische Nachtigall [02:29]
Schweiget mir vom Weiber nehmen, oder: Die Meierin, Partite diverse [16:54]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1650-1750)
Prelude in C (after Reincken) (BWV 966) [02:20]
Clément Geoffroy (harpsichord)
rec. 2017, Eglise Sainte-Aurélie, Strasbourg
ENCELADE ECL1705 [73:12]

One thing every performer of early music must deal with is the fact that some music has been preserved without the name of the composer or that works are attributed to different composers in various sources. This is also the case here. The disc is presented as a programme of keyboard music by Johann Adam Reincken, but several pieces are of doubtful authenticity.

Reincken was an important man in Hamburg where he lived and worked for most of his life. He was active as one of the town's organists, but only a few organ works have come down to us. Two chorale fantasias were definitely intended for the organ, whereas some free organ works (toccatas, fugue) can either be played on the organ or the harpsichord. In addition, there are eight suites and three sets of variations that were written for harpsichord or other stringed keyboard instruments.

Clément Geoffroy opens his programme with a piece attributed to several composers, but that is now (thanks to research by the musicologist Pieter Dirksen) generally considered to be by Reincken's pen. The Toccata in A is a typical example of how members of the North-German organ school composed a toccata. It is based on the stylus phantasticus, originated in Italy. It comprises several sections of a contrasting character; some are of an improvisatory nature, others dominated by imitative polyphony, including fugal episodes. In the improvisatory sections one notes the brilliance for which the organists of northern Germany were famous.

After this we have the first set of variations. The Ballet in C is called partite, then the usual term for a sequence of variations. The theme is followed by eleven variations, some of which are brilliant, others more introverted and intimate. Holländische Nachtigall is a rather short piece, consisting of variations on a tune that has become best known in the variations for recorder by Jacob van Eyck (Engels nachtegaeltje). Much larger and more ambitious is the set of variations known as Schweiget mir vom Weiber nehmen, or Die Meyerin. It was printed in Amsterdam around 1710 in a collection that also includes VI Suites. Reincken's variations are not very different from those suites, as they were written in the form of dances, which was not uncommon. Buxtehude did the same in his chorale variations on Auf meinen lieben Gott. The song Reincken used for his variations was introduced by Johann Jakob Froberger who established the standard form of the suite: allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. Reincken follows this form in his Suite in C. It is notable that there is here a thematic similarity between the four dances, which lends a kind of coherence to this piece.

The other works in the programme are of doubtful authenticity. Geoffroy tends to think that the Suite in A minor may be from the pen of Johann Pachelbel. It is included in the same collection as Reincken's variations on Schweiget mir vom Weiber nehmen. The publisher, Estienne Roger, does not give the names of the composers. The Toccata and the Fugue in G minor are connected here but are in fact separate pieces that could well have been written by different composers. Even so, there is a strong stylistic similarity between them, and playing them as if belonging together makes much sense. The toccata is again written in the stylus phantasticus.

Johann Adam Reincken was highly esteemed in his time and the young Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the composers he influenced. Bach visited Hamburg in 1720 and played in Reincken's presence but he had before already become acquainted with music by the old master, including his only collection of instrumental music, published as Hortus Musicus in 1688. Bach transcribed some of these partitas – scored for two violins, viola da gamba and basso continuo – for harpsichord, among them the third in C. It is incomplete and Geoffroy only plays the prelude.

This disc more or less offers what one would expect based on its title. Because of the inclusion of several pieces of doubtful authenticity, it cannot be called an introduction to the art of Reincken. However, there is much stylistic coherence within the programme and therefore, it gives a good impression of the keyboard style in northern Germany of which Reincken was a brilliant exponent.

I am very happy with the way Clément Geoffroy performs his programme. He has an impressive technique that he uses to great effect, giving an expressive and imaginative performance of the pieces selected. The improvisatory traits in the various pieces, especially the toccatas, succeed perfectly. Geoffroy is not afraid to take some freedom, including in his ornamentation. The tempi are well chosen; some are very fast, such as the Fugue in G minor, others, especially the sets of variations and the suites, have some wonderful slow sections. He has chosen a very fine instrument for his recital, meaning a modern copy of an instrument by Ruckers – one of the most famous harpsichord makers of the 17th century. Its brilliant sound perfectly suits Reincken's music.

Johan van Veen

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