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Matthias WECKMANN (c. 1616-1674]
Complete Organ Works
Léon Berben (organ)
rec. 2020, St. Jakobi, Lübeck (SACD 1); 2019, St. Stephanus, Tangermünde (SACD 2)
AEOLUS AE-11261 SACD [72:27 + 78:29]

This latest release from the German label Aeolus will appeal to all enthusiasts of organ music of the North German Baroque, of which Matthias Weckmann (sometimes spelt Weckman) was a significant exponent. I was amazed to see how much of his music is represented on disc, though I have admit that this is my first encounter with his music.

Weckmann was born in Niederdorla, Thuringia around 1616. His initial training took place in Dresden with Heinrich Schütz as a chorister at the Saxon Court, where he came under the influence if the Italian style. This would influence his own compositional style in later years. Organ studies followed in Hamburg under Jacob Praetorius at Saint Peter's Church. Whilst here he became familiar with North German organ music and its rich, highly developed tradition. Around 1637 he took up a post as court organist in Dresden. In 1655 he became organist at the Jacobikirche in Hamburg, where he founded a Collegium musicum. He died on 24 February 1674 and was buried in the Jacobikirche.

The collection opens with Praeambulum Primi toni a 5 which begins dramatically and whose keyboard figurations sound improvisatory in character. The Fuga exD ped. primi reveals Weckmann’s adept contrapuntal skills. Magnificat Secundi Toni consists of four verses and dates from 1664. It opens in the grand style, followed by an ornamented chorale theme, then there’s a more reflective section, with the work culminating in triumphant manner. Berben’s registration choices bring a panoply of colour and contrast. The Toccata ex D is cast in the Italian Toccata style, but is benign and soothing in nature. The Lenten chorale Ach wir armen Sünder is cast in three movements. In verse 1 we hear the chorale unadorned in the tenor voice. In the second verse it’s decorated in the soprano voice, returning to the tenor voice in movement three. Its inward qualities add to the appeal of the piece.

Centre stage, and by far the most substantial works are the two large-scale cycles or variations O Lux Beata Trinitas and Es ist das He˙l uns kommen her, the latter being the pičce de résistance in the Weckmann canon. O Lux Beata Trinitas opens in solemn mode, with the second verse delicate and simple. The subsequent verses progress with increasing complexity, with the sixth emerging with nobility and grandeur. Es ist das He˙l uns kommen her is on an even greater scale. It’s a Lutheran hymn in 14 stanzas by Paul Speratus, which when translated means "Salvation now has come for all" and was first published as one of eight songs in 1524 in the first Lutheran hymnal. It consists of seven verses. It peaks at the sixths verse which, at over 11 minutes in length, is a splendid choral fantasia.

My introduction to Weckmann’s organ music has been very positive indeed, and Léon Berben is a splendid advocate and an authoritative proponent. I’m completely won over by his choice of instruments, showcased in spectacular SACD quality sound. Both the organ of St. Jakobi, Lübeck (SACD 1) and that housed in St. Stephanus, Tangermünde (SACD 2) have undergone restorations, the former in 1977-78 and the latter between 1990 and 1994. In each case, the Aeolus engineers have warmly captured the breadth and power of each. The booklet includes a history of both instrument, and the specifications of each are listed at the back. For those who want a complete Weckmann organ works, this new release should do the trick.
Stephen Greenbank 

CD 1 [72:27]
Praeambulum Primi toni a 5 D minor [3:34]
Fuga exD ped. primi Toni D minor [4:48]
Canzon in G major [3:20]
Gott se˙ gelobet und gebenedeyet G major [6:40]
Toccata in E minor [3:50]
Canzon in D minor [3:14]
Ach wir armen Sünder D major [5:54]
Fantasia ex D minor [4:05]
Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott G major [9:08]
Canzon in C minor [5:12]
Nun freut Euch, lieben Christen Gemein G major [6:57]
Toccata dal 12 Tuono C major [3:46]
Canzon del istesso tuono C major [2:08]
Toccata vel Praeludium Primi Toni D minor [2:25]
Magnificat secundi toni G major [7:03]

CD 2 [78:29]
Gelobet seystu Jesu Christ II G major [3:45]
Canzon in C major [3:07]
Gelobet seystu Jesu Christ I G major [11:28]
O Lux Beata Trinitas D minor [25:40]
Toccata ex D D minor [4:08]
Es ist das He˙l uns kommen her G major [29:59]

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