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Like a Phoenix from the Ashes - An Organ Portrait
Gdansk Organ Landscape Vol. 1
Andrzej Mikołaj Szadejko (organ)
Schola (Buxtehude: Magnificat)
Rec. 2019, Franciscan Holy Trinity Church, Gdańsk, Poland
MDG 906 2157-6 SACD [68:07]

Most organs built in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries have considerably changed in the course of history. As they played a substantial role in the liturgy, they were adapted to the taste of the time and the requirements of the music played during the liturgy. Sometimes it is possible to restore such instruments to an earlier stage, and often this requires a considerable amount of reconstruction. The disc under review here is devoted to an instrument that has been entirely reconstructed. The image of a Phoenix rising from the ashes has to be taken literally here, as nothing but the case of the organ at the Franciscan Holy Trinity Church in Gdansk has survived.

The first organ in this church was built in the 16th century, but nothing is known about it. The organ in its present state was built by Kristian Wegscheider on the basis of data of the organ built in the early 17th century, probably by Merten Friese, son of Antonius, the builder of the organ of St Mary's Church in Gdansk, which until the mid-17th century was the largest organ in Europe. In later times several organ builders have extended or adapted the organ. Its history ended in 1914, when Otto Heinrichsdorff from Gdansk built a pneumatic organ in the case. The latter dates from around 1700, as due to the damage of a lightning in 1697 the old case was severely damaged. In 1943 the case was dismantled and taken away for safety reasons. In 1960 the balcony with part of the pedal case facade from 1703 was restored, and behind this a new pneumatic organ was built, in which parts of the instrument of 1914 were incorporated. At the beginning of this century, the Franciscans initiated the reconstruction and rebuilding of the parts of the church around the organ, and it was decided to reconstruct the instrument of the baroque era, on the basis of a concept of Andrzej Szadejko, the organist who recorded the programme presented here. This disc is intended as a demonstration of the possibilities of this instrument.

Recordings which portray an organ focus on the instrument rather than the music. The programme performed here follows the various stages in the history of the old instrument. This means that it spans a period of more than a century, in which the musical style and taste changed. The temperament of the organ is Bach-Kellner, which is best suited to music from the first half of the 18th century. Older repertoire comes off better in a meantone temperament. That said, the programme that has been put together by Szadejko is a very insteresting survey of the kind of repertoire that may have been played on the organ in the baroque era. It also allows for the exploration of the various stops and registrations this instrument has to offer. The booklet includes the organ's disposition and a detailed list of registrations of every single piece.

The programme opens with two Polish connections, a piece from the Danzig Tablature and variations on a Polish dance by Sweelinck. The latter is undoubtedly intended for a strung keyboard, but does very well here and offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the various colours of this organ. With Frescobaldi and composers who were influenced by him we move south. Frescobaldi's Ricercare con l'obbligo della quinte parte is a unique piece in that the composer requires the fifth part to be sung. In some performances this part is sung by one singer on the names of the notes. However, it is also possible to perform it as it could have been played during the liturgy. Here a schola sings "Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis" and - in accordance with this church's being owned by the Franciscan order - "Sancte Franciscu, ora pro nobis". The toccata was one of the main forms of organ music during the 16th and 17th centuries, and found its culmination in the toccatas by Bach. They had strong improvisatory traces, and that comes off well here in Szadejko's performances. Froberger's Capriccio in G is an example of a piece whose harmonic peculiarities would have been more marked in a meantone temperament.

The character of the organ points in the direction of the north German organ school. One of its representatives is Georg Böhm, who was one of Bach's teachers and whose chorale partitas have strongly influenced him. The Partita Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig is one of Böhm's best-known works, and the eight sections, the first of which is basically a harmonization of the chorale melody, allow for a variety of registrations. Szadejko opts for a restrained approach, which seems well justified given the content of this hymn. As it comprises thirteen stanzas, it is probably impossible to connect each of them to one specific variation. It struck me that the last variation, which is often played in a firm manner, has a rather contemplative character here, partly due to the use of the tremulant.

The Partita is followed by an early and relatively little-known piece by Bach, the Fantasia and fugue in A minor (BWV 561), which clearly shows the influence of the north German school. Again, the improvisatory traces are well conveyed by Szadejko, who then turns to the last great representative of that school, Dieterich Buxtehude. His Magnificat 1. toni is often played as an independent organ work - which is perfectly legitimate - but was originally intended as an alternatim piece for liturgical use. It is nice that it is performed here as such, with the schola singing plainchant. In this piece the brilliant qualities of the pedals are amply demonstrated. It is also due to the acoustic that this work makes a lasting impression.

The disc ends with a piece by what one may think to be an unknown master. However, it is from Szadejko's own pen. The year of "Shade's" birth is 1674, Szadejko was born in 1974. And the Christian names are a Germanization of Szadejko's own names This piece is a nice way to connect Buxtehude and Bach, and to conclude this programme.

I am quite impressed by this instrument, and Kristian Wergscheider, a specialist in the restoration and reconstruction of historical instruments, has done a brilliant job with the building of this very fine instrument. It is also due to the acoustic that this instrument's qualities are so impressivelty demonstrated here. As Andrzej Szadejko was responsible for the concept of this reconstruction, he was the man to show its character and qualities in sound, and he does so convincingly in this nice programme, which is excellently executed. I have very much enjoyed this recording, because of the organ and the performances. Anyone interested in historical organs should add this fine disc to his collection. I am sure he will return to this disc regularly, as I certainly will.

Johan van Veen


anon [Danziger Tabulatur, 1591]
Phantasia 1. toni [2:06]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621)
Poolse Almande (Soll es sein) (SwWV 330) [8:29]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Ricercare con l'obbligo della quinta parte* [3:21]
Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667)
Toccata in G (FbWV 103) [3:08]
Capriccio in G (FbWV 506) [4:38]
Johann Caspar KERLL (1627-1693)
Toccata V 'Tutta de salti' [3:44]
Georg MUFFAT (1635-1704)
Toccata IV [5:20]
Georg BÖHM (1661-1733)
Partita Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig [9:32]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fantasia and fugue in A minor (BWV 561) [8:21]
Dieterich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt (BuxWV 183) [3:29]
Magnificat 1. toni (BuxWV 203)* [10:39]
[Andreas Nicolaus SHADE (1674-17??)]
Passacaglia con thema di Buxtehude il magniera di Bach in d minor [5:14]

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