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Life Pictures - Scenes of the Life of King Christian IV
Peter Waldner (organ)
rec. 2020, Chapel of Frederiksborg, Hillerřd, Denmark

The disc under review here is devoted to a very special instrument, which is situated in the chapel of Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerřd in Denmark. It dates from 1610 and was originally commissioned by Duke Heinrich Julius von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel. It was to be placed in his summer residence at Hessen Castle. The organ was built by Esaias Compenius. When the Duke died, his widow Elisabeth decided to give the instrument to her brother, King Christian IV of Denmark. In 1617 the organ was installed in the chapel.

The organ has two manuals, 27 stops and 1001 pipes. The most notable aspect of the instrument is that all the pipes are made of wood, which was highly unusual. The booklet includes an essay about the organ by Mads Kjersgaard, who states: "Up to then, producing organ pipes of wood was, if not entirely unknown, at least only occasionally practised for a few individual stops or in small portable instruments of an experimental nature, but the well-experienced Michael Praetorius [who was the court Kapellmeister] may have been aware that it had since long been tried in Italy and also by the Göttingen builder Daniel Mayer for the Schmalkalden instrument a few decades earlier, including veneering the front pipes with thin ivory". He then points out that, considering that the manufacture of wooden pipes was nearly "virgin territory", it is a mystery how Compenius was able to produce such a magnificent organ. It is undoubtedly his masterpiece in the field of organ building. The organ can be played exclusively with wind produced by a calcant on a total of four bellows.

As this organ was originally intended as a secular instrument for performance in the ducal castle, the programme recorded by Peter Waldner largely focuses on secular pieces. The concept is quite original: we get a sort of biography of Christian IV, who ruled Denmark for 59 years, from 1588 to 1648, and the various stages of his life are illustrated by pieces from across Europe. The first piece, Sweelinck's variations on the Christmas song Ons is gheboren een kindekijn, is connected to Christian's birth. Under the header 'Children', we get Giles Farnaby's A Toye. One of the king's main occupations, the hunt, is illustrated by John Bull's famous piece The King's Hunt. Kings were usually involved in wars, and that was not any different in Christian's case. It is illustrated by the Batalla by the Spanish composer José Ximénez. Court entertainment is depicted by Sweelinck's Malle Sijmen (Mad Simon, symbolizing the court jester) and Scheidemann's Englische Mascarada oder Juden-Tantz (English masquerade or Jewish dance). Scheidt's Credo in unum Deum, taken from his collection Tabulatura nova, refers to the importance of religion in Christian's life. His death is depicted here by Sweelinck's intabulation of Dowland's Pavana Lachrymae.

As I wrote, the concept is quite original. That does not mean that each piece works equally well on the organ. In most cases the choice of keyboard is left to the interpreter, but some items are so clearly conceived as pieces for a strung keyboard instrument, such as the harpsichord and the virginals, that they don't come off that well on the organ. That goes, for instance, for Bull's The King's Hunt, where I miss the rhythmic pregnancy which can be achieved on a harpsichord or virginal. However, the programme includes a number of pieces that are little known. It is also interesting to hear the organ in a secular role, as too many music lovers still associate the organ exclusively with the world of sacred music.

What the main importance of this disc is, though, is that a unique and magnificent instrument is documented that seems to be hardly used for recordings. Peter Waldner demonstrates its features and qualities in his programme, including the wide range of colours by exploring different (combinations of) stops. He is a fine player who does justice to both the organ and the music. This is a disc lovers of the organ should not miss.

Johan van Veen

Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621)
Ons is gheboren een kindekijn (SsWV 315) [03:12]
Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654)
Ein Kindelein so löbelich (SSWV 448) [01:32]
anon (16th C)
Brande Champanje [02:53]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
Alman The King's Jewel [02:42]
Hans Leo HASSLER (1564-1612)
Wer liebt aus treuem Herzen [03:27]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Ballo del granduca (SsWV 319) [04:46]
Giles FARNABY (c1563-1640)
A Toye [01:19]
anon (c1600)
The King's Morisco [01:19]
Edward JOHNSON (c1572-1601)
Johnson's Medley [03:39]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Malle Sijmen (SsWV 323) [01:25]
anon (16th C)
La bounette - La doune cella [03:03]
anon (17th C)
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern [06:24]
John BULL (1562-1628)
The King's Hunt [04:16]
anon (c1600)
Daphne [04:52]
Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c1596-1663)
Englische Mascarada oder Juden-Tantz (WV 108) [03:44]
Richard EDWARDS (16th C)
In going to my naked bed [01:28]
José XIMÉNEZ (1601-1672)
Batalla [04:31]
Melchior SCHILDT (1592-1667)
Gleich wie das Feuer [04:34]
Galliarda Dulenti (SSWV 562) [03:55]
Bull's Goodnight [03:40]
Giles Farnaby's Dreame [01:57]
Credo in unum Deum (SSWV 155) [03:39]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Pavana Lachrymae (SsWV 328) [05:02]
Robert JOHNSON (1485-1560)
Benedicam Domino omni tempore [02:13]

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