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Stylus luxurians RIC433
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Stylus luxurians
Matthias WECKMANN (1616-1674)
Toccata in E minor [03:35]
Canzon in D minor [03:02]
Partita in B minor [09:50]
Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c1595-1663)
Benedicam Domino (after Hieronymus Praetorius) [06:01]
Toccata vel praeludium in D minor [02:48]
Franz TUNDER (1614-1667)
Praeludium in G minor [03:15]
Canzon in C minor [04:36]
Johann Jacob FROBERGER (1616-1667)
Ricercar XI in D minor (FbWV 411) [03:26]
Toccata in D minor [03:26]
Christian RITTER (1645?-1725?)
Suite in C minor [11:58]
Sonatina in D minor [04:17]
Yoann Moulin (harpsichord)
rec. May 2020, Église Notre Dame de Centeilles, Siran, France
Reviewed as a stereo 16/44 download with pdf booklet from Outhere
RICERCAR RIC433 [56:20]

The title of the disc to be reviewed here refers to a term that was coined by the German composer Christoph Bernhard, pupil of Heinrich Schütz. Basically it is not any different from what was called the seconda pratica in Italy. In keyboard music, one of its features was the inclusion of dissonances. The music selected by Yoann Moulin documents the coexistence of the Italian and French styles in German 17th-century keyboard music. This disc is a sequel to a recording of pieces by Samuel Scheidt and Heinrich Scheidemann (review). They were both pupils of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, the famous organist of Amsterdam.

They were exponents of the so-called North German organ school, which had embraced the stylus phantasticus that had emerged in Italy around 1600. Sweelinck was also well acquainted with the latest trends in Italian music, and he added the style of the English virginalists, who were masters in the art of variation. Whereas the previous disc included various examples of that genre, the present disc focuses on several Italian forms, such as the toccata, the ricercar and the canzona, and adds the French genre of the suite.

The core of the programme is the oeuvre of Matthias Weckmann, another representative of the North German organ school. He was born in 1615 or 1616 in Niederdorla, near Mühlhausen. His musical talent came to the surface at an early age and his father brought him to Dresden where he entered the electoral court chapel as a choirboy. Heinrich Schütz, the Kapellmeister, took charge of his musical education. He also received lessons in organ playing and singing from members of the chapel. When his voice changed he entered the ranks of the organists. In 1633 Schütz took him to Hamburg where he became a pupil of Jacob Praetorius and Heinrich Scheidemann. In the late 1630s he was in Dresden again and from 1642-46 he served the Danish court in Copenhagen. After his return to Dresden he became friends with the above-mentioned Christoph Bernhard and the internationally renowned keyboard player Johann Jacob Froberger. In 1655 Weckmann was appointed organist of the Jacobikirche in Hamburg. Soon he became a leading figure in the musical life in the city, where in 1660 he founded a Collegium Musicum, which performed the newest music from Germany, Austria and Italy.

The programme opens with a toccata by Weckmann, which is an example of the influence of the Italian style. The third work is the Partita in b minor; the word partita - often in the plural: partite - was originally used in Italy for a series of variations, for instance by Frescobaldi. It was probably his pupil Froberger who used it for the first time for 'pieces', which have no thematic connection. It is used by Weckmann in the same way: we have here a suite which opens with a prelude, followed by four dances: allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. This was the form that was introduced by Froberger in Germany, and which was the effect of his connections to French colleagues, in particular Louis Couperin. It was Froberger who made German composers acquainted with what was written in France.

Froberger's influence is also noticeable in the oeuvre of Christian Ritter. Little is known about him; he may well have been close to Schütz and Bernhard, and is described in an autograph as chamber organist at Halle. He worked in Dresden and also for two periods in Sweden. The latter fact explains why the Suite in c minor opens with a tombeau or lamentation, to the memory of King Charles VI of Sweden. This piece is very similar to the kind of pieces Froberger composed at the occasion of the death of Ferdinand III and Ferdinand IV. This tombeau has the form of an allemande, and the other three dances are the same as in Weckmann's partita. Ritter's acquaintance with the North German organ school manifests itself in his Sonatina in d minor, which is a curious title for a piece that is not fundamentally different from the toccata: two sections in free style embrace a fugal episode.

German organ music of the 17th century is often performed and recorded, but the harpsichord repertoire is less well-known. It has to be said, though, that there is no watershed between the two categories. Suites are obviously intended for the harpsichord or other strung keyboard instruments (virginal, clavichord), and pieces based on chorales were intended for liturgical use and therefore for organ in the first place. There are quite a number of pieces that can be played on either instrument. That goes for some pieces in improvisatory style (preludes, toccatas) and also canzonas and ricercares. This disc includes an interesting piece that is certainly intended for the organ but can be played at the harpsichord: Scheidemann's transcription of a motet by his colleague Hieronymus Praetorius. Such transcriptions were common in North Germany at the time.

Yoann Moulin plays a copy of a Ruckers harpsichord which has just the right power to do justice to the character of the repertoire. Moulin is an excellent interpreter, who knows exactly how to explore the typical features of the pieces he has selected. The improvisatory traces come off to the full. This is a very interesting and highly enjoyable recital that every lover of the harpsichord should add to his or her collection.

Johan van Veen

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