Lübeck: Complete harpsichord and organ music

Manuel Tomadin (Van Hagerbeer/Schnitger organ 1646/1725)
146:04 (2 CDs)
Brilliant Classics 95453

Vincent Lübeck (1654-1740) was a well-known teacher and trusted advisor on organ design in the generation of organists in North Germany before J. S. Bach. By 1675 he had become organist of St Cosmae et Damiani in Stade, near Hamburg, where there was an organ by Arp Schnitger. In 1702, Lübeck moved into Hamburg and became organist at St Nikolai, where there was a four-manual Schnitger organ of 67 stops.

Bach was certainly influenced by Lübeck, but remarkably little of his music survives: five cantatas, a suite for harpsichord and some pieces for organ that show an imaginative and technically advanced player. His rhapsodic Preludes, with a number of fugal sections and some recitative-like episodes, have unusual features like virtuoso two-pedal parts. They sound and feel like the kind of improvisations that one might devise for putting an organ through its paces – indeed I remember using them for just that purpose when I first found myself exploring some of the organs in Holland in the late 1950s.

These two CDs from Brilliant Classics contain all Lübeck’s keyboard music that survives, ably played on three instruments by Manuel Tomadin. The majority of the larger scale organ music is played on the large Van Hagerbeer 1646 organ in Grote Sint-Laurenskerk in Alkmaar which was rebuilt in 1725 by Frans Casper Schnitger, much of which survived to be carefully conserved and restored by Flentrop in 1986. The specification is given, and for detailed registration of each piece you are referred in the liner notes to the Brilliant Classics website where they are said to be given, though frustratingly I could not find them. The harpsichord pieces – a prelude and fugue and a short suite – are played on a copy by William Horn after a Michael Mietke of Berlin original dated c.1700, but some of the smaller pieces from the ‘S.M.G. 1691’ manuscript are played on a small positive organ of four ranks, including a regal, made in 2012 by Francesco Zanin of Udine, and heard effectively in the Trompeter Stück  and the following March  (CDII, nos 31 and 32).

The ‘S.M.G. 1691’ manuscript is a collection of 45 short pieces for keyboard, many of which remain anonymous while some are attributable to Vincent Lübeck senior, but others may be by the younger Vincent, his son. And given their p and f dynamic marks in some cases may have been intended for the clavichord, the preferred instrument on which to learn keyboard technique.

As always in these Brilliant CDs, lesser-known composers are treated with seriousness and receive scholarly and well-researched performances by impressive artists whose technique is flawless and whose ability to bring minor masterpieces to life is winsome. I particularly enjoyed his inégales in some of the harpsichord performances. This double CD album, recorded in Alkmaar and in Silvelle in Udine, the region where Manuel Tomadin is based, is a fine example and will be invaluable to all those who want to understand North German pedagogy at the end of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries better.

David Stancliffe

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