Article Book

RECERCARE XXXIII/1-2 2021 Journal for the study and practice of early music

directed by Arnaldo Morelli
LIM Editrice [2021]
201 pp, €30
ISSN 1120-5741

The 2021 RECERCARE contains four studies (two in Italian, one in French, and one in English), followed by, before the Summaries in Italian and English, a 21-page double Communication in Italian with 11 glossy colour plates concerning the 1590 portrait on the cover of this issue. In  ‘La “gentildama” e liutista bolognese Lucia Garzoni in un ritratto di Lavinia Fontana’ Marco Tanzi correctly identifies the noblewoman of the portrait and gives convincing reasons for attributing it to Fontana. Dinko Fabris discusses the ‘Elementi musicali …’ it contains.

Lucia Bonasoni Garzoni (b. 1561-?) was an aristocratic Bolognese lute player praised in a sonnet and two madrigals for her beauty, talent and character. Four other portraits of aristocratic women known to be by Fontana (including another one of Lucia) and two paintings with groups of women are also shown and discussed, including a concert on Parnasso with Apollo playing the lira da braccio while Pegasus romps in the background, Lucia playing the recorder, and the other eight ‘muses’ on various instruments (including a lute like Lucia’s). Their instruments and the fashionable hairdo they share are slightly hard to make out on a small page, but a magnifying glass helps. Details in the five single portraits, on the other hand, are impressive. Fabris describes Lucia’s not quite contemporary 6-choir lute and the music underneath it: a thick, open manuscript book shows a third of a page with about 5 bars of a solo voice part in contemporary notation (four crotchets or two minims per bar) on pentagrams, aligned over the lute accompaniment in tablature on 6 lines. This combination, and the horizontal format, are said by Fabris to be rare, but it isn’t clear how else lute players could have accompanied, especially if they were also singing. There is no conjecture about an actual piece. Only four syllables are clear, which is unfortunate, and perhaps why guessing the two words involves fortuity or lack thereof: [pr-]ovida, [impr-]ovida, [a-]vida or [ar?-]ida +  for[-tuna] or sor[-te]. A singer might recognize the fragment!   

In ‘Polso e musica negli scritti di teoria musicale tra la fine del Quattrocento e la metà del Seicento’ Martino Zaltron presents some cross-disciplinary theories of the past about pulse and music theory, showing how ancient science and mathematics (in this case medicine and music) filtered down into Renaissance theory and on into the mid-17th century. He cites Tintoris, Gaffurio, Lanfranco, Aaron, Zarlino, Zacconi, Pisa, and Mersenne. Whatever familiarity readers may have with tactus and mensural proportions, and a personal sense of the relation between one’s pulse (and breath) to a piece of music, what is unexpected is the inversion of emphasis to the medical side of the relationship. Doctors Joseph Strus (1510-1569), Franz Joël (1508-1579), Samuel Hafenreffer (1587-1660) and polymath Athanasius Kircher ‘notated’ patterns of heartbeats, sometimes associated with age or voice registers (suggesting pitch and dynamics), by note-values, using mixed values to record them for diagnoses. Hafenreffer even used a 4-line staff to place the values (from crotchets to longs) in ascending, descending or undulating rows. They curiously resemble cardiograms, and hospital oscilloscope monitors showing the frequencies and intensities of heart and lung activity.

At a deeper level, this article will stimulate readers to think of music’s capacity to reflect transient physiological humours, feelings and states of mind and how what began as a rather primitive musical physical-medical relationship was refined by musical theorists and professors of medicine. Zaltron has centered his research on musical-historical-medical writings in the Middle Ages and Renaissance at the Conservatory of Vicenza, and the University of Padua, historically, after Bologna, the second in Italy at which medicine was taught, from the 13th century.

Adriano Giardina, in ‘Un catalogue pour improviser: les Ricercari d’intavolatura d’organo de Claudio Merulo’, concludes that the eight simple but long sectional ricercars of 1567 by Merulo (1533-1604), his first publication for organ, printed by Merulo in Italian keyboard tablature, were not primarily composed for performance, but rather for teaching aspiring organists how to extemporise contrapuntal ricercars, i.e. how to do so a mente and di fantasia – a skill required in church functions. Showing examples of the contrapuntal procedures used, accompanied by simple or parallel contrapuntal voices, he reasons that their purpose was didactic. Giardina also claims support for his thesis from Merulo’s younger contemporary Girolamo Diruta (1546-1624/25), who became his student (and A. Gabrieli’s) in 1574 at the age of at least 28, and transmitted their teachings and his own in a comprehensive treatise, Il Transilvano (1593 and Seconda Parte 1609), planned and completed over several decades, thanks to a long collaboration with Merulo, who endorsed the first part in 1592. Absent a preface to the 1567 Ricercari the thesis is possible but not provable, and implicit confirmation from Il Transilvano lacking.

So I have some reservations about what Giardina reads into Diruta. Ricercars and keyboard tablature do occupy significant portions of Il Transilvano, especially in the Seconda Parte, where Diruta covers modes and strict versus free counterpoint, in some ground-breaking detail, and advocates strongly for the use of Italian keyboard tablature (closed score notation) to facilitate the approximately correct and playable reduced arrangements of vocal and instrumental polyphonic music on keyboards. Tablature ensures the beginnings if not always the durations of essential notes, omits or transposes unreachable ones, notates very few rests because each hand usually has something to do, and respects the imitative counterpoint heard even where not clearly apparent on the page. It is far from ideal for illustrating how a ricercar is composed.

In fact, the 12 ricercars included in Book 2 of the Seconda Parte (pairs by Luzzaschi, Picchi, Banchieri, Fattorini and four by Diruta himself) are all in open score. They are there to be played and are thereby didactic for players who are learning to compose. Whereas with mosaic type in tablature Merulo can stack but not stagger three simultaneous notes on a staff, with only two possible stem directions. Space dictates which way very short or missing stems on inner voice notes point – perhaps why Merulo avoids voice crossings in these ricercars. The voices can be discerned in this tablature, after some scrutiny if not quite at first sight:

Being his own publisher, Merulo must have aimed to sell his music for organ both to professionals seeking handy modal material in excerptible sections, and to learners not yet up to composing ricercars, let alone improvising them. By playing them eventually by heart, their hands and ears might also acquire familiarity with the contrapuntal techniques. To that extent every composition played is somewhat propaedeutic to extemporization. Tablature slightly confounds this from occurring as less experienced players would have had to do the analysis that Giardina did in order to catalogue the techniques Merulo used.

While Diruta gives clear rules for strict and common counterpoint, and on how to compose and transpose within the modes, he never tells his Transylvanian pupil to improvise. Learning to play a mente or di fantasia does not exclude doing so next to pen and paper or an erasable slate, and those ambiguous terms are found only a couple of times in Il Transilvano. Their primary meanings are to play a mente, by heart; and to play or compose di fantasia, inventing rather than adopting a known composition as the basis for a new one. Memorization and invention are prerequisite skills for successful improvisation, but first of all for learning to compose, which comes first.

In fact, Giardina also mentions Diruta’s inclusion of 46 of Gabriele Fattorini’s 320 examples of elaborate ‘cadences’ in 4-part open score. He tells the Transylvanian to memorize them and to play them in transposition – and they are not mere chord progressions, but contrapuntal phrases up to 14 semibreves in length, with mixed note-values from semibreves down to quavers. A repertory of these ‘cadences’ in the hands and mind might well pass for improvisations. Tablature was still controversial and rejected by musicians in 1593 and 1609. If Merulo’s purpose was didactic, why didn’t he publish them in open score so that players in 1567 would have understood them? Why didn’t Diruta even allude to improvisation in his treatise, compared to how strenuously he advocated for making keyboard notation easier to play from in tablature?

Yet, at the end of the first part of  Diruta’s Dialogo with the young Transylvanian, there is his personal account of arriving in Venice on Easter of 1574 and hearing a publicduellobetween Merulo and A. Gabrieli on the two organs of St Mark’s: they ‘dueled throughout the 18 years they were St Mark’s 1st and 2nd organists, though we don’t know exactly how. Were they improvising imitative rebuttals to each other’s improvised subjects, or did these eminent composers practice for their duels together? Diruta, already a keyboard player in 1566 when 20 years old and at 28 needing to perfect his technique in order to compete for posts, was swept away by their virtuosity – whether technical, creative, or improvisatory – and immediately arranged to study with both of them.

Extemporisation was indeed required of organists. To learn from Merulo’s ricercars, one would have had to sort out the voices in each, as Giardina has done, to note its devices. Applying the same techniques di fantasia, i.e. to an original subject, might then be within reach, especially when done al tavolino (at a table, i.e. in writing) rather than ex tempore. There is, in fact, a specific contemporary term for improvising counterpoint – contrappunto alla mente – and at least one organist, singer, composer and theorist, who dearly wanted to acquire that skill, gave personal testimony:

In the same year that Parte Seconda del Transilvano (1609) was reprinted (1622), Diruta’s contemporary, Ludovico Zacconi (1555-1627), in his Prattica di musica – Seconda Parte p. 84, writes: ‘… for however much, over time, I’ve frequented and conversed with masterful, mature and good musicians and seen how they teach their students counterpoint, I’ve never seen that [any] had a praise-worthy and easy way to teach their students contrappunto alla mente.  Zacconi came to Venice to study counterpoint under A. Gabrieli, remaining active there from 1577 to 1585. He composed four books of canons and also some ricercars for organ. If as late as 1622 he claims that ‘no one’ can teach contrapuntal improvisation, which he sought to learn to no avail, hadn’t  Gabrieli, Diruta, or Merulo himself recommended that he study the 1567 Ricercari, which he probably already knew? If so, sadly, they didn’t really help.

In ‘Dafne in alloro di Benedetto Ferrari: drammaturgia ‘alla veneziana’ per Ferdinando  III (Vienna, 1652)’ Nicola Usula does three things: he compares the Modena and Viennese manuscript versions of Dafne, Ferrari’s first dramatic work (a vocal introduction in seven scenes to a pastoral ballet); he includes his complete critical edition of its text in the Appendix; and in the framework of Ferrari’s biography he shows how Ferrari used its Viennese production as clever marketing to secure his return to Italy. It might surprise us to think of Ferrari (1603/4 – 1681) not exclusively as a composer and lutenist, and perhaps also as a singer, but equally creatively as a poet.

He frames his study in a biographical account of Ferrari’s career, starting with his libretto for Manelli’s 1637 Andromeda, his collaboration with Monteverdi’s 1640 Ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and the music from his 1640 Pastor regio that became the end of Monteverdi’s 1643 Incoronazione di Poppea with Busenello’s text as ‘Pur ti miro’. As early as 1641 he dedicated his 3rd book of Musiche varie a voce sola to the Holy Royal Emperor Ferdinand III, and while active in Modena at the court of Francesco I d’Este (1644-51), and at the peak of his popularity, was hired as a theorboist to work in Vienna from November 1651. His Dafne was performed February 12, 1652 and he probably played in other Venetian-style musical dramas until March 1653.

Besides the Viennese manuscript (in the National Library), a manuscript copy is held in Modena in the Biblioteca Estense together with four other librettos. It is this later poetic version which Usula draws some interesting conclusions about. His critical edition inserts in boxes the previous readings where amended, and the quality of Ferrari’s revisions and how they affect the ballet are much to his artistic credit.

‘A newly discovered recorder sonata attributed to Vivaldi: considerations on authorship’ of Sonata per flauto, I-Vc Correr 127.46 in the Biblioteca del Museo Correr in Venice will interest recorder players, players of other instruments, and listeners, and not only for the discovery of this particular work. A Summary is not given for this meticulous study by Inês de Avena Braga and Claudio Ribeiroperhaps because its first paragraph is in effect an introductory abstract, or because its thorough presentation of comparative musical details and the arguments against alternative uncertain attributions cannot be summarized. The gist is contained in its title, and the attribution is by the two authors. They point out the salient traits of Vivaldi’s compositional style over time, selecting from hundreds of direct self-quotes found between this sonata and specific Vivaldi works (39 sonatas, concertos, sacred works, operas from RV 1 to RV 820 being listed), with 25 musical examples filling 13 pages. They conscientiously consider how often other composers knowingly or probably not, also did so.

 Therefore sifting through many sonatas by other composers showing similar traits might in the end be futile, with no end of passages ‘by’ Vivaldi and ‘also by’ others. They concluded their positive attribution after exercising profound insight into the creative logic typical only of Vivaldi but not of his copiers, in matters of style and structure, and after applying every other musicological and historical tool as well. Everyone will be enriched by their discussion because the musical traits are not only shown but explained in functional terms: how sequences, phrases, a harmonic juxtaposition, particular melodic moves or chords were used. The authors’ ‘contextualization’ strikes right to the matter of the authenticity of a work by Vivaldi.

The study goes on, in a sort of postscript, to name a few specific composers who warranted consideration as composers of I-Vc Correr 127.46 , as their music was so clearly influenced by Vivaldi’s: Diogenio Bigaglia, Gaetano Meneghetti, Ignazio Sieber, Giovanni Porta. This, too, provides the readers with a fresh discussion of their musical styles with respect to Vivaldi’s, despite superficial borrowings. It is rare that musical analysis is so rewarding to read.

Barbara Sachs


Walter Chinaglia: Towards  the Rebuilding of an Italian Renaissance-Style Wooden Organ

Deutsches Museum Verlag, Volume 5, 2020
97pp, ISBN 978-3-940396-97-6 €19.95

This significant monograph details Chinaglia’s research into the making of a copy of the famous and only surviving Italian-style organo di legno in the Silberne Kapelle of the Hofkirche in Innsbruck, Austria. It was undertaken during a residency with the research group on ‘The Materiality of Musical Instruments: New Approaches to a Cultural History of Organology’, based in the Deutsches Museum in 2018.

When I was looking for an organo di legno for a number of performances of the Monteverdi Vespers this April in Lombardy, I was introduced to Walter Chinaglia. I knew that Italian music of that period needed a real organo di legno, with narrow-scaled open wooden pipes rather than the commonly available chamber organs based on a stopped 8’ flute, as I believed it would give more body and securer tonality for the singers and players alike with its unforced, singing tone. I was planning to perform with just eight singers and a minimal band, so the right organ was crucial. Alas, that project fell victim to the lockdown, but what I heard of his organs encouraged me enormously. Margaret Phillips has one in her collection at Milborne Port in Dorset, and there are a series of four youtube videos on his project – Duoi organi per Monteverdi, which I much recommend:


There you can hear what the unforced sound of the open principal wood pipes is like with voices.

Chinaglia has an interesting background. After a first degree in physics and five years of research in nonlinear optics, he set up his workshop Organa in 2001, and has been building organs and researching the history and making of historically informed instruments since. In I.3 (p. 18) of his monograph, Chinaglia sets out his philosophy: ‘I strongly believe that a perfect sound from a wooden pipe can only be achieved if it comes naturally from the newly built pipe, in one or two strokes: when mouth cut-up is wisely chosen and the wind-way is properly opened, no other adjustments being necessary (such as toe-hole regulation, or tricky positioning of the mouth cover).’ He is committed to following exactly the dimensions and cut-up of the Silberne Kapelle organ pipes, and the clear, unforced, singing tone that results. The pipe-feet are cut integrally with the pipe and are pyramidal, not turned and glued on later. There are split keys for D sharp and E flat, and G sharp and A flat, giving the most useful major thirds in E and B, while allowing for E flat major and F minor as well as C minor in the flat keys. There is an informative spectral analysis of the sounds of open and stopped pipes, and from metal as well as wooden pipes, and the whole is profusely illustrated by drawings and diagrams, as well as photos.

This project combines scholarship with pragmatic experience, the disciplines of physics and woodcraft (there is detailed analysis of the different ways in which to saw planks and the difference it makes), of historical research into the written sources of the period and organology today. As a record of this work in progress, its author should be congratulated on the comprehensive recording of every step and the Deutsches Museum on sponsoring such an important cross-disciplinary project in the service of us mere musicians, trying to re-create the sound-world – especially the vocal sound-world – that Monteverdi and his forbears, contemporaries and successors inhabited. Vocal production and the difference that the right organ accompaniment makes lags far behind the recovery of the sound-world of strings (both bowed and plucked), brass, flauti and cornetti. These organs will help us immeasurably.

David Stancliffe

The book is freely available online, but you can buy a copy directly from the publisher here:


Bach: Famous Organ Works

Joseph Kelemen (Christoph Treutmann organ, Klosterkirche Grauhof)
BWV534, 546, 562, 575, 582, 595, 664, 717, 736 & 1080

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]Ds with titles like “Famous Organ Works” strike chill into a reviewer’s heart, but this CD from the reputable OEHMS label is a fine and varied recording, designed to display the qualities of this remarkably well preserved Christoff Treutmann organ in the Klosterkirche Grauhof dating from 1734-7 – his largest and only surviving instrument, relatively recently (1989-1992) conserved by the Hillebrand brothers, who tonally only had to re-make the mixtures.

For the music, the programme centres on major works in minor keys – the Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 546 contrasted with BWV 717, 562 and 595; the Prelude and Fugue in F minor BWV 534, Contrapunctus I from Die Kunst der Fuge  accompanied by “Valet will ich dir geben” BWV 736, the trio on “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’” BWV 664 and the little Fuge BWV 575 before finishing with the Passacaglia BWV 582.

Notable in these performances on this instrument is Keleman’s ability to produce clarity – even in fugal writing – with a full manual chorus based on a 16’ principal and a splendid pedal including 16’ & 8’ reeds, which are wonderfully prompt-speaking. Astonishingly creative in his performance of the Passacaglia and Fugue – played without any change in the registration – are his minute variations of tempo and weight conveyed by very subtle articulation over an unchanging pedal of just the 16’ & 8’ reeds, with a 4’ principal. The smaller scale works allow us the opportunity to hear the well-balanced combinations of ranks, and to assist the listener’s appreciation, there is not only a full specification but the detailed registration of each piece. Kelemen’s notes (in German and English) on the organ as well as on his choice of music draw attention to the tierce rank in mixtures on two of the manuals, and prepare us for the major/minor ambivalence when we hear open fifths played – as at the start of the C minor Fantasia in the organ’s unequal temperament.

This is a well-produced and valuable CD, giving us insight on how – on an appropriately constructed instrument – well thought-out registrations as well as beautifully prepared playing can bring sensitive variety to works we so often hear with large numbers of fussy changes in registration, presumably designed to divert us from being bored by dull, loud modern organs.

David Stancliffe

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Hans Leo Hassler: Orgelwerke

Joseph Kelemen Freundt-Orgel 1642, Günzer-Orgel 1609
Oehms Classics OC 658

[dropcap]H[/dropcap]assler’s growing reputation as a choral composer of mainly polychoral church music, madrigals and instrumental consort pieces of a grand courtly nature is now increasingly complemented by a body of work for organ, which proves to be equally inventive and musically consistent as his other work. This recital of organ pieces, mainly major showy occasional pieces but also the even more substantial and more harmonically daring Orgelmesse  in eight movements. In this latter work, Hassler takes the instrument into some remote keys, which sound wonderfully raw in the old tuning. After Joseph Kelemen, who gives us thoroughly satisfying accounts of the music, the main stars of the CD are the two venerable organs he uses: the Freundt-Orgel of 1642 in the Stiftskirche Klosterneuburg and the Günzer-Orgel of 1609 in St Martin, Gabelbach. Both offer a stunning array of stops, comprehensively documented for each movement in the excellent programme notes. In many ways the large-scale pieces, which Kelemen plays in the first half of the CD on the Freundt organ are the more impressive part of the programme, but the combination of the more exploratory works on the older instrument, particularly the remarkable chromatic concluding Ricercar del secondo tono  more powerfully underline Hassler revolutionary side as an organ composer. This is music which powerfully prefigures the mastery of J S Bach but written seventy-five years before Bach was born!

D. James Ross

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In nomine: Enfers et Paradis…

dans le paysage musical européen autour de 1600
Les Harpies
Encelade ECL1502

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he star of this CD is undoubtedly the Renaissance organ of Saint-Savin in Lavedan, which not only offers the aural treat of a kaleidoscopic variety of quite extreme stops and nightingale song, but also we are assured the visual treats of grotesque masks with sprung eyes and jaws all operated by the organist. I recall seeing a Baroque organ in Germany where trumpet-playing angels not only raised their trumpets to support the instrument’s trumpet stop, but also clapped their wings to thunderous effect, and this explains the loud extraneous noises during the organ items here, which I originally assumed to be rather random percussion. Built in 1557, this extraordinary instrument has now been restored to its original condition complete with the features I have mentioned as well as trompe l’oeils  of the saints. Surely there is a message here for the church of today concerned at dramatically falling numbers of church-goers! Famous for their iconoclastic and energetic performances, Les Harpies and guest Harpie, Matthieu Boutineau, with Le Choeur des Huguenots take us on a colourful tour of music from around 1600 with often only tenuous connections with their stated themes. But who cares! This is highly entertaining stuff, presented inventively and imaginatively, and played and sung with engaging panache and honesty. And Saint-Savin-en-Lavedan is now firmly on my holiday checklist! For organ nerds, full details of the restoration projects which have brought the organ back to its current rude health as well as details of its stops are included, and for once I can begin to share in their enthusiasm.

D. James Ross

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Fasolo: Annuale Opera Ottava, Venezia 1645

Luca Scandali, Bella Gerit
Tactus TC590701

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]asolo’s Annuale Opera Ottava is essentially a handbook for organists offering music appropriate for services throughout the year. The present CD offers liturgical reconstructions, ordinary and propers, for three types of mass: the Missa in Dominicis diebus, the Missa in duplicibus diebus  and the Missa Beatae Mariae Virginis. Fasolo’s music, played by Luca Scandali on a characterful 1547 organ by Luca di Bernardino in the Chiesa di San Domenico in Cortona, alternates with appropriate chant sung by the Ensemble Bella Gerit. The main star of the CD is the venerable 16th-century organ, which offers an intriguing range of stops. It is imaginatively presented by Luca Scandali, who manages to entice the most gentle and almost strident sounds from the instrument. The chant is beautifully unanimous, and has the pleasant detachment of working clergy perhaps almost over-familiar with its phrases. The only slight fly in the ointment is the audible difference in background sound as we switch from organ solo to the voices and back again – clearly the two were recorded separately and edited together. Fasolo’s publication appeared in the wake of Frescobaldi’s much more famous Fiori Musicali  of 1635, but in its subtle differences from it suggests that local liturgical traditions and musical practices were still very much respected. Rather than pick a publication like Frescobaldi’s off the shelves, at least some local organists decided to compile rival publications in imitation but reflecting their own specific talents and the traditions within which they operated.

D. James Ross

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Girolamo Cavazzoni: Complete Organ Works

Ivana Valotti
146:38 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
Tactus TC 510391

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his complete account of the organ works of Cavazzoni features the magnificent 1565 organ ‘in Cornu Epistolae’ by Graziadio Antegnati in the Basilica palatina di Santa Barbara in Mantua expertly played by Ivana Valotti. The instrument is perfect in period for Cavazzoni’s music, but also in character and variety of stops. The mechanism is understandably audible but almost never to the detriment of the music, and the clarity of the various stops attests to diligent upkeep over the centuries. I have been mainly aware of Cavazzoni’s keyboard music as providing useful instrumental interludes in programmes of choral music by composers contemporary with the Gabrielis, but hearing this comprehensive collection of a bewildering variety of musical forms so authoritatively played on this magnificent Renaissance instrument made me aware that Cavazzoni’s music stands up very well in its own right. More harmonically adventurous than many of the organ music composers in the second half of the sixteenth century, Cavazzoni displays a ready imagination well beyond the technically showy but ultimately rather conservative music of his contemporaries. Where needed plainchant incipits and ‘links’ are provided by Gianluca Ferrabini, and I felt just occasionally that it might have been worth engaging a small capella for the tutti chant sections. These are CDs to dip into at random to enjoy the wonderful aural palette of the Antegnati organ, the sensitive playing of Ms. Valotti and Cavazzoni’s creative response to a delightful range of musical forms.

D. James Ross

Buy now at

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Sons and Pupils of Johann Sebastian Bach

Hans Fagius (Močnik organ in Höör, Sweden)
Daphne 1052
Music by C P E Bach, W F Bach, G A Homilius, J L Krebs, J C Kittel & J G Müthel

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is a thoughtfully devised recital played on a modern instrument that draws on the characteristics of the instruments by Silbermann and Hildebrandt so admired by JSB. The booklet (English/Swedish) includes both a stop list and the registrations used which will delight those who regularly complain at the absence of these things (me, for instance). There are some minor mis-translations and unidiomatic turns of phrase but nothing positively misleading. It’s still a shame that these things get through, though. The playing is always convincing whatever the style, with tempos and registrations always made to sound appropriate. I have to say, though, that most of the music is merely ‘interesting’ and only gets played because of the JSB connection. A conspicuous exception to this is the splendid CPEB Fantasy and Fugue Wq 119/7 which I shall add to my own repertoire at the earliest opportunity.

David Hansell

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Sheet music

Händel: Organ Works

Compiled after the Urtext of the Halle Handel Edition  by Siegbert Rampe
Bärenreiter, BA 11226, 2016
ix+49pp, £20.50

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] am suspicious of the title. The five items in the HWV 400s are primarily for harpsichord, though the fugues HWV 605-12 are for organ or harpsichord. No. 13, “O the pleasure of the plain”, is a reduced version of the first chorus from Acis & Galatea, but it needs two hands and two feet and goes down to the G below the normal pedals (which were very rare at the time), and why is it so short? Finally, Jesu meine Freude  is a straight three-part setting with the melody in the alto, with a two-bar link into a second verse with the melody in the treble. I’m sure the volume would sell better if a more flexible title had been used, offering the repertoire as suitable for harpsichord AND organ.

Clifford Bartlett


Bach: Clavier-Übung III

Stephen Farr (Metzler organ of Trinity College, Cambridge)
105:20 (2 CDs in jewel case)
Resonus RES10120

James Johnstone (Wagner organ 1739, Trondheim)
107:26 (2 CDs in a card folder)
Metronome MET CD 1094

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ike No 11 busses, no new Clavier-Übung III  comes for ages, and now two arrive at once! Both are from English players, and both use good instruments: Stephen Farr plays on the 42 stop 1975 Metzler in Trinity Cambridge and James Johnstone uses the 30 stop 1741 Wagner organ in Trondheim Cathedral, carefully reconstituted by highly experienced Jürgen Ahrend in the 1990s.

In his Liner notes, Farr ponders – as does Johnstone – whether the ‘arcane, unfamiliar and wilfully awkward musical procedures’ in this volume were intended by Bach as a musical riposte to his former pupil, now critic, Scheibe, who in 1737 had accused him of writing in an antiquated mode, rather than in the more tuneful and lyrical gallant style now popular. So what kind of performance does this collection require?

Farr opts for a varied set of performances, using some ingenious registrations. In Jesus Christus unser Heiland  (BWV 688) for example, Farr uses the Rückpositiv 8’ & 4’flutes, and then the Hauptwerk Vox Humana in the left hand to great effect, but it is drawn with both the 8’ Octave and Hohlflöte as well as the 4’ Spitzflöte; in the pedal are also the two 8’ flues coupled to the Swell 4’ Principal and 8’ Trompete. Farr’s articulation is excellent, but I wonder about the thickening effect of his constant use of multiple 8’ ranks. By contrast, the manualiter preludes BWV 685 & 803 are delightfully played, each on just a 4’ flute, and 804 follows on the recovered Smith 8’ Principal on the Rückpositiv: the clarity of these registrations and the elegance of Farr’s fingerwork is a delight. But somehow the organ doesn’t really sparkle: the pedal in particular is often a bit indistinct, and although performances are excellently played, it sounds a bit dull to me – are they recorded from too far away? As well as details of the Metzler organ, Farr gives the precise registration for each piece – a bit of good practice that most recordings on historic instruments in Holland and North Germany seem to provide these days.

Johnstone is a bit more of an early music specialist, and this CD – one of what will be a (yet another!) complete Bach organ works – is presented on an instrument that is almost exactly contemporaneous with the Clavier-Übung III’s date of 1739. The Trondheim organ is Wagner’s only instrument outside Prussia, and took two years to arrive and be assembled. Dismantled in the 1930s in favour of a large Steinmayer organ hidden behind the historic case, some two thirds of the original pipework was discovered stored in the cathedral’s vault and has been carefully restored in the original case by Ahrend. Its registers have rather more individual character than the Metzler: Wagner studied with Christoph Treutmann, a pupil of Arp Schnitger, and was apprenticed to Gottfried Silbermann for several years. Johnstone promises to find and record on equally suitable historic instruments for the rest of his Bach, and having just returned myself from an organ crawl through North Germany and Holland, I look forward to seeing which instruments he chooses for what. But although the details of the Wagner organ, its pitch and temperament are given, we are left to work out his registration as best we may. I hope Johnstone will consider providing this in the future.

Though the instrument is smaller, I find Johnstone’s registration more characterful than Farr’s, and his liner notes have an interesting and provocative reflection on the possible liturgical and theological rationale behind the selection of works in the Clavier-Übung III. Try and listen to both, and the more suave performance of Farr may win you over; but I gained more from Johnstone’s vivid and sparkling performance on an excellently recorded, crystal-clear organ that was new to me. The choice of instrument, how susceptible it is to being recorded with clarity, how well the performer understands the conventions of registration on a historic instrument – all these are vital for successful interpretation, however fine the player.

David Stancliffe

NOTE: At the time of publishing this post, it was impossible to find internet links for James Johnstone’s CDs… we will attempt to rectify this at a later date.

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