Review: Weckmann ‘Es ist das Heil’ recital

Review from Classical Events
Andrew Benson-Wilson

Organ recital at St George’s Church Hanover Square, London
Tuesday 11 October 2016 13:10

This is one of series of the Mayfair Organ Concerts. The lunchtime concert was given by Andrew Benson-Wilson who specialises in the performance of early organ music, ranging from 14th century manuscripts to the late Classical Period. The original organ at St George’s was built in 1725 by Gerard Smith. The old case has been extended to contain a new organ which was completed in 2012.

The concert consisted of one work: Matthias Weckmann’s (1616-1674) monumental seven verses on the choral melody ‘Es ist das Heil kommen her’. At a playing time of about 35 minutes it is perhaps one of the longest and most extraordinary works of its time. The story follows that Luther, on hearing the melody sung by a beggar, was reduced to tears.

Salvation has come to us
from grace and sheer kindness
Works never help,
they cannot protect us.
Faith looks towards Jesus Christ
who has done enough for all of us.
He has become our mediator

Although the hymn has 14 verses there is little correlation with the seven organ verses. This evidences a performance as an individual work rather than part of a church service.

Andrew provided ample programme notes to describe the treatment of the chorale theme and gave a short introduction to the lunchtime audience. The performance had a confident and assured touch of someone who understood the musical style. His clarity of counterpoint allied to the programme notes helped the listener to identify the processes and individual lines of the music.

The original Classical Events review is here.

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