Zachow: Complete Organ Works

Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow: Complete Organ Works
Chorale Settings • Chorale Partitas • Free Organ Works
144 pages  • ISMN: 979-0-001-14049-2 • Softbound
Edition Schott ED 9922

Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712) is best known as the teacher of the young Handel in their hometown of Halle. He was organist of the principal city church, the Marienkirche, also known as the Marktkirche Unser Lieben Frauen and Liebfrauenkirche, a post held earlier in the 17th century by Samuel Scheidt.  The little 1664 organ on a gallery above the altar that Zachow and Handel certainly knew still exists. JS Bach was offered the post in succession to Zachow, but turned it down, leaving it until 1746 for his son WF Bach to eventually become the organist. Zachow’s father was from nearby Leipzig where he was town piper. His church music was criticised as being too long and complicated by the pietest clergy, who preferred something more approachable. He taught Handel violin, oboe organ, and harpsichord along with music theory. He teaching was clearly successful, as Handel became organist of the Halle Cathedral aged just 17. His later compositions show several influences from Zachow, as well as borrowings.

This edition of his complete organ works was published in 2005, edited by Klaus Beckman, replacing the earlier edition from 1905. The surviving organ pieces, most of which are equally suited to the harpsichord, are generally simple in style and are surely only a hint at the sort of music that would have improvised. They might have been intended for didactic purposes. The 53 chorale settings demonstrate a variety of styles, including a few chorale partitas. They are all sight-readable and suitable for use as chorale preludes. The 12 free works are potentially more interesting for present-day performers. The influence on Handel’s later keyboard music is evident, notably in the use of figuration.

The introductory notes, in German and English, are rather sparse with no mention of the organs that this music have been performed on, even though at least one of the instruments still exists. The detailed editorial notes are only in German. Despite that, the volume does give an insight into the music of central Germany, the historic home of the Bach family.