The Orgelbüchlein Project
A 21st-century completion of Bach’s Orgelbüchlein
Compiled and edited by William Whitehead
Volume 4: Christian Life and Conduct (Chorales 87–113)
152 pages • ISMN 979-0-57701-498-2 • Softbound
Edition Peters EP73145
The Orgelbüchlein Project is one of the most exciting and ambitious musical projects of recent years. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein was intended to be a set of 164 chorale preludes covering the whole liturgical year. It was started during Bach’s time in Weimar (1708-17) with a few additions after he arrived in Leipzig. In a tiny manuscript book, Bach wrote the titles of all 164 Lutheran chorales at the top of the pages, but only managed to complete settings of 46 of them. Most titles were allocated a single page, with some given more space. When he came to write out the chorale preludes, he occasionally ran out of space and packed in a few more bars at the bottom of the pages in the more compact (but old-fashioned) German tablature letter notation. The title page of the autograph copy (pictured below) notes Bach’s intention for the collection that “a beginning organist receives given instruction on performing a chorale in a multitude of ways while achieving mastery in the study of the pedal, since the chorales contained herein the pedal is treated entirely obbligato . . . that my fellow man may hone his skill.” The Orgelbüchlein Project is an international project, founded and curated by organist William Whitehead, to complete the Orgelbüchlein by commissioning composers to write settings for the 118 missing chorale preludes.
Melchior Schildt (1592-1667)
Complete Organ Works (Ed. Klaus Beckmann)
128 pages • ISMN: 979-0-001-13431-6 • Softbound
Edition Schott ED 9585
2017 is the anniversary of Melchior Schildt’s death, so it is an appropriate time to look at his, sadly, very limited, surviving organ music. He was born in 1592 in Hanover to a family of musicians stretching back more than 125 years. He studied with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck from 1609 (probably until 1612). In 1626 he was appointed court organist to the Danish king, and in 1629 returned to Hannover to replace his father as organist at the Marktkirche, where he stayed until his death.
He seems to have been ‘a bit of a character’, with several records of intemperate behaviour, one being a violent attack on the organ builder Fritzsche. Although his second marriage provided him with financial security, the relationship was troubled to the extent that Schildt’s will required their son to be removed from his mother’s care. His troubled relationship with the music profession can be seen in his further instructions for his son, forbidding him to learn any musical instrument of any kind “because those who do are held back in their university studies, and also adopt a wild and dissolute life”. Continue reading
JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volumes 5, 6 & 7
Breitkopf & Härtel
Volume 5: Sonatas, Trios, Concertos
Ed. Pieter Dirksen
Edition Breitkopf EB8805.
216 pages | 32 x 25 cm | 926 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18366-3 | Softbound + CD-ROM Continue reading
JS Bach: Complete Organ Works
Volume 1 & 2 – Preludes & Fugues I & II
Ed. David Schulenberg
Breitkopf & Härtel 2013/14.
Volume 1: Edition Breitkopf EB8801.
140 pages | 32 x 25 cm | 626 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18372-4 | Softbound + CD-ROM
Volume 2: Edition Breitkopf EB8802.
148 pages | 32 x 25 cm | 658 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18373-1 | Softbound + CD-ROM
Volume 4 – Toccatas and Fugues, Individual Works
Ed. Jean-Claude Zehnder
Breitkopf & Härtel 2012.
Edition Breitkopf EB8804.
184 pages | 32 x 25 cm | 793 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18375-5 | Softbound + CD-ROM
Further to my reviews of Volumes 3 and 8 of the Breitkopf & Härtel complete Bach organ works (see here and here), I have now been sent the remaining six published editions. Two more are in preparation. The first two volumes contain the pieces generally known nowadays (but not in Bach’s day) as Preludes and Fugues, the other (Volume 4) pieces called ‘Toccata’ and other miscellaneous individual pieces with various titles. The pieces are presented in key order, starting with C major. As with the two other volumes reviewed earlier, the production quality is excellent, with clear and good-sized print, generally (but not always) helpful page turns and, most importantly, very detailed notes on the pieces and the editorial process. All three volumes include CD-ROMs with additional pieces and variants on the main pieces. The Introductions are in German and English, but the Commentary is only in German. However an English version can be found on the CD-ROM or downloaded from the Breitkopf website. The editor for the two volumes of Preludes and Fugues is David Schulenberg, with volume 4 edited by Jean-Claude Zehnder, both well established Bach scholars. Continue reading
Composing the World: Harmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos
Oxford University Press USA, 2017
Hardback. 344 pages, 235x156mm, ISBN 9780190658205
The idea that music and the universe were somehow linked has its roots in Plato and resurfaced in the medieval era and beyond as man sought to explain the world around them and its rather awkward relation to their concept of a creator God. Recent advances in scientific research have reduced belief in extra-terrestrial involvement in creation, but have also increased interest in the historic link between music and astrology. Andrew Hicks’ book Composing the World, with its subtitle of Harmony in the Medieval Platonic Cosmos, addresses this, starting with the introductory statement “We can hear the universe!”, the 2016 proclamation that the Laser Interferometer Gravity Observatory (LIGO) had detected a “transient gravitational-wave signal.” What LIGO heard was described as “the vibration of cosmic forces unleashed with mind-boggling power across a cosmic medium of equally mind-boggling expansiveness: the transient ripple of two black holes colliding more than a billion years ago”. Continue reading
JS Bach: Complete Organ Works
Volume 3 – Fantasias & Fugues
Ed. Pieter Dirksen
Breitkopf & Härtel 2016.
Edition Breitkopf EB8803. ISMN: 979-0-004-18374-8
159pp + CD-ROM
The new 10 volume Breitkopf & Härtel critical edition of Bach’s organ music is arriving in dribs and drabs. I reviewed volume 8 here last July, and have now been sent Volume 3. It contains all the pieces entitled ‘Fantasia’ together with isolated Fugues. In that context, it is worth stressing that there are no surviving authorized and complete Fantasia and Fugue pairs, not even the well-known Fantasia & Fugue in G minor (BWV 542). Indeed, many of the popular Preludes and Fugues were also put together by later editors, rather than by Bach.
Peter Dirksen’s detailed introductory notes (in German and English), include a discussion of discussion the historic background to the Continue reading
Heinrich Scheidemann (c1595-1663)
Complete Organ Works
Vol 2: Magnificat Cycles (Ed. Klaus Beckmann)
128 pages • ISMN: 979-0-001-13660-0 • Softbound
Schott Music ED 9729
8 Magnificat Cycles; Anonymus: Chorale Fantasy (Magnificat VIII.toni)
Heinrich Scheidemann is one of the most interesting of the students of Sweelinck, the Amsterdam organist and teacher, who influenced many organists, particularly in Hamburg. His pupils helped to develop the important 17th century North German school of organ playing and composition that led eventually to Dietrich Buxtehude, a composer that the young Bach admired and travelled to hear. In this period the organists in the Hamburg churches had almost as much status as the preachers, and were expected to elaborate musically on many aspects of the Lutheran service. Scheidemann was organist of the Catherinenkirche in Hamburg. He taught his successor there, Reincken, and also possibly Buxtehude. Continue reading
Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Complete Organ Works
Vol 1: Compositions Pedaliter – 18 Praeludia BuxWV 136-153 (Ed. Klaus Beckmann)
120 pages • 23 x 30.5 cm • 455 g • ISMN: 979-0-004-16866-0 • Softbound
Edition Breitkopf EB 6661
Dietrich Buxtehude holds a special place in the hearts of most organists, although this is occasionally because he is the only pre-Bach German composer that they are aware of. But, despite many years of musicological research and publications, he still remains a somewhat enigmatic composer. There is still no agreement as to his birth date or place, and what his name really was. He seems to have been born in Helsingborg (in present day Sweden, but then part of Denmark) as Diderich, but later changed the spelling from the Danish to a more Germanic Dietrich (or Dieterich). His surname also appears in several versions, including Box de Hude.
Producing modern editions of his organ music is fraught with potential difficulties, not least because no surviving copies of Buxtehude’s autograph copies have been found. Continue reading
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck
Complete Keyboard Works
Volume 1 – Toccatas (Ed. Harald Vogel, Peter Dirksen)
128 pages • 23 x 30,5 cm • 460 g • ISMN: 979-0-004-18206-2
Edition Breitkopf EB 8741
Volume 2 – Fantasias (Ed. Peter Dirksen, Harald Vogel)
224 pages • 23 x 30,5 cm • 825 g • ISMN: 979-0-004-18272-7
Edition Breitkopf EB 8742
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (dubbed the ‘Orpheus of Amsterdam) was one of the most important keyboard composers at that musically fascinating period at the end of the Renaissance period and the start of the Baroque. Born in 1562, he was employed by the city of Amsterdam as organist of the Oude Kerk for 44 years until his death in 1621. Organ music in the Calvanist church was limited to occasional playing of pieces to familiarise the congregation with the choral melodies, before or after the service, but not during. So Sweelinck’s duties as city organist were generally to give concerts for the public and visitors. This have him time to build up an extensive teaching practice, attracting a generation of North German organists who returned to develop the influential Hamburg organ school that dominated the 17th century, culminating in the music Buxtehude in nearby Lübeck. His music was known throughout northern Europe, with two of his pieces includrf within the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.
Breitkopf have published his complete keyboard works in four volumes, Continue reading
Frescobaldi: Fiori Musicali
ed. Andrea Macinanti & Francesco Tasini
124pp, 235×315 mm, ISMN: 979-0-2153-0642-4
Ut Orpheus Edizioni ES39.
Frescobaldi’s Fiori Musicali was published in 1635. He was at the height of his musical powers, having just returned to Rome (after six years with the Medici’s in Florence) to work for the Barberini Pope and Cardinals, and continued his post as organist of St Peter’s in Rome, a post he had held throughout his many travels. Although many pieces in Frescobaldi’s earlier books of Toccatas (1615/16 and 1627) were clearly intended for organ and would have presumably have been playing in a liturgical setting, Fiori Musicali is his only organ book specifically geared towards use in the Mass. It was his last publication of new music, although he did re-issue some earlier volumes. It quickly became one of his most popular publications, and was used as an exemplar of polyphonic writing well into the 19th century. Bach also studied it and copied it out. Continue reading
Samuel Scheidt: Keyboard music transmitted in manuscript form
ed. Peter Dirksen
120pp, 230×305 mm, ISMN: 979-0-004-18395-3
Edition Breitkopf EB8831.
Following the three volumes of Scheidt’s Tabulatura Nova (reviewed here), the most recent of the Breitkopf Scheidt edition, recently published, covers the keyboard music found in manuscript sources. The importance of his three volume Tabulatura Nova has meant that the music not included in those volumes is usually overlooked, Continue reading
Samuel Scheidt: Tabulatura Nova III
ed. Harald Vogel
192pp, 230×305 mm, ISMN: 979-0-004-18122-5
Edition Breitkopf EB8567.
Breitkopf & Härtel have completed their important four volume series of the organ and keyboard works of Samuel Scheidt. Volumes I & II of Scheidt’s monumental 1624 Tabulatura Nova were published as EB 8565 and EB 8566 (containing works SSWV 102-126 & 127-138 respectively), both edited by Harald Vogel, as is the third volume, EB 8567 reviewed here. This contains works SSWV 139-158, the nine Magnificat settings together with a Kyrie and Hymn settings and Continue reading
JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 8
Organ Chorales of the Leipzig Manuscript
Ed. Jean-Claude Zehnder
Breitkopf & Härtel 2015
Edition Breitkopf EB8808
184pp + CD
Editions of Bach’s organ works are something of a minefield, even when there are clear autograph scores available. In many cases that is not the case, so the role of the editor and the availability and accuracy of available sources becomes an important consideration. Of all the publishers to be involved in Bach, Breitkopf & Härtel are perhaps the most appropriate. Founded in Leipzig in 1719 four years before Bach took up his post there, they were the first to publish the complete works of Bach, between 1851 and 1900 for the Bach-Gesellschaft. Unfortunately, at the moment, I only have access to one volume of their latest complete Bach Organ Works, so cannot comment on the 10 volume set as a whole.
The chorales from the Leipzig Manuscript are known by a variety of names, one of which is the ‘Eighteen Chorales’. This is misleading, not least because there are arguably either 15, 17 or 18 chorales in the collection. The first 13 Continue reading
Holy Treasure and Sacred Song
Relics Cults and their Liturgies in Medieval
Oxford University Press USA, New York, 2014
Hardback. xxii+296pp. ISBN 978-0-19-935135-0
The medieval cult of saintly relics has left us with some glorious examples of art, architecture, literature and music. But the studies of historians generally focus on one of first three of these aspects in isolation. This book aims to redress the balance by focussing on the musical aspects but within the context of the rich story of politics, power and influence, the complex history of monasticism and liturgy, and the artistic outpouring that the devotion to relics generated. It covers the period from around the mid-eighth century to the thirteenth in Tuscany. It is an extension of a Yale PhD thesis by musicologist Benjamin Brand.
The first three chapters reveal the world of the medieval bishops as ‘lords and builders’, later to become defenders of the holy treasures that their predecessors had amassed in their cathedrals against Scandinavian and Magyar invasions Continue reading
European Music 1520-1640
Ed. James Haar
The Boydell Press 2014
Paperback. x+586pp. ISBN 978-1843838944
This was first published in hardback in 2006 (at £75), as part of the Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music series, and has now been reissued in paperback at a more realistic price (£25). A comprehensive guide to the music of the sixteenth and early seventeenth century, it’s separate essays cover the different genres of late Renaissance polyphonic music (music for the Mass, the Motet, Chanson, Madrigal, early opera, instrumental music), extra-musical influences (music printing, the Reformation, Catholic renewal) together with chapters on the music of Italy, France, The Netherlands, German and Central Europe, Spain, and England. Continue reading
Music at German Courts, 1715-1760: Changing Artistic Priorities
Ed. Samantha Owens, Barbara M. Reul, Janice B. Stockigt
The Boydell Press 2015
Paperback. 504pp. ISBN 9781783270583
First published in hardback in 2011, this important book is now available in paperback. With 15 contributors, from Germany, Poland, the United States, Canada, and Australia, it covers the detailed history of the complex world of 15 Germanic Courts, of varying sizes. Many people’s knowledge of such institutions often only comes from the brief background knowledge of Bach’s various tenures in local Courts, before his eventual move to Leipzig. The essays in this book puts Bach’s career into a wider perspective, and one that is relatively little known. The Germanic system of often very small scale princely courts might have made for a complex hierarchy of aristocracy and governance, and some tricky questions of inheritance, but it made for an extraordinary flowering of art and music, as each little domain tried to outdo its neighbour.
Rather like those pub-quiz questions about the hierarchy of angels (ranging from Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones Continue reading
Andrew Parrott. Composers’ Intentions? Lost Traditions of Musical Performance
The Boydell Press, 2015
Paperback. 421pp, ISBN 9781783270323
Andrew Parrott is one of the leading members of a particularly influential generation of musician/scholars who founded performing groups in the 1970s: in his case, the Taverner Consort, Choir and Players, founded in 1973 . They changed the way that we think about, perform, and listen to, ‘early’ music. Unlike many conductors who cut their teeth in the world of period performance, Andrew Parrott has retained his strong research interests, notably around the music of Bach and Monteverdi. Perhaps best known for his book, The Essential Bach Choir (published in 2000), an expansion of the theories of Joshua Rifkin that Bach’s choirs were essentially performing as one to a part, Parrott remains an essential component of the early music world. Hence the importance of his latest book: Composers’ Intentions? Lost Traditions of Musical Performance.
This important collection of previously published essays, combined with Andrew’s further reflections on aspects of period performance, Continue reading