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.

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Kerll: Complete Organ Works – Vol I

Johann Caspar Kerll (1627-1693)
Complete Organ Works
Vol I: Toccaten I–VIII (Ed. John O’Donnell)
34 pages • ISMN: 979-0-012-18121-7 • Softbound
Doblinger DM 1203

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Johann Caspar Kerll was born 1617 in Adorf in the far south of Saxony. Son of an organist, he was sent to Vienna in his early teens to study with the Court Kapellmeister, Giovanni Valentini. He was soon noticed in Court circles and when he was about 20 years-old was sent to Brussels by the Hapsburg governor of the Spanish Netherlands as organist for the new palace. Over the next 10 years, he combined his Brussels post with musical travels, including studying in Italy with Carissimi where he probably met Froberger and might have studied with him. He also spent time back in Vienna, in Dresden, and Moravia, eventually becoming Court Kapellmeister in Dresden in 1656. He returned to Vienna in 1674, where he might have been a teacher of Pachelbel, then deputy organist at the Stephensdom. He is one of those unfortunate composers many of whose works have been lost, including eleven operas. He is best known now for his keyboard music, and this first volume of his organ works, consisting of 8 Toccatas,  demonstrates why. Continue reading

Johann Speth: Complete Organ Works – Vol I & II

Johann Speth (1664-c1720)
Complete Organ Works Vol I & II (Ed. Ingemar Melchersson)
Vol I:
  32 pages • ISMN: 979-0-012-20126-7 • Softbound • DM 1449
Vol II:  44 pages • ISMN: 979-0-012-20127-4 • Softbound • DM 1450
Doblinger (Diletto Musicale) DM 1449/1450 

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With one or two exceptions, the organ music of South Germany during the Baroque era is usually overlooked in favour of the far more musically advanced North German organist-composers – and, of course, Bach. These two volumes of the only surviving music of Johann Speth helps to redress that balance – or, perhaps, to explain it. Speth was born in 1664 in Speinshart in the north of Bavaria, about 30 km south-east of Bayreuth. Speinshart has a substantial monastery complex, and little else, then and now. The original Romanesque monastery buildings were reconstructed in High Baroque style between 1681 and 1706, and may have been in a poor state prior to that. Earlier assumptions that Speth must have studied music at the monastery have been disproved, not least on the grounds that the abbey’s music school did not exist until well into the 18th-century. But he may well have received lessons from a musician connected with the monastery. The first we know of Speth is in 1692 when he applied for, and got, the post of organist in Augsburg Cathedral. The calling card he offered with his job application was the music contained in these two Doblinger volumes, published the following year under the title of Ars magna Consoni et Dissoni.  Continue reading

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 3

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

Bach Orgelwerke IIIThe 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

Max Reger: Complete organ works

Max Reger Edition: Sämtliche Orgelwerke
Martin Schmeding, organ
Cybele Records. Cybele 175 051500. 16+1 SACDs. 19h 24’36

Max Reger (1873-1916) was one of the most distinguished German musicians of the 19th century and a prolific composer, organist, pianist, conductor, and teacher. After time in Weiden and Munich he moved to Leipzig as musical director at the Leipzig University Church, professor at the Leipzig Royal Conservatory and, later, as music director to the court of Duke of Saxe-Meiningen and the Meiningen Court Theatre. Despite an enormous output of everything short of an opera, he is best known today for his organ music.

He is one of those organ composers that can bring out strong feelings in the rather cloistered world of organ players and listeners. He is frequently misunderstood in terms of his musical language; the sheer bombastic enormity of many of the pieces disguising the fact that they are often essentially an extension of mainstream Baroque compositional ideas, notably those of his hero Bach, a composer he regarded as ‘the beginning and end of all music‘. To the detailed counterpoint of Bach, he added Continue reading