~Programs and Program Notes~
Wednesday, October 20, 12:30 pm
Jeffrey Snedeker, “Sweelinck Groot en Klein: Works for Large and Small Organ.” Anabel Taylor Chapel.
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck was the municipal organist of Amsterdam for his entire career. This post included organist duties at the Oude Kerk (Old Church), the principal place of worship of the city. However, because the city was Calvinist, music was not permitted to be performed or sung during worship services, except perhaps for a sung Psalter (psalm) without accompaniment. Sweelinck nonetheless was expected to play before and after the services, during which time he probably improvised fantasias and toccatas, and variations on hymn tunes, particularly those featuring psalm texts and hymns of the Reformation. However, his duties no doubt also included playing smaller keyboard instruments at civic functions and public gatherings, at which more popular, secular fare was expected. It is therefore not surprising that Sweelinck’s surviving keyboard works (none of which were published during his lifetime and none of which exist in original manuscript) include both works that were clearly intended for organs such as the large instrument at the Oude Kerk, and for smaller keyboard instruments such as a harpsichord or chamber organ. Hence, the title of today’s program, Sweelinck Groot en Klein (large and small).
The first half of this program will be performed on the Cornell Baroque Organ. This North German style instrument has a stoplist that corresponds well with that of the large organ at the Oude Kerk during Sweelinck’s time (completed in 1568, and sadly, replaced in the 18th century.) However, there are notable differences, particularly with regard to the pedal. Sweelinck’s pedal compass ranged only to low F, instead of the low C that is typical of North German instruments. Furthermore, Sweelinck’s pedal had only two independent stops, an 8’ Trumpet and a 2’ Nachthorn, which could be augmented by coupling down the main manual, or Hauptwerk. (By comparison, the pedal of the Cornell Baroque Organ has flues and reeds at 16’, 8’, 4’ and 2’ pitches, plus two mixtures, without a coupling option.) Either or both of these highly characteristic stops would have been most typically used to play a sustained cantus firmus (melody) against an accompaniment of more active figuration played on the manuals. The variations on Erbarm dich mein, O Herre Gott, a paraphrase of Psalm 51, are clearly intended for exactly this sort of registration, although no registration instructions survive in any copies of Sweelinck’s keyboard works or contemporary writings. In contrast, the Toccata is best suited to the full plenum of the main manual, or Hauptwerk. The Capriccio is presented using a combination of stops that would have been available on the secondary manual, or Oberwerk.
The other secular works on today’s program, while they could of course be played on a large organ with appropriate registration, are very well suited for harpsichord or small chamber organ, for which they likely were originally intended. The instrument being used in the second half of this program was built by Gerrit and Henk Klop (Garderen, Netherlands) in 1996, and consists of wooden flute stops at 8’, 4’ and 2’ pitch, with a 1-1/3’ mutation available on the upper half of the keyboard only. Despite this limited palette, considerable variety of color is possible, as will be evident especially in the variations on the secular tune, Mein’ Junges Leben hat ein End. In a resonant space such as Anabel Taylor Chapel, the clear speech and subtle voicing of this small instrument allows the listener to hear inner lines and contrapuntal relationships that are less distinct when the same works are played on a larger instrument. The Echo Fantasia was clearly written with a one-manual instrument in mind, since nearly all of the echoes are played an octave lower, which would not be necessary if the echoes were to be played on a second keyboard with a different registration. The concluding Fantasia on the hexachord “Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la” displays Sweelinck’s brilliant mastery of counterpoint, as he presents its 6-note theme more than 30 times, both forwards and backwards in all parts, using values ranging from double whole notes to eighth notes, as counter-themes swirl around it.
– Jeffrey Snedeker
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22, 8:00 PM
Jonathan Schakel (Italian organ and harpsichord) with guest Megan Sharp (soprano), “Sweelinck in Italy.” Sage Chapel.
In 1740, Johann Mattheson, the German composer, theorist, and prolific author, published a short biography of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, the Dutch organist “especially famous” from a young age for an incomparable technique and exquisite manner of playing. Still deficient in compositional skill, according to Mattheson, Sweelinck traveled to Venice in about 1557 in order to study with the Italian theorist Gioseffo Zarlino. Mattheson, however, admits to some doubts about his facts, in particular whether Sweelinck was even alive in that year (he wasn’t).
In fact Sweelinck never made it farther south than Antwerp, and only rarely left Amsterdam, and yet Mattheson’s confusion is understandable. It may have stemmed from mixing up Jan with his brother Gerrit, a painter who spent a number of years living in Rome. Or it may have resulted from Sweelinck’s obviously intimate knowledge of Italian music and music theory, including that of Zarlino. Sweelinck, however, had no need to leave Amsterdam to become familiar with Italian music, as the Dutch harbor was a cosmopolitan city with established trade links to Venice and many other foreign ports. Prints from Italy were readily available: Sweelinck’s colleague, the Leiden organist Cornelis Schuyt, owned a copy of Girolamo Diruta’s keyboard treatise, Il Transilvano, and Sweelinck is also likely to have known the work, which contained an anthology of toccatas, including the Toccata dell’ottavo tuono of Paolo Quagliati, a work preserved in a contemporary manuscript from the South Netherlands as well.
The most concrete evidence of Sweelinck’s knowledge of Italian music is found in the madrigals of his Rimes françoise et italiennes (1612), a collection of vocal music combining original pieces with elegant arrangements, perhaps even distillations, of works by other composers. Typical is Amor, io sent’ un respirar si dolce, Sweelinck’s three-part version of a madrigal by Giovanni de Macque, originally composed in six parts. The madrigal, and Sweelinck’s setting of Psalm 138, are here performed by solo singer and keyboard, a license perhaps permitted by the first collection of Sweelinck’s vocal music, the Chansons (1594), written for performance by voices or instruments according to its title page.
Although Sweelinck did not travel to Italy, his compositions did: the famous Fantasia chromatica, for example, was parodied in a ricercar published by Giovanni Battista Fasolo in 1645. One of the largest, and most important, manuscript sources for Sweelinck’s keyboard music, now housed in Turin, is of uncertain, but possibly north Italian, origin. Among the 26 works by Sweelinck found there, the variation set on the German chorale, Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, is found in a version adapted for manuals only, convenient in a country (like Italy) where pedalboards, and independent pedal stops, were not as common on organs as they were in the north.
The Ricercar, also found in the same extensive set of manuscripts in Turin, appears to represent Sweelinck’s most systematic exploration of Italian music in a keyboard work. The principal theme is borrowed, slightly modified, from a ricercare of Andrea Gabrieli, and the rhythmic and melodic manipulations of the theme in Sweelinck’s work refer to techniques common in Italian keyboard music. The result is an epic exploration of the contrapuntal possibilities of one theme, which obsessively rings out through the texture of the entire piece.
In 1607 Girolamo Frescobaldi, an organist and composer who was to become just as famous as Sweelinck, traveled to the southern Netherlands as part of the entourage of Archbishop Guido Bentivoglio, staying in Brussels for nearly a year. While just 125 miles from Amsterdam, no evidence suggests that Frescobaldi and Sweelinck ever met. A souvenir of Frescobaldi’s sojourn in Flanders is preserved in his Capriccio sopra la bassa fiamenga, a keyboard work based on a popular tune which he identifies as Flemish, though his compatriot Giorgio Mainiera made an arrangement of the same tune in 1578 as a “Tedescha” (German dance). Sweelinck may have known it as a patriotic song from the war of independence, “Seght, ghy Bergsche soldaten,” a song which refers to the fall of a town in north Brabant in 1589, when its underpaid English (and Dutch) garrison betrayed the town for a bribe, turning it over to the Duke of Parma.
Sweelinck’s fame as a musician and teacher attracted students to him from far away, many of them from (Protestant) Germany. These pupils followed in their master’s footsteps to a greater or lesser degree — Mattheson claims that the organist Jacob Praetorius, who journeyed from Hamburg to study with the Dutch master, even imitated Sweelinck’s manners and gesture. Often their music is difficult to distinguish from Sweelinck’s, and some works are consequently of uncertain authorship, like the charming set of variations on the Ballo del granduca, an Italian dance, long considered a Sweelinck work but which may have been written by one of his students instead. Sweelinck’s students continued his practice of drawing inspiration from Italian music — the keyboard arrangement of Felice Anerio’s madrigal, Mio cor se vera sei, is likely by Heinrich Scheidemann, another Sweelinck pupil from Hamburg.
While Sweelinck never traveled far from Amsterdam, his world was far from insular, and he was acquainted with music (and probably musicians) from all over Europe, from Italy to England, and Poland to Spain. In a different manner, though not entirely unlike modern life, where one can quarantine in one’s house while still connecting with a far wider world, Sweelinck’s worldview reached far from his Amsterdam home and embraced the full gamut of musical culture at that time.
– Jonathan Schakel and Megan Sharp
Saturday, October 23, 1:00 pm
Annette Richards, Nathan Mondry, and Anna Steppler, “Sweelinck and the Germans.” Anabel Taylor Chapel.
To play a large 17th-century northern European organ is to be absorbed into the light, smell, touch, and sound, of another world. At these sounding musical monuments the player is enclosed within the instrument as if in a time machine – the instrument, and the church it resounds in, visibly marked (for better or worse) by the many generations of organists who have been there before. Yet the musical experience, while steeped in the past, is always a confrontation with the present, from the novelty (and challenge) of a disconcertingly different key width or pedal layout, to the delights of improvising new music as part of the first encounter with a historic organ.
The organ is an ancient instrument, and such experiences and demands are not unique to the organists of the 21st century: northern Europe in the early 17th century had plenty of instruments dating back over a hundred years that would have offered similarly inspiring, if daunting, challenges. To be an organist was to inherit a legacy. The art of the organist was a craft learned and passed down within families. Sweelinck was the organist at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, as his father had been before him, and his son would be after him – between them they were in charge of the organ there for nearly 100 years; Sweelinck’s uncle and grandfather were also organists. In Hanover, Melchior Schildt took over from his father in 1629 as organist at the Marktkirche, continuing a family tradition that stretched back at least to his grandfather and included his brother, such that the Schildt family controlled organ culture in that city for over 125 unbroken years. When Scheidemann, also in 1629, assumed the position of organist at the Katharinenkirche in Hamburg he succeeded his recently deceased father; after his death from the plague in 1663 the position went to his assistant J. A. Reincken, who, in 1665 would marry Scheidemann’s daughter Dorothea and keep the business in the family. Yet craft did not preclude art, and being rooted in the past was the necessary foundation for a music of the future.
Both Schildt and Scheidemann began their musical studies with their fathers, and were then sent, like so many of the most talented young German organists of their generation, to complete their studies in Amsterdam with northern Europe’s most famous teacher, Sweelinck. Costs for their studies, which included instruction as well as accommodation in Sweelinck’s house, were paid by their respective city councils. Organ study with Sweelinck – ‘the Maker of German Organists,’ as Johann Mattheson dubbed him — was an investment in any self-respecting German city’s musical vibrancy, and future. Melchior Schildt came to Amsterdam from Hanover in December 1609 (he would have been 16 or 17 years old) and stayed until around the end of 1612; the 16-year-old Heinrich Scheidemann arrived in November of 1611 and remained until November 1614.
From Sweelinck these young German prodigies learned not only mastery of their instrument, but also an art of composing for the keyboard — or, rather, composing at the keyboard— that combined the virtuoso style of the English virginalists (conceived for the keyboard) with the polyphony of Italian and Spanish vocal and instrumental music. That combination can be heard in the two magisterial fantasias by Sweelinck on today’s program, the Fantasia ‘contraria’ and the Fantasia cromatica, whose multifaceted explorations represent the pinnacle of the contrapuntal arts.
Michael Praetorius, Sweelinck’s direct contemporary, did not himself come from a family of organists, but rather from a line of Lutheran pastors: his father had studied at Wittenberg with Martin Luther himself, and Praetorius’s eldest brother had been a professor of theology at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. In his setting of Luther’s own ein feste Burg, Praetorius uses his musical talents to expound on the stridently Lutheran theme, claiming the organ’s keyboards for the Lutheran cause. In the third volume of his treatise, syntagma musicum, Praetorius notes that he had collected for printing some “splendid toccatas” by Italian and Netherlandish organists. Probably including works by Sweelinck, the project did not materialize.
Returning home, Sweelinck’s German students put what they had learned from their master to work, on the huge organs with multiple manuals and large pedal departments that were the object of such great civic pride in the northern-German cities. Thus Sweelinck’s rigorously constructed, technically demanding, ingenious, and imaginative music found an afterlife that stretched through northern Germany across the 17th century and eventually, via the city of Hamburg (whose churches were dominated by Sweelinck’s students) and Scheidemann’s son-in-law J. A. Reincken, to J. S. Bach. Bach’s performance on the Katharinenkirche organ in 1720 prompted the aged Reincken to offer his famous benediction “I thought this art was dead but I see that it lives on in you.”
The relatively scant surviving works of Sweelinck, Schildt, and Scheidemann offer only an echo of the rich culture of this Golden Age. None of the keyboard music of any of the three was published before the 20th century. While Sweelinck saw all his 240 vocal works into print during his lifetime, the seventy or so keyboard works that come down to us (there are surely many more that have been lost) were transmitted only in manuscript copies, mostly by his students. Far fewer works survive from Scheidemann, most of them found in two important manuscript collections that include a complete cycle of multi-verse settings of the Magnificat, one in each of the 8 tones, discovered in the German city of Clausthal-Zellerfeld in the mid-20th century. From Schildt’s pen even less survives, though among that which does remain is his towering Magnificat setting (also found in the Clausthal-Zellerfeld source and likely originally one of a set of 8, like Scheidemann’s) and what must count as the best of all treatments of John Dowland’s renaissance hit, the Pavana Lachrymæ, a piece also set by Sweelinck.
The influence of “The Maker of German Organists” echoes through Schildt’s Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn, a work replete with contrapuntal techniques taught by Sweelinck. Schildt’s ingenious, precise dialogues between two frequently canonic voices must be made to work harmonically with the clarion notes of a hymn from the first years of the Reformation. Perhaps the meticulous erudition pays homage to the venerable Lutheran melody or to the composer’s equally venerable Dutch teacher – or to both. But Schildt also learned the art of virtuosic passagework from Sweelinck, and at well-chosen moments the music breaks free from counterpoint into colorful skeins of idiosyncratic figuration.
Our program concludes with two Toccatas, the first by Scheidemann the student, the second, by Sweelinck the teacher. Scheidemann’s Toccata in G exudes the wit and good humor for which Scheidemann himself was renowned: no hint of angst or envy darken this lively, lengthy self-portrait with its graceful repartee between the hands, sometimes divided between separate keyboards, sometimes jointly jumping back and forth between them. Marked manualiter (for manual keyboards alone and therefore free of the gravitational force of the longest, deepest pipes of the huge organ Scheidemann played), Scheidemann’s deceptive simplicity and sincere optimism are as fine and fresh today as they were four hundred years ago. Scheidemann’s work offers a foil to Sweelinck’s Toccata in C: Sweelinck eschews the usual sectional toccata structure in favor of a single monumental whole, whose force and grandeur confirm the authority of the Maker of German Organists, just as its rhetorical sweep embodies the art of the Orpheus of Amsterdam.
– Annette Richards, Nathan Mondry, and Anna Steppler
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23, 8:00 PM
David Yearsley and guest Martin Davids (baroque violin), “Melancholy Flee! Schop and Scheidemann in the Organ Loft.” Anabel Taylor Chapel.
*RSVP recommended for this final event, register here*
In size and power the church organ dwarfs the violin, and the pair might therefore seem unlikely, even irreconcilable duet partners, the one infamous in the popular imagination for a bombast that could easily overwhelm the other. Yet in Hamburg, Europe’s richest organ center, one of the most celebrated musical pairings of the seventeenth century – a golden age for the city’s cultural life – was the collaboration between organist Heinrich Scheidemann and the civic violinist Johann Schop playing together from the organ gallery of cavernous St. Catherine’s church to the delight of locals and tourists, colleagues and clerics, local grandees and admiring townsfolk.
Scheidemann was renowned for his ability to express his lively humor on the four manuals and pedals of the St. Catherine’s organ, a massive color-machine boasting impressive strength, but also equipped with a vibrant palette of softer, yet no-less-vivid registers imitating other instruments of the age: cornettos, viols, recorders. Flying over the keyboards of the organ’s ornate console, Scheidemann’s famously “fast fists” launched bright figurations and witty echoes into the vast architectural space of the church. Scheidemann molded his upbeat musical temperament under his teacher Sweelinck’s tutelage in Amsterdam from 1611 to 1614, but he learned also from his partnership with Schop, whose violin-playing was praised for a liveliness rife with unexpected ideas and sparkling flourishes – and, like Scheidemann’s in his turn, the occasional retreat into melancholic shadows.
The contemporary poet and music-lover Georg Neumark was one of the duo’s most ardent admirers; he praised a performance by Schop and Scheidemann at a Hamburg vespers service sometime around the middle of the century when both musicians were at the height of their individual and collective powers:
“How Am I thus enraptured? Who can so bend my / Heart with such beautiful pipework? Whose is the beautiful tone, / That permeates all my senses? Is it you Hipparchion, / And your companion Rufin, who with gentle violin / Makes the artful playing of the organ yet more pleasing? / No, you two are not up to the task. It is Schop and Scheidemann.”
The widely-travelled Philipp von Zesen lofted a similarly effusive paean to the pair in a volume of poetry published in 1651, the year before Neumark’s:
“Whenever Schop und Scheidemann / Marry their art, / Melancholy flees as fast as it can, / Deprived of all its powers.”
It was not only the beauty and ease of the Schop and Scheidemann duets that so captivated these listeners, but also their ability to raise the spirits, even during the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War that devastated Germany during the first half of the century when both men were in their prime. Indeed, another of the most famous Lutheran poets of the period, Johann Rist, called Scheidemann the “outstanding Amphion of Hamburg” – a reference to the mythical musician of antiquity, who with his voice and lyre built Thebes by charming stones to move themselves and form buildings. After his own house and its lavish garden in Lüneburg were destroyed by marauding Swedish troops during the Thirty Years’ War, Rist sought refuge in secure Hamburg and he thanked his friends Schop and Scheidemann for lifting him out of sadness with their music from the organ loft.
Most of Scheidemann’s surviving keyboard works were rediscovered little more than a half-century ago, and since then his music has been prized by modern organists – as it was in his own time – for its optimism and grace. These attributes come immediately to life on instruments such as the Anabel Taylor organ, whose case is based on that designed by Arp Schnitger for the large church in the German town of Clausthal-Zellerfeld. That historic instrument was commissioned in the last years of the seventeenth century by the Lutheran pastor Caspar Calvör, a collector and curator of Scheidemann’s music, who attended to its preservation and cultivation even several decades after the composer’s death. It is thanks to Calvör that Scheidemann’s work survives in sufficient quantity that we can enjoy and appreciate the composer’s unique gifts.
Much of what Schop and Scheidemann played together was improvised; only poetic testimonials to these frequent, evanescent collaborations remain. Their joint music-making was conducted in the favored forms of the day, diverse and engaging. There were variations on dance tunes such as the Almande Mortiel, tonight paired with Scheidemann’s take on a close cousin of the melody (here titled Englische Mascarata), or the popular Spanish Pavane, a favorite among north German musicians and across Europe. The pair would also have joined together on florid elaborations of the greatest hits of European vocal music, such as Giovanni Bassani’s Easter motet Dic nobis Maria and Alessandro Striggio’s self-pitying evergreen, the madrigal Nasce la pena mia. Required of all musicians was the ability to decorate John Dowland’s Pavana Lachrymae, certainly the most popular of all of these models, arranged many times for lute and keyboard by many composers across several decades. While Schop’s untitled sonata (sine titulo) in the Italian vein shares many technical and stylistic attributes with his glosses on Striggio, the violinist’s own composition nonetheless attests to the increased freedom and fantasy that attended the independence from venerable models.
Schop was the first violinist in northern Europe to enjoy the prestige of having his work published. His music for violin and continuo comes down to us in an Amsterdam publication from mid-century entitled ‘t Uitnemend Kabinet; his voluminous consort music, from which we have arranged our Intrada, was published in Hamburg in the 1630s. Scheidemann, by contrast, left his keyboard music in manuscript, the bulk of it preserved only by Calvör. But as was doubtless customary in seventeenth-century Hamburg, Martin Davids and I have granted ourselves a good measure of interpretative license in expanding on and arranging this music – treating these pieces as templates rather than as works. Thus our version of Scheidemann’s intabulation of Bassani’s motet, his setting of Vater unser im Himmelreich, and even his Canzon in G import into these pieces our own dialogues and digressions conducted in the spirit of the Schop-Scheidemann partnership. Like the other poets quoted above in praise of the illustrious pair, Rist was a prolific composer of hymn texts and enlisted Schop to write many of his melodies, the most famous of which is Werde munter, mein Gemüte (Be cheerful, my soul), later used by J. S. Bach in somewhat altered form in the cantata movement known in English as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” – a piece that has, as a favorite of modern wedding ceremonies and Christmas-tide compilations, sashayed its way into the unconscious of global millions. We introduce our fantasy on Werde munter with Schop’s Praeludium, the first published work for solo violin and placed at the beginning of the final installment of ‘t Uitnemend Kabinet (vol. 1), as if to advertise his status atop the first generation of northern European violinists. Our fantasy that follows is offered up in the spirit of our seventeenth-century predecessors, a small tribute to the joyous skill, varied art and good humors of Scheidemann and Schop. From there we make an ad hoc segue into the dance-till-you-drop thrills of the Spanish Pavan, unashamedly exuberant music of, and for, friends.
– David Yearsley