About this Recording
8.573119 - SCHEIDEMANN, H.: Organ Works, Vol. 7 (Brown)
English  German 

Heinrich Scheidemann (c. 1595–1663)
Organ Works, Vol 7


Heinrich Scheidemann is an important composer in the development of keyboard music and a central figure of the North German organ school. He was born in Wöhrden around 1595. His father, the organist David Scheidemann, was in 1604 appointed organist of St Catherine’s church in Hamburg, a city known for its economic strength, and religious, commercial, and artistic freedoms. St Catherine’s subsidised Heinrich’s studies with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck in Amsterdam between 1611 and 1614. He was one of many German organists who studied in Amsterdam with the renowned teacher nicknamed the “German organist maker”. When Scheidemann returned to Hamburg, he succeeded his father as organist of St Catherine’s, fulfilling these duties until his death in 1663. His friends were the cantor Thomas Selle, and the organists Jacob Praetorius and Matthias Weckmann. His most distinguished student was Johann Adam Reincken, who was also his successor.

In the early seventeenth century the organists of the four main churches in Hamburg had studied with Sweelinck. They learned a polyphonic and idiomatic keyboard style from their master, returning to Germany with skills that were adapted to the duties of a North German church musician. Scheidemann forged a new, independent style, described as “merry and full of humour”, incorporated into the four-part polyphonic writing of his master. He wrote music that ranged from the sublime to the majestic, blending severity and sweetness. The type of organ for which Scheidemann composed, a changing musical aesthetic and the liturgical requirements of the Lutheran church all contributed to his forging this new style.

St Catherine’s housed a sumptuous organ, one of the most beautiful in Northern Germany. It was expanded in 1630 by Gottfried Fritzsche to 56 ranks over four manuals and pedal. Fritzsche added the fourth manual in about 1635. These large organs with fully developed pedal divisions encouraged the use of pedals not only for playing a cantus firmus but as a supporting bass line as well. With the use of multiple manuals a new type of organ-writing emerged, with a clear hierarchy of the voices: the ornamented tune in the right hand on a solo registration accompanied by a continuo-like bass in the pedals and two inner voices filling out the texture on a secondary manual (this texture became immensely important in North German organ music and later organ playing in general). Scheidemann often writes in this manner, exploring the characteristics of these large organs.

Most of Scheidemann’s surviving works are compositions written specifically for the Lutheran liturgy. Between the prelude and the postlude the organist frequently played solo variations in alternatim with the choir and provided short intonations before chanted parts of the liturgy and interludes to mark liturgical movements. When the choir was not present, the organist replaced it entirely with intabulated motets. Scheidemann’s extant works can attest to these duties, and they are written-down examples of the manner in which Scheidemann and his contemporaries improvised.

Scheidemann composed Magnificat settings on all eight church modes and they each comprise four verses, those traditionally given to the organ. The stately first verse of Magnificat II Toni is written in four voices, with the cantus firmus played in the pedals in the tenor range. The second verse combines the vocal polyphony and intabulation practice with the new two-manual-and-pedal concept, with elements from Sweelinck’s variation and echo fantasia style, creating a grand fantasia. Verse three is a large scale four-voice ricercar, beginning in stile antico, later incorporating faster passage-work. Verse four is written in a less dense three-voice texture.

The tradition of playing a keyboard realisation of a vocal motet in liturgical organ playing in Germany dates back to the sixteenth century. We know that the four main churches in Hamburg shared a common choir so the organists often had to play a motet alone while the choir served in one of the other churches. Scheidemann wrote down several intabulations, arrangements of motets by Orlando di Lasso, Hieronymus Praetorius, Giovanni Bassano, and the four-voice motet Dixit Maria by Hans Leo Hassler. Scheidemann ’s setting of Dixit Maria is written for single manual and pedals. The vocal model is transformed by sophisticated idiomatic writing for the keyboard, retaining the basic framework of the original. Scheidemann maintained the voicing, sometimes creating awkward keyboard realizations from the voice crossings. He added figurations with scalar passages, creating an original organ pieces of great charm and beauty.

Chorale cycles were a central genre for Scheidemann and all North German students of Sweelinck. Many of the chorale settings by Scheidemann consist of two contrasting verses and are often written in four-part texture. Often the melody is presented as a delicately embellished cantus firmus in the soprano, set against lower voices that pre-imitate each line of the melody. In A solis ortus cardine both verses are set in four parts, the first with the cantus firmus in the bass, the second with the cantus firmus in the soprano. The first verse of Aus tiefer Not is a grand statement with the cantus firmus in the pedals, the second a virtuoso three-part manualiter setting in Sweelinck style. Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit’s verses are both written in four voices. In the first the cantus firmus is heard in the bass; the soprano states the melody in verse two, lightly ornamented, with imitative material in the accompanying voices.

The set of four verses on Vom Himmel hoch opens with the soprano stating the cantus firmus followed by the lower voices entering in close succession. This is followed by a three-voice setting; the third verse is written in four-voices with the melody richly ornamented; this verse flows seamlessly into the final embellished verse, also with the soprano on a separate manual. Betrübet ist zu dieser Frist is a song variation, written in a completely personal style of figuration and counterpoint. Scheidemann uses a thoroughly polyphonic approach in the style of Sweelinck, written mainly in a three-part counterpoint. The beautiful melody is from English descent and was known as the “Cloak Dance”.

Praeambulum in D minor is an example of a brief liturgical extemporisation played before a vocal piece to establish the mode. Praeambulum in E minor, also brief, includes sequential writing. Even within the miniature form of these Praeludia a tripartite shape can be seen, beginning with a freely polyphonic introduction followed by a sequential section and an improvisational closing. Fantasia in D minor begins with a beautiful chromatic subject that is treated contrapuntally. It then moves into playful writing featuring echo effects. It is a wonderful example of keyboard polyphony as taught by Sweelinck, using counterpoint as a basis for the development of compositional skill. These are beautiful examples of brief pieces which made possible the development of the praeambulum and other free works into a more complex form.

Dance music was also a part of Scheidemann’s output. In the seventeenth century there was often no clear distinction between organ music and that of other keyboard instruments. The repertoire without pedals cannot be definitely established as being intended for organ or harpsichord. This recording includes several examples of these brief, charming pieces: three Courants with variations, an Allemande and a Mascarata, all of which incorporate figurational richness of early dance pieces attesting to Scheidemann’s training with Sweelinck.

Julia Brown

The Organ of First Presbyterian Church, Springfield, Illinois, USA

The organ at First Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois, USA, was built by John Brombaugh & Associates of Eugene, Oregon, USA and was completed in June 2004 as its maker’s Op. 35.

Great – Manual II Ruckpositive – Manual I Swell – Manual III Pedal Couplers, etc
Præstant 16 Quintadena 16 Baarpijp 8 Præstant 16 Ruckpositive-Great
Octave 8 Præstant 8 Viola da Gamba 8 Subbass (wood) 16 Swell-Great
Holpipe 8 Gedackt 8 Vox Celeste (tc) 8 Violonbass (wood) 16 Great-Pedal
Octave 4 Octave 4 Principal 4 Octave 8 Ruckpositive-Pedal
Spitzflöte 4 Rohrflöte 4 Flauto 4 Octave 4 Swell-Pedal
Quinte 2²⁄³ Octave 2 Nasard 2²⁄³ Mixture V-VI Cymbelstern
Octave 2 Waldflöte 2 Querflöte 2 Contra Posaune 32
(C-B wood, rest from
Posaune 16)
Tremulant, adjustable
Cornet IV
(descant, includes Holpipe 8)
Sifflet 1¹⁄³ Tierce (tc) 1³⁄5 Posaune 16  
Mixture IV–VI Sesquialter II Scharff III Trumpet 8  
Cimbel III Scharff IV–VI Fagot-Oboe 16
(Dulcian C-fʼ, rest is Oboe
based on Hook, 1870)
Trumpet 4  
Trumpet 16 Dulcian 8 Trumpet 8 Cornett 2  
Trumpet 8 Schalmey 4 Vox Humana 8  
Trumpet 4  
Hautbois 8  

Keyboard compasses: Manuals, 56 notes: C–g’’’; Pedal, 30 notes: C–f’, flat.

Mechanical key action is suspended throughout, with no assists. Stop action is electric with an adjustable solid state combination system. The Swell louvres are operated mechanically, with no assistance.

The key desk is attached with a bench at level three steps above gallery main floor level. The Ruckpositive is located at the front of the gallery, providing enough room for choir and small orchestra; the main case is almost against the rear wall of the church nave under the Tiffany ‘Dove’ window which governed the design of that case.

The metal flue pipes are made from finest lead/tin and copper alloys, hammered and voiced for a vocal sound. The front pipes, flutes and metal reed alloys are 98% lead, 1%+ tin with a bit of antimony, copper and bismuth; the small plenum pipes are 23% tin with the rest made of lead; the Viola da Gamba treble is of high tin. Poplar and Douglas Fir are used for wood pipes. All small metal flue pipes are cone tuned; the stopped metal pipes have soldered hats; the reeds are easily tunable by the organist. The organ has a total of 3250 pipes disposed on 49 registers comprised of 70 ranks.

The wind system consists of wedge bellows and an electric blower for stable, yet flexible winding at a water column pressure of 76mm (3’’) for the entire organ, except for the Contra Posaune 32’ at a pressure of 110mm.

The instrument has no concussion bellows or other stabilizing devices and is tuned in Herbert Kellner’s ‘Bach’, a mild unequal temperament suited to music of all periods.

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