Bernard Foccroulle - Praetorius & Schildt: Selected Organ Works - MusicWeb International

The music of Jacob Praetorius is not well known. His reputation is mainly based upon his works for the organ and he is seen as an important figure in German organ music before J. S. Bach. He was a student of the Dutch master Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, then took his new skills back to his hometown of Hamburg where he was the organist at the Petrikirche from 1603 onward. If Jacob Praetorius’s music is relatively unknown, then that of Melchior Schildt is even more so. He was a native of Hanover where his family had served as organists for well over one hundred years. Like Praetorius, Schildt had been sent to Amsterdam to study with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, funded by a grant from the city council of Hanover. After he completed his studies, Schildt became organist at Wolfenbüttel until 1626 when he was appointed organist to the court of Christian IV Hing of Denmark. Schildt returned to Hanover in 1629 when he succeeded his father, recently deceased, at the Marktkirche St. Georgii et Jacobi. Both Jacob Praetorius and Melchior Schildt would become important figures in the foundation of the North German Organ School thus influencing the likes of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The music presented by both Jacob Praetorius and Melchior Schildt on this disc compliments each other well. Both show a number of influences, including that of their master Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, as well as a strongly Italianate feel in a number of pieces whilst also putting the music firmly in the German Lutheran tradition. The pieces included here are largely meditative in character, no real showpieces but having said that, there is still a lot to interest and excite. Praetorius’s Von allen Menschen abgewandt, with its two quite diverse ‘versus’, clearly shows the development of this new North German style as well as the hand of Sweelinck. It is a wonderful opener to this disc set of ‘verses’. While the set of seven ‘versus’ that make up Vater unser im Himmelreich show this new style in a liturgical tradition for the Lutheran Church, the pieces support the liturgy rather than distract from it. Even the F Major Praeambulum shows deference to the church setting and is less extravagant than examples from a later age. The music of Melchior Schildt follows in a similar vein, quite subdued yet full of colour and character. The slow pace of the opening ‘versus’ of Herr Christ, der einig Gottessohn setting the scene effectively, with its well measured meditative feel placing the listener at the heart of the Lutheran service. This feel is continued through the five ‘versus’ of this work, indeed it is only in the opening declamation of the Magnificat primi modi that the tempo and dynamics are lifted somewhat. The rest of the ‘versus’ return to the quiet more supportive and meditative role. Despite this music being mainly calm and quiet in nature, there is a lot to be enjoyed. None of the pieces outlive their welcome; for example the II. Versus, Auff 2 Clavier of the Magnificat, with its question and answer like passages is marvellous. This disc goes part way to filling gaps in my organ collection and I am sure it would be a welcome addition to any compilation of early organ music.

The Stellwagen organ of the Jakobikiche in Lübeck sounds marvellous despite its age. It was built in 1467, restored in 1515 and enlarged in 1636/37 but has broadly remained untouched since then, apart from being removed for safekeeping at the beginning of World War II. It is a fine sounding example of the North German School of Organ building. Bernard Foccroulle certainly gets the best out of the instrument in this recording, demonstrating his performance skill and indeed scholarship. It is his performing version of Praetorius’s (Fantasia sopra) Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt that is used here. Foccroulle also contributes to the excellent booklet notes that accompany this disc. The notes are in English, French and German and include full organ specifications. Bernard Foccroulle is a worthy interpreter of this music and this disc is an important addition to the catalogues of early Northern German Organ music.

MusicWeb International
04 June 2019