SOPP369: I was wondering if you have any other fingered editions of other pieces by north German baroque composers
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 369 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Luke and he writes:
“Hello, I just enjoyed playing very much your fingered edition of "Variations on Dances" by Samuel Scheidt. I was wondering if you have any other fingered editions of other pieces by north German baroque composers, such as Scheidt, Scheidemann, or Sweelinck, or if you were planning to make any more.
My skill level is somewhere between beginner and intermediate, I would think. I am playing a one manual positive with pedal.
V: Ausra, what do you say, why do you say people like north German baroque composers such as Scheidt, Scheidemann, Sweelinck, Buxtehude, Tunder.
A: Well because we agreed they are my favorites too although I don’t know if these composers would be my favorites if I would play one manual positiv organ without pedal because in general these composers are known for creating music, not all of them but most of them, for creating compositions for large organs. Look at those north German organs with big pedal power and multiple manuals, not positiv.
V: Especially Scheidemann.
A: Yes, especially Scheidemann. Not so much Scheidt of course and Sweelinck. Those could be done on one manual positiv. Oh, he has pedal, yes, with pedal. But still for most of Scheidemann’s compositions you would need at least two keyboards, two manuals.
V: Umm-hmm. So later on Luke found other scores and he bought Fantasia Chromatica by Sweelinck, Benedicamus by Samuel Scheidt, Da Pacem by Sweelinck and More Palatino by Sweelinck. Then he wrote that he wanted to find even more scores. He is hungry for north German music in general. But it’s a good start I think. It doesn’t make sense to buy everything and only practice one or two pieces, right? Especially at the beginner level or early intermediate level. I think those four scores are plenty to start with.
A: But that’s what many people want to do. They want to own something and they buy things in advance just to have them. Haven’t you noticed this kind of tendency?
V: I know I have Kindle device for reading books and I have many books loaded up there to read. Guess how many I have read by now.
A: I don’t know.
V: A small part of them. Yes it is a problem I’m dealing with too because I have a big curiosity about various phenomena and it’s difficult for me to focus on one thing and I feel distractions everywhere. If I see a wonderful book, which is of course wonderful in itself, and I feel to urge to buy it with the hope that I will read it one day or someday. But lately I’ve been checking myself and I’m kind of focusing on the books that I have on my Kindle so that I would not be so distracted. What would you recommend for people, to buy more or to practice more?
A: Of course to practice more but usually this is not how it works.
V: Obviously when people are subscribed to Total Organist program that we have they don’t have to buy every single one, they can download one or two or four or whatever number they like and see their goals or how they fit their goals and then try them out and practice music that fits their needs the most. But that’s the beauty; they can choose whatever works for them without the need to invest in each individual score separately.
A: That’s nice.
V: Which is another way. Some people choose not to pay monthly or yearly membership and just buy what they need or I would say what they want sometimes.
A: Out of these three mentioned composers which one is your favorite? Sweelinck, Scheidemann, or Scheidt.
V: Maybe Scheidemann I would say. At one time I memorized a lot of Scheidemann’s music and tried to assimilate his style and improvise like Scheidemann. I remember my lecture recital at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. It was about mastering the composition treatise by Sweelinck but applying it to the rules of how Scheidemann would create. Dissecting the pieces of Scheidemann and putting them back together in different order and making it my own. That was my idea some 13 or 14 years ago. For that reason I had to memorize a lot of Scheidemann’s music in small fragments and transpose them. That’s why I feel kind of connected with him a lot.
A: Yes, I guess when you spend a lot of time with one composer’s pieces you sort of feel like yourself while playing his music.
V: What about you?
A: I guess also Scheidemann is my favorite because his music is so sweet.
V: We have this CD Recording by Bill Porter, it’s called “Music Sweet and Serious.” So Scheidemann’s music was considered sweet by his contemporaries and serious music was by Jacob Praetorius II who lived also in Hamburg. They were contemporaries I believe. They were both students of Sweelinck but Jacob Praetorius’ style was more grave and serious.
A: And then Ranken continued the sweet style of Scheidemann.
V: Yes, and of course Buxtehude later probably learned from Ranken and transferred this style to Lubeck.
A: That’s right so out of those three composers I think that Scheidt is probably in the last place for myself.
V: But you know, the good thing about Scheidt is that he is the only one of those composers who wrote a complete collection of keyboard works.
A: Tabulatura nova.
V: Yes, in three parts and it’s like a compendium of the types of organ compositions or genres that were played at the day in north Germany at the beginning of the seventeenth century and it’s very beautiful too.
A: So I guess he had probably the most teacher and scholar approach to the music that he did.
V: And scholars today believe that his style still resembles the most Sweelinck style.
A: That’s right, yes. It’s very much Sweelinck-like.
V: That why Balletto del Granduca or Ballo del Granduca sometimes they call it, was first thought to be created by Sweelinck and now I believe Peter Dirksen says it’s by Scheidt. So sometimes it’s really hard to differentiate both styles of those composers. Scheidemann went further with his diminutions and ornamented line in the solo part which of course neither Scheidemann nor Sweelinck was the champion of it.
A: That’s right.
V: Although they both knew it and especially Sweelinck when he got involved with English virginilists, virginal composers such as John Bull and Gibbons and others. They have those flourishes in the solo parts, in the bass and the right hand and Sweelinck uses two sometimes in his keyboard variations for example. But Scheidemann went further and I think he created those chorale fantasies with those ornamented versions of the solo lines which are very beautiful on large organs with solo stops. What would you say about polyphony of Scheidemann and Sweelinck, are they similar?
A: Of course they both created polyphonic music but I think Scheidemann took a little bit different approach.
V: Yes, and he probably made this style fitted for keyboard instruments as well because Sweelinck’s polyphony is basically totally local, taken from Italian theorists like Zarlino.
A: Well yes, because you can find all those ornamentations and diminutions and all other polyphonic devices in his fantasies for example. I guess the biggest advantage was that Scheidemann used the organ in more various ways so definitely when playing Scheidemann you really need to have more that one keyboard which is not the case with Sweelinck’s music.
V: But you know what I would say in addition to that because Luke fell in love with those three composers is that regardless of the type of instrument you are playing it on the music starts to speak for itself. It’s not like Spanish music, Portuguese music, or even Italian music where need to have specific instrument to sound it convincing, English music too. Otherwise it doesn’t transfer all the beautiful qualities. With north German music the music starts to speak on any interesting keyboard instrument regardless of the style and specification. Even if you have one flute it sounds beautiful just like with Bach. Would you say I’m on the right track here?
A: Well, (laughs) yes and no. I don’t think that north German like Scheidemann would not sound well on any type of instrument. Be careful when you are telling things like this because it’s not true, not entirely true.
V: So that’s your opinion.
A: That’s my opinion. I wouldn’t play Scheidemann on Cavaille-Coll’s organ. Would you?
V: Would you play Bach on Cavaille-Coll’s organ?
A: Not if I could help it.
V: (laughs.) Not if you could avoid it.
V: I know. Yeah, that’s a tricky distinction we sometimes have to make. If we like the music so much sometimes we tend to sometimes play it on any instrument that we find and some people are fine with this and some believe that more specific instrument are needed to express the beauty of the music. But what I was referring it’s a little bit from a different angle that Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and English music let’s say in itself they lack those purely musical qualities which let’s say north German music has, and therefore when you strip north German music from the wonderful north German sounds they have much more left than any other I mentioned stylistic trends and Bach even more. I could play Bach’s chorale or fugue or prelude on my little positiv organ at home with one flute without 16’ but it would sound complete in itself because it’s thought out composition and north German is on this track too, not as complete as this, but more on this track that any other previous music that we know. I would say this.
A: That’s why Bach writes it so much and took influences from this music because one genius knows another genius.
V: Let’s say French classical music. It also lacks a little bit in color when we perform it on a different type of instrument. Not so with north German music.
A: Well I would not judge so much.
V: But that’s my opinion and I am open for discussion. OK guys.
V: Let’s be liberal here. OK thank you guys for sending thoughtful questions, we love helping you grow and see how long our answer was. Once I start talking I cannot shut up.
A: Yes, because it’s about north Germans whom we both love.
V: Just like when we started drawing Pinky and Spiky cartoons those animals start to talk and we have to shut them up because they wont’ stop on themselves. Alright, we hope this was useful to you and remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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