Friday, March 11, 2016

Norddeutsche Orgelschule

No. 217 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


This month’s montages continue our yearly tradition of programming Lenten music suggestions. Another tradition is organ titles appropriate for the Lenten season, and this montage falls in that category.

According to Wikipedia, 17th and 18th century German organ composers can be divided into two primary schools: the north and the south German schools (sometimes a third school, central German, is added). The stylistic differences were dictated not only by teacher-pupil traditions, but also by technical aspects such as the quality and the tradition of organ building, and by certain composers who would help spread national styles by travelling and learning from other countries' styles.

Today’s montage features three composers we associate with the north German school - the composer who is now considered the founder of this school is the Netherland’s  Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. Sweelinck's fame as a teacher was very widespread (in Germany he was known as the "maker of organists"), as was his influence. A handful of Sweelinck’s works open the montage.

Later northerners like Franz Tunder, Georg Böhm and Johann Adam Reincken all cultivated a harmonically and rhythmically complex improvisatory style rooted in the chorale improvisation tradition. Forms such as the organ prelude (a multi-sectional composition with numerous flourishes and embellishments such as scale runs, arpeggios and complex counterpoint) and the chorale fantasia (a musical setting of a whole verse of the chorale text) were developed almost exclusively by north German composers. Dieterich Buxtehude's work represents the pinnacle of this tradition; the praeludia form the core of his work.  Buxtehude is also amply featured today.

As for Johann Sebastian Bach, though geographically he comes from the southern region, he must be regarded as a man who evolved his own tradition, a synthesis of these different currents and also that of the French tradition. He also met personally with many of these artists: Buxtehude which he pays a visit several weeks in Lübeck, Lübeck and Reincken in Hamburg, Böhm during his apprenticeship in Lüneburg.

Bach makes the montage with a few short chorales – well within the traditions of Sweelinck and Buxtehude, and also as more examples of the fine organ plating of the Netherlands’ Piet Kee, who is featured in all of the tracks on this week's share.

I think you will love this music too.

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