Mit dieser CD-Box wird nun die erstmalige Gesamteinspielung des Orgelwerks des bedeutenden deutschen Komponisten erfolgreich zum Abschluss gebracht.
With Volume 11, this enterprising series covering the complete organ works of Samuel Scheidt, on the German Fagott label, reaches its conclusion in magnificent style. Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654), one of the great composers of the north German organ school, is one of my own great favourites from this remarkable musical tradition.
Each of the volumes has offered a well-organised selection of works in different forms, and each set features a different organist and instrument. The music of the present disc – a two-disc set, unlike the single items of the preceding volumes - is performed by Jan Vermeire on the Felsberg organ of the church of Saint-Vaast, Béthune. This church was destroyed in the first world war, and only in 2001 did it finally acquire a new Great Organ, designed in the north German style by the Swiss organ builder Felsberg AG. In this case I have no qualms at all about the choice of a modern instrument because the result is magnificent, with glorious registrations ideally suited to the task.
Both the selection of works and the stylish musicianship of organist Jan Vermeire are outstanding. The selection on these two discs serves to illustrate the versatility and imagination of Scheidt's approach to variations chorales, Latin hymns and secular melodies. The opening item on disc 1 is a delightful example, a set of seven variations 'Französisches Liedlein Air de Lampons' (CD1, tracks 1-7). The tune - which I've heard somewhere before but can't recall where - is greatly enjoyable in itself, a beautiful secular melody which Scheidt explores in lively style, further enhanced by Vermeire's use of his instrument's gorgeous colours. Many of the works are simple pairs of variations on Lutheran chorales, rather than extended cycles, with the second variation more elaborate than the first and enhanced here by different registrations. Those pairs at tracks 1/13-14, 1/33-34, 1/54-55 and 2/14-15 are especially fine examples. Among them are a fair number of chorales unfamiliar to me, and perhaps to other enthusiasts.
The composer is at his best in the more extended sequences, such as the Pasamezo (1/21-32), based on a theme of no great initial attraction melodically, but developed into a fascinating series of variations. Niederländisches Lied 'Die flichtig Nimphae' (2/1-7) is another delightful sequence on a lovely melody. One of the finest – and most unusual - works in the set is the series of twelve 'Canones aliquot' (sample canons), many of them based on familiar chorale melodies (unnamed here); these are superb, compact contrapuntal works, each one a miniature masterpiece (2/16-27). The final two works on the second disc are both quite outstanding. 'Herr Gott dich loben wir' (2/32) is again a superb sequence of variations in beautiful colours. This is followed by a 'Magnificat 4. Toni' setting (2/33-38), another absolutely splendid work starting off in subdued manner before building up to its magnificent final verses.
Recorded sound is first-class, booklet notes are a repeat of those from earlier volumes – in other words, an excellent general survey of Scheidt's life and work but with no commentary on the individual pieces recorded here. Of course the titles of the works are shown in detail in the track listings. Altogether, this is among the very best volumes in this series, and in fact one of the very finest recordings of the composer's music that I have heard. If you love organ music – especially of the north German school – then you'll find this a revealing and deeply satisfying set.
Stephen Midgley (Amazon UK)