The Organ

Melchior Schildt (1592-1667) – Complete Organ Music

Melchior Schildt (1592-1667) – Complete Organ Music
Peter Morhard (fl 1685) – Complete Organ Music
Friedhelm Flamme
CPO 777 343-2

This is the fifth volume in CPO’s immensely valuable series, Organ Music of the North German Baroque played on the Gerhard-von-Holy instrument (1710-11) at the Bartholomäuskirche in Dornum. Not much is generally known of Melchior Schildt, whose father (presumably his first teacher) died in 1635, other than that, being born in Hanover, where members of his family held several important posts, he studied in Amsterdam under Sweelinck and in 1626 received a very significant appointment to the court of King Christian IV in Denmark. It would seem that JS Bach was aware of Schildt’s work, even though Schildt died almost twenty years before Bach was born, and a connexion between the two is that the melody of Schildt’s Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o mein Herr, was used by Bach in the concluding chorus of his St John Passion, in Schildt’s hands ending with impressively florid writing. Schildt’s Herr Christ, der einig Gottessohn is a fascinating set of five variations reflecting the five stanzas of Epiphany hymn by Elisabeth Cruciger, and is an important work for its pre-Bachian time. The Magnificat is perhaps even more so, with the second verse approaching eight minutes in length, recalling aspects of Herlich lieb.. and the third verse full of magnificent power and expressive force, the music floridly chromatic. The rest of Schildt’s surviving organ music here is equally fine, if shorter in individual length.

Even less is known of Peter Morhard, whose surname is found in different spellings at the time, but we know he died in the year of Bach’s birth, and he was appointed to St Michael’s church in Lüneburg. His Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, which opens the works by him on this disc, is an intriguing cross between choral-prelude and choral-fantasia, the ‘echo’ passages being particularly fascinating. There are aspects to Morhard’s work which certainly point to a later period than that of Schildt, and we must regret that, as in the case of the older composer, less than forty minutes’ worth of organ music by Morhard have come down to us.

The performances by Friedheim Flamme are infused with an excellent sense of period style, assisted of course by the instrument on which he plays. The booklet not only contains details of the organ itself, parts of which are believed to date from c.1530, but also gives the registrations Flamme plays for each of the pieces. Here, surely, is a genuine 16th-17th-century sound excellently captured in a perfect ambiance.

Robert Matthew-Walker