The Art of the North German Organ - Part 2

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The Art of the North German Organ - Part 2

The Organists - The Post of Organist (23)


The repertory we know today of the North German Organ Baroque represents only a part of what was actually written at the time. Many pieces have been lost. If we count only those whose surviving works have been handed down to us, we end up with a distinguished gallery of important musical personalities.

Among the earliest musical examples of North German Baroque are the splendid monumental Organ Magnificats of Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629), who followed his father, Jacob Praetorius the Elder, as Organist of St Petri, Hamburg, Although it is not kwon who was the teacher of Hieronymus Praetorius, the following generation made their way, almost in masse, to study with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, among them Jacob Praetorius the Younger (1586-1651), son of Hieronymus and Organist at St Petri, Hamburg, Paul Siefert (1586-1666), Court Organist in Warsaw and of St Marien, Danzig, Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654), Organist ams Director of Musices in Halle, Andreas Düben (ca. 1590-1662), Court Organist and Organist of the German Church in Stockholm, Melchior Schildt (ca. 1592-1667), Organist at the Church of Beatae Mariae Virginis, Wolfenbüttel, at the Court of Kopenhagen and at the Marktkirche in Hannover, and Heinrich Scheidemann (1596-1663), Organist at St Catharinen, Hamburg. Although not known to have been Sweelinck pupils, the following belong, stylistically, to the same circle - Petrus Hasse the Elder (ca. 1585-1640), Organist of St Marien, Lübeck, David Abel (died 1639), Organist of St Marien, Rostock, and Delphin Strungk (1601-1694), Organist at Beatae Mariae Virginis, Wolfenbüttel, at the Court in Celle and at St Martini, Braunschweig. This generation of Sweelinck pupils thaught many North German organists of the following period. Matthias Weckmann (1619-1674), for example, later Court organist in Dreden and in Copenhagen, and at St Jacobi, Hamburg, was a pupil of Jacob Praetorius the Elder. Heinrich Scheidemann thaught his assistent and successor at St Catharinen, Hamburg, Jan Adam Reincken (1623-1722) the art of playing the organ. Nicolaus Hasse (ca. 1617-ca. 1672), Organist of St Marien, Rostock, may have studierd with his father, Petrus Hasse.

We dont know the teacher of Franz Tunder, Court Organist in Gottorf and at St Marien, Lübeck, although there are stylistic similarities between his chorale-based works and those of Andreas Düben and Nicolaus Hasse. Among his circle of pupils may have been Peter Mohrhardt (died 1685), Organist of St Michaelis, Lüneburg, and Andreas Kneller (1649-1724), Organist of the Marktkirche in Hannover and of St Petri, Hamburg. There are striking parallels, too obvious to be the result of chance, between Kneller's organ works and those of Vincent Lübeck (1654-1740), who studied with his stepfather Caspar Förckelrath at St Marien, Flensburg, and the he went on to be organist at St Cosmae et Damiani in Stade and St Nicolai, Hamburg. These suggest that Lübeck and Kneller may have studied together under Franz Tunder, or that Lübeck received further instruction from Kneller himself. Vincent Lübeck was himself later much sought after as an organ teacher and smaller compositions have survived from his pupils Joachim Friedrich Haltmeyer, Carl Johann Friedrich Haltmeyer, Gottlieb Nittauff and his son Vincent Lübeck the Younger.

As with Franz Tunder, we have no record of the teacher of Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), Organist of St Marien, Helsingör, and St. Marien. Lübeck. Including among his pupils, however, were Nicolaus Bruhns (1665-1697), Organist in Copenhagen and of St Marien, Husum, Daniel Erich (ca. 1650-1712), Organist or the Town Church in Güstrow, Georg Dietrich Leyding (1664-1710), Organist of Braunschweig Cathedral, who also studied with Reincken in Hamburg, and Arnold Matthias Brunckhorst (ca. 1670-1720), Organist of the Town Church in Celle.

Outsiders who joined the Noth German School from Central Germany - like Matthias Weckmann a generation before - were Georg Böhm (1661-1733), Organist of St Johannis, Lüneburg, and Johann Nicolaus Hanff (1665-1711) Kapellmeister in Eutin, Cathedral Organist in Schleswig and music teacher in Hamburg.

At the end of this list we must make mention of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), who received active encouragement to compose for the organ from Georg Böhm, Dietrich Buxtehude, Vincent Lübeck and Jan Adam Reincken.


North German organists were usually municipal employees, who were paid a good salary and, because of their position as servants of the town council, received numerous benefits, such as a free house, seats for their family in Church as well as exemption from taxes and from watch-keeping duties on the city walls. They were well respected. Franz Tunder, for example, was buried in a family vault in St Marien, Lübeck. Their rewards, usually paid quaterly, comprised the salary itself, income from various church tithes and endowments, various benefits-in-kind and the award of the honorary title of "Kirchenschreiber" or "Werckmeister", in effect church administrator or comptroller, responsible for the fabric of the building and the management of its estates etc. Organ pupils and appointments as organ adviser provided further sources of income. Organ teaching was particulary lucrative and it is recorded that Vincent Lübeck, during his time in Stade (1674-1702), earned more each year from his pupils than from his activity as organist (24).

The North German organists's principal duty was naturally to play for services. At the same time, a tradition evolved, in which we may recognise the beginnings of present-day concert performance. At the Saturday evening service (Vesper), the liturgy included a Latin Magnificat, with alternate verses sung by a small choir and played by the organ. On such occasions the North German organist could demonstrate his abilities to the full, with the result that these services attracted young organists and other interested enthusiasts. There are numerous contemporary accounts, such as the Duke Rudolph who made the journey from his seat in Wolfenbüttel to Braunschweig to hear Delphin Strungk's palying at Vesper (25).

Then there is Hans Heirich Lüders, Organist of St Nicolai in Flensburg, who writes in a bipgraphy included in Johann Mattheson's "Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte, that, during his four years as a student in Hamburg, "he attended diligently and with great pleasure the Saturday evening service, where Vincent Lübeck was organist" (26).

In the Calvinist Netherlands organ music during the service was frwned upon at thet time. The town churches were meeting places for the citizens, especially on market days, and it was customary to entertain the merchants who gathered there with organ music. This idea soon found its way north to the Baltic, and prompted Franz Tunder, around 1640, to introduce his celebrated "Abendmusiken" for the entertainment of Lübeck merchants. In the beginning these were straightforward organ recitals. Simular events are known to have been held in St Marien, Danzig, at around this period.

Will be continued ...

(23) First published in Organists' Review, 1998, p. 14-18, 100-104, 196-199, 328-330.
(24) Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv Stade, Rep. 5a, Fach 127, Nr. 204.
(25) Heinrich Scheidemann, Magnificat-Bearbeitungen, published by Gustav Fock, Kassel 1970, Preface p III.
(26) Johann Mattheson, Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte, Hamburg 1740, p 173-174.

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