American Organist September 2022
Voices of the Hanse Volume 1Jonathan William Moyer
Organist Jonathan Moyer takes us on a most enjoyable tour of one of the great historic organs of Europe, sharing some interesting and little-heard repertoire at the same time. The organ, expanded by Stellwagen in 1637, dates to a much earlier period; much of the pipework was originally part of a Gothic Blockwerk. Hearing this repertoire on this instrument, played so sensitively, we receive a deep and rich musical impression.
The opening track immediately arrests our attention, with a grand rhetorical flourish from Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629). We hear the first three verses of his Magnificat primi toni, offering us varied texture and registration and thrilling us with the richness and depth of the full organ. We hear the serenity of the old vocal counterpoint and the flash of the Baroque by turns. It is easy to hear the genesis of the stylus fantasticus here.
Throughout, Moyer’s command of the instrument and sympathy with the repertoire are to the fore. I especially appreciated the registration for, as one example, “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” versus 1. This is one of the anonymous settings from the Lüneburger Orgeltabulatur, of which a few transcriptions may be found at IMSL.P.org. Much of the recording features this collection. In this track, Moyer uses a delightful 4’ registration with tremulant. This choice is thoroughly consistent with the period style and suits the organ well; one hopes this kind of lyrical authenticity may prevail among interpreters.
Meanwhile, the full organ is thrilling and deep, and the bass comes through very nicely.
The album is bookended by Magnificats: Praetorius to start and Buxtehude to end. As Buxtehude died in 1707, the CD spans parts of three centuries—from the later 16th century to the dawn of the 18th—and points toward subsequent history.
The full program notes are only available online, as a PDF; one must go to Gothic-Catalog.com and search under “LRCD-1165” (or just “1165”). This booklet, virtual though it is, contains a great deal of information. Its best points are its citations of Michael Praetorius and his poetic descriptions of the organ in the Syntagma Musicum. These beautiful metaphors have clearly struck a chord with Moyer, and it shows. Also, we read about the complete interrelationships of Hieronymus Praetorius, Franz Tunder, Matthias Weckmann, Johann Adam Reincken, Heinrich Scheidemann, Sweelinck, and Buxtehude, among others. In a few sentences an entire useful genealogy is sketched.
The online notes also give us the stoplist and the specific registrations of each selection. I always love this latter feature. It’s fun to try to guess the registrations before peeking!
Overall, a fine job, both historically informative and artistically pleasing. As of this writing, I do not see a volume 2 available. Watch for it.
Jonathan B. Hall, FAGO, chm
This recording is the first in a series that
brings together organ works from the early 17th century contemporaneous to the
sound-aesthetic of organ builder Friederich Stellwagen (1603-1660). The series
title, Voices of the Hanse, is inspired by the painted faces on the façade of
the Stellwagen organ that demonstrate the embodiment of the organ as a ‘singing
voice’, filled with personality, colour, and emotion. The chosen works by
the composers here - most notably Hieronymus Praetorius, Matthias
Weckmann, Dietrich Buxtehude and Heinrich Scheidemann - represent some of the
most important churches in the Hanseatic region of northern Germany. Jonathan
William Moyer plays the remarkable ‘swallow’s nest’ organ of the Jakobi Church
in Lübeck, built between 1467 and 1515. Nearly all of the pipes in the manual
divisions are original. Highlights include Matthias’s glorious Komm Heiliger
Geist and Buxtehude’s masterful Magnificat primi toni, as well as several fine
works from the Lüneburger Orgeltabulatur. In addition to being a successful
church musician, concert organist and pedagogue, Jonathan Moyer is the David S.
Boe chair and assistant professor of organ at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, as
well as organist of the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland, Ohio, where he
oversees two pipe organs (Richards, Fowkes and Skinner/Aeolian) and a 47-bell
Dutch carillon. He has been a visiting lecturer in organ at the Hochschule für
Musik in Lübeck and specializes in a vast repertoire from the renaissance to
the 21st century. The Baltimore Sun described his impressive
performances as ‘ever-expressive, stylish, and riveting’.John Pitt