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  • Resurrecting Scheidemann
  • David J. Smith
Pieter Dirksen , Heinrich Scheidemann's keyboard music: transmission, style and chronology (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), £55/$99.95

Heinrich Scheidemann (c.1595-1663) has in the past been little more than a footnote in the history of music, listed among the many students of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. Performers and scholars have focused on other Sweelinck students such as Samuel Scheidt, with the result that Scheidemann has tended to be overlooked. Although editions of his keyboard music began to appear in the late 1960 s and early 1970s, Pieter Dirksen is the first to make a claim for Scheidemann's historical importance, particularly in the composer's creation of a new genre of the chorale fantasia.

Dirksen's book is divided into three parts. In the first, the author gives a detailed account of each manuscript source of Scheidemann's keyboard music, most of which were compiled during the composer's lifetime; dates appended to some works help to establish a chronology. The second part comprises an examination of repertory in which he assesses the development of Scheidemann's keyboard style. The book seems complete at the end of part II, but this is followed by a study of the Düben tablature; a welcome contribution by Ulf Grapenthin on the organ of the Katherinekirche, Hamburg, during Scheidemann's tenure; and chapters on performance practice (fingering, ornamentation and registration). At first glance the material in part III might seem interesting but superfluous. However, these detailed studies are directly relevant to the central arguments of parts I and II, and add much to the overall value of the book.

Before Scheidemann was appointed as organist of the Katherinekirche, he was sent by the church to Amsterdam to study with Sweelinck, and indeed it is striking that all the Hamburg organists appear to have followed the road to Amsterdam. Perhaps one reason was that the Niehoff organ in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, was essentially the same as the instruments that they knew at home, such as the Niehoff instrument in the Petrikirche. Many of Scheidemann's early works betray the influence of his teacher, Sweelinck, and of his fellow student, Scheidt. The special study of the Düben tablature is particularly important in relation to Scheidemann's harpsichord music since its contents reflect one significant aspect of Sweelinck's teaching: the intabulation of dances by English composers. Although Peter Philips is the best-represented composer in this source, it is a galliard by Bull found here that evidently influenced Scheidemann. Turning to the organ music, Scheidemann's chorale cycles are rooted in Sweelinck's chorale settings, so much so that one of Scheidemann's settings of Vater unser is attributed to Sweelinck in its source: the way in which it exceeds the tessitura of Sweelinck's instrument is used as evidence that Scheidemann was the composer, and illustrates the importance of the study of the instruments in part III to an understanding of the music.

Another possible link with Sweelinck is suggested by the only surviving account of Scheidemann's playing (in Otterndorf, the focus of the final chapter). This implies that solo organ music, as in Amsterdam, was largely an extra-liturgical affair; the only solo piece played within the service is a praeambulum introducing a motet, although it seems to me that the references to the solo concertos surrounding the sermon being 'sung from the organ' might indicate organ performance of motets rather than accompaniment (pp.202-4).

Scheidemann's chorale fantasias, however, depart radically from Sweelinck's keyboard style: there is a much freer approach to the setting of the chorale phrases, and an imaginative approach to the possibilities available from textures employing two manuals and pedal. Towards the end of his career Scheidemann also played a part in the reception of Italian style in north Germany: Matthias Weckmann brought the Italian and French styles found in the music of his friend Froberger to Hamburg in 1655, and Scheidemann's late works betray some of this influence.

Dirksen's prose in part I is fairly dense, perhaps as a result of the wealth of information and interpretative [End Page 633] insight that he offers. The complex...


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pp. 633-634
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2008
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