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The “History of the Organ, Volume Two: From Sweelinck to Bach”
continues where Volume One left off; however, it backtracks
a bit to include the important Dutch composer, Jan Pieterszoon
Sweelinck (1562-1621), who was the teacher of most of the
organists of the North German school, the main geographical
focus of this volume. Based in Amsterdam, Sweelinck was
apparently the first composer to actually write out his
compositions, such as fully notated fugues. This highly influential
practice established the form that would later reach its apogee
with the works of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

The music of a little-known North German organist/composer,
Matthias Weckman (1619?-1674), is featured on this DVD, as
is that of his more famous contemporary, Danish
organist/composer Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707), who was
based in Lübeck. Buxtehude was so admired by Johann
Sebastian Bach that he allegedly walked 200 miles from
Armstadt, just to hear him play.

When Bach’s music is discussed at the end of this DVD, it is
placed within the context of the church service that was
largely the result of Lutheran reforms. His “Choral Preludes”
are the focus here, although his secular works are also
mentioned, including the “Trio Sonatas,” one of which is
played at the end of this disc.

As with Volume One of this series, the music of these
composers was played by noted organists on beautiful
instruments that have remained in operable condition.
The featured organists include Bernard Foccroulle (1953 – ),
who gives an informative explanation of the organ he’s
playing, Gustav Leonhardt (1928-2012) and Hans Heintze
(1911-2003). The featured organs are primarily North
German models dating from the 17th Century.

While this is a fine installation in this series, I can’t help but
notice its brevity, when you consider the importance of this
era as it pertains to the organ and the music written for it.
I believe it’s unfortunate that the makers of this series feel
compelled to limit these DVDs to running times of
approximately 53 to 55 minutes. I would have appreciated a
far less “cursory” overview. Nevertheless, considering what it
DOES include, I can recommend the “History of the Organ, Volume
Two: From Sweelinck to Bach” from the Arthaus MUSIK label.
It’s still a quality product that is well worth viewing.

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