Johann Gottfried Walther. (Organ Music).
Continuing its impressive publications of music by the North-German organ masters, Breitkopf & Hartel has recently published a new, four-volume edition of the collected organ works of Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748) under the editorship of Klaus Beckmann, which now supersedes Heinz Lohmann's three-volume edition of Walther's selected organ works (Ausgewahlte Orgeiwerke) issued by the publisher in 1966 (rev. ed., 1977). In turn, this publication took the place of yet an earlier Breitkopf & Hartel edition prepared by the eminent and prolific musicologist Max Seiffert, who in 1906 was the first to edit Walther's collected works for organ as part of Denkmaler deutscher Tonkunst (ser. 1, vols. 26-27). The opportunity after World War II for Breitkopf & Hartel (relocated from Leipzig to Wiesbaden) to reissue its older editions in photographic reprints prompted an equally famous scholar of the next generation, Hans Joachim Moser, to edit and critically revise Seiffert's work in 1958 (jointly published with the Akademisehe Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt in Graz). In fact, Moser had very little work to do, and in his brief introduction to the reissued edition, rightly praises the quality of Seiffert's work--arguably one of his best projects. Seiffert's work also formed the basis for the practical editions of Walther's organ chorales by Hermann Poppen (Orgelchordle: Auswahl fur den gottesdienstlichen Gebrauch [Kassel: Barenreiter, 1930; 2d ed., 1935; 4th ed., 1956]). Although Moser's second critica l commentary offers corrections for only six unimportant misprints, at $25 (the price I paid in the late 1950s), it was an excellent value for a 864-page double volume. By comparison, this amount today would not even buy one volume of the new edition.
Beckmann's division of Walther's works is logical: the first volume contains the free works, preludes (and one toccata) and fugues (and the like), a set of variations on a basso continuo by Arcangelo Corelli, and one original concerto, together with fourteen of Walther's arrangements of concertos by others; the chorale settings are divided alphabetically over the remaining three volumes. There are two different German introductions with acceptable English translations, one for the free works and arrangements and a second repeated in each of the chorale volumes. The separate critical commentaries for each volume, in German only, include, in addition to remarks on editorial practice and ornamentation, a full description of printed and manuscript sources. They are a pleasure to use compared with Seiffert's. No doubt the luxury of full translations of the complete commentary would have added to the size and cost of the volumes; in any event, most performers curious to retrace Beckmann's editorial footsteps proba bly have some ability in reading German. Nevertheless, if this edition should achieve a well-earned reissue, Breitkopf & Hartel might consider an English translation of at least the sections on editorial practice or, failing that, the section on ornamentation. Walther's chorales especially abound in ornaments of all kinds, and Beckmann provides much important information about performing them that should be easily available to all organists playing from these scores.
It is perhaps in Walther's organ transcriptions of concertos by contemporaries such as Giuseppe Torelli, Giulio Taglietti, and Tomaso Albinoni that organists and listeners best recognize the composer today. Whether or not the Italian originals turned up as a result of Walther's research for his landmark Musicalisches Lexicon, the first German dictionary of music (Leipzig: Wolfgang Deer, 1732; reprinted as Musikalisches Lexicon, Documenta musicologica, ser. 1, vol. 3 [Kassel: Barenreiter, 1953; 4th ed., 1986]), or whether he had access to the Italian music that the young Prince Johann Ernst had purchased for court concerts, there is no doubt that these concertos created quite a stir in the Weimar circle. Johann Sebastian Bach, for example, became much preoccupied with the Italian concerto style between 1713 and 1714, and, as is well known, arranged at least three of Antonio Vivaldi's examples for organ. Sadly, only fourteen of Walther's arrangements have come down to us (one more than was known to Seiffert), compared with this passage from Walther's letter of 28 December 1739 to Johann Mattheson in Hamburg: [Concerning the pieces] "written by other composers ... which I have transcribed for the keyboard, [there are] a total of seventy-eight altogether" (Johann Gottfried Walther: Briefe, ed. Klaus Beckmann and Hans-Joachim Schulze [Leipzig: VEB Deutscher Verlag fur Musik, 1987], 220; English from the edition reviewed here 1:6). A few months later, Walther asked the musician and bibliophile Heinrich Bokemeyer if he were interested in buying this concerto material, because "lack of money forces me to part with something very dear to me" (Briefe, p. 234; my trans.). He enclosed a detailed list of instrumental pieces by various composers "from which I shall take away little more than the memory of much toil." From accounts of Bokemeyer's estate, it would seem that he passed up Walther's offer and that sixty-four lost arrangements, including some harpsichord transcriptions (as Beckmann surmises), have suffered the vaga ries of time. Fortunately, the extant organ concertos, thirteen of which are contained in a single autograph codex, seem to represent an excellent anthology of contemporaneous works for soloist and orchestra.
Beckmann's text presents few surprises. His eagle eye has corrected misreadings by Seiffert and even careless omissions by Walther himself. The greatest changes occur in the ascriptions of these pieces. No longer will program notes have to apologize for the fact that no information is known about the composer Blamr, to whom Walther ascribes a Concerto in A Major. Certainly it has puzzled me and presumably many other organists why nothing is known about the composer of such an interesting piece that contains a thoroughly worked-out Andante allegro, followed by a short expressive Pastorella. Beckmann hastens to our rescue. Based on letter forms and abbreviations in Walther's autograph, he argues that Blamr is (Francois) Collin de Blamont (1690-1760), Walther's contemporary and one of the entries in his Lexicon. Beckmann has also compared Walther's transcription with two other extant violin concertos by Blamont and found strong stylistic relationships. All well and good-but with an argument based partly on call igraphy, and a fascinating one at that, why did the publisher not include a facsimile of the relevant autograph title so that we could make up our own minds? Surely the distinguished publisher could have added one more facsimile (there are two in the chorale volumes) to amplify this particular textual problem One other change in ascription is straightforward--Joseph Meck's Concerto in B Minor becomes Vivaldi's. As early as 1974, Beckmann's study of the sources and stylistic criteria confirmed Vivaldi's authorship of the original piece--a violin concerto in E minor, RV 275, first published by Jeanne Roger in Amsterdam sometime between 1716 and 1721 in an anthology of concertos by various composers.
The G-major Concerto per la chiesa del Signor Telemann appropriato all' organo da J. G. Walther reminds us of the close friendship within the Walther-Bach-Telemann circle: Georg Philipp Telemann was godfather to J. S. Bach's second son, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and Bach, a cousin of Walther, was godfather to Walther's oldest son, also named Johann Gottfried. Walther senior's arrangement of the Telemann concerto was unknown to Seiffert (Walther discusses this concerto in his letter to Bokemeyer, also unknown to Seiffert). It may have been that Johann Christian Heinrich Rinek (1770-1846) rather than Bokemeyer acquired this manuscript, since it eventually came to the Yale University Irving S. Gilmore Music Library through the bequest of Lowell Mason, who had purchased Rinek's extensive library. It would have been gracious of Beckmann to mention that Philip A. Prince edited this Telemann work for Novello in 1961 (Concerto per la chiesa, Early Organ Music, 16) and spotted some inconsistencies in the second movement t hat Beckmann has missed. More important, Prince laid out the first movement for manuals alone.
The role of the pedals in eighteenth-century sources with two staves (as are many of Walther's manuscripts) probably vexes performers and editors more than any other single issue. Without the third pedal staff, or without specific indications such as P. or Ped., what is the organist to do? True, the interpretation of many movements is self-evident because they are simply unplayable without the use of pedals. But occasionally, as in the first movement of the Concerto per la chiesa, there are two possibilities, with or without pedals. Beckmann's edition generally adopts a commonsense approach to the question, but in this instance a note to the performer about options would have been useful. Students, in particular, give almost biblical authority to most printed editions and need to have various solutions presented to them by an editor.
Breitkopf & Hartel's usual oblong organ format for the chorales and generous distribution of pages make these pieces much easier to play compared with the tight format of Seiffert's old, upright edition, to say nothing of Beckmann's replacement of all C-clefs with their modern equivalents. Walther's 129 authentic examples (Beckmann includes three others he considers of doubtful authenticity) represent a wide example of the prevailing style, both manuouter and pedaliter, in varying levels of difficulty. The three volumes of chorales provide a great corpus of material for the liturgical year or for concerts and should prove a wise investment for organists, particularly those starting their professional careers. Beckmann has eliminated pieces now ascribed to the short-lived, but popular, composer Andreas Armsdorff and to Johann Christian Scheidemantel (John Christian Mantel). He has also separated other settings of the same chorale that Seiffert lumped together without any stylistic or textural reasons for doing so.
Any other criticisms of such a worthy successor to Seiffert's pioneering work are trifling: perhaps Beckmann's corrections of passage-work, or the addition of ornamentation, usually by analogy with similar material, should have called for the use of small type or at least have deserved a mention in the commentary, especially when he calls the composer's autographs into question. But finally, it must be said that if Seiffert's edition was the benchmark for Walther's organ works in the last century, Beckmann's is clearly the standard for the next.