John Collins - Organist, Harpsichordist Iberian Musicologist, Translator

Christian Flor Zehn Suiten.

Title:Zehn Suiten.

Editor:Jörg Jacobi

Publisher:Edition Baroque eba 4022

Reviewed by John Collins

Christian Flor, near contemporary of Buxtehude, and possibly a pupil of Scheidemann or Tunder, was organist of St Lambert’s and St Johannis’ in Lüneburg. His preserved keyboard compositions include 3 organ Praeludia, 11 Suites, 37 Dance pieces and 14 Chorale preludes. The ten suites presented here are taken from an MS dated 2nd March, 1687, preserved in the Ratsbibliothek, Lüneburg, and although anonymous in that source have been ascribed to Flor through concordances in the Möllerschen Handschrift, Berlin. Keys used include D minor (nos. 1 and 3), E minor (5), G minor (6), F major (2), C major (4), which most unusually modulates to the chromatic altered mediant, E major, at the close of each section, A major (7), E major (8) and B♭ major (9 and 10).

The make-up of these suites is considerably more varied than Buxtehude’s and Reincken’s; the traditional four movement suite of allemande, courante, saraband and gigue is represented by nos. 2 –5, 7 and 8. The courante (or corrente as it is most frequently called , and even current in no. 2) is present in all ten suites, the gigue is lacking in nos. 1, 6, 9 and 10, the allemande in nos. 1 and 6, and the sarabande in no. 10. No. 1 opens with an 8-bar aria mainly in quavers, and its variation, in semiquavers, no. 6 with an allemande-like ballet in flowing semiquavers over a quaver bass. Nos. 4, 7, 8 and 10 open with a praeludium; no. 4 is the most improvisatory with semiquaver and demisemiquaver flourishes as well as minim chords over a tonic pedal, no. 7 opens with broken chords in quavers, covering three octaves, before a motivic sequence sets in, in no. 8 after another broken chordal quaver opening a semiquaver sequence is followed by a longer final section in 12/8 built on rhythmic imitation, and no. 10 is based almost entirely on motivic sequences and imitations with artful changes, finishing in C major, a pause scarcely preparing us for the modulations in the coda.

The allemandes are mainly written in flowing semiquavers, although no. 2 progresses in quavers and in nos. 7 and 8 the stile brisé writing is more marked. The correntes are also generally similar to Buxtehude’s with many examples of broken chords in stile brisé (although no. 1’s is chordal throughout) and the prevalent opening figure being a dotted crotchet followed by three quavers; a variation in continuous quavers is provided in the first suite. The sarabandes exhibit several rhythmic varieties, with insistent crotchet motion in nos. 1, 2, 8 and 9, a more choppy feel to no. 3, semiquaver movement in no.4, well-marked broken chords in no. 5, melodic RH quaver movement in nos.6 and 7, the latter also having stile brisé effects. Variations, very effectively based on broken chords in stile brisé are included for nos. 1-3 and 8, The six gigues (nos. 2-5, 7 and 8) also exhibit different traits, nos. 2 and 3 being based on broken chords, no.4 is treated fugally, the second section opening with the subject’s inversion, no. 5 is based on imitation of motifs rather than being fugal, again with inversion at the start of the second section, no. 7, a rare example in 9/8, is quasi-homophonic, although quaver movement is heard throughout, and no. 8, the only example in a dotted rhythm, is treated fugally with different subjects in each section.

The edition is clearly printed and well laid-out to obviate page turns during the middle of a piece, but the informative preface is regrettably in German only and it is a pity that neither the suite in C nor the canzona included in the version of Suite no. 3 from the Möllerschen MS are included in this collection. There are several stretches of a tenth in the LH, and an eleventh between bass d and tenor g in the ballet and courant of no. 6, pointing to the use of a short-octave keyboard. These attractive pieces are worthy companions to the suites of Buxtehude, they are not as difficult as Reincken’s but the gigues in particular, as well as the clean integration of the several marked ornaments will offer enough challenges to occupy the player; the suites will make excellent teaching material and deserve to feature in concerts.

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© John Collins 2013