John Collins - Organist, Harpsichordist Iberian Musicologist, Translator

Tabulatur Buch Dass Vatter Unser (1627) by Johann Ulrich Steigleder.

Title:Tabulatur Buch Dass Vatter Unser (1627) .

Editor:Jörg Jacobi

Publisher:Edition Baroque eba4021

Reviewed by John Collins

The 1620s saw a remarkable series of publications across Europe presenting the repertoire of an individual composer – Coelho, Correa, Scheidt, Frescobaldi, Titelouze amongst others. Johann Ulrich Steigleder published a set of 12 Ricercars in 1624 (new edition in two volumes by Ulrich Siegele for Bärenreiter), followed in 1627 by this Tabulature book, which contains 40 settings of Vater unser im Himmelreich.

Steigleder, organist of the abbey in Stuttgart from 1617, and from 1627 as organist at the court in Stuttgart, where he died in 1635 from the plague. He is to be regarded as a southern contemporary of Scheidt, Schildt, Praetorius and Scheidemann in the north. This volume was clearly intended as a compendium showing the many ways in which a chorale melody could be treated, the organist making a selection from it to suit his needs at the time; it would have been understood that they were never intended to be played one after the other. Each movement is fully described by the composer in a heading, and numbered.

The opening movement is a lengthy Fantasia or Fugue in the manner of a grand chorale motet, which only rarely ventures into semiquavers, followed by two much shorter Fantasias or Fugues ”for those who are not well served by lengthy fugues“. The closing Toccata combines free elements with imitative figures derived from the melody before closing with an explosion of semiquaver figuration. A very much shorter and simpler version from a MS in Vienna is given as an appendix. The chorale is treated most frequently as an unornamented cantus firmus, appearing in the treble (11 variations), tenor (7 variations) and bass (7 variations) – appearance in the alto is conspicuously lacking. The chorale is presented in an ornamented manner in the treble (nos. 10 and 28), tenor (34) and bass (38). Three variations are written in two parts only, with crossed voices in no. 12, while no. 13 is a bicinium in the Sweelinck-Scheidt manner. In no. 29, headed fuga, in 3 voices, the choral appears phrase by phrase opening in the bass, being followed at a distance of two bars in the bass, and in no. 35 the chorale melody alternates between treble and tenor on a phrase by phrase basis. No. 24 is primarily in two parts, the chorale presented in semibreves in the treble over a running quaver bass, but in each bar there is a minim note a fourth below in the alto, giving a most archaic effect. All in all there are three variations in two parts, 18 in three parts and 18 in four parts, with one in either three or four parts, the chorale melody in the bass being doubled an octave above by a singer. There is only one variation in triple time, no. 39 in 3/2, although the last six bars of no. 19 utilise triplet rhythms. Variations 26 and 27 are based on long written out trills in demisemiquavers in bass and treble respectively, such notation appearing occasionally in other variations. The player should not feel inhibited in adding further ornaments. A comparison with the nine verse-setting included by Samuel Scheidt in the first part of his Tabulatura Nova of 1624 will be well worthwhile; Steigleder also does not specifically prescribe pedals but they can indeed be employed in the variations by Steigleder at the appropriate pitch to give out the melody. Only the outer variations by Steigleder approach the taxing technical demands of the North German composer.

Steigleder writes at the head of several variations that the melody can also be sung, or played on an instrument, at the appropriate pitch, which would make a most interesting option for performance today. This new edition is clearly printed, with the great majority of variations covering one or two pages without requiring pageturns; it is only in the lengthy opening and closing movements that a page turner will be required. In several variations the player must not forget to hold on the final breve in one voice right until the end of the passagework in the other voices, otherwise the result will sound most strange” The introduction and critical commentary are, as is usual for this publisher, given only in German, the extensive preface and headings in the original print are given in old German only – a translation for the non-German speaker would have made this edition so much more useful. Also included are two Latin Elegies in praise of the work and composer, again a translation would have been helpful. This volume will be very much appreciated by organists of today who need short settings of the Lord’s Prayer, and the challenging outer movements will be suitable as voluntaries or recital pieces.

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© John Collins 2013