Stiff requirement

Heinrich Scheidemann, 1595-1663

Heinrich Scheidemann, 1595-1663

I’ve been preparing music for the upcoming Early Music Hawaii concert which will be on Saturday, September 19 at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu, and have chosen organ music by Heinrich Scheidemann (1595-1663). He is one of three “Sch” early German Baroque composers  — the other ones are Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654) and Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672).

Many years ago, I was perusing the music stacks at an AGO convention, and I came across a volume of Scheidemann’s works. Our friend, Joe Hansen (former Director of Music at LCH) was standing nearby and highly recommended that I buy his music — which I did, even though the relatively thin volume cost almost $60!

Johann Heinrich Scheidemann was one of the leading organ composers of the early to mid-seventeenth century; as a founder of the north German organ school, he was an important predecessor of Dietrich Buxtehude and J.S. Bach. From 1611 to 1614, Scheidemann studied in Amsterdam with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck.

What I found fascinating, though, is that Scheidemann had seven (count ’em!) daughters, and one of them married his student, Johann Adam Reincken (1643-1722) who succeeded him at St. Kathrinen in Hamburg. In those days it was not uncommon to marry the daughter of one’s predecessor; in fact, there is a famous story of Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707). Buxtehude had himself married the daughter of Franz Tunder (1614-1667), his predecessor. Anyway, Buxtehude was getting ready to retire from his position at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, and specifically requested that the successful applicant marry his daughter, Anna Margreta.

Oil painting by Johannes Voorhout, "Allegory on Friendship" (1674), one of the only known depictions of composer Dietrich Buxtehude

Oil painting by Johannes Voorhout, “Allegory on Friendship” (1674), one of the only known depictions of composer Dietrich Buxtehude

An absolutely hilarious account of this is found on Kurt Knecht‘s blog post “Buxtehude’s ugly daughter” (Knecht wrote the Missouri Sonata which was commissioned by Wyatt Smith who played at St. Andrew’s Cathedral here):

In the late seventeenth century, there was a fantastic musician named Dietrich Buxtehude. He landed a sweet gig as music director in the city of Lübeck. He could play the organ so well that people flocked from all over Germany to hear his concerts on Sunday afternoons. Even old Bach himself (when he was young) got permission for a study leave and walked several hundred miles to hear Buxtehude play. The concerts were so exciting that Bach accidentally forgot to go back to work for four months. When the time was right, Buxtehude began to look for a successor so that he could retire. There was one problem. He wanted to make sure that his daughter would have some kind of financial security after he retired. Organist salaries have not improved that much since the late seventeenth century, so his pension would not be enough to sustain her. She needed to be married.

Marienkirche, Lübeck

Marienkirche, Lübeck

Back in the day, the way you picked up a good gig was by apprenticing with a master. You would fulfill some of his duties and do on the job training until he retired or died. Then, you became the master. It was also not uncommon for the apprentice to marry the masters’ daughter. Buxtehude had married his predecessor’s daughter. He decided that the best coarse of action would be to link the two items together.

So, when someone showed up to audition, Buxtehude would pull the applicant aside and say, “This is a really sweet gig. Lübeck is a great town. The congregation is very supportive. The organ is fantastic. Oh, by the way, if you want the job, you have to marry my daughter.” For many, this didn’t seem too unreasonable until they took the local tour. It turned out that Buxtehude had a big, ugly, German daughter. Soon after the applicants would meet her, they would gracefully withdraw their applications. Even Handel and Mattheson thought that marrying the daughter was too high a price to pay. Apparently, when sacrificing for your art, there are certain sacrifices that are too costly.

By the way, getting back to our guy Scheidemann, I played his music yesterday at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, where I am substituting for Sam Lam for five weeks.


About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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