The organ of the Lutheran Church, Nemescsó (1789)
The activities of Daniel Croner (1656-1740) are linked
with the town of Brassó (Kronstadt) situated in a Saxon inhabited
region of Transylvania which once formed a part of Hungary. Croner was
a Lutheran pastor and later an ex-dean. He studied theology in Breslau
and Wittenberg in Germany. Very little is known as yet about his life,
one thing, however, is certain – his composing and collecting work has
been preserved in several tablature volumes. This record includes the
full material of the first of these volumes.
The first tablature volume consists of two parts. The first bears the inscription "Tabulatura Fugarum, Praeludiorum,Canzonarum, / Tocatarum et Phantasiarum. / Comparata Daniele Cronero Coronense, / Transylvano, / Anno: 1681. Die 30. Janu / Wratislavia". Its material is written in what is known as the "new German tablature" (die neue deutsche Orgaltabulatur) mode of notation. It contains six unnumbered "Applicaturs" as well as seventy pieces. Five of these latter works were given names and thus their authorship is hardly, or not at all questionable. Closer examination, however, has cast light on the fact that the material in Croner's tablature book comprises pieces covering much wider limits of time than assumed by its first researchers. and believed by Andreas Porfetye who issued part of the material of the volume in modern music notation (1). It has thereby turned out that its roots reach back to the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries. One piece (we shall return to it later) is by Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1613), the chorale adaptation No. 1 is probably based on a work of Jan Pieterszon Sweelinck (1562-1621), while the basic material consists of a copy of the tablature publication of Johann Erasmus Kindermann (1616-1655), "Harmonia organica", issued in 1645 in Nuremberg (2).
The inscription of Part Two is the following: "Tabulatura / Num: 12. Praeambulorum und / einem Capriccio Von eben 12. Va- / riationen: Durch alle Claves und To- / nos auff Clavichordien und Spinetten / zu gebrauchen, gesetzt von / Johann George Kittelen / Weltberühmbten Churf. Hoff / Organisten in Dreßden. / Anno: / 1682. Mense Majo." And at the right bottom: "Wittenbergae / Aõ: 1682. d. 16. Maj. / Scrib: Dan: Cro: C. T. St. / mp."
The person of "Johann Georg Kittel" indicated in Croner's inscription could not be unambiguously identified to this day. Apel's supposition appears to be the most satisfactory (3), who attributed the cycle copied by Croner to the Dresden musician, Johann Heinrich Kittel (1652-1682). As regards the cycle let us note that it is the earliest known series before J. S. Bach's "Wohltemperiertes Klavier", which goes through all the keys – or at least in this case 12 of them – in "Praeludium" form.
Within the limited space at our disposal we shall try to give an outline survey of Croner's collection. In view of the fact that on the records we have adhered to the original numbering of the tablature, here we refer only to digits in the following abbreviation: C/1-2-3, etc. the identity with the above mentioned Kindermann pieces is indicated by the numbering used in the modern Complete Edition, abbreviated as K/1-2-3, etc.
C/1. A two-part (bicinium) elaboration of the popular Lutheran chorale, in close relationship with, but considerably simpler than, Sweelinck's arrangement of the same melody – also in a bicinium form. A product of the early 17th century North German school.
C/2. A canzona of typically Italian origin which, however, could have been written even by a Southern German master of Hans Leo Haßler or Christian Erbach's school. Attention should be drawn here to the fact that Croner's titles very often do not coincide with the real content of the work. This piece has a restricted, three-part construction despite its title, "Praeludium".
C/4. In spite of its lively broken triad theme the work also follows the Italian (or Southern German) style of around 1620-40.
C/5-6-7. Somewhat scholastic sequence studies (pieces? excerpts of pieces?) of very simple texture, from the first half of the 17th century.
C/8-9. It seems to sum up the compositional lessons of the previous short pieces in a major span.
C/10. Giovanni Gabrieli's work (4). Nevertheless it is worth noting the manner in which Croner applied certain abbreviations and here and there, simplifications. The inscription "Fuga ex D" bears out that the piece obviously in g, in ended in d. (Gabrieli called it "Canzona".)
C/11. A somewhat rudimentary arrangement of a most ingenious, canzona-like theme, showing progress in composing practice.
C/12. A real masterwork. Its theme international significance. (Among others Scheidt also wrote a setting of it in his collection, "Tabulatura nova" 1624; Part 2, piece No. 3).
C/13. A free toccata indicating Sweelinck's school.
C/14. to C/29. The following short movements must have served as introductions to congregational church singing. They display every form of construction technique used in the age, and have the effect of written improvisations of an organist. The musical material grows into major compositions only here and there, some of them are nothing more than merely the setting of the key in which the congregation then could start their singing.
C/30. This piece deserves special attention. Croner's tablature volume here coalesces the achievements of the grand Baroque toccata form in his material. Peculiar harsh dissonances are heard and the voice leading takes the form of the Baroque "serpentine". This trend is followed in the next item.
C/31. It is a strongly stylized dance-like piece, not in the original sense of the dance, however, but in its formal function acquired within the Baroque suite.
C/32. This piece bearing the inscription "Concordantiae" represents a backward step to the volume's didactic-pedagogical purpose: the organist wants to learn (or have the user of the book learn) how a C major scale should be harmonized. Within the first section this practice may be termed as "closing the section".
C/33. This is the first piece of the transcription of Kindermann's publication of 1645 (cf. Note No. 2).
Croner copied 25 of Kindermann's 30 movements in his collection, in the following order: from C/33. to C/56. (24 pieces) + C/58. (5) Croner did not generally copy the pieces by Kindermann in order, and this makes the collation extremely complicated, therefore here we can refer only to a few movements. The majority of the pieces on Side 2 are "Praeambula" – little gems in the twelve ecclesiastical keys used in the period. They are generally characterized by a freely treated three or four-part construction. The so-called ecclesiastical keys appear with a forceful major-minor character-and in this sense they offer a musical experience free from any archaizing. Their lengths vary between 13 and 20 bars. C/33. (= K/20) deserves special mention. This is a masterly "Fugue" built on a lively theme. The last two pieces on Side 2, C/49. + C/50. (= K/15 - K/18) also bear the inscription "Fugue" in the case of both composers. The former uses the first two lines of the Lutheran chorale which forms the basic material for its theme; while the latter is a free, animated and simple fugue. Side 2 also includes C/38. = K/19. – a free fugue.
C/51. to C/56. include "Magnificat" arrangements, which are called "Intonations". The first is in the 4th key (hypophrygian), containing only one "Versus" (in other words, consisting of one movement). The following 5 movements (C/52. to C/56.) comprise the last number in Kindermann's publication (K/25), with the exception of the "Quartus Versus", as indicated also by the inscriptions (6). It is written in the 8th key (hypomixolydian), which with Kindermann already closely approaches our G major key.
C/57. A very simple and short "fughetta" built on a splendid sounding turning theme.
C/58. (= K/23) One of Kindermann's most beautiful chorale arrangements which has been included in many modern editions.
C/65. Is one of the loveliest Lutheran chorale arrangements of the collection. All the four lines of the popular melody "Wo Gott zum Haus nicht gibt sein Gunst" are given first a two- and then a three-voice elaboration.
C/66. The reference to the author of the piece ("Geor. Frob.") naturally stands for Johann Jacob Froberger; more exactly it is the closing fughetta of the Toccata marked Number 19 in the complete edition (7).
Finally it should be noted that we were unable to collate pieces C/62. and C/63. (Johann Ulich), as well as C/67-69. (B. Meyer), thus we could not decide whether they were unique, or their concordances feature in other German tablature books. Croner's six unnumbered "Applicaturs" are heard at the end of Side 3.
In conclusion, Croner's collection offers a glimpse into the process by which an organist living in the second half of the 17th century penetrated into the workshop secrets of instrumental performance and composition. It permits us to learn, together with him, the musical idiom that prevailed between 1600 and ca. 1680, both contrapuntal and chordal construction. In accordance with its purpose it is a "serious" collection, without any trace of a direct dance-like tone, at most in infinitely stylized form. Each of the pieces shows even pulsation. The didactic – and together with it the chronological – aspect can be determined to a certain degree: the style, grade of difficulty and length of the pieces show definite growth and development. (This is true even if the line of progress is not entirely unbroken – its basic trend is definitely perceptible.)
The second part of Croner's tablature volume is stylistically so unified, originating so obviously from one and the same composer, that it may be reviewed more briefly and simply. The first 12 preludes that form the backbone of the second part, in the final analysis-and apart from its great variety of keys already referred to earlier-follow a single basic principle: the desire to teach the performer how to play varied chords in 12 keys following each other in convincing succession, and indeed, in different manners of chordal performance and broken chords, that is with the right hand, the left hand, with alternating hands, upwards, downwards, in complementary motion, etc. The chord progressions used by Croner – or more exactly by Kittel – usually proceed according to their functional order (that is, based on attractions). The composer also takes care to introduce the performer, in addition to the various keys, to the different metrical forms (2/4, 3/4, 12/8). The second part contains no old material at all, and it seems to have originated shortly before it was written down (1670-80?).
The 12 preludes of a quite uniform composing are followed by two more movements. The first bears the inscription "Capriccio supra Brevem Bassum: B flat-a-g-f-e flat-d-c-f", which is nothing other than 12 variations to the given notes, constructed with the well-known Baroque "passacaglia" variation technique. In every case the given tones appear in the bass-in variation No. 11 richly ornamented – and the cycle closes with a simple recapitulation of the theme.
The second part of Croner's tablature volume ends with a splendid fugue in E major which, according to the manuscript was noted down on November 20, 1684 (this is why the inscription given in the introduction makes no mention of it).
The last record side offers the listener an animated, lively picture of the Middle German composing and performing technique of the last third of the 17th century.
(1) Altsiebenbürgische Orgelmusik Heft I-II-III. Komponiert um 1680. Daniel Croner (1655-1740). Aus der Orgel-Tabulatur übertragen von Andreas Porfetye. Edition Breitkopf und Härtel, Wiesbaden, 1971-1972. (Note: the date given for Croner's birth is erronous. The correct date is 1656.)
(2) No copy of Kindermann's tablature book has survived. Its modern complete edition: Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Bayern, Jahrgang 21-24. Teil II. Published by: Bertha Antonia Wallner (Augsburg, 1924). Bertha Antonia Wallner (Augsburg, 1924).
(3) Willi Apel, Geschichte der Orgel- und Klaviermusik bis 1700. Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1967. S. 632.
(4) G. Gabrieli, Composizioni per organo. Vol. II. (Dalia Libera). Ricordi, Milano, 1958. p. 49.
(5) The publication mentioned under Note 1. naturally does not know of, and thus makes no use of the definition of composers.
(6) Kindermann's movement – omitted by Croner – bears the following inscription: "Echo mit 2 Clavirn." This requirement presumably lay beyond the technical possibilities inherent in the organs at Croner's disposal.
(7) J. J. Froberger, Orgel und Klavierwerke, III. Published by: Guido Adler. Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich, Jahrg. X/2 – Band 21. S. 19.