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Vincent Lübeck (Composer)

Born: c September 1654 - Paddingbüttel, Dorum, Land Wursten
Died: February 9, 1740 - Hamburg, Germany

Vincent Lubeck (i) was a German composer, organist and teacher. He was the son of another Vincent Lübeck (b ?Glückstadt; d Flensburg, 1654), who had worked as an organist in Glückstadt and, from 1647, at the Marienkirche, Flensburg, where he was succeeded in 1654 by Caspar Förckelrath. Förckelrath married the widow and was the younger Vincent’s first teacher; according to Syré (1999), Vincent may also have studied with Andreas Kneller, with whose keyboard music his own shows parallels.

Towards the end of 1674 Vincent Lübeck became organist of St Cosmae et Damiani, Stade, near Hamburg, marrying, as was a custom, his predecessor’s daughter, Susanne Becker. The fine organ that Arp Schnitger completed there in 1679 was no doubt a factor that persuaded him to remain until 1702. His brilliant reputation then won him the appointment of organist of the Nikolaikirche, Hamburg, which he held until his death. It too had a Schnitger organ, a four-manual instrument of 67 stops, one of the largest in the world, that was considered the best in a prosperous musical city. In his postscript to F.E. Niedt’s Musicalische Handleitung (Hamburg, 2/1721), Johann Mattheson summed up as follows: ‘This extraordinary organ … also has an extraordinary organist. But how to extol someone who is already greatly renowned? I need only give his name, Vincent Lübeck, to complete the whole panegyric’. Numerous contemporary documents attest to his wide reputation as an organ consultant throughout north Germany. He attached particular importance to reed choruses, even in smaller organs. On several occasions he passed judgment on Schnitger’s work, not only in the churches of large cities such as Hamburg (Nikolaikirche, Georgenkirche, Jacobikirche) and Bremen (St Stephani Cathedral), but also in those of Oberndorf (Georgenkirche), Hollern (St Mauritius), Sittensen (St Dionys) and other smaller places. As a teacher he was much sought after and commanded as much as 20 thaler a month from articled pupils, more than he received in salary as organist. His most important pupils included C.H. Postel and M.J.F. Wiedeburg; he also taught two of his sons, Peter Paul (b Stade, April 24, 1680; d Hamburg, August 16, 1732), who followed him at Stade, and vincent Lübeck (ii)

Despite Lübeck’s frequent opportunities to display his gifts as a composer and performer, especially in the Saturday Vesper service, only nine organ works by him are known. Yet even these few abundantly demonstrate the commanding position he occupied, together with Dietrich Buxtehude and Bruhns, in north German organ music about 1700. His praeludia have been described as virtually the last link between the north German organ toccata and those of Bach (see Syré, 1999), though Lübeck attached less importance to the concept of stylus fantasticus. In general his style, like that of Bruhns, derives from Buxtehude, particularly in its polyphonic writing, the character of the fugue subjects and a fondness for double fugue. On the other hand Buxtehude rarely approached either of them in virtuosity. Of the seven praeludia and fugues in Beckmann’s edition, two (in F and G) are now thought to be by Vincent Lübeck (ii). All fall into clearly defined sections. The structure of the Praeludium in E is similar to the five-section form that Buxtehude codified: brilliant toccata-like prelude, 4/4 fugue, middle section (free or fugal), 3/4 (4/4) fugue, and concluding toccata. The Praeludia in D minor (toccata, fugue and toccata) and C minor (toccata and fugue) are perhaps later works; the latter’s short length and final cadence on the dominant suggest that it is incomplete. Like Buxtehude and Bruhns, Lübeck often unified those loose structures with subtle thematic relationships, including transformation of the fugue subject as in the Praeludium in G minor. Brilliant scales, trills in 3rds and 6ths, long pedal solos and, in the G minor work, occasional two-part writing for the pedals attest to his virtuosity and the inspiration he derived from the full choruses of the Stade and Hamburg organs. Of his two chorale settings, the extended fantasia on Ich ruf zu dir may have been composed for liturgical use during the Communion. In its exploitation of many techniques it invites comparison with Buxtehude’s great chorale fantasia on Nun freut euch. The melody appears not only in contrapuntal settings and with several coloratura-like passages but in echo and toccata-like passages as well. The incomplete partite on Nun lasst uns Gott, dem Herren also use the echo device but adhere too strictly to the basic harmony of the chorale.

Many of the brilliant qualities of the organ works are present in Lübeck’s published suite - even the Allemande is scarcely restrained. Repeated notes also characterize the fugue subject, but in a much more vigorous context than in the organ pieces. The curious chaconne Lobt Gott ihr Christen allzugleich, printed as an extra movement, does nothing to enhance Lübeck’s reputation. Five sacred cantatas are extant and 14 others are known from titles or partial texts. All date from Lübeck’s time in Stade, and the librettos he set include some supplied by the Kantor Eobaldus Laurentii between 1693 and 1702. They give the impression of being intended for a choir and instrumental ensemble of very modest attainments. The Stader Ratsmusikanten (two violins, two bass viols and a violone) provided a string consort; wind and brass players came from the local Swedish military or from musicians. The dullness of the cantata Gott wie dein Nahme is due in part to the restrictive writing for the three high obbligato instruments, presumably trumpets in the clarino register, as well as to the stereotyped rhythms. Willkommen süsser Bräutigam is a simple, lyrical work, popular in Germany at the Christmas season. Hilff deinem Volck is formally a stronger work; it also displays greater sensitivity to word-setting and incorporates a bravura recitative for bass. The other two cantatas, with separate instrumental movements, choruses and ritornello arias, are probably the best. Es ist ein grosser Gewinn, wer gottselig ist and Ich hab hier wenig guter Tag were commissioned by the Swedish administration in Stade in memory of the Swedish Queen Ulrica Eleanor. Lübeck wrote them on November 10-14, 1693 and they were performed on November 28.


Source: New Grove Online, © Oxford University Press 2006, acc. 4/16/06 (Author: Hugh J. McLean)
Contributed by
Thomas Braatz (April 2006)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


Clavier Uebung bestehend im Praeludio Fuga, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande und Gigue als auch einer Zugabe von dem Gesang Lobt Gott ihr Christen allzugleich in einer Chaconne (Hamburg, 1728); ed. H. Trede (Leipzig, 1941)

Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich


Nun laßt uns Gott dem Herren, Chorale Prelude for Organ

Nun laßt uns Gott dem Herren

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