Dialogue of the keys II

Ammerbach with double m (and singing)
Sun 30.04.23 Theme 17:45 Concert 18:15

Historical Museum Basel

Jörg-Andreas Bötticher, Maria Morozova, Jessica Jans © Josué Melendez

"Dialogue of the Keys II" Ammerbach with double m (and singing)


he ReRenaissance concert in August 2021 presented music for harpsichord or organ from the collection of Bonifacius Amerbach; Dialogue of the Keys II presents a similarly central collection from the next generation: the first major printed book of organ music in Germany, collected by the organist Elias Nikolaus Ammerbach and published in 1583. The book has many parallels to Bonifacius Amerbach’s collection, with arrangements of a colorful range of genres, sacred and secular, French, German and Italian, instrumental and vocal.

This concert offers a unique opportunity to collaborate with another house of the Historisches Museum Basel; Jörg-Andreas Bötticher will play the table organ “Ab Yberg”, which is housed in the Basel Instrument Museum. Built in Augsburg in 1566/78, the instrument comes from the family chapel of St. Sebastian “Im Grund” of the Ab Yberg family in Schwyz. Together with the organ or in alternation, a spinettino will be heard, played by Maria Morozova-Meléndez. Soprano Jessica Jans completes the ensemble.

Jörg-Andreas Bötticher – table organ | Maria Morozova-Meléndez – spinettino | Jessica Jans – vocals

Jörg-Andreas Bötticher at the Ab Yberg organ © Andrew Burn


Meet the Historic “Ab Yberg” Organ

April 30, 2023: Jörg-Andreas Bötticher, Ab Yberg organ, Jessica Jans, soprano, Maria Morozova- Meléndez, spinettino . Video Andrew Burn, cut Grace Newcombe.


Interview with the harpsichordist, organist, conductor, musicologist and laureate of the Basel Science Award 2020, Professor Jörg-Andreas Bötticher

Thomas Christ: Dear Jörg-Andreas, it is both a pleasure and an honor to be able to welcome you for an interview as part of our Renaissance concert series. – Whoever knows your short biography will learn about your first organ lessons with your grandmother, about your membership in the Basel Boys’ Choir – a direct musical life path from the cradle to the consecration of the Schola Cantorum of our city. Maybe it wasn’t that simple after all … Were there any other impulses or experiences to mention here?

Jörg-Andreas Bötticher: I am very grateful for these early musical influences; making music and actively listening to music was simply a matter of course for us. My grandmother (b. 1902) was one of the first to engage in free improvisation back in the 60s. In addition, I have also experimented with different styles myself, among other things, I was active in my youth for a long time as a keyboardist and drummer in a band and since then, for example, jazz fascinates me immensely.

TC: As a professor of harpsichord and basso continuo, you are naturally called upon to tell us a few illuminating words about the genesis of this bass line. Was it an invention of the early Baroque, or do similar compositional patterns already exist in the Renaissance, before 1600?

JAB: You mean the basso continuo as the lowest line of a baroque composition? – That is an exciting question. Towards the end of the 16th century, a bass consciousness developed more and more, i.e. the floating and the equality of the individual voices changed in favor of a more bass and chord oriented way of listening and writing. The first continuous bass lines around 1600 simply follow the lowest voices of a composition as the so-called basso seguente, which then became the basso continuo. Gradually, composers began to consciously conceive such lines and use them as a basis for accompaniment.

TC: In your numerous CD recordings, it is noticeable that you have gladly and frequently dealt with unknown composers of early music. This was certainly not only curiosity, but also rediscovered quality of old works. For the layman, the question arises: how does the connoisseur distinguish the rightly lost from the wrongly forgotten music? Are there objective criteria for this?

JAB: First of all, a childlike curiosity and an unbiased interest in research leads me to the sources and to the libraries. Studying the manuscripts or prints then reveals relatively quickly which pieces immediately appeal and which may seem foreign. Often, however, the exciting lies in the strange, which can only develop its implicit effect with a careful approach to understanding and interpretation. Objective criteria do exist (e.g., analysis of form and composition, aspects of rhetoric, originality), but without the subjective capacity for enthusiasm and mediation, many of the pieces would still be languishing in the archives today.

TC: Elias N. Ammerbach, the German organist of the April program, is considered the first editor of a printed collection of organ music. His somewhat older “almost-named cousin” from Basel, Bonifacius Amerbach, also published an organ tablature book, the “Codex Amerbach”: Now who was the first? Did they know about each other?

JAB: In purely chronological terms, Bonifacius Amerbach (1495-1562) of Basel was the first. His collection originated as a manuscript in the first third of the 16th century. A generation later, St. Thomas organist Elias Nikolaus (1530-1597) had his tablature book (1571) lavishly printed in new German organ tablature in Leipzig. In terms of the reception of the music, it was probably the better known for a long time; J. S. Bach also owned two copies of this print. I don’t know if they knew each other. The print was published only after Bonifacius’ death, and before that the Leipzig Ammerbach had not made a big appearance. It is conceivable, however, that conversely Elias Nikolaus had already heard of Bonifacius as a jurist, composer and humanist. His manuscripts, however, are almost exclusively in the Basel UB.

TC: In the last 40 years, the study, but also the performance practice and frequency of baroque music has experienced an enormous upswing – popularity that has also brought many a baroque opera to the world’s great stages. Do the rich treasures of Renaissance music flourish in a similar scenario, or is the more intimate pre-1600 music reserved for a niche audience?

JAB: I would differentiate a bit. In almost every music there are more intimate and extroverted pieces and styles. But Renaissance music certainly requires a more specialized approach, both for the performers in terms of instruments and playing techniques, and for the listeners. I can quickly grasp a drinking song or a Saltarello dance and let myself be carried away, but the subtle beauty of a Josquin motet or the refinement of an organ diminution can only be understood after a certain preparation, initiation or mediation. I think it’s wonderful that with your ReRenaissance concert series you’ve opened new doors for many in Basel in this regard!



“I’m going there!” by David Fallows

One might think that another program of music by Amerbach would bring more from the famous Basel family. But no: Elias Nikolaus Ammerbach (always spelled that way) was not related to those. He was organist at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig for 35 years before his death in 1597. He published three books of music for keyboard instruments, the first of which – Organ or Instrument Tablature of 1571 – is considered the earliest known example of what we call “new German” tablature. Johann Sebastian Bach, who worked on the same church many years later, owned at least two copies of this book. His son Carl Philipp Emanuel gave one of them to my old schoolmate Charles Burney (from whom two hundred years separate me). And, of course, Sebastian Bach famously used the same “new German” tablature to notate the last measures of two chorales in his organ booklet when he ran out of space on the tiny pages.

All three books published by Ammerbach are mainly intavolations of well-known works with texts in German, French or Latin. In his book of 1571 there are also many dances, which is perhaps the reason why he noted that the music could be played on positive, shelf, virginal, clavichord, clavicembalo, harpsichord and the like. Taken as a whole, his editions provide a great overview of the music used by German keyboard players in the later 16th century. They are an invaluable and little known resource, and we should take the opportunity to hear a selection of his music.

Translation: Marc Lewon



“Dieweil umbsonst jetzo alle kunst “
Songs, motets and dances by Elias Nicolaus Ammerbach (c. 1530-1597)
Praeambulum primi thoni
Passamezzo in G
from: Intabulatura Nova di Varie Sorte de Balli, Venice 1551
Another Galliarth
A very good Dantz
Because all art now exists
Original: Georg Forster 1539-1556, Frische Teutsche Liedlein, Nuremberg 1539
My diligence and effort (Senfl)
Original: 121 Newe Lieder, Johannes Ott, Nuremberg 1539
With love I am embraced, 3 verses
Template : Possibly Senfl
Alemando novelle. A good new Dantz. Proportz on it
From: Bernhard Schmid, Das ander Buch einer Neuen Tabulatur…, Strasbourg 1571
Susanne un jour
Paduana – Saltarello – Galliarda Il Jörgo
From: Christoph Löffelholtz, Tabulaturbuch 1585, Ms. Berlin 40034
God is my light and my bliss
Melody by Clemens von Papa (=Jacob Clement) “God is myn licht myn Salicheyt”
Hertz favorite picture
Original: Paul Hofhaimer, in Forster 1539
Ah noble hoard
Original: Paul Hofhaimer, in Forster 1539
Another funny Dentzlein
Well Gsell you have to hike
Template: Folk song 16th c.
Title page of the first edition, Leipzig 1571
Organ or instrument tablature: a useful little book (Leipzig 1571)
A new artificial tablature book (Leipzig-Nuremberg 1575)
Organ or instrument tablature book (Nuremberg 1583)



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