Jacob Praetorius, often referred to by his German last name Schultz(e), was born in Hamburg on 8 February 1586, into a family of famous organists. His grandfather Jacob (? — 1586) and his father Hieronymus (1560 — 1629), who was his first teacher, were both organists at the main church in Hamburg, the Jakobikirche.
Succeeding Heinrich thor Molen as early as 1604, Praetorius obtained the post of organist at the Petrikirche in the same city, a position he held until his death on 21 or 22 October 1651. Recent research has noted that he left for Amsterdam in 1606 to study with Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562 — 1621) for a two-year period. He seems to have been one of the great organist's first pupils, and Sweelinck even wrote a motet for his pupil's wedding in 1608.
In his Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte (Hamburg, 1740) Johann Mattheson wrote that Praetorius »had a particular, unusual but efficient finger technique. Schultz adopted Sweelinck's perfectly agreeable and respectable habits and behavior, he kept his body from making any superfluous movements, and while playing he gave the impression of not making any effort.«
Even during his lifetime Praetorius was already compared to his colleague Heinrich Scheidemann, the other great Hamburg student of Sweelinck, and organist at the Katharinenkirche. Mattheson described Scheidemann as a rather nice and affable man, who »did not make too great a deal of himself. […] His playing was vigorous, awake and honest, he had fast and firm hands, and he was well trained in composition technique, but his music was destined only for the organ. His pieces were easy to play«. On the other hand, Praetorius »was always regal and somewhat odd, he adapted the noble character of his teacher and showed extreme amiability in all his activities, as the Dutch always do. […] Schultz's pieces were more difficult to play and more elaborate, which put this composer above everyone else.«
In his chronicle of organists (1702 — 1718), Johann Kortkamp wrote of Praetorius that he was »esteemed by all people of high and low class. From his youth, he has acquired a special method in church music style, playing with majesty and devotion, and he was capable of animating people's hearts to listen to the sermon. Thanks to his great knowledge and with God's help he has taught many organists, who, at times were needed in Germany, and helped them with his recommendations. This amiable man should also be remembered for his sensual and artistic playing. Just like the priest with his parishioners, he was able to induce devotion with his organ playing. For example when he played a hymn like Erbarm Dich mein o Herre Gott, how well he played it with devotion; how well he was able to use the various stops for their specific qualities, so that not only his playing, but also the organ itself had to be admired.«
We also find Praetorius' qualities in his compositions: contrapuntal rigor is always combined with the pleasure of virtuoso playing. Among his students, Berendt Petri (born between 1594 and 1598 — ?) and Matthias Weckmann (1615 or 1616 — 1674) were the most renowned; the latter became organist at the Jacobikirche in Hamburg in 1655.
LÉON BERBEN was born in 1970 in Heerlen, The Netherlands. He studied organ and harpsichord in The Hague and in Amsterdam with Ton Koopman, Bob van Asperen and Gustav Leonhardt. Since March 2000 he has been the solo and continuo harpsichordist of Musica Antiqua Köln (Reinhard Goebel), with which group he has performed all over Europe, North and South America, and Asia. Before he became a regular member of Musica Antiqua Köln, he performed with theAmsterdam Baroque Orchestra, the Freiburger Barockorchester, and Musica ad Rhenum. As a soloist on harpsichord and particularly on organ he mostly plays concerts on historic instruments. He has made several recordings for Deutsche Grammophon / Archiv with Musica Antiqua Köln, and his solo CDs have received many prizes, from Le Monde de la Musique, from Diapason, and from the Deutsche Schallplattenkritik (trimestral prize in 2004), among others.