In the Baroque era (and earlier) composers of (organ) music were in manuscripts often indicated by there initials, or not at all. Manuscripts were often shared and copied in circles of people who knew each other well. The initials were enough to establish authorship, or were even not necessary. Probably ‘everyone’ knew who was the composer of a particular piece was. In communities of like-minded people who knew each opther probably very well that is not a strange supposition. It leaves us however with a great body of music, of which no composer is indicated or whose initials are not easily traceable to one person. Sometimes compositions occur in more than one manuscript and if we are lucky in at least one manuscript initials are given, or even complete names. Most of the time however, the compositions remain anonymous, even if we do know the initials of the name of the composer.

Manuscript Ms. Lynar B3 contains two compositions, whose initials are given: “M.W.C.B.M.”. With so many initials one would think the composer would be easily identifiable, but this is alas not the case. There is the (in my opinion) very unlikely theory that these initials could indicate Wilhelm Karges (1614 – 1699). Max Seiffert was the first to forward that these initials could stand for “Magister Wilhelm Carges Berolinensis Marchicus” (Master Wilhelm Karges of Berlin and the Mark), meaning that this work was written by Wilhelm Karges. However, since manuscript Lynar B3 is believed to have been written somewhere around 1629, this would mean that Karges was at the time of writing at most 15 years old. Hardly the age to call someone “Magister”. And if the initials can mean anything, besides christian or surnames, we can make up all sorts of quasi latin phrases, like for example “Matthias Weckmann Cantor Burgensis Musicis”. And that would suddenly make Matthias Weckmann out mysterious composer? Now, I don’t intend to propose Weckmann as mysterious “M.W.C.B.M”. But I do think it is very unlikely that Karges is meant by these initials.

The chorale prelude to “O Mensch, bewein deine Sünde gross” is wriuten by this unknown “M.W.C.B.M”. Written for two manuals and pedals, it has the choral melody in the upper voice. The melody is treated in typical coloratura manner. All the notes of the melody are there, on the right spot, on the right moment. There are also a lot of notes in between, which can make it difficult to discern the actual melody. The embelishments are well crafted and written in a very sensitive way. Though we do not know who the man or woman behind the initials was, it is clear that he or she was an composer organist of great ability. As organists we can count ourselfes lucky a few compositions of this composer survive, so we can still play and enjoy them.

The recording was done on the sampleset, made by Voxus, of the Matthijs van Deventer-orgel in the Grote Kerk, Nijkerk.

pdf_iconMWCBM, O Mensch beweine deine Sunde gross

M.W.C.B.M, O Mensch, bewein deine Sünde gross

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  1. Max Mueller

    July 14, 2019 at 21:08


    no pdf-link?

    • admin

      July 14, 2019 at 22:10


      O dear, I must be getting old; I forgot the most important element of the post. Corrected now. Thanks for pointing out the omission!

  2. Max Mueller

    July 15, 2019 at 21:09


    Thank you!

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