Simon Lohet (Loxhay) (c. 1550 – 1611) was a Flemish composer, possibly born in Maastricht. During his live he was mostly active in Germany. He was organist of the Württemberg court of count Louis VI. Lohet made several trips to the Low Countries in the 1570s and to Venice in 1581 to buy instruments and music. In 1601 he retired from his post. He remained in Stuttgart until his death in summer 1611. Historically, the 20 keyboards fugues by Lohet’s hand, that survive in Johann Woltz’s “Nova musices organicae tabulatura” (Basel, 1617), are his most important works. Most of these 20 fugues are short compositions, averaging 20-25 bars. Eight ofthem are monothematic fugues, exploring a single subject in a single section. These 20 fugues are the oldest known works, bearing the titlew “fuge”, written in the style we have come to associate with the term “fugue”. Before them, fugues were more like multisection canzonas, elongated compositions in different sections and moods, that bear little resemblance with the fugues of the Baroque area. I recently published two examples of this kind of fugue, one by an anonymus composer ( and one by Giovanni Gabrieli ( Lohet’s fugues are quite different from these two examples. They frequently use stretto entries, diminution and other contrapuntal devices, characteristic for the classic fugue of the late Baroque. It seems almost unbelievable the fugues were written almost a 100 years before Bach was born.

Lohet’s music is not only a foreshadowing of what was to come, it is firmly rooted in it’s own time as well. The first fugue ofthe 20 is undeniably a Renaissance keyboard work. It is more dance like than it is a fugue, with some surprising rythms. And uncharacteristically for a ‘modern’ fugue, this Fuga Prima has two sections with a repeat.

It is therefore intruiging that this Fuga Prima, by Lohet, figures in manuscript Ms Lynar B3 as well. That manuscript was compiled some 40 years after Woltz’s publication and the Baroque-style was beginning to devellop. Other fugues of Lohet would have been more suited to figure in a compilation as Lynar B3. We can only guess as to why this particular one of the 20 was chosen for inclusion. So, let’s try and make an educated guess.

The Fuga prima as it appears in Woltz’s publication is undeniably a keyboard-only composition and not meant to be played with the pedals as well. The version of this fugue in Ms Lynar B3 differs in lots of places from the version in Woltz’s publication. Particularly in the second section of the fugue. In the Woltz’s version the fugue has some runs over the entire keyboard. These runs are absent in the Lynar B3 version. It is my guess that this was done to make it possible to play this fugue with pedals. The places in Woltz’s original that would be difficult, awkward or impossible to play with pedals, are replaced with new material that is playable with pedals. The overal structure is maintained (two sections, with repeats), though the resulting adaptation is a few bars longer.

Some of the preludes from the first half of this manuscript feel like compositional or inprovisational exercises. In line with that impression is the supposition that this adaptation was an compositional exercise as well. As far as I am concerned, the exercise was carried out very succesfully. The resulting composition is stronger than the original. Where the original is idiomatically more a Renaissance work than a Baroque work, for the adaptation it is the other way around: it is more a Baroque work than a Renaissance work.

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

pdf_iconLohet, Fuga Prima (Ms Lynar B3)

For comparison, the original can be found here.

Lohet, Fuga Prima (Ms Lynar B3)



Add Comment