Samuel Scheidt’s Tabulatura nova, published in Hamburg in 1624, was a milestone in music printing. Its innovative character did not, however, stem from the simple fact that it was the first printed collection of organ music in seventeenth-century Germany. After all, Arnolt Schlick published his Tabulatura Etlicher Lobgesang und Lidlein in 1512 and Elias Nikolaus Ammerbach came out with his Orgel oder Instrument Tabulatur in 1571. Scheidt’s collection was unique because of its open score layout, which radically departed from the various organ tablatures current in Germany or the Low Countries (hence the designation nova in the collection’s title). The open score was a salute to Italian music printing practice and by extension, to the Italian influence that pervaded the circle in which Scheidt evolved, which included the Italian-trained Schütz. He must also have been concerned with a greater dissemination of his work; the open score achieved this by absolving organists outside of Germany from transcribing the music from the letter notation of traditional German organ tablatures.
Hellmuth Wolff Organ, Knox College, Toronto (Canada)