musica Dei donum

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"Musica Michaelis - Festliche Kantaten"

Dominik Wörner, bassd
Le Concert Royalb; Daniel Leininger, organc

rec: July 13 - 15, 2009, Strassbourg, Sant Thomas
Amati - ami 2502/1 (74'35")
Liner-notes: D/F; lyrics - translations: D/F
Cover & track-list

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr (BWV 676) [3]; An Wasserflüssen Babylon (BWV 653)c; Fantasia and fugue in c minor (BWV 537)c; Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen, cantata (BWV 43) (Er ist's, der ganz allein die Kelter hat getreten)abc; Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, cantata (BWV 130)) (Der alte Drache brennt vor Neid, aria)abc; In dir ist Freude (BWV 615)c; Pièce d'orgue (Fantasia) in G (BWV 572)c; Sonata in e minor (BWV 528) (andante)c; Johann KRIEGER (1652-1735): Der Drache bläset Lermenabc; Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649-1725): Singet dem Herrn alle Weltabc [2]; Rupert Ignaz MAYR (1646-1712): Regina coeliabc [1]; Antonio PINO (fl c1680) (attr): Laudate pueri Dominumabc; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt (TWV 7,21)abc

Source: Rupert Ignaz Mayr, Sacri concentus psalmorum, antiphonarum, op. 3, 1681; Johann Philipp Krieger, Musicalischer Seelen-Friede, 1697; Johann Sebastian Bach, Clavier-Übung, III, 1739

Guy Ferber, René Maze, Emmanuel Alemany, trumpet; Thomas Holzinger, timpani

The programme of this disc is a little torn between two ideas. On the one hand the performers wanted to present music in which trumpets play a central role. On the other hand the features of the organ were to be demonstrated. The result is a disc without a clear concept. That in itself is no obstacle to enjoy the music which is included in the programme. Some of the vocal items are little-known, and that makes this disc particularly interesting.

The trumpet was originally a military instrument and was only gradually used for 'art' music. Its military origin is reflected in the kind of repertoire in which it participated. Music about war - real or spiritual - and pieces to celebrate military victories or peace treaties often included parts for one or more trumpets, sometimes with additional timpani. Among compositions connected to war we find music related to the archangel St Michael, the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil. The programme includes several pieces of this kind. Its starts with Johann Krieger's Der Drache bläset Lermen, about the dragon - symbolizing Satan - battling against St Michael. In the end the trumpets of victory celebrate the defeat of the devil. This piece is scored for bass, 3 trumpets, timpani and bc. The same scoring is used by Bach for the aria 'Der alte Drache brennt vor Neid' from the cantata for the feast of St Michael, Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir (BWV 130).

This cantata is a song of praise for God as the Omnipotent. From this it is only a small step to psalms with the same tenor. The programme comprises three such psalms: 96 (Johann Philipp Krieger, Singet dem Herrn alle Welt), 100 (Georg Philipp Telemann, Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt) and 112 (113) (Laudate pueri Dominum, attributed to Antonio Pino). Telemann's setting is scored for bass, two trumpets and bc. (The track-list gives TWV 7,20 as the catalogue number, but that setting has a different scoring). It has the form of a cantata, consisting of three arias, interspersed by two adagio sections. For some reasons the performers have added percussion, for which I can't see any reason. Krieger's setting of Psalm 96 - in the tracklist erroneously attributed to his younger brother Johann - is from a collection of cantatas for solo voice, one or two violins and bc. This suggests that the two instrumental parts are not originally written for trumpets. That is itself is no objection against their use. On the other hand, it was quite common among German composers to use violins to imitate the sound of trumpets. The same is true for the vocal part. In various pieces, for instance Johann Krieger's Der Drache bläset Lermen, the bass imitates the sound of the trumpet in several places. Nothing is known about Antonio Pino; even his authorship of Laudate pueri Dominum is not established. The piece is preserved in the archive of the bishop of Olmütz, Karl Leichtenstein-Castelcorn. Among the members of his chapel was the famous Bohemian trumpeter Pavel Josef Vejvanovsky, and it is likely the trumpet part in this cantata was played by him.

Rupert Ignaz Mayr was active in southern Germany. One would not expect two trumpet parts in a setting of the Marian antiphon Regina coeli. They are used in a differentiated way, for instance in the opening verse, 'Regina coeli laetare', but not in 'Ora pro nobis Deum', which is followed by the closing 'Alleluia', in which the trumpets obviously return. It is unfortunate that the listener can't follow the text as it is omitted in the booklet.

The other part of this disc is devoted to organ pieces which are selected with the aim of demonstrating the characteristics of the organ which is also used in the basso continuo of the vocal items. It was built by Johann Andreas Silbermann in 1741. As this instrument is strongly influenced by the French classical organ Daniel Leininger has chosen pieces which in his opinion require a registration with French colours. The most obvious choice is the Fantasia in G (BWV 572) which is better known as Pièce d'orgue which already indicates its French character. It is in three sections of which the second is most reminiscent of the music of Bach's French contemporaries. The three sections are played in different registrations. The contrasts seems to me too large; the third section - and in particular the closing episode - are too feeble and lack power. The transition from the first movement (grave) to the second (lentement) is quite dramatic, and that comes off well in Leininger's performance.

Whether French registers are appropriate in the chorales is a matter of taste, I assume. In his liner notes Daniel Leiniger suggests that Bach required the jeu de tierce in An Wasserflüssen Babylon (BWV 653), but in Peter Williams' book on Bach's organ music (*) I couldn't find anything which confirms this. Apart from all historical considerations the performances are quite good, except the registration in the last section of the Pièce d'orgue. Questionable is also the difference in registration between the two sections of the Fantasia and fugue in c minor (BWV 537).

The vocal works are given very good performances by Dominik Wörner who has a strong voice with a good depth. That is particularly important considering the belligerent character of some pieces and also because his voice has to match the trumpets and the large organ. The balance is mostly good; in some cases his voice seems to come from a distance. The natural trumpets are nicely played. They would have been even more interesting if they would have been played without aids to correct the intonation.

To sum up, an interesting and varied programme of first-rate music in fine performances.

It is a shame the liner-notes and lyrics are not available in English. There is also no translation in French of the piece by Johann Krieger. The registration of the various organ pieces is also omitted. A more careful editing of the booklet would not have been amiss.

(*) The Organ Music of J.S. Bach, 2nd ed., 2003

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

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Dominik Wörner

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