musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"The Musical Treasures of Leufsta Bruk III"

Elin Rombo, sopranoa

rec: Feb 2018, Lövstabruks kyrka
BIS - 2354 (© 2019) (61'18")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/SE; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Ande ifrån ovan (arr Jonas Dominique)ab ; Jesu du är vår salighet (arr Jonas Dominique)ab; O Gud, det är en hjärtans tröstac; På dig jag hoppas, Herre kär (arr Jonas Dominique)ab; Så skön och ljuvligaa; Wackra sol, aria (arr Jonas Dominique)ab; F.I. (Ioannes?) DE BOECK (1697-1775): Sonata V in g minor, op. 2,5c; Conrad Friedrich HURLEBUSCH (1691-1765): Tu parti, idolo mio, Cantata I, op. 3,1ab; Hinrich Philip JOHNSEN (1717-1779): Kyrko-Musique på Påsk-Dagen 1757ab; Pierre-Alexandre MONSIGNY (1729 – 1817): On ne s'avise jamais de tout (Jusque dans la moindre chose, ariette)ab

Sources: Den svenska psalmboken, 1695; F.I. De Boeck, Six Suites pour le Clavi-Cembalo ou l'Orgue, op. 2, 1735; Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch, Due cantate, op. 3, c1735

Maria Lindal, Elias Gammelgård, violin; Daniel Holst, cello; Jonas Dominique, double bass; Peter Lönnerberg, organ (soloc)

Leufsta Bruk (Lövstra bruk) is a small community in Sweden, close to the Baltic Sea, and north of Uppsala. It has become best-known for its organ, built by Johan Niclas Cahman in 1728. It has been used for recordings of baroque organ music, for instance by Hans Fagius in his recording of Bach's complete organ works (BIS, later re-issued by Brilliant Classics). This was all part of a rebuilding of the community after a Russian attack in 1719.

At that time, it was owned by Baron Charles De Geer, a Dutch aristocrat, scientist and entrepreneur, but also a lover of music. When he settled in Leufsta Bruk, he took his large collection with him, which was then further expanded by himself and by his son. The largest part of his musical library comprised editions printed by Witvogel and Roger/Le Cène in Amsterdam. For modern performers, it is especially interesting that it includes several items that are not known from other sources. The music shows great variety, and goes from pieces for keyboard to compositions for a chamber orchestra. This also reflects the musical skills of members of the De Geer family.

The Swedish label BIS carries a series of recordings of pieces from De Geer's collection, but takes its time with this project. The first volume was released in 2006 and included instrumental music by composers from Italy (Vivaldi, Benedetto Marcello, Tartini), Germany (Schaffrath) and England (Pepusch, Corbett). In addition, it offered music from De Geer's home country: a keyboard work by Hurlebusch (of German descent, but working as organist in the Netherlands) as well as traditional dances. The second followed in 2011 and comprised again Italian music (Tartini), music from England (Handel, Keller) but also pieces by Swedish composers: Johan Helmich Roman - the first Swedish-born composer in history) and Hinrich Philip Johnsen. Sweden is also represented in the programme of the third disc, released in 2019, which is the first of this series that I have been able to listen to, as the previous volumes have never crossed my path. Whereas the first two volumes confined themselves to instrumental music, here we get mainly vocal pieces as well as a keyboard sonata. Once again, the programme shows the variety of the repertoire in the De Geer library.

For me the most interesting part is the sequence of hymns, sung by Elin Rombo to an accompaniment of organ or strings. These are part of traditional Swedish liturgical music, not only sung in church, but also in the homes of the faithful. This kind of repertoire is seldom performed, and if so, mostly not by professional musicians and not on commercial discs intended for the international market. I find that regrettable, as this means that music which is very much part of European culture, remains in the shadow of what we use to call 'art music'. A performance by professional interpreters is not necessarily a blessing, though. Elin Rombo sings with quite a lot of vibrato, and whereas that is stylistically untenable in baroque music anyway, it is even more out of place in this kind of music.

The Kirko-Musique på Påsk-Dagen 1757 by Philip Hinrich Johnsen represents a different kind of liturgical music. It is a cantata for Easter Day, scored for soprano, strings and basso continuo. Johnsen was probably of German birth and was appointed Kapellmeister at the court of Crown Prince Adolf Fredrik in 1743. It is notable that this work was specifically written for performance in the church of Leufsta Bruk. The booklet does not give any information about performance practice in this church. The fact that this piece is part of De Geer's library suggests that is was also performed in more domestic surroundings, and therefore the line-up with one instrument per part seems justified.

The first volume included a keyboard work by Hurlebusch. Here he is represented with a cantata, one from a set of two, published as his Op. 3 around 1735 in Amsterdam. The selection of music by Hurlebusch is not only based on the presence of his music in De Geer's library: he has also worked in Sweden. When he was in the service of the court of Brunswick, he accepted the King of Sweden's invitation to become Kapellmeister at his court. That was at the end of 1722. His sojourn in Sweden did not last long, though: in 1725 he resigned, as he was not given the post of court organist, which had been promised him. Tu parti idolo mio is written in the traditional model of an Italian chamber cantata, and comprises two pairs of recitative and aria. It is a nice work, and I would like to hear this cantata and the other from his Op. 3 in a better performance. Not only uses Elin Rombo too much vibrato, her whole approach is way too operatic. This is not music for the stage, but for the intimacy of the salon. Hurlebusch is rather badly represented on disc, and that makes it even more regrettable that this performance fails to do justice to this cantata.

The De Geer family was interested in opera, as a part of the collection includes instrumental music and arias from Italian operas in arrangements for keyboard or for a melody instrument and basso continuo. Wackra sol is an example; the text is in Swedish, but its author and the composer of the music are unknown. Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny also represents opera, albeit of a much later date and stylistically not 'baroque' anymore. Some of his music for the stage was performed in Sweden in translation.

Keyboard music is represented with a sonata by a composer called F.I. De Boeck. The name suggests that he was from the southern Netherlands. Research has revealed that he very likely is identical with the Franciscan Friar Ioannes De Boeck, who was organist of the Antwerp Friary from 1726 to 1735, and around 1738 was working as a priest in Maastricht.

The exploration of private music collections is of great value. They give much information about the dissemination of repertoire and about what was performed in private circles among the aristocracy and bourgeoisie. With any luck, we may find pieces that are not known from other sources, as is the case with the De Geer collection. I hope that more recordings of repertoire in this collection is going to be released in the years to come. I also hope that the performances will do more justice to the character of the music than is the case here. Rebaroque plays very well, and the sonata by De Boeck is given a fine performance by Peter Lönnerberg. However, the vocal items are rather disappointing, and considering the amount of time they take in this programme, I find it hard to unequivocally recommend this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:


CD Reviews