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Johann Erasmus KINDERMANN (1616 - 1655): Opitianischer Orpheus

Ina Siedlaczek, sopranoa; Jan Kobow, tenorb
United Continuo Ensemble

rec: Oct 6 - 8, 2016, Heiilsbronn, Refektorium
CPO - 555 123-2 (© 2019) (66'57")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Ach Liebste, lass uns eilenb; Allhier in dieser wüsten Heid (duet)ab; Als ich nächst war ausspazieretab; Amandus und Amoena (dialogue)ab; Corydon sprach mit Verlangenab; Es hat der Jupiterab; Hochzeitsliedab; Ich empfinde fast ein Grauenb; Ist irgend zu erfragen ein Schäfer um den Rheinb; Jetzund kommt die Nacht herbeib; Kommt, lasst uns ausspazierena; Nachtklagb; O du kleiner nackter Schützeab; O Wertest auf der Welt, o Schönest aller Schönenb; O wohl dem, der die rechte Zeita; Schwarz ist mein Farba; Sonata I in d minor; Sonata II in g minor; Wann sich der werte Gast, die Seele, nun soll scheidena; Zehnte von der Pierinnenb

Claudia Mende, Irina Kisselova, violin; Jörg Meder, viola da gamba, violone; Johanna Seitz, harp; Zita Mikojanska, harpsichord; Klaus Eichhorn, organ

Many secular songs were written across Europe during the first half of the 17th century. England had its lute and consort songs, France its airs de cour. These are well represented on disc, but German songs of the 17th century are almost completely neglected. Over many years of reviewing, only a few recordings of this kind of repertoire have crossed my path. One of the composers who contributed to this genre was Johann Erasmus Kindermann.

Kindermann lived in a difficult time: when he was only two years old, the Thirty Years' War broke out. It had a devastating effect on everyday life in Germany, the state of the economy and the arts. Kindermann was born in Nuremberg, which was a wealthy town, where the arts - the visual arts, literature, music - flourished. He visited the local Latin school and was educated at the keyboard by Johann Staden, the organist of St Lorenz and later St Sebald. It was in the 1620s that Nuremberg started to feel the effects of the war. "The catastrophe came in 1632, when the mighty armies of Wallenstein and Gustavus Adolphus faced each other for months on end before the city walls, literally bleeding the countryside dry." (booklet) Only two years later, the town was hit by the plague. About half of the population fell victim to it, including Johann Staden. Kindermann was studying in Venice at the time, which saved him from the same fate. When he returned to Nuremberg, he was appointed second organist of the Frauenkirche, and in 1640 he became organist of St Egidius, a position he held until his early death.

In 1642 Kindermann published a collection of songs in two volumes. There can be little doubt that one of the reasons was his need for an increase of his income in order to support his family. However, it also answered the demand for music to be performed among the town's middle-class in times of war and devastation. The songs were settings of poems by Martin Opitz, the leading poet at the time. In 1624 he had published an influential book about poetry: Buch von der Deutschen Poeterey, in which he wanted to demonstrate that it was possible to write poems in German, as poets usually wrote in Latin. The next year he published eight books with his own German poems.

The two books of songs by Kindermann consist of thirteen and fourteen songs respectively. The subjects are various. There are some love songs, references to antique pastoral poetry, moral songs and pieces written for a special occasion. These songs are secular, but sometimes they include sacred connotations. Zehnte von den Pierinnen, vierte Charis dieser Zeit, a 'song of solace', has these two lines as its refrain: "[Those] who sow with tears shall reap in merriment", an almost literal quotation from Psalm 126.

These songs were intended for performance in domestic surroundings. This explains the scoring for solo voice and basso continuo. Both collections end with a piece for two voices, a duet and a dialogue respectively. There are additional parts for two violins and a bass instrument, either a violone or a bassoon. These are not obligatory and can be omitted. They don't accompany the singer but play ritornellos between the stanzas, in order to give the singer some rest. They can also used to play preludes and postludes. However, Kindermann explicitly states that these songs can also be performed by a single person, who accompanies himself at a keyboard or plucked instrument.

The performers take some liberties. In the solo songs they sometimes divide the stanzas between the two singers, in others they sing in unison. There are also a couple of songs, where they create a kind of dialogue, where that is not specifically indicated. To what extent these liberties are within the range of what is historically justifiable is hard to say. I assume that not that much is known about performance practice of secular songs at the time. The line-up in the accompaniment raises some questions as well. The use of a small organ in these songs seems debatable: one wonders how many citizens of Nuremberg - or wherever these songs were performed - may have owned an organ. It seems to me that the use of a plucked instrument or a harpsichord is more plausible. Kindermann specifically refers to the spinet, which seems a good choice for music intended for domestic performance. The use of a harp also seems questionable: a look at the article on the harp in New Grove suggests that it hardly played a role in German music of the baroque era.

Putting these considerations aside, I strongly welcome this disc, as it sheds light on a part of German repertoire of the 17th century, which is largely unknown. Kindermann is just one of a number of composers who wrote songs for solo voices, and it is to be hoped that more of this repertoire is going to be explored, performed and recorded. Kindermann's songs are very fine pieces, and Ina Siedlaczek and Jan Kobow deliver pretty much ideal performances, thanks to the fact that they are German speakers and understand the texts and their meaning. Their voices also match perfectly in those songs where they sing together. The instrumental contributions are of the same level. The two violinists show their skills also in two sonatas for violin and basso continuo.

It is regrettable that most of the songs are not performed complete. This is common practice in this kind of repertoire, and I don't like it. If the songs are performed as well as is the case here, there is no need to omit any of the stanzas. The booklet includes an interesting essay about the musical and historical context, but the printing of the lyrics leaves something to be desired. Some stanzas are sung but not printed, and sometimes it is the other way around.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Ina Siedlaczek
United Continuo Ensemble

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