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Valentin RATHGEBER (1682 - 1750): "Augsburgisches Tafel-Confect"

canto tanto; Das Neu-Eröffnete Orchestre
Dir: Jürgen Sonnentheil

rec: May 12 - 14, 2003, Weissenstadt, St. Jacobus-Kirche
CPO - 999 995-2 (© 2005) (77'42")

Valentin RATHGEBER: Concerto for 2 trumpets, 2 violins and bc in C [1]; Concerto for 2 trumpets, 2 violins and bc in D [1]; Quodlibeticum: Fratres exultateabcd [2]; Quodlibeticum: Der herrische Riepeld [2]; Quodlibeticum: Die Bettelzechabcd [2]; Quodlibeticum: Reim dich oder ich friß dichb [2]; Quodlibeticum: Vom Rauch- und Schnupf-Tabackcd [2]; Quodlibeticum: Von einem Politicoab [2]; Rätzelabd [2]; Von allerhand Nasenad [2]; Von der edlen Musicad [2]; Von Erschaffung Adam und Evaabcd [2]; Johann Caspar SEYFERT (1697-1767): Amor vincit omniac [3]; Die Beschwerlichkeiten des Ehestandesc [3]; Die gute und böse Eheab [3]; Quodlibeticum: Der Liebhaber des Gelds, des Weins, des Frauenzimmeracd [3]; Quodlibeticum: Summirum Summaruma [3]

(Sources: Johann Valentin Rathgeber, [1] Chelys sonora, op. 6, 1728; [2] Ohren-vergnügendes und Gemüth-ergötzendes Tafel-Confect, 1733, 1737; [3] Johann Caspar Seyfert, Vierte Tracht des Ohren-vergnügenden und Gemüth-ergötzenden Tafel-Confects, 1746)

[ct] Monika Frimmer, sopranoa; Christa Bonhoff, contraltob; Dantes Diwiak, tenorc; Peter Kooy, bassd
[DNEO] Thibaud Robinne, Patrick Dreier, trumpet; Volker Mühlberg, Beatrix Hellhammer, violin; Hendrike ter Brugge, cello; Ann Fahrni, violone; Ulrich Wedemeier, theorbo; Michael Fuerst, harpsichord; Jürgen Sonnentheil, organ

Valentin Rathgeber was a very successful composer in Germany in the first half on the 18th century. He was born in Fulda, studied theology in Würzburg, where he also became a schoolmaster and an organist. In 1707 he entered the convict at Banz as a chamber musician, and here he was ordained in 1711. In the same year he was appointed choirmaster, a post he held until his death. As a composer he concentrated on writing sacred music for churches which couldn't afford professional singers and players. His music is melodious and technically not very demanding. This was the main reason it became very popular throughout Germany.

This disc concentrates on secular songs and dialogues of an often satirical nature, which were published in 1733 and 1737. They were so popular that the publisher, Johann Jacob Lotter in Augsburg, printed another collection under the same title in 1747, but composed by Johann Caspar Seyfert (1697 - 1767). Pieces from this last collection are also included in this recording. The character of these pieces has given food to all kinds of stories about Rathgeber, which turn out to be little more than myths. In the booklet Thorsten Preuß writes that according to those stories Rathgeber escaped from the convent, devoted himself to worldly things, and returned to the convent after some years as a kind of 'lost son', who - after a proper punishment - was received again into the convent. But he published many sacred pieces during his time outside the convent, with the specification "cum licentia superiorum" (with the permission of the superiors) and his works often were dedicated to dignitaries from within and outside the church. This makes it very unlikely he had fallen out of favour with the church or his convent.

Rathgeber's secular works are comparable with his sacred music in that they are technically not too demanding. He took advantage of the growing interest in music making among the middle classes which created a market for music which could be played by amateurs. His compositions also reflect the change in style in particular during the second quarter of the 18th century. Despite their limited technical requirements pieces by Rathgeber have been found in the archive of the Thomasschule in Leipzig and melodies from the collections of Tafel-Confect have left their marks in compositions by Mozart. In the 20th century Rathgeber was rediscovered by the youth music movement in Germany. And today Germany has a Valentin-Rathgeber-Gesellschaft which is involved in putting together a catalogue of all Rathgeber's printed works and prepares new publications of his compositions.

Apart from vocal pieces from the collections Tafel-Confect this disc contains two concertos from the collection Chelys sonora, op. 6, printed in 1728. They are written in Italian style, but - as all Rathgeber's works - for a rather limited scoring with only two solo parts, two violins and basso continuo.

It was an excellent idea to record this music, as the disc gives some insight into the development of music-making by the German middle class of the first half of the 18th century. This development was going on in the second half of the century: the genre of the sinfonia concertante is also part of the music culture of the middle class. The singers have captured the character of these songs well and eloquently communicate their humour. They get good support from the players, which also give fine performances of the two concertos. It is a shame, though, that the longest piece, Von Erschaffung Adam und Eva, is rather difficult to follow: only a small part of the text has been printed in the booklet (approximately three minutes of the total of nine) and as it is in dialect even German speakers may find it difficult to understand, let alone those non-native speakers who only know standard German. In a piece with an uncommon text which is supposed to be humorous, that is a serious omission.

Even so I recommend this disc as it provides the listener with almost 80 minutes of great pleasure. It is perhaps advisable, though, not to listen to all pieces at once, but rather in bits and pieces.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

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