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Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649 - 1725): "Musicalischer Seelen-Frieden"

Dorothee Mields, sopranoa
Hamburger Ratsmusik
Dir: Simone Eckert

rec: May 1 - 4, 2012, Heilsbronn, Refektorium
Carus - 83.372 (© 2013) (58'54")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list
Scores Sonatas op. 2

Ecce nunc benedicite Dominoa [2]; Es stehe Gott aufa [2]; Gott, man lobet dich in der Stillea [2] ; Herr, auf dich trau icha [2]; Sonata IV a 2 in F, op. 2,4 [1]; Sonata V a 2 in G, op. 2,5 [1]; Sonata VI a 2 in a minor, op. 2,6 [1]

Sources: [1] 12 suonate, 1693; [2] Musicalischer Seelen-Friede, 1697

Christoph Heidemann, Gabriele Steinfeld, violin; Simone Eckert, viola da gamba; Ulrich Wedemeier, theorbo; Michael Fuerst, harpsichord, organ

One thing which one notices while reading biographies of composers from the 17th and early 18th century, in particular from Germany, is the large number of compositions they have written during their career. The figures are sometimes staggering. Two of the most productive composers from the first part of the 18th century, Telemann and Graupner, wrote around 1,400 sacred cantatas. And those are only the cantatas that we know of. How many they have written and how much of their production has been lost is anybody's guess. However, Johann Philipp Krieger beats both of them. He painstakingly noted the cantatas he composed since he entered the service of Duke Johann Adolph I of Saxony-Weissenfels. The result: around 2,150 pieces. However, his bookkeeping also reveals how much of his oeuvre has been lost. Of his cantatas only around 80 have survived. If one listens to the present disc one can only conclude that this is a huge and painful loss.

Krieger was born in Nuremberg; he was the elder brother of Johann Krieger. He was educated at the keyboard and at an early age he already showed extraordinary skills. As a teenager he went to Copenhagen to study with Caspar Förster. After his return he entered the service of Margrave Christian Ernst of Bayreuth. When the latter became involved in the war against France, Krieger was allowed to travel to Italy. Here he studied with Johann Rosenmüller in Venice and later went to Rome to study with Bernardo Pasquini. After his return he went to Vienna and played for Emperor Leopold I, who ennobled him. In 1677 he was appointed as organist in Halle at the court of Duke August of Saxony-Weissenfels. When the latter died in 1680 he was appointed Hofkapellmeister by his successor, Johann Adolph I. The new Duke rated music even more highly than his predecessor, and that was reflected by a new order of worship which was introduced in 1684. This high assessment of music is one of the explanations for the large production by so many composers of that time. Moreover, it was uncommon to perform music which had already been used. If it was used once again, it was mostly arranged and adapted to new circumstances.

In 1697 Johann Adolph I died which Krieger experienced as a personal loss. It also meant that the future was insecure as one could never be sure whether the successor would value music as highly as the present ruler and whether he would appreciate the acting Kapellmeister. The same year Krieger published a collection with sacred concertos, Musicalischer Seelen-Friede. It comprises sacred concertos on texts from the Book of Psalms in German and in Latin. These were the pieces which Johann Adolph very much appreciated and Krieger dedicated the collection to the deceased Duke. The scoring is for soprano, two violins and bc. The instruments largely follow the vocal line. These pieces are in the tradition of the German sacred concerto which was through-composed. Interestingly these settings include passages for voice and basso continuo alone, which have a strongly declamatory character. They can be considered the forerunners of the recitatives which were to become such an important part of the German cantata in the first half of the 18th century.

Krieger is quite effective in the musical depiction of a text. In every Psalm there are some moments when a couple of words or a phrase is singled out. An example in Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille (Psalm 65) is verse 7: [power] "which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people". Dorothee Mields is the ideal interpreter of this kind of repertoire. She exactly knows how to deal with the text and how to express the content. Thanks to her immaculate diction every word is clearly audible. She sets the right accents without exaggerating. This music is clearly influenced by the Italian style, but it is not Italian music. That said, sometimes I find the playing of the strings a little too flat, especially in regard to dynamics. That is particularly the case in the instrumental pieces.

These sonatas were printed in 1693; the scoring is for violin, viola da gamba and bc which was particularly popular in Germany. The tempo indications are all Italian, but the Sonata V surprisingly ends with a courante. It is in the slow movements that the playing could have been more engaging and more dynamically contrasting. That said, this disc is a fine monument for a truly great composer from the German baroque.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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