musica Dei donum

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David POHLE (1624 - 1695): "Wie der Hirsch schreyet - Music sacra"

Monika Mauch, sopranoa; David Erler, altob; Hans Jörg Mammel, tenorc
L'arpa festante
Dir: Rien Voskuilen

rec: Sept 6 - 8, 2004, Solms, Kloster Altenberg
Carus - 83.413 (© 2007) (64'31")

Benedicam Dominumab; Diligam te Dominea; In te Domine speraviabc; Jesu chareb; Paratum cor meumc; Sonata XI a 6; Sonata XXIII a 6; Sonata XXIV a 6; Sonata XXV a 6; Sonata XXIX a 3; Wie der Hirsch schreyetc

Christoph Hesse, Michael Gusenbauer, violin; Max Bock, Johanna Weber, viola; Gregor Anthony, Helene Godefroy, viola da gamba; Haralt Martens, violone; Uschi Bruckdorfer, dulcian; Johannes Vogt, lute; Rien Voskuilen, organ

Heinrich Schütz was by far the most influential composer in Germany in the 17th century. Most composers from the middle of the century were in one way or another influenced by the Oberkapellmeister in Dresden. One of them was David Pohle, who was a pupil of Schütz in Dresden, where he also worked some time at the court. Afterwards he worked at several places, like Kassel, Weissenfels, Zeitz and Merseburg. But in 1660 he was appointed Kapellmeister in Halle, and during the 1670s he also worked for other courts. From 1678 to 1682 he was Kapellmeister at Zeitz, and from 1682 until his death he held the same position in Merseburg. Although these were important positions none of his works were published during his lifetime. Partly due to this much of his oeuvre has been lost, for instance a complete cycle of cantatas for the church year - just one of them has survived - and at least seven Singespiele.

The music which has survived is mostly sacred and instrumental. This disc offers an overview of both genres. As no less than five of the 11 works on this disc are instrumental works, its subtitle - 'Musica sacra' - is a little misleading. The vocal works are sacred concertos, mostly on Latin texts - something which Pohle seems to have preferred. All but one of the sacred concertos on this disc are based on texts from the Bible. The exception is Jesu chare te amare which is a free poetic text, whose author isn't mentioned in the booklet. In this recording the Latin text is pronounced the Italian way, which seems to me historically unjustifiable.

Pohle's works are "characterised by a rich variety of form and scoring; in which, entirely in the spirit of Baroque chiaroscuro he repeatedly uses sharp contrasts to achieve effect", Michael Malkiewicz writes in the booklet. The very first item on this disc, the Sonata XXIV a 6, gives evidence of this, as it consists of a sequence of strongly contrasting sections. The Sonata XXIX a 3 contains a contrast between violin and viola, the Sonata XI a 6 begins with a section marked 'presto', which is several times interrupted by 'adagio' passages. The Sonata XXIII seems to be a kind of battaglia, although there is no mention of it. This impression is enforced by the ending, which is a kind of lamento, containing dissonances. There is no lack of virtuosity, for instance the closing section of the last item on this disc, the Sonata XXV.

Four of the five sonatas recorded here are in 6 parts, which was not uncommon in Germany, although most ensemble sonatas were in 5 parts. Furthermore it seems Pohle had a liking for the lower strings. All 6-part sonatas are scored for 2 violins, 3 viole da braccio, viola da basso and bc. This scoring results in an almost orchestral sound. One of the sacred concertos, In te Domine speravi, also reflects the preference for lower instruments as it is set for three voices, two viole da braccio, bassoon and bc.

The use of musical figures is standard practice in German music of the 17th century. Pohle's works are no exception. He doesn't use them only in vocal music: the Sonata XXIX is full of them. Wie der Hirsch schreyet, the only sacred concerto in the programme on a German text, gives evidence of this use of rhetorical figures, like the long melismas on "Wasser" (water - "As the hart longs for streams of water") and on "lebendigen" (living - "the Lord of all living"). There is a ascending figure on "schreyet" (longs), and on "unruhig" (restless - "why are you so restless in me") the music circles around a centre and the string parts contain sighing figures followed by short pauses depicting the condition of the soul. Pauses in the string parts are also expressing the poet being overwhelmed by God's greatness in Paratum cor meum: "quia magna est super coelos misericordia tua" (for thy mercy is great unto the heavens). In Benedicam Dominum (I will bless the Lord at all times) the words "audiant monsueti" (the wretched shall hear thereof) are set to strong dissonants. The only non-Biblical text, Jesu chare te amare, reflects the spirit of German Pietism, and expresses the believer's personal love of God. In the last stanza Jesus is asked to send his Spirit in the hour of death - "when you command me to depart" -, a feature of Pietistic literature, and here Pohle uses a livelier rhythm than in the preceding stanzas, expressing the trust in God, as the last words say: "Sic fiat. Amen" (so be it).

It is hard to imagine a better performance than L'arpa festante is giving here. The sound of the strings is brilliant, with a wide dynamic range and much expression. In the sacred concertos the three singers also give very strong interpretations. The text is clearly delivered: one doesn't need the booklet to understand what they are singing. In particular Hans Jörg Mammel is very impressive in the way he explores the Affekt Pohle has made use of in his translation of the text into music. The three singers also blend well in the two concertos for two and three voices.

David Pohle may be a hitherto unknown quantity, this disc should change that as it shows his music is first rate. One can only be thankful to all participants for bringing his music to our attention. This is a most important and enjoyable addition to the catalogue.

Johan van Veen (© 2008)

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