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"Göttinger Stadtmusik" (Music from Göttingen)

Hanna Zumsande, soprano; Nicole Pieper, contralto; Jacob Lawrence, tenor; Henryk Böhm, bass
Members of the Consortium Vocale Berlin; Göttinger Barockorchester
Dir: Antonius Adamske

rec: Oct 6, 2018 (live), Göttingen, Marktkirche St. Johannis
Coviello Classics - COV 91911 (© 2019) (79'29")
Liner-notes: D; lyrics - no translations
Cover, track-list & booklet

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788): Symphony in C (Wq 174 / H 649); Wilhelm Friedemann BACH (1710-1784): Ach, daß du den Himmel zerrissest (BR WFB F3); Joseph Joachim QUANTZ (1697-1773): Concerto for transverse flute, strings and bc in G (QV 5,174)a; Carl Friedrich RUDORFF (1749-1796): Herr! Thue meine Lippen auf (CFR-WV 13); Lobet den Herrn, lobet ihr Knechte des Herrn (CFR-WV 14); Lobet ihr Himmel den Herrn (CFR-WV 6)

[CVB] Patricia Grasse, Anne-Sophie Lanier, soprano; Deike Adamske, Anna Schaumlöffel, contralto; Simon Jass, Philip Lawton, tenor; Hans Adler, Frederik Schuritz, bass
[GB] Dorothee Kunst (soloa), Monika Hofmann, transverse flute; Clemen Alpermann, Guillermo Pérez Izquierdo, horn; Hans-Henning Vater, Katharina Arendt, Christiane Gagelmann, Rüdiger Spuck, Ulrike Wildenhof, violin; Esther Jasmin Becker, Lea Strecker, viola; Angelika Miklin, cello; Christian Horn, double bass; Karsten Krüger, organ

Lovers of the music of George Frideric Handel will know Göttingen as the town where the annual International Handel Festival takes place. It is unlikely that they have ever heard of Carl Friedrich Rudorff, the composer from Göttingen, who is the central figure on the present disc. New Grove does not know him either. The booklet is not of great help, as the producer did not bother to include an English translation of the German liner-notes. Apparently he did not think that anyone outside Germany could be interested in his oeuvre. That could well be a mistake.

Rudorff was born in Körbecke, a little village at the border of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse. As his father died in 1756, probably as the direct effect of the Seven Years War, he moved to Mühlhausen in Thuringia. He may have received music lessons there but no details about it are known. Rudorff then studied theology at Helmstedt where he, according to his own account, became proficient at the keyboard, the violin and the cello and especially in singing. He also studied music theory in order to become a composer. Apparently the authorities in Göttingen were so impressed by his musical credentials that in 1780 he was appointed as Kantor, as successor to the deceased Bach pupil Johann Friedrich Schweinitz, without other contestants for the job even being given the chance to show their skills. Part of Rudorff's responsibilities were the teaching of Greek and Latin at the Pädagogium and conducting the boys' choir (Kurrende).

It did not take long before he came into conflict with the pastors of the churches in Göttingen. In one case he took too much time for the annual Passion performance. In another a lack of communication resulted in the order of the service being mixed up. However, it seems that Rudorff had a good reputation among the inhabitants of Göttingen. In 1787 he was commissioned to compose the music for the commemoration of the founding of Göttingen University fifty years before. Unfortunately that work has been lost. His extant oeuvre comprises twelve sacred cantatas, which have been found in copies in archives in Göttingen, Weimar, Gotha, Leipzig, Berlin and Schwerin. This seems to indicate that his cantatas were appreciated and performed elsewhere.

Two of Rudorff's three cantatas included here have largely the same structure. They open with a chorus, which is followed by a secco recitative and a long aria. Whereas Lobet ihr Himmel den Herren closes with an abridged repetition of the opening chorus, Herr! Thue meine Lippen auf ends with a chorale. The two arias, both for soprano, are of considerable length (seven minutes) and include quite some coloratura. We see here the influence of contemporary opera, which also manifests itself in German oratorios of that time. In the arias the soloist is accompanied by strings and basso continuo, but in the choruses the orchestra includes two horns. The third cantata is different. Lobet den Herrn, lobet ihr Knechte des Herrn comprises four sections: the first and third are for solo voices, the second and fourth for choir, with some solo episodes. The second chorus has largely the same text as the first; the closing line is different. The main interpreter in these cantatas is the soprano Hanna Zumsande, who deals impressively with the technical challenges and the coloratura in the two arias. In the tutti the soloists are joined by two ripienists per part, making a total of twelve singers in the choral sections.

The programme, which was performed live in October 2018, is extended with three works by composers, who - according to the liner-notes - had a direct connection to Göttingen. However, that is not entirely correct. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach seems never to have visited Göttingen, and the only connection between the town and his elder brother Wilhelm Friedemann is that in July 1773 he gave an organ concert at the Paulinerkirche. Much closer is the connection to Johann Joachim Quantz, as he was born in Scheden, southwest of Göttingen.

The latter is represented by a flute concerto, one of many in his oeuvre, which is the result of his being a flautist by profession, but also the flute teacher of Frederick the Great, for whom he probably composed most of his flute concertos and sonatas. The Concerto in G is a beautiful work, nicely played by Dorothee Kunst. The lyricism of the middle movement is particularly fine. The full orchestra can demonstrate its qualities in Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach's Symphony in C.

The disc opens with a cantata for the first day of Christmas by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Ach, daß du den Himmel zerrissest opens with a chorus, in which the image of a descending Jesus is illustrated by corresponding figures. The orchestra includes a pair of horns. It is followed attacca by a bass recitative, which closes with an arioso episode for soprano and alto. Next comes an aria, which salutes the coming Christ, the "Saviour of the world"; the tenor is accompanied by strings with obbligato parts for two transverse flutes. After a recitative for alto, the bass sings a belligerent aria, accompanied by an orchestra with two horns: "Arm, angry enemies". In this aria the contrast between the violence of Christ's enemies and the peace he gives to the faithful, is effectively depicted. That comes off very well in Henryk Böhm's interpretation, whose voice is perfectly suited for an aria like this. The young Australian Jacob Lawrence gives an excellent account of the tenor aria.

I would like to hear more of Rudorff's oeuvre; another disc with cantatas would be most welcome. The cantatas included here indicate that he was a good composer, and these three pieces are valuable additions to the sacred German repertoire of the post-Bach generation. Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's cantatas are not that well-known either, so the inclusion of one of them is also very welcome. Overall I am impressed by the quality of the music and the performances. If you want to add something unfamiliar to your collection, you should consider including this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Jacob Lawrence
Nicole Pieper
Hanna Zumsande
Göttinger Barockorchester

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