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"Musica Sacra - Die Zeit" (Time)

Dorothee Mields, soprano
Hamburger Ratsmusik
Dir: Simone Eckert

rec: June 20, 2010 (live), Kloster Maulbronn
K&K Verlagsanstalt - KuK 102 (© 2011) (60'32")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & details

Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788): Am neuen Jahre (Wq 194,44 / H 686,45) [8]; Prüfung am Abend (Wq 194,7 / H 686,7) [8]; Vom Tode (Wq 194,37 / H 686,37) [8]; Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c1595-1663): Betrübet ist zu dieser Frist; Johann SCHOP (c1590-1667): Lachrimae Pavaen [2]; O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort [1]; Nicolaus Adam STRUNGK (1640-1700): Das Bildnis [3]; Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767): Getrost im Leiden (TWV 25,44) [5]; Die Hoffnung (TWV 20,24) [6]; Die Zeit (TWV 20,23) [6]; Sonata for treble viol and bc in G (TWV 41,G6) [4]; Sonata for viola da gamba, harpsichord and bc in G (TWV 42,G6) [7]; Zufriedenheit (TWV 25,41) [5]

Sources: [1] Johann Schop, Johann Risten Himlischer Lieder, 1642; [2] P. Matthysz, ed., 't Uitnement Kabinet, 1646; [3] Nicolaus Adam Strungk, Leucoleons Galamelite oder Allerhand Keusche Lust- und Liebeslieder, c1670; Georg Philipp Telemann, [4] Der getreue Music-Meister, 1728/29; [5] Singe-, Spiel- und Generalbaß-Übungen, 1733/34; [6] VI Moralische Cantaten, 1735/36; [7] Essercizii musici, 1740; [8] Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Geistliche Oden und Lieder, 1757

The ensemble Hamburger Ratsmusik was founded in 1991 by the German gambist Simone Eckert. Its name derives from a phenomenon which played a very important role at the German music scene in the renaissance and baroque periods. Many German towns had their own ensembles of instrumentalists which were known under several names, such Ratsmusikanten, Stadtmusikanten or Stadtpfeifer. They were employed by the civic authorities and provided the music at official celebrations of a political or ecclesiastical nature. The first ensembles are documented in the 14th century. The Stadtpfeifer usually played various instruments. The word Pfeifer (wind player) suggests they originally played mainly wind instruments like cornett and sackbut, but with time they also performed on string instruments, in the early 17th century in particular gambas, and later also violins.

This disc is the recording of a public concert which took place on 20 June 2010 at the Maulbronn monastery, a Cistercian abbey in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The programme concentrates on the subject of time which is approached from different angles. Simone Eckert characterises the programme as "the philosophical thoughts about hope and future, the waiting and the transiency and about the terrifying idea of eternity in the works of northern and central German composers of the 17th and 18th century".

It begins with a simple setting of a hymn which has been used by various German composers of the 17th and 18th centuries: O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort. It is from the collection Himlische Lieder by the German poet Johann Rist which was published in two volumes in 1642, with music by Johann Schop. Johann Sebastian Bach used this hymn several times, but with a different melody. In a Dutch collection of instrumental music, 't Uitnement Kabinet of 1646 we find a set of diminutions on Dowland's Pavana lachrymae for violin and bc, played here at the treble viol. Schop was leader of the Ratsmusik in Hamburg and a virtuoso on the violin.

Nicolaus Adam Strungk was one of the few German composers from the second half of the 17th century who composed songs for solo voice and bc. Das Bildnis is about the transience of human life. Strungk played also an important role in the development of German opera, in particular in Leipzig. Heinrich Scheidemann was one of Hamburg's most prominent organists from 1625 until his death, and a pupil of Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. As the text of the song Betrübet ist zu dieser Frist on which his variations are based, is not identified as yet one wonders why this piece was included in the programme. The melody is of English origin.

In the 1730s several German composers made efforts to revive the genre of the solo song. One of the most important fruits of these attempts was the collection Singe-, Spiel- und Generalbaßübungen by Georg Philipp Telemann, which was printed in 1733/34. Getrost im Leiden is about the hope of a return of happiness after a time of suffering, Zufriedenheit is about contentment in bad times. The next important composer of songs was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach who succeeded Telemann as Musikdirektor in Hamburg in 1768. Am neuen Jahre expresses the hope for a good new year, Vom Tode is a memento mori, Prüfung am Abend is an evening song: during the night God is watching over me.

Many of the songs by Telemann and Bach (and other composers of their time) are of a moralistic nature, reflecting the spirit of the Enlightenment. That is also the case with the collection of VI Moralische Cantaten (Moral Cantatas), which were published in 1735/36. Die Hoffnung is about hope of good fortune: "Fortune takes her time (...). If she does not come today, she will for sure tomorrow. Heaven will take care for me, knowing I'm able to wait". Die Zeit gave this disc its title; it is about the transiency of time. In the last aria the listener is urged to "roam, ride, play cards, drink coffee, smoke tobacco, seek jest and joy, dance and laugh". But one should be aware that "one day you will be asked to answer for your deeds. Therefore remain within civil limits, do everything in moderation". This sums up one of the ideals of the Enlightenment pretty well.

The two instrumental works by Telemann have nothing to do with the main subject of this disc, and seem to have been included because of their 'Hamburg connection'. The Sonata in G (TWV 41,G6) is for treble viol and bc. This instrument, called pardessus de viole in French, is a token of Telemann's love for the French style; the four movements have Italian titles, though. His collection Essercizii Musici of 1740 is one of Telemann's most forward-looking contributions to the chamber music repertoire of his time, especially because in a number of sonatas the harpsichord is given a concertante role. In the Sonata in G (TWV 42,G6) the (bass) viola da gamba and the harpsichord are treated as equals, supported by a basso continuo.

It was a good idea to record this concert and release it on disc. The music is of consistently high quality and is always captivating. The performers greatly contribute to the enjoyment. Dorothee Mields has the ideal voice for this small-scale repertoire. Even where she doesn't add ornaments - and in the solo songs by Telemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach ornamentation is largely to be avoided - she varies in the way she sings according to the content of the stanzas. In the two moral cantatas her interpretation of the recitatives is exactly how it should be. The three instrumentalists also deliver engaging and compelling performances. If you haven't heard this ensemble, this disc is a good way to get to know it. The substantial discography of the Hamburger Ratsmusik is well worth exploring.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

Hamburger Ratsmusik

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