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Johann Balthasar Christian FREISLICH: "Secular Cantatas"

Ingrida Gápová, sopranoa; David Erler, altoac; Georg Poplutz, tenorac; Thilo Dahlmann, bass
Goldberg Vocal Ensembleac; Goldberg Baroque Ensemble
Dir: Andrzej Szadejko

rec: Oct 14 - 17, 2020, Gdansk, [Trinity Church]
MDG - 902 2209-6 (© 2020) (75'25")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list
Score Auf, Danzig

Auf, Danzig, lass in jauchzenden Chörena; Eilet, ihr beglückten Schiffe, aus dem weiten Orientb; Kinder der Musenc

Nikolina Gasior, Maria Krueger, Maja Zalesinska, Katarzyna Marczewska, soprano; Karolina Borowczyk, Pamela Chlodna-Chylinska, Marta Jundzill, Aleksandra Zawada, contralto; Piotr Gryniewicki, Mariusz Kowalski, Jan Suchorzewski, tenor; Lukasz Gorczynski, Damian Giczewski, Dominik Mazan, bass
Pawel Hulisz, Filip Pysz, trumpet; Dominika Stencel, Meteusz Cendlak, horn; Katarzyna Czubek, recorder, oboe; Maja Miro-Wisniewska, Aleksandra Wisniewska, transverse flute; Patrycja Lesnik-Hutek, oboe; Leszek Wachnik, bassoon; Adam Pastuszka, Malgorzata Malke, Bernardeta Braun, Joanna Crosseto, Angelika Lesniak, Katarzyna Olszewska, violin; Piotr Chrupek, Dominika Malecka, viola; Bartosz Kokosza, Adela Czaplewska, cello; Michal Bak, violone; Agnieszka Wesolowska, harpsichord; Pawel Szewczyk, timpani

The present disc is the eighth in a series devoted to music from the Baltic region. Danzig (today Gdansk in Poland) was one of the main towns in that region, and an important centre of arts and music. It was a member of the Hanseatic League, and between 1454 and 1793 it was subject to the Polish kings. In 1697 Frederick Augustus I, Elector of Saxony, became King of Poland and this resulted in a personal union between Saxony and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The musical scene in Danzig was under strong German influence - like the whole Baltic region, partly due to the dissemination of Lutheranism - and this continued during the 18th century. The main figures in the music scene were all Germans, either organists or Kapellmeister.

One of them was Johann Balthasar Christian Freislich (or Freisslich). In 1699 his half-brother Maximilian Dietrich had succeeded Johann Valentin Meder as Kapellmeister at the Marienkirche, and when he died in 1731 Johann Balthasar Christian succeeded him. He played an important role in the musical life in Danzig; he composed a number of occasional works and a considerable amount of sacred music. In this respect his role in Danzig is comparable with that of Bach in Leipzig and Telemann in Hamburg. A complete cycle of 66 cantatas for the ecclesiastical year has been preserved as well as two Passions, one on the libretto of Barthold Heinrich Brockes. A previous volume included several of his sacred cantatas. The present disc focuses on his secular oeuvre. It comprises two occasional works and one cantata which has some similarity with Bach's Coffee Cantata.

The programme opens with Kinder der Musen (Children of the Muses) which was first performed on 9 January 1749, at the occasion of the induction of professors into offices at the academic high school (Gymnasium) in Danzig. Three of them are mentioned in the preface. The scoring is for three solo voices (ATB), four-part choir and an instrumental ensemble of two horns, two trumpets, timpani, strings and basso continuo. The cantata opens and closes with an 'aria' for choir. In between are three arias for the respective soloists, each introduced by a recitative. Two recitatives are accompanied, one unaccompanied. Notable is that each recitative is preceded by a sinfonia. The bass aria refers to waves, waterfalls, snow and rain, which is vividly illustrated in both the vocal and the instrumental parts. The alto aria includes quite some chromaticism.

Next follows a solo cantata for bass, Eilt, ihr beglückten Schiffe, aus dem weiten Orient (Hurry up, you blessed ships, from the far orient). This cantata dates from before Freislich's time in Danzig. From around 1716 to 1731 he was in the service of the Prince of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen. It is likely that he composed this cantata during that time. It is not surprising that it has been preserved in Danzig, as Freislich took several of his works with him, when he left Sondershausen. The instrumental scoring is for transverse flute, oboe, two violins and basso continuo. It is notable that the viola is part of the basso continuo. The cantata consists of a sequence of arias and recitatives. The concluding aria seems to have been preserved in two versions, with different scorings, but unfortunately the liner-notes don't discuss this. As far as the content is concerned, the differences with Bach's Coffee Cantata are that this cantata is not only about coffee, but also about tea and chewing tobacco, and that these are not portrayed as things to enjoy, but as recipes for health. As the second recitative has it: "Caffee und Tee, die sind vor alles gut" - Coffee and tea are good for everything.

The last work on this disc is the longest, and is a work in praise of Danzig. Auf, Danzig, lass in jauchzenden Chören (Rise, Danzig, rejoice with jubilating choirs) was written at the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the liberation from the rule of the Teutonic Order. "The historical reason was that at the beginning of February 1454 the Prussian Confederation terminated the allegiance of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and one month later entered into an alliance with King Casimir IV of Poland" (booklet). The name of Casimir figures in the text of this cantata, which is scored for four solo voices, choir and an orchestra of two horns, two trumpets, timpani, strings and basso continuo. The work comprises arias and recitatives. Notable is that no movement is called 'chorus'; the three choral sections are called 'aria'. Moreover, several recitatives are scored for two, three or four voices. The alto aria includes a rising chromatic figure on the words "ihr ängstlich Girren" (her anxious cooing). Like in the first cantata, the bass is given a dramatic aria. The cantata ends with a chorus saying "Friede sei in Danzigs Mauern" - Peace be within the walls of Danzig. This cantata has some similarities in content with Telemann's Kapitänsmusiken.

Freislich is a composer who has been given little attention to date, and one has to be grateful to Andrzej Szadejko for bringing him to our attention. This disc and the recording I mentioned above make one wanting to hear more of his oeuvre. Especially the two large-scale works are excellent pieces, which are not inferior to much that was written by Freislich's more famous contemporaries. The performances are pretty much ideal. David Erler and Thilo Dahlmann have most of the solo parts to sing, and they both deliver excellent performances. Dahlmann has exactly the right voice to explore the dramatic features of his arias, and Erler's performances are very expressive. Choir and orchestra leave nothing to be desired. I am looking forward to the next volumes in this highly interesting series, and I hope it will bring us more Freislich.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

Relevant links:

Thilo Dahlmann
David Erler
Georg Poplutz
Goldberg Baroque Ensemble

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