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Johannes Martin DOEMMING (1703 - c1760): "Ich senke mich in deine Liebe - Cantata and Concerti"

Kai Wessela, alto
Concert Royal Köln
Dir: Karla Schröter

rec: Jan 4 - 6, 2017, Horrem (D), St. Clemenskirche
Musicaphon - M56979 (© 2017) (76'48")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

Concerto for 2 cornu de chasse, oboe, violin, viola and bc in F (D-Rh MS 152); Concerto for oboe d'amore, transverse flute, violin, viola and bc in A (D-Rh MS 156); Concerto for oboe d'amore, 2 transverse flutes, 2 violins and bc in G (D-Rh MS 162); Ich senke mich in deine Liebe, cantata for alto, 2 recorders, oboe abd bca (D-Rh MS 145); Trio for viola and 2 cellos in F (D-Rh MS 174)

Andreas Boos, recorder; Steffen Voss, recorder, bassoon; Benjamino Papagini, Sachiko Yoshida, transverse flute; Karla Schröter, oboe, oboe d'amore; Georg Lukas Köhler, Johannes Leuftink, horn; Maartje Geris, violin; Makoto Akatsu, violin, viola; Rafael Roth, viola; Michael Hochreither, Elisabeth Wand, cello; Thorsten Drees, double bass; Alexander Puliaev, harpsichord

During the 17th and 18th centuries a large quantity of music was produced in the German-speaking world. To a large extent this can be explained by the political structure of this part of the European continent. Within the borders of the Holy Roman Empire towns, counties and duchies enjoyed a large amount of freedom, and their rulers attached importance to hold court in grand style. Part of the status of a court was the quality of its chapel. As a result there was much opportunity for performing musicians and composers to find a job. Today we know only a small part of the music which was written for and performed at the various courts across Germany. A substantial part of the repertoire has been lost, but there is also music in libraries and archives which has never been performed and sometimes is not even catalogued. This explains that from time to time discs are released which include unknown repertoire, sometimes even by a composer who is a completely unknown quantity. That is the case with the present disc: never has any composition by Johannes Martin Doemming crossed my path and it seems quite possible that this is the first time any of his music appears on disc.

Doemming has no entry in New Grove. There is also little to tell about him; we know next to nothing about his biography, and that includes his musical education. He was born in Milz in Thuringia, and was employed as kitchen master at the court of Count Moritz Casimir I and his son Moritz Casimir II of Bentheim-Tecklenburg in the county of Limburg in what is today the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In 1731 he was promoted to the post of director musices. That was quite surprising, as he was not a professional musician. This probably explains that his salary was rather modest. However, in this capacity he was responsible for the entire musical life at the court, regarding both vocal and instrumental music.

The court chapel was rather small, and seems to have comprised mostly not more than seven players. However, some of them may have been able to play more than one instrument, and now and then external forces may have been added to the fixed ensemble. Doemming himself played the oboe. Whether that has resulted in that instrument's taking a particularly prominent place in his oeuvre is impossible to say. As his name is not included in New Grove I have no information about his oeuvre and the liner-notes to the present disc don't touch that issue. The fact that in the programme of this disc the oboe figures prominently has probably more to do with the fact that the musical director of the ensemble Concert Royal Köln is an oboist herself than with the role of the oboe in Doemming's oeuvre.

The fact that he was an amateur should not give the impression that his music is technically simple. The disc opens with the Concerto in F for two horns, oboe, violin, viola and bc, and the two horn parts are technically challenging. The same goes for the viola part in the Trio in F. This is a most remarkable piece, especially because of its unusual scoring for viola and two cellos. Idiomatically this piece points in the direction of the classical style. Karla Schröter, in her liner-notes, mentions that Doemming had a general preference for the lower strings, either two violas or two cellos. This trio is traditional in its sequence of four movements: slow - fast - slow - fast, rooted in the Corellian sonata da chiesa. But in its treatment of the instruments it is quite modern. The second adagio opens and ends with an episode of seventeen bars for the two cellos, without participation of the viola.

The scoring of the pieces recorded here is one of the notable features of Doemming's music. This could well be the result of the instruments available in the court chapel. However, such scorings were not that uncommon in the mid-18th century. I refer here to concertos by more famous contemporaries of Doemming, in particular Georg Philipp Telemann and Christoph Graupner. The Concerto in A is scored for oboe d'amore and transverse flute as the solo instruments, with violin, viola and bc. The last piece in the programme is also rather uncommon in its scoring: the solo instrument is the oboe d'amore again, and it is accompanied by two transverse flutes, which mostly play colla parte with the two violins, although the first flute is now and again involved in a dialogue with the oboe d'amore. Notable is the omission of a viola, again something which we also find in some of Telemann's concertos.

In the middle of the programme is the only vocal piece: the cantata Ich senke mich in deine Liebe, scored for alto, two recorders, oboe and bc. It includes three arias, separated by two recitatives. The tessitura of the vocal part is unusual: especially the opening aria is in a rather low pitch, and Kai Wessel regularly has to switch to his chest register to be able to sing the lower notes. This is partly due to the text which opens with the words "I plunge into your love". The second aria is a mixture of free poetry and the chorale Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende, sung on the melody of Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten. The last aria is the only of the three which has a dacapo. Notable is the fact that all three arias are introduced by rather long instrumental episodes.

I have already mentioned the name of Christoph Graupner. That has not only some relevance with regard to the instrumental scoring, but also concerns the individual character of Doemming's idiom. Graupner was a self-willed composer, whose music has little in common with what was written by his colleagues, such as Telemann, Fasch or Bach. The same is the case with Doemming. Having listened to his music I have heard nothing familiar, and it seems that he was really a man of his own, despite - or thanks to? - the fact that he was an amateur. I would like to know something about his musical education. Where did he get his ideas from?

Doemming is an entirely unknown quantity, but he should be better known, and this disc has convinced me that his oeuvre deserves to be thoroughly investigated. Both the cantata and the concertos have made me curious about other parts of his oeuvre. If one compares the cantata with the Trio in F, for instance, one gets the impression that Doemming has made quite a development in stylistic matters, and it would be very interesting to know more about this.

Concert Royal Köln have done us a great favour by bringing this music to our attention. The performances are very good; the playing is technically immaculate and the interaction between the players is such that the dialogues between the various instruments comes off perfectly. The fast movements are given energetic performances and the slow movements have a nice lyricism. Kai Wessel does well in the cantata, and the shift between the falsetto and chest registers is smooth and effortless.

In short, this is a most intriguing release, and if you like to strike out upon new paths, this disc is a perfect opportunity.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

Kai Wessel
Concert Royal Köln

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