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"Nunc dimittis - Music from the Düben Collection"

Dominik Wörner, bass
Kirchheimer DübenConsort
Dir: Jörg-Andreas Bötticher

rec: Feb 29 - March 3, 2020, Kirchheim/Weinstraße, Evangelische Kirche
Passacaille - PAS1081 (© 2020) (78'12")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: D
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Sonata à 5 in G; Caro BÜTNER (1616-1679): Canzon à 3 in G; Samuel CAPRICORNUS (1628-1665): Gaudens gaudebo; Salvum me fac; Kaspar FÖRSTER (1616-1673): Jesu dulcis memoria; Sebastian KNÜPFER (1633-1676): Suite in d; Johann KRIEGER (1651-1735): Dominus illuminatio mea; Johann Michael NICOLAI (1629-1685): Sonata à 2 in d minor; Sonata à 2 in G; Carlo PALLAVICINO (1630-1688): Laetatus sum; David POHLE (1624-1695): Sonata à 5 in C; Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672): Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener (SWV 352)

Katharina Heutjer, Johannes Frisch, violin; Frauke Hess, Juliane Laake, viola da gamba; Matthias Müller, violone; Adrian Rovatkay, dulcian; Julian Behr, lute; Jörg-Andreas Bötticher, organ

Gustav Düben (c1628 - 1690) was a member of a musical family. His father, Andreas, was born in Leipzig, studied with Sweelinck in Amsterdam and entered the service of the Swedish court in 1620. In 1640 he was appointed conductor of the court orchestra. Gustav received his first musical education from his father, and then studied in Germany for some years. After his return to Stockholm he became a member of the court orchestra in 1648. In 1663 he inherited his father's positions as conductor and as organist of the German church. Although he has composed some music, mainly songs for voice and basso continuo, he has become best-known for his collection of music.

This collection, known as the Düben Collection, is huge: it contains about 2,500 handwritten works and more than 120 printed pieces. Both vocal and instrumental music is represented. Although there are some secular works, the largest part of the vocal music is religious. The collection reflects the needs of the royal court, but there are also some compositions which seem to be more suitable for the liturgical practice in the German church in Stockholm. Apparently it was Düben himself who was the rightful owner of this large corpus of music. After his death his son Gustav succeeded him, but in 1698 he was again succeeded by his younger brother Anders. When the latter resigned from all his musical duties in 1726, he donated the whole collection to Uppsala University.

The Düben Collection is the only source of many works by Dieterich Buxtehude, who seems to have had a special relationship with Düben. The famous cantata cycle Membra Jesu nostri is Buxtehude's best-known work in the collection. However, it has more to offer than German music: it also includes pieces by Italian and French masters as well as by composers who worked at the Habsburg court in Vienna. This suggests that music life in Stockholm was very versatile and Düben had a good feeling for what was worth being preserved.

This disc focuses on sacred concertos for bass, alternated by instrumental pieces. Most pieces appear here on disc for the first time. One of the exceptions is Jesu dulcis memoria by Kaspar Förster, who was born in Danzig, and died near that city, but in between led an eventful life, which brought him to Italy - where he was a pupil of Carissimi - and Copenhagen. As a bass singer, he was renowned for his wide tessitura, spanning three octaves. This sacred concerto, whose text is often (erroneously) attributed to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (the author was probably an English member of the Order of the Cistercians) and is a typical specimen of medieval mysticism, may well have been intended for his own performance. Förster creates a strong contrast between the last two lines: "noble conqueror" vs "unutterable sweetness". The instrumental scoring is typical for Italian sacred concertos of the time: two violins and basso continuo.

In comparison, the two concertos by Samuel Capricornus are much more German in their scoring. Salvum me fac Deus was first included in a collection of sacred music published posthumously in 1669. In that edition, it was scored for bass with four viole da gamba, two sackbuts and basso continuo. In the Düben Collection, the instrumental ensemble consists of two violins and three viole da gamba instead. It is a setting of Psalm 69, which is a pray for salvation. The first verse sets the tone: "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me." This kind of images are well suited to be illustrated in music, and that is exactly what Capricornus does. It is also a text which is tailor-made for a bass, and the composer effectively explores the lowest range of the voice. Gaudens gaudebo in Domino is a very different piece, due to its text, taken from Isaiah 61 (not 63, as the liner-notes have it): "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." Here it is rather the upper register of the bass voice that is explored. The first section begins with an instrumental introduction, which is repeated at the end. The instrumental scoring is for violin, viola da gamba and basso continuo.

Johann Krieger is the lesser-known younger brother of Johann Philipp; he was educated as an organist, and worked the last 53 years of his life as organist and director chori musici at Zittau. The fate of his compositional oeuvre is typical of the 17th century: titles of about 235 sacred works are known, but only 33 are extant. Dominus illuminatio mea, a setting of the first three verses of Psalm 27 (not 26, as the liner-notes have it) - "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" - is a dialogue of bass and violin, which are treated on equal footing.

The last two vocal items are notable for representing two different styles. Heinrich Schütz was considered the 'father of German music', and in his oeuvre he adopted the Italian style in his collections of Symphoniae Sacrae; the concerto Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener, the German translation of the Song of Zechariah (Nunc dimittis in Latin) is taken from the second volume, published in 1647. It is scored for bass, two violins and basso continuo, in accordance with the Italian convention. In the Düben Collection it appears with three additional viola parts, here played on two viole da gamba and violone. It is an example of an adaptation as was quite common at the time. Düben may well have undertaken this adaptation for a performance in the German church in Stockholm.

The programme ends with a piece by Carlo Pallavicino, and this setting of Psalm 122 (not 121, as the liner-notes have it) - "I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord" - is very different from comparable pieces by Schütz, like the one I just discussed. It is a full-blooded theatrical piece, in which vocal virtuosity is more important than text expression. There is a sudden change in the last verses, just before the doxology, starting with the line "Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces". Peter Wollny, in his liner-notes, mentions the unusual harmonic turns in Pallavicino's sacred music. We find them especially in these last verses. In the last stages of his life, Schütz showed his unease with modern trends in music, coming from Italy. Listening to this piece, one understands what he alluded to. If he had heard it, it must have caused quite a shock.

The programme is extended by instrumental pieces from the same Düben Collection. In several cases it is not entirely clear who the composer is, even though the name of a composer is mentioned. The disc opens with the Sonata à 5 in C, whose composer is given as David Pohle in two manuscripts in the collection. However, other sources mention Johann Heinrich Schmelzer and Antonio Bertali respectively. Stylistically it points in the direction of the imperial court in Vienna, where the latter two worked. Considering the dissemination of music across Europe and the common practice of copying, it is not that surprising that a piece is attributed to different composers. This piece is scored for two violins, two viole da gamba, dulcian and basso continuo. The anonymous Sonata in G is written in the same style. The Canzon à 3 in G has been preservd without the name of a composer, but there are reasons to believe that it is from the pen of Crato Bütner, a composer from Danzig. Notable are the wide intervals. Like Capricornus, Johann Michael Nicolai was in the service of the court in Stuttgart. The two sonatas included here are for violin, viola da gamba and basso continuo, which was a very common scoring in 17th-century Germany; most of Buxtehude's sonatas are for the same combination of instruments. The Sonata in d minor is of doubtful authenticity.

The Suite in d minor for violin, two viole da gamba and basso continuo by Sebastian Knüpfer is an interesting piece. It is the only instrumental work from his pen and shows similarity with the sonatas of Johann Rosenmüller. It has been preserved thanks to a copy by Johann von Assig, an aristocratic student from Breslau, who studied in Leipzig from 1669 to 1672, and on his ensuing grand tour visited Stockholm, where he sold his collection of music to Düben. The suite comprises four dance movements.

Dominic Wörner is the ideal interpreter of this kind of repertoire. His voice has a wide range, and is well developed at both ends, which comes especially to the fore in the two pieces by Capricornus. His diction and articulation are exemplary, and the content of every piece is given full attention; the text is always clearly intelligible. There is some good dynamic shading as well. The Kirchheimer Dübenconsort was especially brought together for this project, which was also performed in a concert (due to COVID-19 without an audience) and transmitted on German radio. It comprises specialists in German music of the 17th century, and that guarantees ideal performances of the instrumental music, and contributions to the vocal items which are as much based on the text as Wörner's singing. It is to be hoped that these performers will continue to explore the rich source that is the Düben Collection, and that this superb disc is not their last.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

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Dominik Wörner

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