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"Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen"

Ruth Ziesak, sopranoa; Reinhold Friedrich, natural trumpetb
Berliner Barock Compagney

rec: Feb & Nov 2006, Berlin-Wannsee, Andreaskirche
Phoenix Edition - 102 (© 2008) (61'01")

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (BWV 51)ab; Gottfried FINGER (1660-1730): Sonata in Cb; Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649-1684): Sonata VI a 2; Johann ROSENMÜLLER (1619-1684): Ad pugnas, ad bellaab; O felicissimus Paradysi Aspectusab; Jan Dismas ZELENKA (1679-1745): Laudate pueriab

Georg Kallweit, Daniela Helm, violin; Clemens-Maria Nuszbaumer, viola; Jan Freiheit, viola da gamba, violone; Harald Winkler, double bass; Christian Beuse, dulcian; Björn Colell, lute; Menno van Delft, harpsichord, organ

In the baroque era composers didn't score their music for particular instruments at random. Instruments were often associated with specific Affekts or certain events. The recorder was preferably used in music of a pastoral character, whereas the viola da gamba was associated with music expressing sorrow and sadness. From ancient times the trumpet was used for military and ceremonial purposes. These two roles are reflected in the music of the baroque era as the programme on this disc demonstrates.

The first piece, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, is one of Bach's most famous and most popular cantatas, and also one of his most unusual and most virtuosic. It is a cantata in praise of God, which is the reason it contains a virtuosic trumpet part. This refers to the ceremonial function of the trumpet, which in the baroque era was especially used for music in praise of God and music for his representatives on earth, kings and queens. There can be hardly any doubt that the trumpet part was played by Gottfried Reiche, the virtuoso trumpeter who had become senior Stadtmusicus in Leipzig in 1719. For him Bach has written several trumpet parts in his cantatas which are testimonies of his great skills. It is much more difficult to say with any certainty who has performed the equally demanding soprano part. Bach always used trebles in his church cantatas, but it is also possible that he now and then made use of adult male sopranos, singing with their natural voice. Whoever may have sung it, he must have been a virtuosic singer with a large range. Ruth Ziesak is giving an excellent performance here, and Reinhold Friedrich is a perfect match.

Bach's cantata is strongly influenced by the Italian style, and so are the two sacred concertos by Rosenmüller. Like Bach he mixed this 'new' style with the German polyphonic tradition. In the first piece the trumpet's military function comes to the fore as the title indicates: Ad pugnas, ad bella (To battle, to war). But here it is about the spiritual war of the Christian who has to fight - against sin, against all the temptations of the world - to reach the heavenly paradise. This paradise is what the second concerto by Rosenmüller is about, and as it deals with heaven, the residence of God, the use of a trumpet is appropriate. In these pieces soprano and trumpet are involved in a dialogue of an often virtuosic nature. In Ad pugnas, ad bella the soprano part contains fanfare-like motifs and the trumpet regularly imitates the soprano part.

The last piece on this disc is the setting of Psalm 113 by Zelenka, Laudate pueri. Like the cantata by Bach it is a piece in praise of God, and that explains the use of a trumpet. It is in three sections: in the first and the last (a setting of the closing word 'Amen') soprano and trumpet are competing with each other like in an instrumental concerto. The second section is a setting of those verses in this Psalm which refer to God's caring for the poor and the weak. It is suitable that they are set as an andante in which the soprano sings in a declamatory manner over quietly moving strings.

The vocal items are interspersed by two instrumental pieces. Krieger's Sonata VI a 2 is scored for violin, viola da gamba and bc - a very common scoring in German 17th-century instrumental music. The part of the viola da gamba is technically demanding, and it is suggested it was written for Konrad Höffler, who was a brilliant gambist. Krieger and Höffler knew each other well: both were pupils of Gabriel Schütz in Nuremberg and both worked for some time at the court in Bayreuth and since 1680 at the court of Weißenfels. The sonata is part of a collection of 12 which dates from 1692.

The other piece was written by Gottfried Finger, a composer of Moravian origin who went to London where the first traces of his presence date from 1687. He became part of James II's Catholic chapel, but when the King went into exile he continued his career as freelance musician and composer. Like Höffler he was a skilled gambist, but also wrote music for other instruments, like this Sonata in C, a trio sonata for trumpet, violin and bc. It is consisting of a sequence of short movements in contrasting tempi, and shows the influence of his compatriot Vejvanovský (d. 1693), which explains its rather old-fashioned style.

This disc presents a programme which has been intelligently put together. The vocal items are connected through the use of the trumpet in combination with a solo soprano, and contain a mixture of well-known and hardly known pieces. Despite the distance in time between, for instance, Rosenmüller and Bach, there is some stylistic connection as well, since all composers mixed Italian elements with the traditional German style.

The performance is of a consistently high level. The use of a natural trumpet guarantees a good balance with the soprano and with the violin in Finger's sonata. With a modern trumpet this would have been much harder. Reinhold Friedrich is a brilliant player, and there are no problems in regard to intonation. But, although the booklet doesn't mention it, one may assume this is partly due to modern adaptations of the natural trumpet. These are quite common these days in order to improve the intonation. This may be understandable but it is disappointing that the natural trumpet can hardly be heard in its real state. Ruth Ziesak is a seasoned interpreter of German music of the 17th and 18th centuries, and her treatment of the text leaves nothing to be desired.

The Latin texts in Rosenmüller and Zelenka are pronounced in the German way, which is historically correct. Therefore the modernisation of some elements in the text of Bach's cantata is very surprising. Why a word like "itzt" is replaced by "jetzt" and "vor' by "für" is beyond me. It is a little blot on an otherwise exemplary production.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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