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Johann Justus KAHLE (1668 - c1720): "Zions Trost - Kirchweihkantaten" (Zion's consolation - cantatas for a church consecration)

Maria Skiba, soprano
collegio halense
Dir: Christoph Schlütter

rec: May 2010, Ostrau, Schloßkirche
Querstand - VKJK 1105 (© 2011) (55'45")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

anon: Der Tag ist hin, nun kömmt die Nacht, sacred song; Johann CRÜGER (1598-1662): Zions Trost, sacred song; Johann Justus KAHLE: Ich hebe meine Augen auf zu den Bergen, cantata; Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt, cantata; Wie der Hirsch schreyet nach frischem Wasser, cantata; Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth, cantata

Stefanie Bartsch, Annelie Matthes, recorder, oboe; Thomas Fleck, Katharina Vogel, violin; Christian Seifert, viola; Gesine Friedrich, viola da gamba; Steffen Voss, bassoon; Carsten Hundt, violone; Christoph Schlütter, organ

Some people believe that music which has fallen into oblivion is simply not good enough to survive the passing of time. In some cases that may be true, but as many music of the 17th and 18th centuries was written for one performance at a specific occasion it is rather surprising that so much material has been preserved. When music is rediscovered in libraries or archives it often turns out to be of surprising quality, even if the composers are totally unknown to us. The disc to be reviewed here is another example of music which fully deserves to be brought to our attention.

In particular in German libraries and archives there is still much to be discovered. Because of the political structure there was much employment for performing musicians and composers. In addition to the many aristocratic courts the various cities and their many churches needed composers to provide them with music for the Sundays and feastdays of the ecclesiastical year. In addition there were specific occasions, like the inauguration of pastors or the consecration of a church. The latter is the reason Johann Justus Kahle composed Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen. It was performed in St George's parish church in Ostrau near Halle, although Kahle worked as organist in Helmstedt, today part of Lower Saxony.

This small town had its own university, and that explains how Kahle came into contact with Otto Ludwig von Veltheim who had been enrolled as a student in 1689. Among the possessions of the Veltheim family was a castle in Ostrau which was bequeathed to Otto Ludwig in 1696. He planned several construction projects, among them the redevelopment of St George's parish church, which was commonly known as 'castle church'. In 1704 the church was consecrated, and at that occasion the cantata Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen by Kahle was performed. For the blessing of the organ another cantata by Kahle was performed, Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt.

Apart from the quality of the music this disc is interesting in that it shows the stylistic changes in the church cantata around 1700. Both cantatas which were performed in 1704 begin with a sonata, and then the verses from the Psalms on which they are based - 84 and 100 respectively - alternate with free poetic texts which are set as arias. Kahle doesn't use the dacapo form yet; the arias in Jauchzet dem Herrn are mostly strophic. Only in Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen we find one rudimentary recitative. As one would expect there is a lot of text expression, and specific words are singled out, for instance with coloraturas.

From 1702 to 1704 the composer Heinrich Bokemeyer was also a student in Helmstedt. In his large music collection Kahle's cantata Wie der Hirsch schreyet nach frischem Wasser, on verses from Psalm 42, has been preserved. It shows the same texture as the two cantatas mentioned before. The introductory Sonata adagio is - despite the tempo indication - a piece in three sections: slow - fast - slow. The concluding section is also in two sub-sections: the first line is fast, the second slow. According to the track-list this cantata is scored for solo voice, two violins and bc, but in the only aria we hear two recorders instead. The list of performers mentions only one recorder player; I assume the second oboist also plays the second recorder. A reason for the use of recorders is not given in the liner-notes. In the closing section two oboes play colla parte with the violins.

Ich hebe meine Augen auf zu den Bergen is preserved in the same file as the cantatas of 1704, although the title page mentions 1692 as the year of composition. And that is reflected in its form: there are no arias and no free poetic texts. The whole Psalm 121 is written as a 17th-century sacred concerto; the text is divided into five sections. The scoring is also different: soprano, violin and bc. Again we find various specimens of text expression: on "schlummert" (slumbers) there are two short episodes where all instruments keep silent and the voice sings a cappella.

In addition to the four cantatas by Kahle we hear two sacred songs for solo voice and bc on texts by Joachim Pauli (1636-1708), who was the vicar in Ostrau at the time of the church's consecration. He published two hymn books with his own lyrics; one of them was printed with a foreword by the famous author of hymns Paul Gerhard. Thanks to him Zions Trost was set to music by Johann Crüger. The composer of the melody of Der Tag ist hin, nun kömmt die Nacht is unknown; it is suggested Pauli could have written it himself. These two songs are appropriately sung in a rather simple manner, with only slight ornamentation in the various stanzas.

Maria Skiba's pure and agile voice is the perfect instrument for this repertoire. Although of Polish birth her German pronunciation is perfect, and she delivers very stylish performances, with an excellent delivery. The instrumental ensemble performs with one instrument per part, which is certainly in line with the circumstances in the early 18th century. Collegio halense plays very well, and in particular the rhythmic pulse in these cantatas is clearly exposed. I don't know if more compositions from Kahle's pen have been preserved, but I definitely would like to hear more from him.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

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