musica Dei donum

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"Musik am Hofe derer von Bünau II" (Music at the court of the counts von Bünau)

Ensemble 'Alte Musik Dresden'
Dir: Norbert Schuster

rec: May 16 - 8, 1999 and Sept 20, 2005a, Weesenstein, Schlosskapelle
Raumklang - RK 9902 (© 2006) (61'08")

Thomas Avenarius (c1580-1641): Intrada [3]; Phantasia ridiculosa [3]; Johann GROH [GHRO] (1575-1627?): Ich bin die Auferstehung [2]; Andreas HAMMERSCHMIDT (1611-1675): Canzon a 3 [4]; Courente [4]; Das ist je gewißlich wahra [5]; 2 Paduanas [4]; Esajas HICKMANN (1638-1691): O tempus amatum; Stephan OTTO (1603-1656): Er begehret mein [6]; Samuel SEIDEL (1615-1665): Ich liege und schlafea [7]; Ich weiß, daß mein Erlöser lebta [7]; Wie lieblich sind auf den Bergena [7]; Daniel SELICHIUS (1581-1626): A solis ortus cardine [1]; Herr, der du bist vormals gnädig gewest [7]

(Sources: [1] Daniel Selichius, Opus novum, 1624 [2] Johann Groh [Ghro], Trifolium sacrum musicale, 1625; [3] Thomas Avenarius, Convivium musicale, 1630; Andreas Hammerschmidt, [4] Ander Theil neuer Paduanen, Canzonen, Galliarden, Balletten, Mascharaden, 1639; [5] Vierter Theil Musicalischer Andachten, 1646; [6] Stephan Otto, Kronen-Krönlein oder Musicalischer Vorläufer, 1648; [7] Samuel Seidel, Geistliches Ehren-Kräntzlein, 1657;

Constanze Backes, Uta Krausea, Dorothee Mields, Christine Maria Rembecka, soprano; Alexander Schneidera, Henning Voss, alto; Christoph Burmester-Scheffer, Wolfram Lattkea, Uwe Schulze, tenor; Reinhard Decker, Friedeman Klosa, Marek Rzepka, bass; Thomas Friedlaender, Dietrich Hakelberg, cornett; Fernando Günther. Olaf Krumpfer, Frank van Nooy, Harald Winkler, trombone; Daniel Deuter, Karina Bellmann, violin; Irene Klein, Renate Pank, Heide Schwarzbach, viola da gamba; Axel Andrae, dulcian; Donatus Bergemann, violone; Stefan Maass, theorbo; Jan Katzschke, Sebastian Knebela, organ

One of the most astonishing aspects of the 17th century is the large number of compositions, in particular religious works. That was certainly the case in Italy, but also in Germany. This is directly related to the political circumstances, especially the decentralised structure of Germany. It had many cities which were largely independent, and then there were the royal and the many aristocratic courts. They all had their own musicians and chapels, and their stature to a large extent depended on the quality of the musicians they were able to attract. There were many opportunities for musicians to find a job, and as music was mostly performed only once or a couple of times, there was a never-ending demand for new music. Today a large part of this repertoire is still lying unnoticed in archives, and one may assume even more music has disappeared and should be considered lost for ever. Discs like the one reviewed here are very important as they fill in the white spots in the history of - in this case - German music of the 17th century.

What we have here is music by composers associated with an aristocratic court in Saxonia. According to an encyclopedia from the 18th century the dynasty of the counts Von Bünau was one of the "oldest, most noble and widespread aristocratic families in Bohemia, Meissen, Lusatia, Hesse and Franconia". A branch of this family resided in Schloss Weesenstein since the beginning of the 15th century. (It still exists and is now owned by the state of Saxonia.) Members of the family acted as patrons of the arts, and in particular Rudolf III (1547-1624) was a great lover of music and had an organ built in the castle's chapel in 1574. He also founded a vocal and instrumental ensemble to perform during services in the chapel.

Not all of the composers represented on this disc are wll-known today, but most of them were well-respected in their time. The best-known is Andreas Hammerschmidt, whose music around the middle of the 17th century was among the most widely disseminated and most frequently performed, started his career at the court of the Von Bünau family in Weesenstein. Although the ensemble at Weesenstein had mainly religious duties it also performed secular music. Perhaps some of the instrumental suites, which were published as Erster Fleiß in three volumes in 1636, 1639 and 1650 respectively, were composed in Weesenstein, where he worked in 1633 and 1634 as organist. There is no evidence Hammerschmidt was ever a pupil of Schütz, but the musicus poeticus from Dresden had a strong influence on his compositions. In Das ist je gewißlich wahr he consistently stresses the words "ich" (I) and "mir" (me): "daß Christus Jesus kommen ist in die Welt, die Sünder selig zu machen, unter welchen ich der vornehmste bin" - "Aber darum ist mir Barmherzigkeit widerfahren".

The Kantor at the time was Stephan Otto, born in Freiberg (where Hammerschmidt became organist in 1634) and pupil of Demantius. Possibly he was also Hammerschmidt's teacher when both worked in Weesenstein. It seems they developed a long-standing friendship. The collection of sacred concertos, Kronen-Krönlein, which Otto published in 1648, contains a commendatory poem by Hammerschmidt. These pieces are written in the modern Italian concertato style, with a close connection between text and music. In the first section of Er begehret mein Otto contrasts the three upper voices with the three lower voices, as a kind of cori spezzati.

The other composers on this disc are mostly only known to those who have a more than average knowledge about German music of the 17th century. Thomas Evenarius is represented here with some instrumental pieces, from a collection which is considered his most important work, but in Weesenstein he worked as Kapellmeister in 1617 and also wrote vocal music some of which Heinrich Schütz performed in Dresden.
His predecessor was Daniel Selich (Selichius), who was appointed in 1616 and left one year later entering the service of the bishop of Osnabrück. In 1621 he succeeded Michael Praetorius in Wolffenbüttel. His works show the influence of Praetorius and Schütz. A solis ortus cardine is set for four voices, with an instrumental ensemble of 8 parts split into two - in the Venetian cori spezzati style - with basso continuo. Here the two instrumental choirs are performed with strings and wind respectively.
In 1621 Johann Groh was appointed organist at Schloss Weesenstein, where he stayed until 1627, the likely year of his death. Even in 1604 he had already dedicated a collection of music to the count Von Bünau. His duty was to reorganise the church music, and the piece performed here comes from a collection of music written as educational material for the boys of the chapel. This piece is written for three voices, performed here with two sopranos and viola da gamba.

The music on this disc was not necessarily - and most of them probably not - written for performances in Weesenstein. This disc merely pays attention to the composers who in one way or another can be associated with Weesenstein. Two of the composers even never worked for the family Von Bünau. Samuel Seidel worked in Glashütte, a city near Weesenstein, where he also had been born. But his sacred music was very popular in the whole of Saxonia. In Ich liege und schlafe the contrasting ideas in the text are set with the use of the rhetorical figure of the antitheton.
Also not associated with Weesenstein is Esajas Hickmann, who had been born in Dippoldiswalde, also a city in the region. very little is known about him, and he probably wasn't a composer by profession. Some compositions have been preserved in manuscript.

This short overview of the lives and careers of the composers represented on this disc show that they may not be very well-known to most of us, they had respectable careers. If one succeeds a famous master as Praetorius - like Daniel Selich - one must be a composer of considerable standing. And the music on this disc proves that all of them had great skills and were well acquainted with what was fashionable at the time. It also shows the strong influence of the towering personality of Heinrich Schütz, who - as far as we know - had no pupils among the composers on this disc, but whose influence is everywhere.

The interpreters are completely familiar with this repertoire and show a thorough understanding of its character. The voices blend perfectly and the instruments are well played. This disc fully reveals the quality and depth of expression of the music by these German composers and arouse interest in the rest of their oeuvre.

Johan van Veen (© 2007)

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