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Johann Ludwig BACH, Johann Gottlieb GOLDBERG & Johann Ludwig KREBS: Sacred Works

Sophie Karthäuser, sopranobc; Marianne Vliegen, contraltobc; Stephan Van Dyck, tenorbc; Lieven Termont, bassbc
Ex Tempore
Dir: Florian Heyerick

rec: Sept 2002, Gent, Bijlokebc; Jan & Oct 2011, Gijzegem, convent Sint-Vincentius (chapel)ad
Ricercar - RIC 317 (© 2012) (61'31")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/N; lyrics - translations: E/F/N
Cover & track-list

Johann Ludwig BACH (1677-1731): Missa brevis super cantilena Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehra; Johann Gottlieb GOLDBERG (1727-1756): Durch die herzliche Barmherzigkeit unsers Gottesb; Hilf, Herr, die Heiligen haben abgenommen (Der 12. Psalm)c; Johann Ludwig KREBS (1713-1780): Magnificat deutsch (Meine Seele erhebt den Herren)d

This disc pays attention to a member of the many-branched Bach family and two of Johann Sebastian's pupils who are mainly known as keyboard players and composers. Here we hear four sacred compositions whose different features reflect the time they were written.

Strangely enough the earliest work is the last piece on the programme. Johann Ludwig Bach was a member of the Meiningen branch who became a member of the court chapel in 1699, was appointed Kantor in 1703 and Hofkapellmeister in 1711. Most of his cantatas have been preserved because Johann Sebastian copied them for performances in Leipzig. Two masses from his pen have come down to us; the Missa sopra cantilena Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr is the best-known and dates from 1716. It was included in appendix of the catalogue of Bach's works. The Kyrie is in three sections; the first Kyrie includes Seufzer, in the second Kyrie Johann Ludwig makes use of chromaticism. It is in the Gloria that the hymn Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr is quoted. It is divided into four sections each of which has a stanza of the hymn as cantus firmus. The latter is treated in various ways in regard to the length of the notes and the rhythmic structure. This hymn was written by Nikolaus Decius in 1525 and is a paraphrase of the Gloria. The four stanzas are connected to the respective sections of the Latin text. The opening verse has the first stanza of the hymn: "To God alone on high be glory". The 'Laudamus te' is connected to 'We praise, extol and worship you'. 'Domine fili unigenite' has 'O Jesus Christ, only-begotten son' as cantus firmus. The last stanza, 'O Holy Spirit, greatest treasure' is sung during the closing section, 'Quoniam tu solus sanctus'. The slow-moving hymn is a good contrast to the rhythmically vivid setting of the Gloria.

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg is mainly known for his connection to Bach's Goldberg Variations, although it is my no means sure that he actually played these variations as tradition has it. During his short life he only wrote a relatively small number of works. His compositional talent has sometimes be doubted, but the fact that Bach encouraged him to write cantatas for performance in Leipzig points into the opposite direction. The two cantatas on this disc confirm that he was well skilled in composition, including sacred music. Durch die herzliche Barmherzigkeit unsers Gottes is a cantata for the feast of St John the Baptist, and dates probably from the first half of the 1740s. It is scored for five voices, five-part strings and two oboes which play colla parte with the violins. The latter on their turn mostly double the vocal parts. The solo parts are modest: a vivid and virtuosic aria for soprano is the most remarkable of these. The alto has an arioso, whereas tenor and bass have merely a recitative to sing; the tenor recitative is accompanied. The opening chorus is in three sections, beginning with a homophonic episode, followed by a fugal section, and then returning to the opening in abridged form. There are some specimens of effective text expression, for instance in the soprano aria. In the alto arioso the strings are muted, which suits the text about Adam's fall in sins and the effects on his descendants.

Hilf, Herr, die Heiligen haben abgenommen is on the text of Psalm 12: "Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men". It is scored for four voices, strings and bc. It opens with two choral movements and closes with another chorus. In between are a recitative for bass, a duet for soprano and alto and a tenor aria. The gossiping which is referred to in the second chorus - "Every man lies to his neighbour; their flattering lips speak with deception" - is eloquently depicted in the music. The word "heucheln" (feign) is expressed through dissonants. In the closing chorus the two violins have a noticeable role.

Johann Ludwig Krebs is almost exclusively known as a composer of organ music. He was one of Bach's favourite pupils and stylistically some of his organ works are so close to the latter's that they have been attributed to his teacher. He also composed a number of orchestral works and chamber music as well as vocal works. One of these is the Magnificat deutsch which uses the German version by Luther, albeit with minor textual adaptations. It is for four voices and bc, here with strings playing colla parte. It is divided into several short sections - not individually mentioned in the track-list - which show various compositional forms. Florian Heyerick writes that it is influenced by the form of the suite as Krebs makes use of the rhythms of, for instance, a sarabande and a gigue. Towards the end he even turns to plainchant ("wie er geredet hat" - as he has spoken).

s The mass by Johann Ludwig Bach is the only work on this disc which is fairly well-known; it has been recorded before, for instance by Hermann Max. The other compositions are virtually unknown. That makes this disc a valuable addition to the catalogue. The performances are pretty close to ideal. One could argue that a choir of 30 singers is too large; the transparency could have been better and the delivery clearer. Even so, the agility of Ex Tempore is remarkable, as comes to the fore in some choruses which are sung at high speed. In the mass by Johann Ludwig Bach the cantus firmus is sung by six girls, which produce a clear sound. The soloists are outstanding, in particular Sophie Karthäuser and Stephan Van Dyck. All in all, this recording is a remarkable achievement and can only be strongly recommended.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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