Heinrich Schütz was by far the most influential composer in Germany
in the 17th century. Most composers from the middle of the century
were in one way or another influenced by the Oberkapellmeister
in Dresden. One of them was David Pohle, who was a pupil of Schütz
in Dresden, where he also worked for some time at the court. Afterwards
he held office at several places, like Kassel, Weissenfels, Zeitz
and Merseburg. In 1660 he was appointed Kapellmeister in Halle,
and during the 1670s also worked for other courts. From 1678 to
1682 he was Kapellmeister at Zeitz, and from 1682 until his death
held the same position in Merseburg. Although these were important
positions none of his works were published during his lifetime.
Partly due to this much of his oeuvre has been lost, for instance
a complete cycle of cantatas for the church year - just one of
them has survived - and at least seven Singespiele.
music which has survived is mostly sacred and instrumental.
This disc offers an overview of both genres. The vocal works
are sacred concertos, mostly on Latin texts - something which
Pohle seems to have preferred. All but one of the sacred concertos
on this disc are based on texts from the Bible. The exception
is 'Jesu chare te amare' which is a free poetic text, whose
author isn't mentioned in the booklet. In this recording the
Latin text is pronounced in the Italian way, which seems to
me historically unjustifiable.
works are "characterised by a rich variety of form and
scoring; in which, entirely in the spirit of Baroque chiaroscuro,
he repeatedly uses sharp contrasts to achieve effect",
Michael Malkiewicz writes in the booklet. The very first item
on this disc, the Sonata XXIV a 6, gives evidence of this,
as it consists of a sequence of strongly contrasting sections.
The Sonata XXIX a 3 contains a contrast between violin and
viola; the Sonata XI a 6 begins with a section marked 'presto',
which is several times interrupted by 'adagio' passages. The
Sonata XXIII seems to be a kind of 'battaglia', although there
is no mention of it. This impression is enforced by the ending,
which is a kind of 'lamento', containing dissonances. There
is no lack of virtuosity - for instance the closing section
of the last item on this disc, the Sonata XXV.
of the five sonatas recorded here are in six parts, which
was not uncommon in Germany, although most ensemble sonatas
were in five parts. Furthermore it seems Pohle had a liking
for the lower strings. All 6-part sonatas are scored for two
violins, three viole da braccio, viola da basso and bc. This
scoring results in an almost orchestral sound. One of the
sacred concertos, 'In te Domine speravi', also reflects the
preference for lower instruments as it is set for three voices,
two viole da braccio, bassoon and bc.
use of musical figures is standard practice in German music
of the 17th century. Pohle's works are no exception. He doesn't
use them only in vocal music as the Sonata XXIX proves. 'Wie
der Hirsch schreyet', the only sacred concerto in the programme
on a German text, gives evidence of this use of rhetorical
figures, like the long melismas on "Wasser" (water
- "As the hart longs for streams of water") and
on "lebendigen" (living - "the Lord of all
living"). There is a ascending figure on "schreyet"
(longs), and on "unruhig" (restless - "why
are you so restless in me") the music circles around
a centre and the string parts contain sighing figures followed
by short pauses depicting the condition of the soul. Pauses
in the string parts also express the poet being overwhelmed
by God's greatness in 'Paratum cor meum': "quia magna
est super coelos misericordia tua" (for thy mercy is
great unto the heavens). In 'Benedicam Dominum' (I will bless
the Lord at all times) the words "audiant monsueti"
(the wretched shall hear thereof) are set to strong dissonants.
The only non-Biblical text, 'Jesu chare te amare', reflects
the spirit of German Pietism, and expresses the believer's
personal love of God. In the last stanza Jesus is asked to
send his Spirit in the hour of death - "when you command
me to depart" -, a feature of Pietistic literature. Here
Pohle uses a livelier rhythm than in the preceding stanzas,
expressing the trust in God, as the last words say: "Sic
fiat. Amen" (so be it).
is hard to imagine a better performance than that given here
by L'arpa festante. The sound of the strings is brilliant,
with a wide dynamic range and much expression. Likewise the
three singers give excellent accounts of the sacred concertos.
The text is clearly delivered: one does not need the booklet
to understand the lyrics. In particular Hans Jörg Mammel is
very impressive in the way he explores the Affekt Pohle
has made use of in his translation of the text into music.
The three singers also blend well in the two concertos for
two and three voices.
Pohle may be a hitherto unknown quantity. This disc should change
that as it shows his music is first rate. We should be thankful
to all participants for bringing his music to our attention. This
is a most important and enjoyable addition to the catalogue.
Johan van Veen
by Dominy Clements