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Christoph Ernst Friedrich WEYSE (1774-1842)
Christmas Cantata No. 3 (B. S. Ingemann)
Jubler, o jubler i salige toner DF 26 (1821)
(Sing and rejoice, O world in thy gladness)

No. 1 Chorus Allegro con spirito:
Jubler, O jubler i salige toner

No. 2 Trio [SAT]. Poco Andante:
Bethlehem hans vugge stir

(Cello solo: Hans Nygård)
No. 3 Chorale: O himmelbarn med guddomsånd
No. 4 Duet [ST]. Andantino:
Du de vise kom at hylde

No. 5 Quintet [SSATB] Andante maestoso- Chorus, Allegro moderato-
Quintet Tempo primo:
Eder er i dag en frelser fød
(Harp solo: Sonja Gislinge)
No. 6 Quartet [SATB]. Andantino:
Halleluja, vi høre det evangelium
No. 7 Chorus Allegro con spirito - Moderato - Andante maestoso:
Jubler, o jubler i salige toner
Easter Cantata No. 1 (Thomas Thaarup)
Hil dig, hill dig, livets morgenrøde. DF 15 (1836)
(Hail, O hail, thou dawn of life arising)

No. 1 Chorus and solo [SATB] Allegro con spirito:
Hil dig, hil, dig, livets morgenrøde
No. 2 Trio [SAT] Andante con moto:
Himmelskøn din stemme, Jesu, lød
(Cello solo: Nille I Hovmand)

No. 3 Tenor solo. Recitative: Sa hanligen lød Jesu fjenders stemme
No. 4 Quintet [SSATB] Andante: Fromheds tunge sukke løde
No. 5 Chorus Allegro con spirito - Solo [SSATB]. Adagio:
Den stjerneløse nat indhyller jorden

(Harp solo: Sonja Gislinge)
No. 6 Chorale Halleluja! Det er fuldbragt
No. 7 Quartet [SATB] Andante con moto:
Tegn på jordens frelse, på dens brøde

No. 8 Chorus Allegro con brio:
Triumf fra Zion korsets banner vajer

Bodil Arnesen (sop), Dorthe Elsebet Larsen (sop), Kirsten Dolberg (alto), Peter Grønlund (tenor), Stephen Milling (bass)
Tivoli Concert Choir, Tivoli Symphony Orchestra/Michael Schönwandt
Rec. The Tivoli Concert Hall, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1997
MARCO POLO 8.224049 [51.42]

 

Christoph Weyse was born on March 5, 1774 in Altona in Holstein, Denmark. He learnt singing, keyboard, and violin in the musical atmosphere of his hometown and of nearby Hamburg, where C.P.E. Bach was the municipal director of music. Weyse came to the Copenhagen in 1789 as a teenager to study with Schulz and with Peter Grønland, living at first in Schulz's house where he studied the keyboard, violin, and composition.

In 1792 Schulz helped the eighteen year old Weyse to obtain a position as assistant organist at the Calvinist Reformed Church, where worship was conducted in German and French. At the beginning he was probably not paid for his services, but two years later the old organist died and Weyse became his successor. There are piano pieces and short songs with German text in the style of Schulz's Lieder im Volkston; and in addition there is a work for choir and orchestra with a large-scale, fugal finale entitled Der Herr ist Gott (1794) that points forward to Weyse's cantatas.

As early as 1817 Weyse had written a cantata for the tricentenary of the Reformation, the first of his great cantatas. It was praised by his old teacher, Grønland after its performance in Trinitatis Church. It may not have ended with the expected spectacular fugue, but as he said, "if on Judgement Day, the Recording Angel reads aloud the list of your sins, you can boldly say: Lord, I have composed this chorus. And the Judge of the World will forgive you all your sins!" Jens Baggesen was captivated too, and wrote a poem of homage to Weyse after the final rehearsal.

Weyse's cantatas were not, like those of J.S. Bach, intended for use in the church service as liturgical music. They were performed after the service, in the same way as those traditional Passion concerts in Holy Week.

Weyse had been asked to compose a Christmas cantata to a text by the highly esteemed court poet, Thomas Thaarup (1749-1821). The collaboration continued over the next few years with cantatas to Pentecost, Easter and the New Year. As a rule King Frederik VI controlled the process of these works by having them written through his civil servants. Although they would be commissioned works and their working conditions could be difficult, Weyse took up the challenge with both heart and mind.

Weyse wrote about thirty cantatas in all, with the true cantatas consisting of up to ten distinct numbers. They begin with spacious choral numbers followed by numbers with varying ensembles; two, three, four, or five part lyrical soloist ensembles, dramatic recitatives, arias as well as chorales. Finally another chorus number at the end often develops into a large fugue, the special hallmark of sacred music and proof of a composerís classical training. Weyse met these expectations excellently; the choruses made an impression and the romance-like ensembles (sensitively recreated on this CD) were audience favourites.

The Easter Cantata Nr 1 (1821) with text by Thomas Thaarup was performed for the first time on Sunday 22nd April in Trinitatis Church. The joy of Easter is evident in the first number of' the cantata: an impressive, jubilant chorus in the main key of C major, accompanied by the full orchestra and structured musically as a prelude and a fugue. The first six lines of verse are chiselled out in big chords, while the word 'Hallelujah' is accentuated by the fugue subject. In the trio, a lyrical romance in F major with a delicate string accompaniment, the focus is turned back for a moment to the life of Jesus before a calm joy breaks out again in the last lines.

The drama from the Entombment to the Resurrection is depicted by the next three numbers. In a recitative the tenor speaks of the enemies of Jesus and their mockery. As a foil to this, the solo ensemble, a quintet in E flat major, expresses the grief of the bereaved. The story culminates in the representation of Heaven and the Resurrection itself. The piece begins in C minor and is tonally very turbulent, but ends in a bright C major. Weyse marks the change with a leap to E major, where a chorale strophe (to the melody Af højheden oprunden er) could be perceived as the gratitude of the congregation. Two of Thaarup's strophes are united in the last ensemble of the cantata, now a quartet in A major, before all forces join again in the final chorus in C major - as mighty and jubilant itís the introductory chorus and formed in the same way, with a fugue at the end.

Christmas Cantata No. 3 ( 1836) was composed with text by B.S. Ingemann. For once, Weyse composed a cantata without being asked. He had found the text in a 20-year-old collection of poems by Ingemann, and at the beginning of November, when lie had almost finished the music lie sent the text to AW. Hauch, the Lord High Steward, and asked for permission to have it performed. The King gave his approval for a performance on Christmas Day in Vor Frue Church.

The introductory chorus in E flat major is a typical framing chorus. We find the theme, used here and in the final chorus, is a reworked version of the interesting Minuet in his Symphony No 5, third movement [Marco Polo 8.224013, tk.7]. (This fact might have been mentioned in the otherwise impressive notes.) The choir sings in broad chords accompanied by the whole orchestra. Small tonal and dynamic contrasts are seemingly motivated by the text, as in "Hør det o Afgrund og skjaelv" (Listen and tremble, thou bottomless pit); but a jubilant characteristic is predominant. A more idyllic tone is struck in the trio. No. 2 with its light string accompaniment and cello solo in the prelude, interlude and postlude. It is a eulogy to the Christ Child.

The chorale No. 3 is again in E flat major: the melody is from A Mighty Fortress is Our God, a well known hymn tune still in use in Britain. As it was sung then, and here too, the accompaniment is dominated by four trombones. Now follows a duet in G major, or rather a soprano solo, a tenor solo and then a duet of the two voices. Ingemann gave his text the form of a strophic song, and Weyse keeps this metric structure but varies the melody and broadens its ending. Four trombones and a harp announce the next number, with a B major chord (the piece is in E major), where five soloists unite to sing words of the angels from the gospel for Christmas Day. Lyrical and gentle as this sounds, it is a high point of the whole work. The last number begins with a quotation from the introduction but since the text does not mention any Ďpití here, Weyse launches into a mighty fugue of Handel-like dimensions. It unfolds in three great waves: in the first, one observes how the voices unite their forces, the second is full of contrapuntal refinement, and the third, with harp arpeggios where the choir repeats the message of the angels, provides a calm lyrical joy to round the work off.

The overall impression in listening to these works is where one is conscious of lovely lyrical singing matched with warm orchestral colour and acoustics. All soloists suit their roles. Listen to the superb balance of voice, lyrical approach and sensitively expressed trios in tk.2 & tk.9, or the elegantly sonorous quintet (in tk.5). The distantly placed orchestra plays well and contributes to the warm ambience.

One reservation with the acoustics of this venue is that strong forte chords from the brass provide a none-too-pleasant ricocheting effect, but this only occasionally mars an otherwise splendid performance and recording. Appreciation should be handed to Da Capo for bringing about a revival of exciting works of Weyse and recognising the importance of their heritage.

The CD carries a good booklet with good notes in English, Danish, and German by Carsten Hatting.

Raymond Walker


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