Ludwig, cousin of the more famous Johann Sebastian, was born
in 1677 and rose inexorably to the position of Court Director
in Meiningen. Naturally he produced a wide array of works,
specifically a large number of cantatas, twenty-two sacred
and two secular, in addition to masses and other choral pieces.
The survival of these works is owed to the fact that Johann
Sebastian arranged for them to be copied for his own performance
use during 1726 in Leipzig.
questions of mere consanguinity
however lies the deeper musical matter. This quartet of cantatas
demonstrates a comprehensive control and fine distribution
of arias and recitatives, a melodic surety and eloquence.
There’s seldom what one can define as real memorability,
nor in truth absolute melodic individuality but the writing
is buoyant and imaginative and Johann Ludwig does display
a real touch for obbligato string writing.
dich auf, werde licht was intended
for the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. It offers plenty
of variety for the vocal soloists and conveys emotive subtlety
through curvaceous rhythmic snap. The aria Weicht, ihr
Schatten is joyfully expressive, not least in this
bouncy performance where Barbara Schlick is highly impressive.
The final chorus is very reminiscent of his cousin’s St
Matthew Passion chorales but in rather more intimate
form. Sturdy but with intriguing cross currents between
the choral strands it makes for an impressive end to the
mir hast du Arbeit genacht, performed
on the Sunday before Lent, has a more appropriate solemnity
and authoritative gravity. The melancholy downward leaps
in the soprano aria Fliesst, ihr Lieb- und Trauertränen attest
to the melismatic technical demands made on – and expected
of - the soloist. Written for the third day of Easter Er
machete uns lebendig is incisively shaped and sports
some fine opportunities for the string players to shine.
This is affirmatory writing, not bluff exactly and certainly
not dull. The chorale that ends this cantata sounds emotively
very much like that which ends Marche dich auf, werde
there is Die mit Tränen säen, which is again another
Easter Sunday cantata. The variety of voice distribution
is impressive and creates variety of texture and mood. And
the role for cello obbligato is both athletic and pointed,
whilst the final chorus has a certain Vivaldian vivacity
and a rather deliciously terpsichorean vibrancy.
aren’t new performances. They were recorded fully a quarter
of a century ago. Barbara Schlick proves a splendid soprano
soloist throughout, clear as a bell and athletic. Mary Nichols
has slightly less to do but she deploys her warm mezzo with
considerable discretion and skill. Tenor Wilfried Jochens
is very slightly adenoidal, though suitably combative when
required. Bass Stephen Varcoe is first class, lyrically sure
and with enviable command of breath control. His aria Geerbte
Schuld in Er machete uns lebendig is a real high
point. With well-taken tempi and adroit instrumental and
choral support Hermann Max directs very persuasively.
notes are trilingual – German, French and English – and texts
are in German and in English translation. Attractive recording
quality completes a sure-footed conspectus of a gifted cousin’s
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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