Musica sacra Hamburgensis -
Chorale Concertos and Chorale Variations Thomas SELLE(1599-1663)
Christus unser heiland, der von den Gotteszorn wandt [13.36]
Jesus Christus unser heiland, der den Tod überwand [5.40] Wir
gläuben all an einen Gott [8.54] Johann SCHOP(c.1590-1667)
ruf zu dire, Herr Jesu Christ[4.51] Koraelen [5.21] Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ[4.27] Christ
lag in Todesbanden[4.16] Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (c.1595-1663)
ist zu Frist[2.56] John DOWLAND(1563-1626)
Gott will ich nicht lassen[6.36]
Winter (soprano I); Stephanie Petitlaurent (soprano II);
Christoph Heidermann (violin); Henning Vater (violin);
Ulrich Wedemeier (theorbo, lute); Michael Fuerst (positive
organ, harpsichord); Simone Eckert (viola da gamba, treble
Hamburger Ratsmusik/Simone Eckert
rec. Deutschland Radio, Berlin, 12-15 March 2007. DDD CPO 777 362-2 [57.46]
The CD booklet explains that this recording
comes as part of a series entitled ‘Musica sacra Hamburgensis’.
It covers various somewhat neglected genres associated
with Hamburg and the period 1600-1800. This is the third
instalment in the series (see below). Three of the four
composers represented here are not at all well known -
even in Germany.
The disc opens with the longest work on
the CD ‘Jesus Christus unser Heiland’. It is a setting
by Thomas Selle of a text concerning the bread and
body of Christ. Selle was an extraordinarily prolific composer
who was in the forefront of creating and developing the
Chorale Concerto. This form did not have a parallel in
any other country although a certain Italian influence
can sometimes be discerned. It is for two sopranos with
violin, gamba and continuo. To quote the fascinating notes
by Simone Eckert - director and viola da gamba player -
the gamba is used as a a “concertising” contributor to
the music. Accordingly the player functions as a soloist
and even sometimes a virtuoso. This creates a layer of
interest largely denied which to voices due to the fact
that their lines must concentrate on simple choral melodies.
Nevertheless all ten verses are set slightly differently
and interest is maintained. They are interspersed with
a couple of instrumental interludes. The same comments
could be made concerning the work - also by Selle - which
closes the CD. This is the three-versed paraphrase of the
Creed ‘Wir gläuben all an einen Gott’ in which the
second soprano is silent for the second verse. At the mid-point
of the disc comes a shorter piece - a Lutheran Easter Song
- “Jesus Christus unser Heiland” which has some slightly
more energetic vocal writing.
Selle was a top man in Hamburg at the
time having four principal churches to serve. He took with
him his musicians and his own music where ever he went
allocating his time so that he was active at each church
once a month. He would also have been involved on feast
days. At other times the resident organist was responsible
for the day-to-day musical requirements.
Johann Schop,a colleague
of Selle’s, is hardly a household name either. He is featured
here in four works one of which is solely instrumental.
He is then one of this triumvirate of Ss as the booklet
describes them – all important and well respected musicians
of the city. The instrumental ‘Koraelen’ uses techniques
and styles which Schop picked up when a pupil of the Englishman
William Brade who worked in the low countries. This is
characterised by the use of ground bass with divisions
for the viol above the ground bass. Other aspects of his
style are a tendency suddenly to repeat several words within
a phrase many times so in ‘Ich ruf zu dir’ the words ‘to
be good to my neighbour’ total outweigh the length given
to them of any other line. He also favours a contrasting
triple metre towards the end of the motets which is generally
dictated by the text. In the Easter motet ‘Christ lag in
Todesbanden’ the lines ‘That we might be happy (Das wir
sollen fröhlich sein) are thus treated. Schop it seems
to me is more expressive, and is much freer with his use
of the choral melody. Indeed the opening of ‘Ich ruf’ is
the most beautiful on the entire CD.
The last S, as it were, is Heinrich
Scheidemann who is represented by a measly single
piece of harpsichord music. This is a lively set of continuous
variations on an otherwise unknown chorale melody: ‘Betrubet
ist zu dieser Frist’. It is in the style of a secular
work by his teacher Jan Sweelinck.
It may seem a little curious that John
Dowland should make an appearance on this disc. However
it must be remembered that he spent some years in Denmark.
This solo lute piece is a set of variations on a tune,
popular at the time called ‘Une jeune fillette’. This
melody also occurs in the chorale ‘Van Gott will ich
nicht lassen’. Incidentally the piece may be spurious.
I note that Jakob Lindberg in his box set of Dowland’s
complete Lute music (Brilliant Classics 93698/1-4) does
not include it.
The performances on this CPO disc are
excellent although the balance does seem slightly to favour
the instruments. Does that matter when they have the greater
interest, you may ask? The sopranos are delicious with
well controlled and often disguised vibrato, expressive
words and good contrast of vocal colour. The instrumental
work is sometimes breathtakingly brilliant.
This is, it’s true, somewhat specialist
repertoire. It is however a sign of the healthiness of
our times that we can hear such music not to mention being
evidence of the exploratory endeavour of many musicians.
A disc such as this also serves to demonstrate the commitment
of such entrepreneurial companies as CPO. Thus are we able
to learn and discover the music of composers, eras and
places dustily forgotten in archaic tomes or otherwise
doomed to remain names in long-overlooked manuscripts.
Reviews of other releases in this series
Volume 1 - Andreas Romberg Der Messias 7773282 review
Volume 2 - Hieronymus Praetorius San Marco in Hamburg 7772452 review
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