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Decca Phase 4
| Beloved Beautiful
Georg BÖHM (1661-1733)
Mein Freund ist mein [17:25]
Johann Christoph BACH (1642-1702)
Meine Freundin, du bist schön [24:56]
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585 - 1672)
Stehe auf, meine Freundin (SWV 498) [07:51]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Der Herr denket an uns (BWV 196) [11:16]
Zomer (soprano); Mark Chambers (alto); Marcel Beekman
(tenor); Harry van der Kamp; Stephen MacLeod
The Netherlands Bach Society/Jos van Veldhoven
rec. August 2007, Lokhorstkerk in Leyde and the Muziekcentrum
Philips in Eindhoven, Netherlands. DDD
CLASSICS CCSSA27308 [61:53]
the ages The Song of Songs - one of the books from
the Old Testament - has inspired composers to write some
of their best music. It is used here as the thread for
a programme of music written in Germany in the 17th and
18th centuries. The motet by Heinrich Schütz is the only
piece which entirely consists of texts from The Song
of Songs. Georg Böhm and Johann Christoph Bach use
them in addition to free poetry or other biblical texts.
Johann Sebastian Bach doesn't use them at all, but instead
turns to Psalm 115 for his wedding cantata 'Der Herr denket
disc starts with a cantata by Georg Böhm. He is mainly
known for his organ works. Through them he had a considerable
influence on Johann Sebastian Bach, who seems to have been
his pupil for some time. Only a small number of his vocal
works have been preserved, and these are relatively little
known. His cantatas are important, though, in that they
are among the first examples of pieces for the church which
show the influence of modern Italian opera. From 1693 to
1697 Böhm lived in Hamburg, the main centre of opera in
northern Germany. It is easy to see how this has influenced
his style of composing. The tutti sections which open and
close this cantata are modelled after the 17th century
motet, but their dancing and melodious character points
to the future. In between are four stanzas for solo voices,
alternated by a repeated ritornello. The text of this cantata,
a mixture of passages from The Songs of Songs and
free poetry by an unknown author, links up with the old
tradition of identifying the bridegroom with Jesus: "For
my heart has been opened to Jesus; in him I can rejoice.
He is my friend, and he holds faith with me, when death
and the devil set upon me".
may assume Heinrich Schütz's motet is also part of this
tradition. It is not known for what occasion it was written.
It is not part of one of Schütz's collections of motets
and it was never printed during his lifetime. It is assumed
it was written around 1650, and it is quite possible that
it was composed for a wedding. The whole text is from The
Song of Songs; it is set for eight voices in two choirs,
and in two sections. In its structure it is rather conservative
in the polyphonic tradition which Heinrich Schütz has always
held in high esteem.
the wedding cantata 'Meine Freundin, du bist schön' by
Johann Christoph Bach we are in a rather different world.
Two things are worth noticing. First of all, the central
section is a very long ciacona of 66 variations for soprano
and strings. The violin has a virtuoso solo part, in particular
at the end of the cantata. Secondly this work shows that
in the baroque era there was no watershed between sacred
and secular: the biblical texts are interspersed with comments
of a much more secular, and often humorous character. The
largest part of the texts is from The Song of Songs,
but there are also references to phrases from Ecclesiastes:
after the invitation to eat and drink the soli and tutti
sing: "For this is a gift from God, and now I see
and approve, that it is good, when one eats and drinks
and is in good humour" (Eccl. 3). Towards the end
soli and tutti sing: "The Gratias", leading into
a chorale-like grace: "Now let us sing the Gratias.
Lord God and Father, we thank thee, for Thou has plentifully
disc ends with a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach which
belongs to his earliest compositions in this genre. It
is still rooted in the late 17th century style of cantata
writing; the dacapo of the soprano aria 'Er segnet, die
den Herrn fürchten' is rudimentary in comparison to the
extended da capo form Bach turns to in his Leipzig period.
Also characteristic of the early cantatas is that the text
is entirely biblical (Psalm 115, vs 12-15) and that recitatives
programme on this disc was also performed during the Early
Music Festival Utrecht 2007. I was basically positive about
the performances, but I also saw reasons for criticism.
Unfortunately this disc doesn't make me change my mind
in this respect. Although the soloists give good performances,
there are two problems. Mark Chambers' voice is too weak,
in particular in comparison to the others. In the cantata
by Böhm the duet of soprano and alto is unsatisfying as
Chambers is overpowered by Johannette Zomer. I'm not very
impressed by Mark Chambers' singing in general, and I really
don't understand why he has been chosen for this recording.
Moreover Marcel Beekman tends to be a bit too dominant.
The balance between the voices in this recording is less
least satisfying part of this disc is Johann Christoph
Bach's cantata. Harry van der Kamp gives an excellent performance
of the bass part, but I am less happy with Johannette Zomer,
who on occasion seems unable to quite control her vibrato.
Partly as a result of the slowish tempi the ciacona in
the centre of the piece fails to captivate. But this is
also due to Johannette Zomer who fails to make enough of
her part. The vocal scoring in this recording - with soloists
and ripienists - may be historically more justified than
in the recording by the Rheinische Kantorei and Musica
antiqua Köln (Archiv) but the latter is musically more
enthralling than what we get here.
and Bach come out well on this disc, although Schütz also
suffers somewhat from Mark Chambers' singing. The ensemble
is satisfying but again is a bit sluggish now and then.
This is something I have noticed on previous occasions
as well. It's not that the players aren't good; they are,
but they - or rather the conductor - could take a bit more
risk and be more bold in the interpretation.
this is a disc with an interesting programme and well worth
listening to, but at the same time these performances don't
fully explore what the music has to offer.
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