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Apocryphal Bach Masses - II
Missa in G (BWV Anh 167) [13:31]
Magnificat in C (BWV Anh 30) [19:01]
Johann Christoph PEZ (1664-1716)
Missa in a minor (BWV Anh 24) [4:21]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sanctus in G (BWV 240) [2:21]
Sanctus in d minor (BWV 239) [1:57]
Sanctus in C (BWV 237) [1:33]
Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich (BWV 150) [14:39]
Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam (Nele Gramß (soprano), Marnix de Cat
(alto), Harry van Berne (tenor), Harry van der Kamp (bass)); Soloquartet
of the Hochschule für Künste Bremen; (Manja Stephan (soprano), Jan
Moritz von Cube (alto), Jan Hübner (tenor), Carsten Krüger (bass));
Alsfelder Vokalensemble, Hannoversche Hofkapelle/Wolfgang Helbich
rec. March, May 2009, Festhalle of the Johannische Kirche, Blankensee,
CPO 777 561-2 [58:17]
An important part of the work of musicologists is to assess
the authenticity of compositions which are attributed to a certain
composer. Many 17th and 18th century compositions have survived
which bear the name of a then famous composer although they
are often at odds with what we consider their style of composing.
It is a tricky subject, because some compositions could be a
reason to adapt our conception of their style. One of the composers
with many compositions to his name which are probably composed
by someone else is Johann Sebastian Bach. The Schmieder catalogue
- referred to as BWV - includes an appendix in which various
compositions are listed which are considered doubtful or spurious.
The Neue Bach-Ausgabe which was only completed a few
years ago has been quite radical in leaving out the dubious
or publishing them in supplementary volumes. In his liner-notes
Peter Wollny rightly states that the effect can be that works
in this category - many of which are of fine quality - are going
to be ignored. That would be a shame as this disc goes to show.
German conductor Wolfgang Helbich has a strong interest in this
kind of piece. Since 1991 he has recorded five discs: two with
cantatas, one with motets, one with a Magnificat and two masses
and a disc with the St Luke Passion. For this sixth disc he
has returned to the masses and a setting of the Magnificat.
Also included are Cantata 150 and three settings of the Sanctus.
The programme opens with a large-scale mass. It is scored for
23 vocal and instrumental voices, divided over two choirs. Both
choirs consist of a vocal quartet and a five-part instrumental
ensemble of strings and wind. To the second choir a ripieno
chorus is added. This mass is a so-called missa brevis,
consisting of only Kyrie and Gloria. Bach himself wrote several
such masses. Kyrie and Gloria were still very much part of the
Lutheran liturgy in Leipzig. This Mass was performed in Leipzig
in 1805 and made a huge impression. Later that century the Bach
scholar Philipp Spitta already recognized that this wasn't
an original piece by Bach, but rather a copy of an older work.
The large scoring points in the direction of the 17th century,
and Wollny suggests composers like Christoph Bernhard (1628-1692),
Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725) or David Pohle (1624-1695)
as possibles. It is easy to understand why this work made such
an impression in 1805. Its grandeur suggests that it was written
for a special occasion.
Very different is the other mass setting, again of the missa
brevis type, with a very short Kyrie - in this recording
45 seconds - and a somewhat larger Gloria. The Bach scholar
Hans-Joachim Schulze has succeeded in tracking down the real
composer: Johann Christoph Pez, who worked in Munich and Stuttgart,
and was influenced by the Italian style through a stay in Rome.
The mass was originally published as the Missa S. Lamberti.
Bach started to make a copy during his time in Weimar; the mass
was performed in Leipzig during his first year as Thomaskantor.
The composer of the Magnificat in C is still not known.
It too is a large-scale work for two vocal and instrumental
choirs, including trumpets and timpani. Bach wrote out a score
and parts in 1742; only the timpani part has survived. The work
is divided into eight sections: the first, fourth and sixth
are for tutti. In between come four duets, two per choir, for
either soprano and bass or alto and tenor. The closing section
is for solo voices and tutti. In the opening and closing sections
the 6th psalm tone is incorporated in the upper part.
Not only the Kyrie and the Gloria, but also the Sanctus formed
part of the Lutheran liturgy in Leipzig. The three settings
on this disc have all come down to us in Bach's handwriting,
but only the setting BWV 237 bears his name. It is the most
brilliant of the three, scored for strings with trumpets and
timpani. It dates from Bach's first weeks in Leipzig
in 1723. The other two are for strings and bc, and date from
around 1740. They are assumed to be arrangements of compositions
by other composers.
The disc ends with Cantata 150 which has for quite some time
been the subject of debate among Bach scholars. The main problem
is that the text and the music refer to different stages in
Bach's compositional development. The music suggests
it is one of his earliest cantatas. At that time - when he also
composed the Actus tragicus and Cantata 131 (Aus
der Tiefen) - he only used biblical texts. In this cantata
he makes use of free poetic texts. It begins with a sinfonia.
This is followed by six sections, the first, third and fifth
of which are quotations from Psalm 25, set for the tutti. The
first is followed by a short soprano aria, the third by a trio
for alto, tenor and bass. The cantata ends with another tutti
section with a basso continuo in the form of a ciacona. In 2010
Hans-Joachim Schulze published an article in which he argues
that the authenticity can be established. The three sections
with free poetry form an acrostic: "Doktor Conrad Meckbach".
He was the mayor of Mühlhausen who in 1707 - not 1747 as the
English translation of the liner-notes says - advocated the
appointment of Bach as organist. If this is correct the composer
could have paid tribute to his patron with this cantata. It
has to be said that the acrostic is the result of some alterations
in the text. How plausible these are I can't tell as
I haven't read Schulze's article. This recording
was made before he published the results of his research, and
therefore the cantata is sung with the text which was used in
the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.
This disc, like the previous ones in the series, contains fascinating
stuff. It reveals the kind of music Bach was interested in and
used for various purposes. Some such pieces may have been used
in the liturgy in Leipzig. Others may have served as educational
material for his pupils. The fact that he arranged several pieces
shows what was common practice in regard to the use of older
material. It was adapted to what was needed and to the performing
forces at hand. In his arrangements Bach took into consideration
the "capacity of those who are supposed to execute it",
as he wrote in a letter to the city council in 1736.
The performances are excellent. The grandeur of the mass setting
which opens the disc comes off perfectly. There’s a very good
exposition of the rhythmic pulse. The choir is good and agile,
but could have been a little smaller. That is also the case
in Cantata 150. Whatever the experts think about the concept
of the performance practice with one voice per part, there is
wide agreement that the early cantatas were performed with very
small forces. The two quartets of soloists do a fine job. The
Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam is one of the best of its kind. The
four soloists from the Hochschule für die Künste in Bremen are
all pupils of Harry van der Kamp, the Gesualdo Consort's
director. A high quotient of stylistic congeniality is one of
the positive features of this recording.
In short, fascinating repertoire and outstanding performances.
Johan van Veen