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Johann Heinrich ROLLE (1716 - 1785)
Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt - Motets
Kammerchor Michaelstein/Sebastian Göring
Claudia Mayer, Susanne Kanis (violin), Christiane Max (viola), Katharina Schlegel (cello), Erik Warkenthin (lute, guitar)
rec. 2004/6, St. Bonifatiuskirche, Ditfurt, Sachsen-Anhalt; Kirche Zum Heiligen Kreuz, Vieselbach, Thüringen, Germany. DDD
Texts and translations included
CPO 777 778-2 [50:41 + 69:17]

The motet was one of the main genres of sacred music during the renaissance. In the baroque period it lost its position, especially in Germany. German composers of the first half of the 17th century still composed motets, although their character changed in that elements of the modern concertato style as it had emerged in Italy were incorporated. Towards the end of the century the motet almost disappeared. This eclipse was largely as a result of the growing attraction of the cantata which in the first half of the 18th century embraced elements of opera in its sequence of recitatives and arias.

Some composers, such as Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Sebastian Bach, still wrote motets but these were mostly written for special occasions, in particular funerals. The motet was still a fixed part of the Lutheran liturgy, but in most churches old collections of motets were in use, dating from the 16th and early 17th centuries. In the second half of the 18th century an increasing number of composers turned towards the genre. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Philipp Kirnberger, Johann Friedrich Doles and Johann Adam Hiller were among their number. The latter published five volumes with motets which bears witness to the growing popularity of the genre.

The present set sheds light on motets by another productive composer of motets, Johann Heinrich Rolle. He was born in Quedlinburg, a town southwest of Magdeburg, as the son of the town music director. In 1721 the family moved to Magdeburg where Rolle's father became Kantor of the Old Town Latin School which Johann Heinrich also was to attend. His musical talents came to the fore at an early age; it is said that he composed his first sacred music at the age of 13. Some years later he was appointed organist of St Peter's. In 1737 he went to Leipzig to study law and it is assumed that at this time he participated in performances of Bach's Collegium Musicum. By 1741 he entered the court orchestra of Frederick the Great in Berlin as a violinist. This brought him into contact with some of the major composers of the time, such as Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and the brothers Graun and Benda.

He left Berlin for Magdeburg in 1746 as he had been appointed organist of St John's, the town's principal church. In 1751 his father died and he succeeded him as Kantor of the Old Town Latin School; he held this position until his death. It was also in this capacity that he composed most of his sacred works, among them many cantatas and motets. His fame was mainly based on his musical dramas, a mixture of opera and oratorio: the subjects were largely biblical, but many scores include stage directions. However, his cantatas and motets were also very popular, and copies have been found across Central Germany; also in Denmark, the Baltic region and Transylvania. It is not easy to establish how many motets Rolle may have written. Some pieces are called 'motets', but are in fact arrangements of parts from his cantatas or musical dramas. The total number could be as high as around one hundred.

It seems likely that Rolle used these motets for performances by his school choir during regular services. They may also have been deployed during the Saturday Vespers. It is telling that these Vespers were sometimes called 'Saturday motets'. The dissemination of these motets is due to the fact that they were not too technically complicated and therefore within the reach of church choirs of limited abilities. At the same time they show considerable variety in content and form.

The texts are mostly taken from the Bible, and in particular from the Book of Psalms. They are basically homophonic, but many also include polyphonic episodes, often fugal. There are also indications in regard to the use of solo voices. In this recording most motets include passages which are sung by four members of the choir. In one aspect Rolle sometimes links up with a tradition which was particularly established in Central Germany: the use of a chorale melody as a cantus firmus, although mostly in the last section of a motet, and always sung by the sopranos. An example is Herr sey mir gnädig which includes the first stanza of the chorale O Gott, du frommer Gott.

Although these motets are relatively uncomplicated, they are not devoid of text expression. In Der Herr is König the line "seine Blitze leuchten auf den Erdboden" (his lightnings light up the world) is vividly depicted. The same is true of "er rühret die Berge an, so rauchen sie" (he toucheth the hills, and they smoke) in Die Ehre des Herrn ist ewig. In Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele the words "vom Verderben" (from destruction) are sung unison at a low pitch. In contrast, Rolle writes sometimes extended coloratura on words such as "jauchzen" , "loben", "danken" and "amen". Two pieces bear the indication "aria": Flieht ihr Bilder der nächtlichen Sorgen and Wacht auf vom Schlaf. The texts are non-biblical and they have a somewhat 'operatic' character. Maybe these give some indication of the arias in his musical dramas. The first section of the latter piece is sung by a soloist, who is accompanied on the guitar.

These two discs have been recorded over a two year period. There are some clear differences between them. All the motets are for voices without accompaniment. On the first disc the choir is supported by two violins, viola and cello in all but one of the motets; they play colla voce, but are hardly notable. I can't see the need for their participation. The same goes for the lute. It is used on the second disc but has little presence. There is also a difference in the number of singers involved. On the first disc the choir comprises 22 voices (8/4/5/5); on the second disc the number is reduced to nine. The booklet doesn't include any information about the interpretation. It seems that the reduction of the number of voices was deliberate as the interpretation also differs. On the second disc there is stronger dynamic shading and a greater responsiveness to the text. As a result these performances are more expressive and more captivating than those on the first disc. Although I enjoyed the singing by the larger choir there were several moments when I felt that more could have been done with the text. Sometimes I found the singing too bland and that made me think that Rolle's motets were probably not that interesting. The second disc proved me wrong.

The growing interest in the German motet repertoire from the late 18th century is most welcome. In recent years two discs with motets by Homilius have been released which revealed that these have to be ranked among the best of his time (Volume 1 & Volume 2). Rolle probably doesn't quite attain that level but this set remains enjoyable nevertheless and those interested in this kind of repertoire should not hesitate to add it to their collection.

Johan van Veen
www.musica-dei-donum.org
twitter.com/johanvanveen

Track listing
CD 1
Kommt her und schauet die Werke des Herrn [3:11]
Der Friede Gottes [3:44]
Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt [4:46]
Danket dem Herrn und prediget seinen Namen [4:53]
Kommt herzu! [4:59]
Herr sey mir gnädig [3:50]
Gott der Herr ist Sonn' und Schild [5:06]
Kommt, lasset uns anbeten [4:17]
Gott ist unsre Zuversicht [2:39]
Der Herr ist König [5:32]
Schaff' in mir Gott [4:40]
Die Ehre des Herrn ist ewig [2:57]
CD 2
Freuen und frölich müssen seyn [1:11]
Ich hebe meine Augen auf [3:56]
Alles, was Odem hat [2:02]
Der Herr behüte dich [3:57]
Ich danke dir, Gott, von ganzem Herzen [2:39]
Thue ein Zeichen an mir [5:28]
Danket dem Herrn [1:57]
Mihi adhaerere Deo [3:33]
Der Herr erhöre dich in der Noth [4:39]
Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele [2:52]
Flieht ihr Bilder der nächtlichen Sorgen (aria) [4:47]
Misericordias Domini [3:09]
Der Herr ist mein Hirte [3:29]
Es ist in keinem andern Heil [3:54]
Gott sey uns gnädig [3:11]
Meine Seele harrt auf dich [5:05]
Wachet auf vom Schlaf (aria) [3:17]
Unsere Seele harret auf den Herrn [4:40]
Wohl dem, der sich des Dürftigen annimmt [4:22]

 

 




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