Gottfried August HOMILIUS (1714-1785)
Sacred Motets
Der Herr Ist Mein Hirte [7:25]
Domine, Ad Adjuvandum Me Festina [2:41]
Invoca Me In Die Angustiae [2:23]
Wer Sich Selbst Erhöhet [2:24]
So Seid Nun Wacker [4:08]
Ich Freue Mich Im Herrn [1:47]
Siehe, Das Ist Gottes Lamm [3:27]
Selig Sind Die Toten [4:34]
Herr, Wenn Trübsal Da Ist [2:42]
Wir Liegen Für Dir Mit Unsrem Gebet [3:05]
Sehet, Welch Eine Liebe [2:38]
Unser Vater In Dem Himmel [4:24]
Rheinische Kantorei/Hermann Max
rec. 1983, location not given

G.A. Homilius was by all accounts a prolific composer. Despite remarkable productivity that included 230 cantatas and 60 motets, his is a name most frequently associated with his best known teacher, J.S. Bach, rather than with his own music. Homilius became organist at the Frauenkirche in Dresden, and such an important position made his one of the leading names of his day, described in his later years by the General German Library as “one of the best living church composers of which Germany can be proud.”

Setting mostly biblical texts, these motets are not particularly complex in effect, the contrapuntal polyphony of Bach’s day already considered old-fashioned. This ‘easy’ and accessible style is however by no means bereft of interest and beauty. The major/minor effects in Invoca Me In Die Angustiae are quite striking in this regard, and homophonic choral writing is prevented from becoming static through rhythmically inventive text setting and constant shifts, divisions, calls and responses between vocal parts. Harmonic interest and touching musical sensitivity can be found everywhere, but Herr, Wenn Trübsal Da Ist stands out in this regard, having been composed in 1760 just after Dresden’s destruction by the Prussians. As with much Rococo or galant style music this can have little impact on first impression, but the closer you become absorbed in the detail of each work the more you can sense the composer’s responsiveness to the text. It is a shame that there seems to have been only enough space for sung texts in German, but this is at least a starting point.

Hermann Max’s directing of the Rheinische Kantorei results in singing of the utmost lightness and transparency, the unnamed acoustic providing a suitably church-like halo of resonance. Shopping around for similar releases, the Carus label has among other works covered motets by Homilius in a couple of volumes performed by the Kammerchor Stuttgart conducted by Frieder Bernius (review) and more recently Sirventes Berlin directed by Stefan Schuck (review). These have a slightly bigger or more robust choral sound but are comparable and complementary in the spaciousness of their recordings. This MDG release from 1984 seems a bit of an oddball with its LP-length timing, but the quality of the performance and recording still make it an attractive document in the oeuvre of a relatively neglected composer.

Dominy Clements

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