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The Rare Treasure of Faith
Selections from the hymnal of Hans Adolph Brorson
rec. 2017, Garnisonskirken, Copenhagen DACAPO 8.226123 [74:05]
When reviewing a disc, I prefer to look at the booklet notes last after making my initial notes on the music; here, however, the booklet essays are all important, as they not only discuss the man, but also place him firmly in in the historical context of Danish Pietism, which is important here, as this is a history that needs to be understood.
Hans Adolph Brorson was the leading figure of the Pietist movement in Denmark in the first half of the eighteenth century; he had studied theology at the University of Copenhagen in the hope of following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps as the local clergymen, however he became somewhat disillusioned with the orthodox Lutheranism of the day and it was only after his introduction to the teachings of the new revivalist Pietism that was gaining ground in northern Germany and Denmark that Brorson settled on a future in the church, rising to the rank of Bishop. Pietism grew out of the Lutheran movement and was seen as a radical sect and one that the established church had to put a stop to as their belief in justification by Faith Alone, which had been the major tenet of Martin Luther’s teaching, was not enough, and that faith along with personal piety and living a vigorous Christian life was equally important.
It was during his time as a clergyman that Brorson began to write his hymns and publish them in pamphlet form, much in the way that Luther had before him and this would be something that would become his lasting legacy, and that would prove important to the likes of Søren Kierkegaard who chose one of Brorson’s verses for his gravestone, and Hans Christian Andersen who referenced texts by Brorson in his fairy tales. It was when Brorson became a bishop that he collected these 83 hymns together, along with a number of German Pietist hymns, 195 that he translated into Danish, and five hymns by his brothers, into his best-known work Troens rare Klenodie that gives this disc its title, The Rare Treasure of Faith. It is from this edition of 1739 that the texts included in this recording have been taken. Like Luther’s hymns, Brorson’s have been used as the basis for music by other composers, such as Edvard Grieg, who set lyrics by Brorson in the first two of his Fire Salmer, ‘Guds søn har gjort mig fri’ (God’s son has set me free) and ‘Hvad est du dog skjøn’ (O but you are beautiful).
If the booklet essay is essential reading for understanding the man, then the music presented here is lovely and, if not easy listening, is easy to listen to. The Pietists adopted the galant style for its melodies, despite their fervent spirituality, perhaps this was done to further their message through popular-sounding tunes; it certainly marked a development in the Lutheran style of congregational singing. Of the 283 hymns in the Troens rare Klenodie, Brorson suggests around 200 suitable tunes for the texts from different sources, from Reformist hymn tunes and Pietist tunes especially those of Freylinghausen and Schemelli and it is through the latter that the hymn tunes of JS Bach have come in to Brorson’s collection, and they shine here, even if performed in an unfamiliar way, in Danish, his ‘Dig, dig min HErre vil jeg prise’ is excellent, especially when sung by Beate Mordal. Her performance of ‘Vor JEsus kand ey noget herberg finde’ by an unknown hand has the right plaintive tone, making it one of my favourite tracks on the disc, whilst ‘Stille er min siel til Gud’ where she sings partly without accompaniment, displays the beauty of both the text and her voice. Jakob Bloch Jespersen proves the ideal partner for Mordal, his bass voice bringing out every nuance of Bach’s lament ‘Dig min søde skat at møde’, following this up with an excellent rendition of Freylinghausen’s more up tempo ‘Som liliens hierte kand holdes i Grøde’.
The hymns are interspersed with instrumental works, which themselves are composed in the galant style. This works well with the instrumental music having been carefully chosen to complement the vocal line resulting in a very attractive disc, especially when performed by the players of the Phemius Consort, who show that they are sympathetic accompanists to the vocalists as well as excellent chamber performers. The chamber pieces themselves have been chosen from two collections in the Danish Royal Library because of their close affinity to the melodies found in Brorson’s collection.
This is an excellent and most rewarding disc, one that brings us music from a hitherto forgotten era and genre of Danish music. Both Beate Mordal and Jakob Bloch Jespersen are excellent, whilst the Phemius Consort are certainly one to watch, and on this evidence, I will soon be investing in their previous disc for DaCapo, Thomas Kingo’s Sacred Song Books (8.226121), which reading through the notes of this release seems to be related, as Kingo’s name appears more than once. The recorded sound is excellent, and as already stated, the twelve pages of notes in English and Danish are exemplary, it is a real shame then that the texts of the hymns are only presented in Danish.
Contents Advent Charles DIEUPART (1667-1740)
Deuxième Suite in D major – Ouverture [2:26] Johann Anastasius FREYLINGHAUSEN (1670-1739)
Op! thi dagen nu frembryder TRK 3 [3:45] Charles DIEUPART
Deuxième Suite in D major – Passepied [1:01] Troens Midler (The Means of faith) Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Dig, dig min HErre vil jeg prise, TRK 135 [2:17] Morten RÆHS (1702-1766)
Sonata II – Andante [2:12] ANONYMOUS
GUds riges evangelium, TRK 131 [3:31] Charles DIEUPART
Deuxième Suite in D major – Allemande [2:30] Jul og Helligtrekonger (Christmas and Epiphany) ANONYMOUS
Vor JEsus kand ey noget herberg finde, TRK 13 [3:16] MortenRÆHS
Sonata III – Adagio [4:29] Johann Sebastian BACH
Dig min søde skat at møde, TRK 20 [4:24] Charles DIEUPART
Deuxième Suite in D major – Sarabande [1:56] Troens Herlighed (The Glory of Faith) J.A.FREYLINGHAUSEN
Som liliens hierte kand holdes i Grøde, TRK 245 var. [2:54] MortenRÆHS
Sonata IX – Spirituoso [2:09] Påske og Pines (Easter and Whitsun) Johann Sebastian BACH
Du est, opstandne seyers helt, TRK 49[2:38] Charles DIEUPART
Deuxième Suite in D major – Gigue [1:28] J.A.FREYLINGHAUSEN
Kom regn af det høye, TRK 63 [3:39] Troens Frugt (The Fruits ofFaith) ANONYMOUS
Stille er min siel til Gud, TRK 182 [2:39] ANONYMOUS
Sonata No. 19, Libro 3 – Adagio - Allegro - Menuet [3:26] J.A.FREYLINGHAUSEN
I HErrens udvalde, som hellighed øve, TRK 188 [3:03] Troens Kamp og Sejr (The Struggle and Victory of Faith) J.A.FREYLINGHAUSEN
JEsu, al min fryd og ære, TRK 216 [5:50] J.A. SCHEIBE (1708-1776)
Sonata I – Andante [3:23] Døden og Opstandelsen (Death and Resurrection) Johann Christoph BACH (1642-1703)
Når mit Øje, Træt af Møje, SS 62 [3:25] J.A. SCHEIBE
Sonata II – Affettuoso [3:21] ANONYMOUS
Allevegne hvor jeg vanker, TRK 247 [4:13]
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