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Ich bin die Auferstehung: Buxtehude & His Copenhagen Connections
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben, BuxWV 14 [6:03]
Johann B. ERBEN (1626-1686)
Sonata sopra ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la [6:50]
Johann V. MEDER (1649-1719)
Gott hilf mir [10:29]
Matthias WECKMANN (1619-1674)
Toccata in A minor [5:22]
Kommet her zu mir [8:11]
Kaspar FÖRSTER (the Younger) (1616-1673)
Jesus dulcis memoria [8:02]
Andreas KIRCHHOFF (d. 1691)
Sonata á 6 [6:00]
Nicholas BRUHNS (1665-1697)
Mein Herz ist bereit [9:24]
Kaspar FÖRSTER (the Younger)
Sonata á 7 [6:23]
Jakob Bloch Jespersen (bass-baritone)
Concerto Copenhagen
Lars Ulrik Mortensen (organ, harpsichord and direction)
rec. November 2018, Trinitatis Church and the Garrison Church Copenhagen.
DACAPO RECORDS SACD 6.220651 [66:44]

Summed up as “a glimpse into the sacred solo-cantata and chamber music of from the Baltic region in the latter half of the 17th century”, this programme examines music from the so-called ‘early Baroque’, a tricky to define area in music in which standardisation of forms and conventions was still to be established, and a moment in musical history “characterised by “fearless innovation [and] bubbling creativity”. What we have is an interesting collection of names that will probably be as new to you as they were to me, loosely gathered under the ‘Copenhagen Connections’ title with Buxtehude, though some of these connections are looser than others.

Jakob Bloch Jespersen’s fine booklet notes for this release set everything in context, starting with the disastrous consequences of the Thirty Years War and power struggles in the Baltic region as a backdrop to these composers’ lives. The programme opens with Buxtehude’s bass cantata Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben, with Jesus as the central character delivering the messages of life and death in the story of Lazarus. This is a reserved and compact but intriguingly expressive work which effectively sets the largely introspective mood of what follows.

Johann Balthasar Erben comes next, turning out to have no connection with either Buxtehude or Copenhagen. He did live and work in the Baltic region and was a native of Danzig, and the Italian character of his Sonata sopra ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la can be put down to a travelling scholarship which saw him in Rome in 1657. The title describes a hexachord which forms the basis of a piece in which two violins have some sublimely improvisatory passages over a bass ostinato. A native of Thuringen in Central Germany, Johann Valentin Meder was a brief visitor to Copenhagen in 1674 and of Buxtehude in Lübeck, where he stayed for that summer. His movingly eloquent Gott hilf mir was probably composed to be used as part of the divine service, and with its subject of anguish the voice is sent to low registers that push even Jespersen’s fine and ripely resonant voice to its limits.

Matthias Weckmann came originally from southern Germany, but as his pupil accompanied Heinrich Schütz to the court of Christian IV in Copenhagen. The Toccata in A minor has the influences of Frescobaldi and Froberger, acting here as a kind of extended transition into Kommet her zu mir, described in the booklet as an ‘ecclesiatical concerto.’ This is an example of further Italian influence being absorbed, being in a tradition of virtuoso singing brought over by the musicians alongside whom Weckmann worked in Copenhagen.

Kaspar Förster (the Younger) grew up in Danzig and, aside from some spells in Italy, lived most of his life in the Baltic region. The motet Jesu dulcis memoria uses a text from mystical medieval monk Bernard de Clairvaux and is prescient of the later Baroque da capo form in its re-use of the opening music at its conclusion. The Sonata á 7 represents the Venetian style in its contrasting sections, its fanfare motifs making for a fine conclusion to this programme.

Andreas Kirchhoff is something of an unknown quantity, and there is some doubt as to which of two or three Andreas Kirchhoffs actually composed the Sonata á 6 recorded here. In any case, this is a delightful piece with three violin parts of equal importance, a forerunner to the later Concerto Grosso form in its occasional conversations between the violins and bass part. Nicholas Bruhns was a pupil of Buxtehude, and was able to imitate his style so effectively that he was invited by his teacher to Copenhagen. Mein Herz is bereit is in part a vehicle for the violinistic display for which Bruhns was noted, and a colourful setting of words from Psalm 57.

This is an unusual collection but has stylistic unity running through its programme, as well as plenty of variety in its mixture of instrumental and vocal music. As I said at the beginning, the atmosphere is largely introspective, with a preponderance of slower tempi but with some tremendously expressive sounds created as a result. All of the performances are superb in that clean and transparent period sound we have come to expect from releases of this kind, and while there is a little difference in acoustic between the two recording locations used this is hardly noticeable in the overall excellence of the recording.

Dominy Clements

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