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Georg Caspar SCHÜRMANN (1672/73–1751)
Cantatas: Musik aus Schloss Wolfenbüttel V
Auff! Jauchzet, lobsinget dem König der Ehren! Cantata for the Dedication of a Church [17:00]
Nimm das Opfer unsrer Herzen Cantata for soprano and instruments for New Year’s Day (1720) (now attributed to Georg ÖSTERREICH, 1664-1735) [22:45]
Siehe, eine Jungfrau ist schwanger. Cantata for Christmas Day [21:55]
Weser-Renaissance, Bremen/Manfred Cordes
rec. Stiftskirche Bassum, 27-29 January 2020. DDD.
Texts and translations included
Reviewed as downloaded from press preview.
CPO 555374-2 [61:54]

This is Volume 5 of CPO’s series of recordings of music from Wolfenbüttel Castle. It’s also CPO’s second offering of music by this older contemporary of Bach and, predictably, with Weser-Renaissance and Manfred Cordes in the driving seat it’s revelatory. The earlier CPO recording of Schürmann’s music, the short Hamburg opera Die getreue Alceste (Faithful Alcestis), from barockwerk Hamburg and Ira Hochman, on 555207-2, was released in 2018.

The four earlier releases in the Wolfenbüttel series, all performed by Weser-Renaissance Bremen and Manfred Cordes are:

Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621) Lutheran Choral Music:
Halleluja, komm Heiliger Geist; Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein; Vater unser im Himmelreich; Nun frewt euch lieben Christen gemein; Mit Fried und Frewd ich fahr dahin; Erhalt uns Herr bey deinem Wort
CPO 555064–2
Recording of the Month – review by Johan van Veen

Johann ROSENMÜLLER (1619-1684)
Geistliche Konzerte auf Psalm 31 "In te Domine speravi"
CPO 555165-2

Daniel SELICHIUS (SELICH) (1581-1626)
Geistliche Konzerte "Opus novum" (Wolfenbüttel 1623/24)
CPO 555223-2
‘These are pretty much ideal performances of music by a composer who fully deserves our attention’ – review by Johan van Veen.

Johann THEILE (1646-1724)
Matthäus-Passion (St Matthew Passion)
CPO 555285-2
‘Whatever else is going on in the world, this is certainly a Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi that still communicates with its own poetic power, and you can’t ask much more than that’ – review by Dominy Clements.

Georg Caspar Schürmann is not to be confused with the twentieth-century composer Gerard Schürmann, as recorded by Chandos and others. In 1697 Duke Anton Ulrich of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel heard this Schürmann sing in Lüneburg and snapped him up into his service; with brief interruptions he remained at the Brunswick court until his death in 1751. On the basis of this recording of these cantatas, the duke struck a good bargain, but, like the works of so many highly talented North German composers, Schürmann’s have sunk under the weight of performances and recordings of the music of Bach. While CPO have done more than their share of recording Bach’s music, it’s for their work in bringing us the music of his contemporaries that they deserve the greatest praise. Their Telemann is a case in point; others have given us some fine Telemann recordings – DG with performers such as Reinhard Goebel and Musica Antiqua Köln, and Chandos with a first-rate series of his music recorded by Collegium Musicum 90 and Simon Standage – but CPO’s Telemann recordings are still rolling out on a regular basis where others have dried up. I haven’t checked, but I strongly suspect that there are more recordings of Telemann from CPO in the current catalogue than on any other label.

Only recently they have released his wedding music (555300-2), duplicating in part their own premiere recording of six cantatas from 1731 (777297-2 – review), cantatas and gamba fantasias (555387-2), Easter cantatas (555425-2) and, breaking even more new ground, three cantatas composed for the Hanoverian Kings of England, which I didn’t even know existed (555426-2).  Their second volume of Telemann Wind Concertos – review – is, if anything, even better than the first – review.

Nor have they neglected the music of Christoph Graupner, famously the first choice of the Leipzig Council in preference to Bach (Bassoon Cantatas, 555353-2 – review) or the music of the Graun brothers, contemporaries of CPE Bach. I mention all these recordings because I suspect that those who read this review may well be interested in them, too, and many more from this rich source – bank balance permitting. Those that you can’t afford can be streamed from Naxos Music Library, who always include the pdf booklet if possible, and others.

It’s slightly ironic that the longest work on the new Schürmann recording, its title displayed on the cover, Nimm das Opfer unsrer Hertzen (the old spelling is used on the cover, the modern Herzen elsewhere) should actually now be attributed to another composer who is not even a name in the Oxford Companion to Music, Georg Österreich. His main claim to fame till now was as the founder of the Sämmlung Bokemeyer, one of the most important collections of the music of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. He attended the Thomas-schule in Leipzig, then, like Schürmann, worked in Hamburg and was later active at Wolfenbüttel from 1686 to 1689 and from 1702 to 1735, so it’s hardly surprising that this cantata should have become mis-attributed.

The attribution question is really of interest only to musicologists. The rest of us don’t get too concerned that scholars now doubt Bach’s authorship of his most famous organ work, BWV565. Similarly, all we need to know is that Nimm das Opfer unsrer Hertzen is a fine piece, rather more reflective in tone than the two cantatas which precede and follow it. The opening Auff! Jauchzet, lobsinget dem König der Ehren! is especially celebratory, so its successor offers a moment of repose rather like the second movement of a concerto. 

Don’t get too excited about the text of this work; like some of Bach’s music, it flatters the ducal patron as the greatest thing since the dawn of time: “So lebe beglücket der weiseste Vater, der Sorger des Landes und treuer Berater, es leb der durchlauchtigste Herzog AUGUST”. (May the wisest father live happily, the carer of the land and faithful counsellor, long live his most serene highness Duke AUGUST.) Remember that, despite the religious association it has gained, the ‘Good Shepherd’ who protects the sheep in Bach’s Cantata No.208 is not Jesus but birthday boy Duke Christian. And the ‘Peasant’ cantata, BWV212, praises the recent accession of “unser trefflicher Herr”, our excellent master, albeit that it does so with a humorous text in a dense local dialect which rather gets lost in translation.  Flattery of one's patron was the order of the day.

If you wish to explore Österreich’s work further, you may not be surprised to discover that Weser-Renaissance, Manfred Cordes and CPO can oblige again, with psalm settings and cantatas on 777944-2. Johan van Veen made that one his Recordings of the Year in 2016 and I expressed the hope that we might hear more of his music from this very fine ensemble (DL News 2015/6). The old saying bids us be careful what we wish for, but I’m pleased to report that it emphatically doesn’t apply in this case. Or in the case of another CPO recording of funeral music associated with Gottorf Castle and containing three cantatas by Österreich (555100-2).  Both are very welcome.

Weser-Renaissance soprano Marie Luise Werneburg has to carry the whole of the vocal load in this central work, and does so excellently. Hers is a pure-toned voice, but powerful when required. Elsewhere the rest of the team, Verena Gropper (soprano), David Erler (alto), Hans Jörg Mammel (tenor) and Wolf Matthias Friedrich (bass) share the task with distinction. I need hardly add that they are very well supported by the instrumental forces and that Manfred Cordes has the measure of the music.

I might have preferred the celebratory Auff! Jauchzet, lobsinget dem König der Ehren! to have closed the programme rather than opening it, but I don’t want to make a big deal of that. It also goes almost without saying that the CPO presentation is very good. The English translation could have done with a more thorough check: in the passage quoted above, “so lebe der … Vater” is optative subjunctive, as I have translated it, ‘may [he] live’, not ‘[he] lives’, as in the booklet. Otherwise, I’m delighted with this recording, but I’m also delighted with almost every CPO release of music of this period; it’s become a habitual response. Now I must try to catch up with the other recordings mentioned here which have so far escaped my attention.

Brian Wilson

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