HAMBURG: Bernhard, Weckmann & Telemann
Rex virtutum Matthias Weckmann (1615/16–1674)
Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein reines Herz Christoph Bernhard (1628–1692)
Ach Herr, strafe mich nicht in deinem Zorn Bernhard
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her Weckmann
Primus Versus a 5 voc.
Secundus Versus Canon in Hyperdiapente post minimam
Quartus Versus Canon in Subdiapason post Semiminimam
Quintus Versus Canon in Disdiapente post Semiminimam
Septimus et ultimus Versus a 6 Choral im Tenor
Gott weiss, ich bin von Seufzen müde Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767)
Die Bosheit dreht das schnellste Rad Telemann
Laudate Jehovam omnes gentes (Psalm 117) Telemann
Shannon Canavin, soprano
Thea Lobo, mezzo-soprano
Steven Soph, tenor
Ulysses Thomas, bass-baritone
Tatiana Daubek & Gigi Turgeon, violin
Audrey Cienniwa, cello
Bálint Karosi, harpsichord & organ
Sunday, September 27, 2009 at 5:30pm
First Lutheran Church of Boston, 299 Berkeley Street, Boston
Notes on the Program
Situated on the northern end of the river Elbe, Hamburg was one of the most important musical centers in Germany. Thanks to its great port—dubbed Germany’s gateway to the world—it was home to prosperous businessmen who cultivated excellent music; Hamburg was in fact home to Germany’s first opera house, the Theater am Gänsemarkt, built in 1678. Musical activity in Hamburg dates back to the 9th century with the construction of a cathedral and Benedictine monastery. Hamburg’s adoption of the Lutheran faith in 1529 resulted in the expulsion of the priests and monks and the destruction of the cathedral, along with an important source of pre-Reformation musical source materials. In 1529 Johannes Bugenhagen brought together the secular musical establishments and the ecclesiastical institutions to standardize the performance of sacred music. This successor to the old cathedral school, the newly founded Johanneum Lateinschule, continued the cultivation of sacred music. The importance of music in the school is illustrated by the music master’s being third in the hierarchy, in the four (later to be five) parish churches: the Petrikirche, Nikolaikirche, St. Katharinen, Jacobikirche, and lastly the Michaeliskirche. During the mid-17th century, Hamburg was one of the most prosperous cities in Europe, thanks to its strategic geographical position and its fortunate escape of much of the devastation of the Thirty Years War. The city in fact profited from the misfortune of other German cities, competitors in the sugar and spices trade, and the wealthy populace helped to cultivate and fund some of the finest music of the time.
The flowering of church music in Hamburg in the 17th century made the city the chief center of north German organ music, with evidence of organs in the cathedral and the parish churches at least as early as the 15th century. Matthias Weckmann gained special distinction while he was organist of the Jacobikirche. Weckmann was born in either 1615 or 1616 in Niederdoria, a small town near Mulhouse in Thuringia; little is known of his youth, and nothing is known about the beginning of his musical training. But he must have shown great musical promise as he was sent to Dresden to study with Heinrich Schütz in 1627 or 1628. He sang with the choir until his voice changed in 1632, when he began serving as one of the court chapel organists. The following year Schütz brought Weckmann to Hamburg to study with noted organist Jacob Praetorius. He returned to Dresden in 1636 or 1637, but was then sent to Holstein and Denmark. In 1639 he was appointed to the newly founded chapel of the elector’s son Johann Georg, and from 1642 to 1646 he was on loan to the Danish royal chapel in Nykøbing (this is also when he finished a volume of transcription of Monteverdi’s works, whose influence can be heard in Weckmann’s music). He returned to Dresden in 1649 as inspector of the electoral chapel; this was the same year that Christoph Bernhard joined the chapel, and the two musicians began a lifelong friendship. In 1655, Weckmann won a competition for the position of organist at the Jakobikirche in Hamburg, where he remained until his death.
Perhaps Weckmann’s most important contribution to the musical life of Hamburg was the founding of the Collegium Musicum in 1660. This society was an independent organization that gave open concerts of new compositions each Thursday in the Refectorio. Instead of the usual free concerts, these programs were supported by paid admissions, primarily from the growing middle class. The Collegium Musicum consisted of about fifty musicians, divided equally between singers and instrumentalists, who performed the newest styles of Italian and German compositions. Though few of Weckmann’s works survive, they show him to be a master of most genres. Some of Weckmann’s finest music is contained in his 12 sacred settings for voice and instruments. Unlike many composers of the post-Schütz generation, Weckmann did not incorporate traditional chorales or settings of contemporary poetry, but followed his teacher Schütz in choosing most of his texts from the scriptures. His Rex virtutum of 1665, however, is based on a Latin hymn setting, and highlights Weckmann’s use of
instrumental ritornelli that dialogue with the text, declamatory text setting, and contrast of duple and triple meter.
Weckmann’s nine sets of chorale variations for organ present almost every variation technique practiced by Weckmann’s predecessors, from learned canonic cantus firmus settings to thick to six-voice imitative polyphony with double pedal—both of which are heard in Es ist das Heil uns kommen her. Possibly intended to be played directly after the sermon at Saturday Vespers, this piece also stands out for its monumental conception, taking approximately half an hour to perform. Today we will hear five of the seven verses; the piece may be heard in its entirety on November 13, performed by Bálint Karosi at First Lutheran Church.
Upon Weckmann’s death, Bernhard wrote that “the art of music will now lessen as much as it had increased in the last fourteen years in this place…Just as the harmonious art of music is lessened by the departure of men who were capable of preserving it, so will it be with the regiment of the fair town of Hamburg.” Indeed, Weckmann’s death and Bernhard’s subsequent return to Dresden marked the end of this city’s current musical flowering, only to re-bloom with the appointment of Georg Philipp Telemann.
Christoph Bernhard and Weckmann were first acquainted in Dresden, where they were both students of Heinrich Schütz. Bernhard’s position as one of Schütz’s favorite pupils is evident from the elder composer’s promotion of Bernhard’s singing and compositional treatises in his own publications, and his request that Bernhard set the text of his funeral service to music in the style of Palestrina. Bernhard’s life can be divided into four periods: the first period (1627–1645) covers his years as a student in Danzig, where he was born and learned singing in a local Latin school, later earning a place in the Hofkapelle. His sponsor, the Danzig rector Dr. Strauch, had him learn Italian, which was of great use to Bernhard when he first encountered the Italian musicians in Dresden and later made two trips to Italy. The second period of Bernhard’s life (1645–1663) begins with his move to Dresden and studies with Schütz. He was admitted to Dresden Kapelle in 1649 singing falsetto alto. Around 1652 Berhnard was passed over for the position of Vizekapellmeister, which prompted him to request his release from the Kapelle, until he was finally granted the position in 1655. However, his dissatisfaction with the poor working conditions in Dresden eventually led him to Hamburg (1663–1674), where he served as Kantor of the Johanneum and co-director of the Collegium Musicum founded by Weckmann. In 1674, following Weckmann’s death, Bernhard returned to Dresden upon the request of the Dresden Elector Johann Georg II, who wanted Bernhard to tutor his grandchildren. Bernhard would only agree to the move when he was granted the post of Kapellmeister, which had been vacant since Schütz’s death in 1672. Bernhard remained in Dresden until his death in 1692.
It was Bernhard’s friend Weckmann who recommended him for the post of Kantor in Hamburg following the death of Thomas Selle in 1663. Bernhard won the post over six other candidates, but when the Hamburg council requested Bernhard’s release from Dresden, the elector refused to let him go. Bernhard accepted the position however, and left Dresden without the elector’s permission. His duties as Kantor—a position which was in fact a step down from Bernhard’s post of Vizekapellemeister in Dresden—included directing the Kapelle in weekly music for the most important services of the city’s major churches, training the choirboys in the public or church school, and teaching other subjects such as Latin. Bernhard had at his disposal many talented musicians from the Kapelle and the choir school, as well as the professional soloists and instrumentalists retained by the municipality; the quality of these musicians is evidenced by the difficulty of Bernhard’s compositions.
The years of Bernhard’s activity in German music was a period of transition from the early Baroque of Praetorius and Schütz to the late or high Baroque of Bach and Handel. The influence of the dance was often clearly heard, likely influenced by the growing enthusiasm for Lully’s new dances (it was, however, dropped from religious music by the end of the century). During his first years in Dresden, Bernhard travelled to Italy twice in the 1650s, where he visited Giacomo Carissimi, who along with Schütz, most powerfully influenced Bernhard’s compositions. Like Schütz, Bernhard was an enthusiastic proponent of Italian music, but both composers strove to preserve the integrity of German music and promote the German language. Bernhard not only published an entire collection of German-texted compositions, but wrote his theoretical treatises in German instead of Latin, which was the practice of the time (although Bernhard’s treatises were not published until 1920, manuscript copies were widely circulated among musicians of his day and are an important source of mid-17th-century German compositional and performance practice).
Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein reines Herz and Ach Herr, strafe mich nicht in deinem Zorn both appear in Bernhard’s Geistliche Harmonien, published in 1665 and dedicated to the elders of the city of Hamburg; the works were likely composed, however, while Bernhard was in Dresden, but given the time and place of their publication, along with the dedication, were most certainly performed during Bernhard’s time in Hamburg. At this time most of the better Protestant church music was disseminated in manuscript, and this volume is exceptional among contemporary printed works for its quality, scope, and virtuoso demands. It contains 20 sacred concertos for one to four solo voices and continuo, often with two violins. The texts are all in German, and with few exceptions are taken from the Bible either directly or in paraphrase. All of the works are sectional, with many contrasting duple and triple meter. The two pieces on our program are representative of the style of the collection, which is clearly derived from Schütz’s Kleine geistliche Konzerte and Symphoniae sacrae, especially in the careful text-setting, along with the influence of Bernhard’s interaction with Carissimi in Rome and the Italian musicians in Dresden. Bernhard’s concertos also provide numerous examples of the musical-rhetorical figures that he described in his treatises.
Georg Philipp Telemann’s reputation for wit, charm, and cheer may belie the composer’s evident strong work ethic—his oeuvre includes some 50 operas and oratorios, 46 large-scale settings of the Passion, 70 secular cantatas, countless festive pieces, and instrumental music for every imaginable occasion and combination, not to mention 1,700 church cantatas, of which four complete annual cycles appeared in print. In 1721, Telemann received an offer from the Hamburg city council to succeed Joachim Gerstenbüttel as Kantor of the Johanneum Lateinschule and musical director of the city’s five main churches. By the time of his employment in Hamburg, Telemann had worked in Leipzig, Sorau, Eisenach, and Frankfurt, and he continued to supply music, primarily cantatas, to churches in the latter two towns over and above his responsibilities in Hamburg. His musical connections to the city went back several years before the invitation was issued: his Brockes-Passion had been performed there three times by 1720, and the cantata Alles redet itzt und singet was performed at the Hamburg home of B. H. Brockes in 1720. His opera Der geduldige Socrates was also premiered at the Hamburg opera in 1721, and the same year he contributed music to the performance of the pasticcio Ulysses.
Telemann’s Hamburg period represents the already prolific composer’s most productive phase yet. He was expected to provide two cantatas for each Sunday and a new passion for Lent. Music was required for induction ceremonies and church consecrations, and further cantatas had to be written for the city’s numerous civic celebrations. Once a year Telemann provided the Kapitänsmusik, consisting of a sacred oratorio and secular serenata, for the celebrations of the Hamburg militia commandant. As Kantor he was responsible for instructing the schoolboys in singing, theory, and music history four days a week. Such official duties did not prevent his giving public concerts, many of which included sacred and occasional vocal works. He took over direction of the Collegium Musicum, and initiated a series of weekly public concerts that ran each winter season from November or December until February or March; the popularity of these events led to an expanded series of twice-weekly performances. In 1722 Telemann assumed the directorship of the Gänsemarktoper, where he performed his own operas as well as those by Handel and Keiser, for which he often provided additional material. In this same year, Telemann applied for the post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig, which he was granted. He petitioned the Hamburg city council for his release, but turned down the post in Leipzig when the city approved a substantial increase in his salary. (The post in Leipzig was next offered to Christoph Graupner, who could not obtain his release from Darmstadt, and was only then offered to J. S. Bach.) Telemann also undertook a remarkable venture to publish many of his works, establishing agents in Berlin, Leipzig, Jena, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and London by 1728, and obtaining his own 20-year publishing privilege in Paris in 1737. Telemann remained in Hamburg until his death in 1767, participating actively in the city’s rich intellectual life and continuing to add to his remarkable compositional, poetic, and publishing activities.
Gott weiss, ich bin von Seufzen müde and Die Bosheit dreht das schnellste Rad appear in Telemann’s Fortsetzung des Harmonischen Gottes-Dienstes published in 1731–1732 contains the entire Jahrgang, constituting 72 cantatas for all Sundays and feast days of the Lutheran calendar. It succeeds Telemann’s earlier publication of the annual cycle of cantatas, the Harmonische Gottesdienst, of 1725–1726. Telemann states in the introduction to the Fortsetzung that the cantatas are intended “for private services and occasions where not all of the instruments are available or desired.” The cantatas are scored for solo voice and usually two obbligato instruments and standardized to a pair of arias framing a single recitative. They were not composed from the start as solo cantatas, but are extracts arranged for solo voice from fully-scored cantatas for multiple voices and instruments. The full version of the cantatas were written as dramatic allegories, with the various singers representing different characters (these character designations are left out of the Fortsetzung as they would not have made sense out of context). He further states in the introduction that the ranges “will be suitable for most voices,” and although the designations for almost all of the cantatas are for soprano or alto, they can easily be sung by tenor or bass respectively. The texts were written by Tobias Heinrich Schubart, pastor at Hamburg’s Michaeliskirche, and are perfectly suited to Telemann’s intense focus on word painting and text expression.
Telemann’s setting of Psalm 117, Laudate Jehovam, was composed in 1758, representing the mature Baroque as well as a transition to the Classical period. A universal call to worship, Psalm 117 is not only the shortest of the psalms at just two verses, but it is also the shortest chapter in the Bible. Telemann’s setting has three short sections: an exuberant outburst of joy (Praise the Lord), followed by a more reflective section (His loving kindess has been bestowed upon us), and finally an affirming Hallelujah. In each section, the violins form a spirited dialog with the voices.