Franz Tunder (1614–1667) was a German composer and organist of the early to middle Baroque era. He was an important link between early German Baroque style, based on Venetian models, and the later Baroque style, which culminated in the music of J.S. Bach. Tunder’s surviving output suggests a marked preference for the chorale fantasia style.
In 1641 he was appointed as organist at Lübeck's main church, the Marienkirche. In 1647 he became administrator and treasurer there also. He remained there for the rest of his life. Tunder began the tradition of “Abendmusiken,” free concerts in the Marienkirche, the most elaborate of which were during Advent. The earliest of these concerts occurred in 1646. The concerts seem to have originated as organ performances specifically for the businessmen who congregated at the weekly opening of the town's stock exchange. These concerts continued through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and were distinguished from other concerts by having free admission, being financed by the business community.
The motet Nisi Dominus was composed for the Abendmusik concerts. It is a complex, multi-section setting of Psalm 127 (“Unless the Lord built the house, those who built it labor in vain”), a text that seems to beg for word painting, with its vivid imagery.
Although not set for multiple choirs, the composer uses dialogues between different sections of the choir and varies the density of the writing to create a call and response effect that is reminiscent of Venetian composers such as Gabrieli. The sections are separated by florid bass solos.
After the introductory movement and the first bass solo, we encounter a vigorous rising motif to illustrate the word “surgite” (rise up), which halts on the words “postquam sederitis” (after resting). A plaintive series of supensions describes how we work hard for our bread; then the music descends through the lower voices to describe how those beloved of God are granted peaceful sleep. In a subsequent section, also set off by a bass solo, florid melismas and trumpet-like outbursts describe contending with opponents in court. The Psalm is concluded with the traditional doxology, which reprises themes from the opening movement.
Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott is a setting of Martin Luther’s most famous and iconic chorale, “A mighty fortress is our God.” Four verses of this renowned hymn are set in this chorale motet. The style of the motet feels somewhat reminiscent of Schütz, especially in its dramatic treatment of the material.
Verse one is a relatively straightforward exposition of the chorale tune by the sopranos; it alternates between triple time and common time. Verse two, for all voices, is vigorous and declamatory, matching the words of courage — especially the setting of the words “es streitet für uns” (he struggles for us) — set in common time, with the final phrase in 6/4 to gracefully round off the end of the verse. Verse three opens with a florid bass passage, followed by a long and elaborate treatment with coloratura flourishes in all voice parts, alternating common time and 6/4. Verse four is flowing and imitative; the setting of the final words reverts back to common time to make the final declaration.
Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637–1707) was a Danish-German organist and composer of the Baroque period. He composed in a wide variety of vocal and instrumental idioms, and his style strongly influenced many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Today, Buxtehude is considered one of the most important composers of the German mid-Baroque. His surviving church music is praised for its high musical qualities rather than its progressive elements. The librettos for his oratorios survive; but none of the scores do. This is particularly unfortunate because his German oratorios seem to be the model for later works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann.
Buxtehude's last post, from 1668, was at the Marienkirche in Lübeck. There he succeeded Franz Tunder. In 1673 he reorganized the musical performances, initiated by Tunder, known as Abendmusiken, which attracted musicians from diverse places and remained a feature of the church until 1810. He married Tunder's daughter Anna Margarethe in 1668. It was a not uncommon practice for a man to marry the daughter of his predecessor in his occupation. In 1703, Buxtehude offered his position in Lübeck to Handel and Johann Mattheson, but stipulated that the organist who ascended to it must marry his eldest daughter. Both Handel and Mattheson turned the offer down and left the day after their arrival.
In 1705, J.S. Bach, then a young man of twenty, walked from Arnstadt to Lübeck, a distance of more than 400 kilometres (250 miles), and stayed nearly three months to hear the Abendmusiken. Legend has it that Buxtehude extended the same succession offer to Bach, who also declined.
Jesu, meines Lebens Leben opens with an instrumental sinfonia. The five verses of this hymn are presented in a series of variations. Buxtehude shows off his ability to work creatively by confining the bass line to two measures that repeat for the duration of the piece (a chaconne), and using the upper voices and accompanying instruments to play off this self-imposed limitation. Each variation/verse also alters the number of voice parts in a rather clever fashion.
Verse one has the sopranos singing alone. Verse two utilizes the lower three voices (alto, tenor, and bass), but omits the sopranos. Verse three is sung by the tenors, and then verse four is assigned to the sopranos, altos, and basses, leaving the tenors out this time. All four voices join in verse five, finishing off with an “Amen” in a more imitative style, but still built over the two-measure bass line.
Johann Schop (c. 1590–1667) was a German violinist and composer, much admired as a musician and a technician. He was a virtuoso whose compositions for the violin set impressive technical demands for that time. In 1756 Leopold Mozart commented on the difficulty of a trill in a work by Schop, probably composed before 1646. A melody of his was used by Johann Sebastian Bach for the chorale movements of his cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147. Under the English title of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, Bach's chorale on the Schop melody has been arranged for different instruments and has gained wide popularity.
Christ lag in Todesbanden, another renowned Lutheran hymn, is set as a chorale fantasia for treble voices. Consistent with his violin writing, this has some florid vocal moments, but is otherwise a very sweet and intimate setting. It is presented as a dialogue between the two voice parts—which intertwine and frequently cross—accompanied only by continuo instruments. The hymn tune is subtly present, but changing meters and ornamental lines soften the effect.
Matthias Weckmann (c. 1620–1674) was a German musician and composer of the Baroque period. His musical training took place in Dresden (as a chorister at the Saxon Court, under the direction of Heinrich Schütz), then in Hamburg, where he worked with the famous organist Jacob Praetorius at the Saint Peter's church. Weckmann was introduced to the Italian concertato, polychoral and monodic styles (Schütz had journeyed in Italy when a young man and had met Giovanni Gabrieli and Monteverdi). Weckmann travelled to Denmark in 1637 with Schütz, became organist in Dresden at the Electoral Court of Saxony from 1638 to 1642, and returned to Denmark until 1647 (during the Thirty Years' War). Stylistically, he mostly followed the progressive tendencies of Schütz. Weckmann is a good example of a composer whose works would have been completely lost to history had it not been for the nineteenth century interest in researching the predecessors of J.S. Bach.
Weckmann set Wenn der Herr die Gefangenen, Psalm 126, in a multi-sectional motet style with some truly exquisite word painting, which follows the text very closely. The opening section is wonderstruck and dreamy, and it is followed by a bright and lively description of joyful laughter and singing. A sturdy and declamatory section gives thanks for the great deeds of the Lord, and then breaks into a lively fugue on the words “then we were glad.”
A plaintive dropping line starts the next section, and is underpinned by an undulating line describing the flowing streams in the text.
The final section sets the last words of the Psalm, beloved by many North German composers: “Die mit tränen säen” (Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy). Musically it is divided into two parts; the first part starts off in a quiet and flowing manner, and concludes with a set of vocal flourishes and strong stop at the end of the words “shall reap in joy.” The second part starts out very much like the first, quietly, but the tempo picks up quickly for the joyful words that follow. Another set of vocal flourishes wraps up and leads into a finale that celebrates the bringing in of the harvest.
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) was a German Baroque composer and instrumentalist. Almost completely self-taught in music, he became a composer against his family's wishes. Telemann was and still is one of the most prolific composers in history (at least in terms of surviving works), and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers of the time—he was compared favorably both to his friend Johann Sebastian Bach, who made Telemann the godfather and namesake of his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, and to George Frideric Handel, whom Telemann also knew personally. Telemann's music incorporates several national styles (French, Italian) and is even at times influenced by Polish popular music. He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles.
The music of Telemann’s youth is quite different from his mature works. Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein reines Herz (Psalm 51, v 10-12) was written when Telemann was only seventeen years old. It hearkens back to Schütz and other earlier North German masters. The setting is simple, elegant, and very confident. The youthful composer skillfully changes the musical mood as the words seem to dictate.
Telemann shows off his technical expertise by setting the first section as a chaconne. The vocal writing is constructed above a ground bass that is a constantly repeating descending scale. The instrumental accompaniment plays an additional independent line that weaves through the texture.
The second section is for tenor voices only and is very lightly scored. The full chorus comes back in the next part, a cheerful and vigorous alternation between homophonic and imitative writing. A simple and sweet soprano and alto duet follows. The finale is a treatment of a verse from the Lutheran hymn “Komm Heiliger Geist.” The vocal parts are set in a relatively standard chorale harmonization. What makes this movement unique is the lively instrumental accompaniment under the chorale.
Program notes by Patricia Jennerjohn.
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