jauchzet gott accent

Jauchzet Gott
Christoph Graupner (1683-1760)
Das Licht des Lebens gehet auf (GWV 1107/44)
Concerto for two violins, strings and basso continuo in E-flat (GWV 319)
Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745)
Laudate pueri (ZWV 81)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Sinfonia in D (BWV 1045)
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (BWV 51) (version by W F Bach)
Magdalene Harer (soprano), Florian Deuter & Mónica Waisman (violins), Hannes Rux-Brachtendorf & Astrid Brachtendorf (trumpets)
Harmonie Universelle/Florian Deuter & Mónica Waisman
rec. 2022, Basilika St Ursula, Köln, Germany
Texts and translations included
Reviewed as a stereo 16/44 download from Proper Music Distribution
Accent ACC24396 [67]

The trumpet has played an important role in musical history. Originally it was a military signal instrument, and from this its development into an instrument especially connected to people in power, in particular kings and queens, is a logical step. And as monarchs were seen as God’s representatives on earth, it was also used for music in praise of God and for pieces that were written for festive occasions, such as Christmas and Easter. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is just one example.

The present disc brings together three sacred works whose texts invite inclusion of trumpet parts. The first is Das Licht des Lebens gehet auf by Christoph Graupner, a cantata for the third day of Christmas, written in 1744. It opens with a short aria, in which the trumpet plays fanfare motifs, inspired by the text which proclaims: “The light of life rises, the beautiful dawn from on high illuminates what was darkened.” The soprano part begins with rising figures, as one may expect. The aria turns into an accompanied recitative, followed by an arioso with strings. The ensuing aria is full of coloratura, and here one can admire the agility of Magdalene Harer’s voice. After another recitative, we get an aria in which the trumpet keeps silent, but the first violin has an obbligato part, excellently executed by Mónica Waisman. It is followed by a recitative, and the cantata closes with ‘Die ihr schwebt in großem Leiden’: “You who hover in great suffering, behold, here is the door to true joys.” It is the seventh stanza of the hymn ‘Fröhlich soll mein Herze springen’ (Paul Gerhardt/Johann Crüger, 1653). The soprano sings the chorale melody to counterpoint from the orchestra, including the trumpet.

Whereas Graupner wrote his cantatas for the Lutheran court in Darmstadt, Jan Dismas Zelenka was a Catholic, and composed his sacred music for the Catholic services at the court in Dresden. In 1697 the Elector Frederick Augustus I had converted to Catholicism for political reasons (to be crowned King of Poland). His son and successor Frederick Augustus II did the same in 1712 and then married Maria Josepha, the daughter of the emperor in Vienna. As a result, Catholic masses were celebrated at the court in Dresden, and both Zelenka and his colleague Heinichen (who was a Protestant) were responsible for the music. Zelenka’s oeuvre includes numerous masses, motets and psalms, and among the latter is Laudate pueri, a setting of Psalm 112 (113). It opens with the text “Praise the Lord! Praise, o servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord!”, which is perfectly suited for the participation of a trumpet. The soprano displays much coloratura on the word “laudate”, and – in order to underline the operatic nature of this section – the soprano and trumpet close with a cadenza. The remaining text is set for soprano and strings, including the doxology. The latter ends with the ‘Amen’, but that is again set separately, as a brilliant duet for soprano and trumpet. It includes extensive coloratura, and the piece ends with soprano and trumpet in parallel movement, including another cadenza. It is a brilliant piece of collaboration and blending of the two ‘instruments’.

The most famous work comes last. Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (BWV 51) probably dates from 1730 and is one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s most unusual and most virtuosic cantatas. There can be hardly any doubt that the trumpet part was played by Gottfried Reiche, the virtuoso trumpeter who had become senior Stadtmusicus in Leipzig in 1719. Bach had written several trumpet parts for Reiche in his cantatas, which attest to his great skills. It is much more difficult to say with any certainty who performed the equally demanding soprano part. Bach always used trebles in his church cantatas, but it is also possible that he now and then made use of adult male sopranos, singing with their natural voice. This cantata also may have been sung out of any liturgical context. It is for the 15th Sunday after Trinity, but Bach added in ‘ogni tempo’, meaning that it can be sung at every occasion. Whoever may have sung it, he (she?) must have been a virtuosic singer with a wide tessitura. What is special about this recording is that it is a version by Bach’s eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann, who added a second trumpet part and also timpani in the concluding ‘Alleluia’. This may well be the first recording of this version. That makes it a meaningful addition to the discography anyway. However, the performance itself is reason enough for any lover of Bach’s music to add this disc to his collection, which undoubtedly includes several other recordings.

As I have already indicated, Magdalene Harer’s performances are excellent. In fact, what we have here may well be the best performance of this cantata ever recorded (although I also greatly appreciate the recording in 2022 with Miriam Feuersinger and the Capricornus Consort Basel on Christophorus). The opening movement is striking for its speed: whereas Feuersinger and her colleagues needed 4:36, here the first section takes only 4:01. It is breathtaking, and the performances of soprano and trumpets (played by Hannes Rux-Brachtendorf and Astrid Brachtendorf) are impressive for their technical precision and stylistic persuasiveness, for instance in their dynamic accents. I would probably prefer a slightly more moderate tempo here, but that is largely a matter of taste. Magdalene Harer’s capabilities in the expression of the text come to the fore in the aria ‘Höchster, mache deine Güte’; she just does everything right. For non-German singers, the chorales are often rather problematic. Ms Harer shows here how to sing such a piece, in ‘Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren’, where she keeps the meaning of text in the forefront, with the correct accents and articulation. Then we get the Alleluia, where the timpani come in. Personally I prefer the original version by the elder Bach, but even in this version it does not fail to excite. That is also thanks to the brilliance of all the participants. It is a rousing close to a thrilling performance of this cantata.

The vocal items are separated by two instrumental works. Neither are very well-known, and that goes even for Bach’s Sinfonia in D. It is sometimes considered a movement of a violin concerto, due to the solo part for this instrument, which is highly virtuosic with lots of multiple stopping. It dates from the 1740s and may have been intended as a movement from a larger work, either instrumental or vocal. The orchestration is opulent, with three trumpets, two oboes, bassoon and timpani. Here the solo part receives a brilliant and exciting performance by Florian Deuter.

In Graupner’s Concerto in E-flat for two violins, strings and basso continuo, Deuter plays second fiddle, with Mónica Waisman taking the first part. It is in four movements; the two slow movements are marked largo. The first immediately displays the unusual thematic and harmonic language of Graupner, which is different from any of his contemporaries. The second largo has an additional canon all’unisono. The most brilliant movements, as far as the solo parts are concerned, are the two allegros. It is hard to understand why this work is not better known. It deserves a place alongside the violin concertos by Bach, Telemann and Pisendel. Furthermore, it receives the best-possible performance here.

This is a disc no lover of baroque music should miss. Bach’s cantata is the only really well-known work, but each of the others is just as good, in its own way. I am happy to say that the performances are of the highest quality and do full justice to each of the pieces included here. This is a disc to treasure.

Johan van Veen

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