Notes and Editorial Reviews
Habe deine Lust an dem Herrn. Kommt her und sehet an die Wunder Gottes. Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot. Die Elenden sollen essen. Domine ad adiuvandum me.
Magnificat in C.
Deo dicamus gratias. Ich will den Herrn loben. Mir hast du Arbeit gemacht. Dennoch bleib ich stets an dir. Die richtig für sich gewandelt haben. Lasset euch begnügen. Wo ist ein solcher Gott. Der Herr ist meine Stärke. Siehe, den Herrn Auge sieht
• Stefan Schuck, cond; sirventes Berlin
83.266(Text and Translation)
Warum toben die Heiden. Frohlocke, Zion, dein Erlöser. In der Zeit meiner Not. Kommt, frohe Völker. Steig, Allgewaltiger, von deinem festen Sitze
Rainer Johannes Homburg, cond; Marie-Pierre Roy (sop); Henriette Gödde (alt); Knut Schoch (ten); Markus Köhler (bs); Handel’s Company Ch; Handel’s Company
CARUS 83.267 (71:10
Text and Translation)
MUSIK AN DER DRESDNER FRAUENKIRCHE: Jubiläumsedition
CARUS 83.268 (2 CDs: 141:14
Text and Translation)
With three exceptions—a 1980 recording of organ works issued by Arion, a 1985 CD of motets released by MDG (reviewed by J. F. Weber in 8:6), and the 1992 Berlin Classics set of the
St. Matthew Passion
(see the enthusiastic review in 18:3 by Martin Anderson)—the revival of the music of Gottfried August Homilius (1714–1785) appears to be entirely an endeavor of the Carus label. Like CPO, a label which has also devoted much effort to reviving the work of neglected German composers, Carus—the publishing division of which is producing a complete edition of the works of Homilius—is to be congratulated for both its courage and discernment in selecting this repertoire for revival. Along with Anderson, Weber, Brian Robins (in a review of a disc of cantatas in 29: 6), and Michael Carter (in multiple reviews in 29:2, 29:6, and 30:6), I concur in ranking Homilius as an unjustly overlooked figure who composed works of unfailingly high quality that fully merit renewed attention.
Since the biographical data for Homilius is scattered throughout multiple previous reviews, I will summarize it here in one place for convenience. The son of a Lutheran pastor, Homilius was born in Porschendorf, a village southeast of Dresden. He attended school in Dresden in 1722 after his father’s death, and then came to Leipzig in about 1735, where (according to Johann Nikolaus Forkel) he studied keyboard with Bach and occasionally substituted for him at the Nikolaikirche organ. In 1742 he was appointed organist at the Frauenkirche in Dresden, and in 1755 was appointed
of the Kreuzkirche, which made him music master for the city’s three main churches (the third one being the Sophienkirche), serving in that position until his death 30 years later. He composed some 180 sacred cantatas and 60 motets, several Passion settings, a Christmas oratorio, and chorale preludes for organ.
While firmly anchored in the late Baroque and showing the influence of Bach (and perhaps, even more, of Telemann), the music of Homilius also clearly evinces the absorption of the
aesthetic of the mid-18th century. There is less use of devices such as fugue and counterpoint (though these are far from absent), and correspondingly greater employment of primary melodic lines with chordal accompaniment. This is particularly true of the motets featured on the first CD here, where the settings are highly homophonic, though still quite challenging technically; the cantatas by contrast adhere more closely to the older Baroque stylistic contours. What makes this music so enjoyable is Homilius’s talent for shapely and expressive thematic lines, which unfailingly fall gracefully and gratefully on the ear. Had not his music, like that of Bach’s sons, been so unfairly eclipsed for so long, some of his melodies might be as familiar to us today as those of Bach. What he does lack, of course, is Bach’s stunning originality, daring, and ingenuity; his music is well crafted but comfortable and safe rather than challenging and provocative. But then, it is hardly fair to blame any other composer for not being Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven.
With the first two items listed above, Carus has now issued 10 sets devoted to Homilius, and these uphold the extremely high standards of quality of their predecessors. Both the sirventes Berlin (the lower case letter of the first word being the usual unfortunate and now hopelessly clichéd current naming affectation) and the Handel’s Company Choir are both exceptionally polished vocal ensembles, and the instrumentalists of Handel’s Company are an equally crackerjack company. All four vocal soloists are quite accomplished, and conductors Stefan Schuck and Rainer Johannes Homburg lead energetic, crisply pointed performances that engage one’s attention at every turn. The recorded sound is ideally balanced, clear and yet warm; detailed booklet notes and complete German (or Latin when occasionally required) texts with English translations are provided.
Readers may be puzzled as to why I have said nothing until now about the third set listed above. The reason is that it is not a new release, but rather an anthology drawn from previous releases in the Carus series. More specifically, it features three of the four cantatas (omitting
Selig seid ihr, wenn ihr geschmähet werdet
) from Carus 83.183 (reviewed by Michael Carter in 29:2) with soloists, chorus, and instrumentalists conducted by Roderich Kreile; the closing chorale from the
St. John Passion
on Carus 83.261 (reviewed by Carter in 30:6) featuring the same performers; the
from Carus 83.235 (reviewed by J. F. Weber in 32:4) with assembled forces under the leadership of Ludwig Güttler; and two cantatas, four chorales, and an oboe sonata from Carus 83.261 (not reviewed) again with various performers led by Güttler. Once again, Carus is to be praised and congratulated in that, with the exception of the Passion excerpt, instead of offering bleeding chunks it provides the more extended works (the oratorio and five cantatas) complete, so that the release is actually worth acquiring in its own right rather than being a sampler disc to audition once and discard. The same care has been taken as with the original releases to provide detailed booklet notes and full original texts with English translations. This is a veritable model of how such compilations ought to be done, and increases my already high estimation of the quality of this label. In sum, the whole lot is highly enjoyable and heartily recommended.
FANFARE: James A. Altena
Works on This Recording
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