Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Music with a function in tradition, and in our times.
Albert Becker is probably not a name many of us will have heard a great deal about, which is not entirely surprising, as he spent most of his life making a living as a music teacher. He was born in Quedlinburg in 1834, and was active as a teacher and composer in Berlin during the second half of the nineteenth century. He became director of the Berlin Cathedral Choir in 1889, a post which had once been held by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and which was naturally steeped in a rich liturgical tradition. It was at this point that he was provided the opportunity to add his
own voice to that of previous, frequently well-established Psalm settings.
As a contemporary of Verdi, Bruckner, Liszt, and Brahms, Becker’s music is deeply rooted in romanticism, but with these liturgical works he constantly draws on baroque and classical models. His approach to text, for instance, is linked with J.S. Bach in terms of clarity, and in the relationship of certain types of text with dissonance and cadence. Many of the settings are fairly undemanding listening, despite the gorgeous richness of their 8-part depths. The Psalm 130 setting, Aus
der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, op. 62 is however a truly ambitious span of music, filled with angst-filled sin and resolving redemption.
Liturgische Gesänge für das Kirchenjahr op. 46 are, as their title indicates, intended for use in the liturgy. As a result they are shorter works, often following the baroque chorale structure. While this often results in homophonic writing or block harmonies, there is some counterpoint, such as in the canonic
Denn des Herrn, which can be compared in technique to Palestrina. Colourful word-description in the sighing diminished harmonies of the impressive
Fürwahr, er trug unsre Krankheit are a litmus test of the kinds of things going on in this music. It seems bland at first, but the more you discover the better it gets.
The Berliner Domkantorei was founded after the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. The choir came from singers of the former Church of the Reconciliation, whose place of worship became stranded in the no man’s land between East and West and ended up being demolished. Surviving its share of state repression prior to the fall of the wall, the choir was able to develop into an ambitious mixed ensemble which today performs primarily in
Berlin Cathedral. The choir has a warm and well disciplined sound, superbly articulated and well intonated, and without any straggly voices spoiling the texture. They don’t exhibit quite the exotic richness of expression in some more eastern choirs, and neither do they quite have the cool purity of your English choristers, but with their own character they fill Becker’s gently insistent idiom with the kind of integrity which rewards repeated listening.
MDG’s SACD recording is as ever very fine indeed, though
a capella singing is never likely to be a first choice for Hi-Fi demonstrations. The SA mode helps with the spread of the voices in the not overly resonant acoustic used, but this is more of an ambient quality than one which will blow your socks off. Albert Becker’s choral work can be seen as something of a musical cul-de-sac, as part of Berlin’s history which has worthy significance but little impact on the world stage. This may or may not be the case, but the tradition represented by Becker is one which has continued and is alive and well in church music of the present day. Maria Weisse in her booklet note makes a plea for Becker’s “stylistic diversity that should be honoured by the reincorporation of his songs into public music culture.” This is something behind which I can stand wholeheartedly. Becker’s musical language is expressive but unsentimental, and as a result has a function in our time and all times, both humanist and devotional.
-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Lobet den Herrn, Op. 32 no 1 by Albert Becker
Berlin Cathedral Chorus
Length: 2 Minutes 46 Secs.
Kommt herzu!, Op. 82 by Albert Becker
Length: 5 Minutes 39 Secs.
Be the first to review this title