Notes and Editorial Reviews
So sparse has been Homilius’s representation on disc before Carus’s pioneering recording initiative that it’s a fair bet that many of the pieces will be making their first ever appearance on disc. This is the case with this latest release from the company which delves into the Dresden composer’s chorale settings for organ and obbligato trumpet, Corno da Caccia or oboe. It appears that we will not know for certain when they were written. There are some early 1741 examples of the genre but in the main his best known examples, from which these recorded examples derive, were contained in a collective manuscript book dating from the 1770s or 1780s.
The structure of these chorales is quite simple. Almost universally the melody
instrument merely plays the chorale, whilst the organ is thus given the freedom to roam beneath the melodic statement. Thus a curious tension is set up between a stark statement, often by trumpet, and the more quasi-improvisatory ruminations of the organ which has been allowed to relinquish its job of melody statement in favour of a more expansive role. Each chorale is prefixed by a Choralmelodie sung by a solo alto, soprano, tenor or bass.
It’s also unusual in Homilius’s case to hear a short, virtuosic cantata
Fahre hin, du Lust der Welt. It’s written for modest forces – two sopranos, two violins and continuo. The melody lines are distinguished and the writing is finely calibrated to meet the compact ensemble. Conjecturally this work dates from the period when Homilius was organist at the Frauenkirche in which, of course, the recording takes place. Historical frisson may be an overworked concept but one can’t help indulging it for a moment in this case.
Erwachet, ihr Christen is the other cantata and it functions as a dialogue for double choir. It too is a brief work but written for very slightly larger instrumental forces than the other cantata, and of course the choral forces grant it a wholly different sound, and function. It’s not especially reminiscent of Bach’s works but does have a finely expressive opening Coro and a culminatory one that is both cumulatively effective and rightly affirmative.
Unique in his output is the Oboe and basso continuo sonata. It’s speculated in the notes, though Uwe Wolf puts it no more than that, that it could have been a vespers work. Nimble and athletic it certainly calls for a good player.
The recorded sound is good; the long delay in the Frauenkirche is especially noticeable in the choralmelodies.
There are full texts and translations and as I’ve hinted the booklet notes don’t attempt to gloss over the difficulties of attribution, dating, purpose or design. This is a necessarily more specialised undertaking than earlier Homilius releases from Carus. Get to know him elsewhere first and then sample the grave nobility and organ freedoms implicit in his Chorales.
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Erwachet, ihr Christen by Gottfried August Homilius
Saxony Vocal Ensemble
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