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Kuhnau, Albrici: Soprano Cantatas / Steude, Katzschke

Kuhnau / Albrici / Concerto Con Voce / Steude
Release Date: 01/25/2011 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777531  
Composer:  Johann KuhnauVincenzo Albrici
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude
Conductor:  Jan Katzschke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto con Voce
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 8 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



ALBRICI Omnia quae fecit Deus. Mihi autem bonum est. KUHNAU Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Herzen. Ach Gott, wie läßt du mich verstarren. In te Domine speravi. Bone Jesu. Und ob die Feinde Barbara Christina Steude (sop); Jan Katzschke, cond; Concerto con Voce CPO 777 531-2 (67:32 Text and Translation)


With this release the cpo label continues its estimable exploration of the lesser byways of the German Read more Baroque—in this case, a CD made to honor the 350th anniversary of the birth of Johann Kuhnau (1660–1722), chiefly remembered today as J. S. Bach’s immediate predecessor as Kantor at the Leipzig Thomaskirche and as a pioneer of the keyboard sonata. Of Czech extraction, Kuhnau came to Dresden to study music in 1670, where after initial tutoring under Christoph Kittel he became a protégé of the Italian émigré Vincenzo Albrici (1631–96), with whom he would maintain a lasting and strong friendship. Born and raised in Rome, Albrici stemmed from a musical family of composers and singers and was a student of Giacomo Carissimi. After serving from 1652 to 1654 under the famously eccentric Queen Christiana of Sweden as part of a specially recruited company of Italian musicians, he decamped to Germany following her abdication, where he spent three extended periods in Dresden (1656–63, 1669–73, and 1675–81), punctuated by sojourns in England (1663–68) and Rome (1673–75). After a brief interlude in Leipzig from 1681 to 1682, accompanied by an equally brief conversion to Lutheranism, Albrici moved to Prague, where he re-embraced Catholicism and remained until his death.


For his part, Kuhnau left Dresden for Zittau in 1681, where he served as acting Kantor before moving on to Leipzig in 1682 to assume a post as an organist and obtain a law degree. He married in 1689 and sired eight children. An erudite polymath, he was considered to be knowledgeable in fields as diverse as theology, law, oratory, poetry, mathematics, and foreign languages as well as music. Kuhnau finally succeeded Johann Schelle as Kantor of the Thomaskirche in 1701, holding the post until his death; his pupils there included Johann David Heinichen and Christoph Graupner. Kuhnau’s time in Leipzig is reputed to have been rather unhappy, as his professional standing was undermined by musical rivalries with Georg Philipp Telemann and onetime pupil Johann Friedrich Fasch.


Less than one-third of Albrici’s known compositional output, mostly sacred concerti, survives. I can locate only one CD devoted entirely to his music, on the Musica Rediviva label featuring the Cappella Augustana conducted by Matteo Messori, an ensemble and conductor primarily known for an ongoing traversal of the complete works of Heinrich Schütz for Brilliant Classics. The only slightly less obscure Kuhnau has been primarily represented in recordings by his six Biblical Sonatas for keyboard; the one previous disc dedicated to his sacred concerti, by Robert King on Hyperion, is now out of print, though a CD-R version may be ordered directly from that label’s website.


As one would expect, the sacred concerti of Albrici are largely of a piece with those of Schütz and other contemporaries of the early German Baroque, though they also show the influence of Italian developments in an increasing use of tonal rather than modal harmonies and reliance upon solo rather than contrapuntal lines. Coming a generation later, Kuhnau takes these developments a step further; those who are familiar with compositions by various older collateral relatives of Bach will know very much what to expect here. While fairly plain and even pedestrian by comparison to his incomparable successor in Leipzig, his works have a certain grave, sweet dignity that makes them attractive on their own terms.


The Concerto con Voce offers first-rate renditions of these works on period instruments. What makes this disc highly desirable beyond the repertoire, however, is the absolutely stupendous singing of soprano soloist Barbara Christina Steude. While she made little impression on either me or Brian Robins in our respective previous reviews of CDs of sacred works by Johann Adolf Hasse (in Fanfare 34:5 and 30:1), Robins welcomed her in a review of a CD of Dietrich Buxtehude’s sacred concerti in 30:6 as “a fine young artist of great potential.” That potential is fully realized here. Contrary to expectations, hers is not a typical Baroque specialist voice with minimal vibrato, but rather a traditionally trained one with lovely sheen, body, bloom, and a rich but not heavy vibrato. Far more important, however, she is not just a singer, but an artist in whom is allied natural vocal beauty, impeccable technique, and a profound interpretive insight that is infinitely superior to mere virtuosity. For those with ears to hear, let it suffice for me to invoke by way of comparison the immortal Elisabeth Grümmer, above all her classic EMI recording of Bach’s St. John Passion . That she is not quite as comfortable singing in Latin as in German is a trifling matter; this is a voice that leaves one not merely enthralled, but deeply moved. Recommended for collectors of secondary Baroque repertoire; enthusiastically recommended for the sake of Steude.


FANFARE: James A. Altena


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Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722) is best known as the cantor whom Bach succeeded at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. He deserves more: in many ways his claim to be recognised as the greatest German composer of keyboard music before Bach is a good one, for example. Yet there are only a handful of CDs containing his music currently available; fewer concentrating on his vocal output; fewer still devoted exclusively to this melodious, inventive composer, whose music is shot through with devotion, concentration and singularity of purpose - and is graceful, elegant, dynamic and immediately appealing at the same time. A lawyer with expertise in various contemporary European languages and cultures (especially literature), Kuhnau is also credited with the development - effectively the 'invention' - of the keyboard sonata.

From the ever-enterprising CPO here is a CD featuring a selection of Kuhnau's sacred vocal music performed by German soprano Barbara Christina Steude, who was born in the Bach town of Mühlhausen; she specialises in the (German) Baroque and is an advocate for the undiscovered works of the period. The CD includes very satisfying performances of two complete cantatas, Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Herzen and Und ob die Feinde for the 15th and 23rd Sundays after Trinity respectively.

Each is approached with undisguised vigour by Steude and Concerto con voce under Jan Katzschke. A collection like this inevitably stands or falls by the prowess of its sole singer. You can hear Steude's enthusiasm in her spontaneity and breathiness. Her controlled articulation of the musical lines and love of colour which are well matched by the lively, yet never wayward, playing of the between six and nine instrumentalists of Concerto con voce, whose only available CD to date this is. The ensemble was founded by Steude and Katzschke specifically to present music from the Renaissance to 21st century as it can be appreciated by an understanding of Bach.

The same attachment to Kuhnau's own persuasively inventive textures and tunefulness is clear in their approach to the two single-movement pieces by Kuhnau included here: In te Domine speravi (also for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity) and the Bone Jesu for the 13th. At no time during their performance is there a sense that the musicians are going through a series of 'set pieces'. Nor trying to recreate a contemporary milieu. Rather, they present a winning, convincing and idiomatic account of the music.

Ach Gott, wie läßt du mich verstarren was written when Kuhnau was under 30 years old. It's a kind of funeral aria for two of the officers at the composer's first appointment in Zittau. There are moments when Steude's voice verges on the emotional; wavers, almost (a minute into the final aria of Weicht ihr Sorgen, for example, and in the first and last thirds of Ach Gott). But this tends to add depth to her interpretation, not annoyance. Though if Kuhnau's chromaticism reminds you of Purcell's (and it should - especially in this funeral music), her slight vibrato would be out of place.

Vincenzo Albrici (1631-1696) was a family friend and significant influence on Kuhnau. Two shortish movements from Albrici's Geistliches Konzert are also included on this CD. Each displays an extroversion and Italianate exuberance melodically which one would expect to contrast more starkly with the Protestant Kuhnau's style than they actually do. For the younger composer was sufficiently open to cosmopolitan sources (two of his own teachers had been pupils of Schütz, who twice visited Italy) to absorb whatever he wanted from all worlds. Omnia quae fecit Deus and Mihi autem bonum est receive the same dedication and expressivity that Steude and Concerto con voce afford the works by Kuhnau himself. They also demonstrate how much Kuhnau's works lack the darkness - which is not the same as seriousness - and even ponderousness of some of his contemporaries. Steude captures very well Kuhnau's restraint, his determination not to overreach gratuitously - without ever restricting the emotional compass needed.

Lovers of the German Baroque will have no hesitation in buying this CD - and not merely for the historical importance of Johann Kuhnau. His music is very attractive in its own right. The youthfulness and excited singing of Steude may be just a little too theatrical for some tastes. But to see it as freshness and genuine forwardness instead is to warm to these qualities in a singer who fully understands the battle which Kuhnau waged against theatricality in church music and who appreciates the need to find the same quality of compromise as the composer did when prevailing trends seemed to lead in the opposite direction.

The recording is good … close and immediate; very suitable for the music. The booklet contains full texts in German or Latin and English with some historical and biographical contexts of composer and performers. Not one to miss.

-- Mark Sealey, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Hertzen by Johann Kuhnau
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano)
Conductor:  Jan Katzschke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto con Voce
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 
2. Ach Gott, wie lässt du mich verstarren by Johann Kuhnau
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano)
Conductor:  Jan Katzschke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto con Voce
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 
3. In te Domine speravi by Johann Kuhnau
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano)
Conductor:  Jan Katzschke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto con Voce
4. Bone Jesu by Johann Kuhnau
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano)
Conductor:  Jan Katzschke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto con Voce
5. Und ob die Feinde by Johann Kuhnau
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano)
Conductor:  Jan Katzschke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto con Voce
6. Omnia quae fecit Deus by Vincenzo Albrici
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano)
Conductor:  Jan Katzschke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto con Voce
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century 
7. Mihi autem bonum est by Vincenzo Albrici
Performer:  Barbara Christina Steude (Soprano)
Conductor:  Jan Katzschke
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Concerto con Voce
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century 

Sound Samples

Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Hertzen: Aria: Weicht, ihr Sorgen
Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Hertzen: Recitative: Ich bleib in Gott gelassner Ruh
Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Hertzen: Aria: Weicht, ihr Sorgen
Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Hertzen: Recitative: Was frag ich nach der Welt
Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Hertzen: Aria: Ich habe Gott, was fehlt mir noch?
Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Hertzen: Recitative: So kann ich allen Tand der schnoden Welt verachten
Weicht ihr Sorgen aus dem Hertzen: Aria: Komm doch, susse Stunde
Ach Gott wie laesst du mich verstarren
Omnia quae fecit Deus
In te Domine speravi
Mihi autem bonum est
Bone Jesu, chare Jesu
Und ob die Feinde Tag und Nacht: Aria: Und ob die Feinde
Und ob die Feinde Tag und Nacht: Recitative: Gott unsre feste Burg steht noch
Und ob die Feinde Tag und Nacht: Aria: Wir haben die reinen und seligen Lehren
Und ob die Feinde Tag und Nacht: Recitative: Ein jeder mag nur als ein Christ
Und ob die Feinde Tag und Nacht: Aria: Nimm mich mir und gib mich dir

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Rare Kuhnau Sonatas August 31, 2012 By E. Rimbach (Tacoma, WA) See All My Reviews "I was happy to learn of the new CD of Kuhnau vocal works. Johann Kuhnau, Bach's predecessor in Leipzig, is a rather neglected composer. He is more widely known as the composer of keyboard sonatas. However, he wrote over 80 known vocal works, few of which have ever been published. This recording features a number of his soprano solo cantatas as well as a number of soprano works by one of his teachers, Albrici. The performers are artists and teachers in Dresden where Kuhnau studied as a youth. The performances are stylistically well done. This CD joins the only other recording of Kuhnau cantatas, the choral cantatas recorded by the King's Consort on the Hyperion label. As the editor of a number of Kuhnau cantatas published by U.S. music publishers, I am pleased to learn of more available recordings of these works." Report Abuse
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