Notes and Editorial Reviews
Triumph, Belial ist nun erleget. Auf, auf, mein Herz. In te Domine speravi. Weicht, ihr schwarzen Trauerwolken.
Concertos: No. 9 in g; No. 13 in c
Simone Eckert, cond; Klaus Mertens (bs); Jan Kobow (ten); Hamburger Ratsmusik (period instruments)
CARUS 83.398 (62:18
Text and Translation)
For someone as obscure as Johann Christian Schieferdecker, a pupil of Buxtehude, he certainly has gotten his share of play recently. Not only has my
colleague Michael Carter reviewed one of the concertos (
34:3) but another, Jerry Dubins, reviewed and recommended an entire disc of these instrumental works in a recent issue (
35:6) performed by the Elbipolis Hamburg period-instrument ensemble on Challenge. Both found them recommendable, though the latter seemed reticent on whether or not Schieferdecker represents a marvelous new rediscovery. This disc may not decide that issue, but I do find it curious that in the space of a very short time, a composer who was completely dissed by Johann Mattheson, the early chronicler of Hamburg music but who grew up practically as the blood brother of Reinhard Keiser, should suddenly emerge from shadows. Maybe it is something in the water in Hamburg, or maybe this relatively new period-instrument ensemble there decided that it was tired of the giants, C. P. E. Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann. Or maybe this is Schieferdecker’s 15 minutes of fame in the world of recorded music. Whatever the reason, we now have a selection of his compositions that demonstrates his ability and talent in the midst of other better-known figures.
Schieferdecker was, by any stretch of the imagination, a solid, well-educated, and talented composer. He was the son of an organist, attended school in Leipzig where he wrote his first operas, and returned to Hamburg to become a colleague of Telemann, Keiser, Mattheson, and Handel, toiling away in the opera house there. When Buxtehude sought a successor, it was Schieferdecker who was able to walk away with the job. Apparently he did not have the same qualms about marrying Buxtehude’s long-in-the-tooth daughter as his other friends, and when she died a couple of years later, he raised their child to continue the musical succession. As a composer, he was a chronological contemporary of Telemann (though he died in 1732, more than three decades before his colleague), but it is not clear exactly how much music he actually wrote. There were about a dozen operas written for Leipzig and Hamburg (all seemingly lost), and he certainly was active in Lübeck as Buxtehude’s successor, writing
, pieces for organ, and in 1713 publishing a set of 12
(probably best translated literally as “Musical Concerts,” rather than concertos, but in the insecure generic designation of the time indicating simply pieces—in this case each a rather conventional French suite). This disc, however, presents a somewhat old-fashioned throwback to the previous century in the form of the sacred concerto, which by the 18th century had long gone out of practice. These pieces, in reality sort of proto-cantatas each ending with a chorale, form a sort of halfway house between the traditional Baroque Lutheran cantata and the more amorphous
, this defined as miniature movements of a contemplative nature. It is not known when he wrote the four pieces here, but the sparse setting of a voice and minimal string accompaniment with continuo may indicate that these are early works, possibly even about 1700. As these are the only ones that apparently have survived, the disc is filled out with two suites from the 1713 set, both of which were recorded on the aforementioned Challenge disc.
Three of these sacred concertos are in German, and one uses a Latin text that was often used as an offertory (the “In te Domine speravi” movement diverges from its other usage as the final portion of the Te Deum hymn). All are very much in the vein of Buxtehude, with the voice accompanied by a pair of violins and continuo. The Latin concerto omits one of the violin parts, in essence becoming a more common solo cantata. Many of the violin lines seem to remind one of Henry Purcell, with brief fanfares (such as in “Triumph, Belial ist nun erleget”) and the occasional use of the ground bass. But in that same concerto, the second aria, “Wenn die Bosheit,” reduces things to a continuo, lending a sort of Scarlatti feel. The chorales often use the solo voice in hymnlike fashion above some nice countermelodies in the violins, such as in the “Gott Vater” of
Auf, auf mein Herz
. The harmony can also be a bit gnarly, with unexpected twists and sudden non-sequitur chords shifting it momentarily. The finest example of this is in the opening aria of
Weicht, ihr schwarzen Trauerwolken
. And occasionally there is a rapid-fire parlando delivery of the text (“Sicut erat” in
In te Domine speravi
) that brings to mind a sort of Baroque rap, telescoping the line on a single pitch in a way that is quite remarkable.
The performance by the group Hamburger Ratsmusik is extremely good. They are all on pitch, handle the twisting and turning violin lines with ease, and there is a nice pacing by viol player Simone Eckert, who also conducts the ensemble. Their sensitive playing is the reason some of the odder moments do not become musical parodies, but rather demonstrate Schieferdecker’s sometimes unique compositional method. Klaus Mertens, of course, does his usual stellar job. This is just the sort of music he excels in, and his flexible bass handles the composer’s often unusual melodic contours perfectly. Tenor Jan Kobow, too, does an outstanding job in his one outing, the Latin concerto, being nicely on pitch and cognizant of the compositional peculiarities.
Echoing my colleague, I sincerely doubt that Schieferdecker is the next Baroque sensation on the horizon. For one thing, there isn’t that much left, barring a rediscovery of the lost operas or some other archival treasure trove. For another, the music is perhaps too quirky in terms of substance and style compared with his other Hamburg compatriots, all of whom went on to achieve major status in the musical world. But what remains as on this disc offers enough unusual variety to be worth a listen, and given that the performance here by the Ratsmusik is solid and well done, one would not go astray by including this in one’s collection.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Triumph, Triumph, Belial ist nun erleget by Johann Schieferdecker
Musikalische Concerte (12): no 9 in G minor by Johann Schieferdecker
In te domine speravi by Johann Schieferdecker
Auf, auf, mein Herz, Sinn und Gemüte by Johann Schieferdecker
Concert no 13 in C minor by Johann Schieferdecker
Weicht, ihr schwarzen Trauerwolken by Johann Schieferdecker
Triumpf! Beliel ist nun erleget
Triumpf! Beliel ist nun erleget: Zwar sah der Krieg gefährlich aus
Triumpf! Beliel ist nun erleget: Wenn die Bosheit
Triumpf! Beliel ist nun erleget: Drum lobt den Herren
Triumpf! Beliel ist nun erleget: Jauchzet ihr Himmel
Triumpf! Beliel ist nun erleget: Hier liegt der stolze Belial
Musical Concert No. 9 in G minor: I. Ouverture
Musical Concert No. 9 in G minor: II. Courante
Musical Concert No. 9 in G minor: III. Sarabande
Musical Concert No. 9 in G minor: IV. Aria
Musical Concert No. 9 in G minor: V. Menuet
Musical Concert No. 9 in G minor: VI. Bouree
In te Domine speravi: Inclina ad me aurem tuam
In te Domine speravi: Esto mihi in Deum
In te Domine speravi: Quoniam
In te Domine speravi: Gloria
In te Domine speravi: Sicut erat
Auf, auf, mein Herz: Wie soll das Danklied schlafen ein
Auf, auf, mein Herz: Da unser Feld
Auf, auf, mein Herz: Gott Vater
Musical Concert No. 13 in C minor: I. Ouverture
Musical Concert No. 13 in C minor: II. Gavotte
Musical Concert No. 13 in C minor: III. Bouree
Musical Concert No. 13 in C minor: IV. Menuet
Musical Concert No. 13 in C minor: V. Chaconne
Weicht ihr schwarzen Trauer-Wolken
Weicht ihr schwarzen Trauer-Wolken: Der Wolf gedachte zwar
Weicht ihr schwarzen Trauer-Wolken: Aria: Triumph, Triumph
Weicht ihr schwarzen Trauer-Wolken: Choral: Triumph, Triumph!
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
unknown German composer duing J.S.Bach lifetime. September 5, 2012
By Henri Raymond (Montreal, QC) See All My Reviews
"very good performers, worthwhile listening, a major discovery..."