Notes and Editorial Reviews
Manfred Cordes, cond; Weser-Renaissance Bremen
CPO 7778012 (78:10
Text and Translation)
The doughty CPO label here continues its indefatigable and praiseworthy labors in unearthing yet another obscure composer of the German Baroque. Extremely little is known about Augustin Pfleger (1636–after 1686). Born in the city of Schlackenwerth in the Sudetenland region (now Ostrov in the far western end of the present-day Czech Republic), he is known to have
studied under the noted organist Johann Erasmus Kindermann (1616–1655) in Nuremberg, and to have spent some time at the ducal court there. At some unknown date he relocated to Gottorf, a city just south of the Danish border in far north-central Germany, to be
at the ducal court of Schleswig-Holstein, where one of his recent predecessors was the renowned Franz Tunder (1614–1667). In 1662 he entered the service of the Duke of Mecklenberg in Güstrow, a city in the Pomerania region of northeastern Germany, as assistant
. In 1665 he moved back to Gottorf, but after serving there for eight years he left in 1673. Thereafter his whereabouts remain uncertain, until a document dated July 23, 1686 mentions him as being
to the ducal court in Schlackenwerth, following which nothing further is known. These successive peregrinations to different far-flung German principalities were not merely fortuitous. In 1623 the dukes of Saxe-Lauenburg, the southeastern extension of Schleswig-Holstein, had inherited the lands around Schlackenwerth, and made that city the primary base of their Bohemian territories. Furthermore, Duke Julius Henry, who brought Pfleger to Gottorf, was the brother-in-law of the duke in Güstrow, Christian Albrecht.
Pfleger published two sets of his compositions. His op. 1,
Psalmi, dialogi et motettae
, a collection of 18 pieces from which the 12 selections on this disc are taken, appeared in 1661 and is dedicated to Duke Julius Henry. These pieces are preserved in the archives of Uppsala University in Sweden, thanks to the diligent efforts of organist Gustav Düben (c.1628–1690), whose labors in copying manuscripts I recently cited in a review in 36:6 of a CPO disc of Baroque organ music from northern Germany. A second collection, the
, was published in Kiel in 1666. All of Pfleger’s known compositions are sacred vocal works; in addition to the 23 Latin and 74 German motets still extant, he is also known to have composed some 89 Latin sacred concertos, nine German cantatas, and four Latin cantatas which are lost.
Of the 12 sacred cantatas presented here, seven have Latin and five have German texts. While the long shadow of the genius of Heinrich Schütz inevitably casts itself over all of his German contemporaries, Pfleger’s compositions adhere more closely to contemporary Italian models in their melodic contours and harmonies than those of many of his compatriots. Also, the musical structure of the cantatas utilizes a Protestant adaptation of the Italian practice of alternating recitative and aria, in which Scriptural texts (or paraphrases) are followed by poetic commentaries set to music. (In the 18th century, on a far larger scale, this structure would serve as the basis of the oratorio passion.) The cantatas of Pfleger thus form miniature dramatic dialogues in which solo voices assume differentiated roles. While the compositional voice is not distinctively original, all the pieces are well crafted and effective.
For this recording, renowned German Baroque specialist Manfred Cordes employs six vocal soloists (two sopranos, one alto, two tenors, one bass) and a septet of instrumentalists comprised of two violones, three violas da gamba, one theorbo, and an organ. As always with Cordes, the interpretations and technical execution are exemplary in every way. For its part, CPO provides its usual top-notch recorded sound, detailed booklet notes, and original Latin and German texts with English and German translations as needed. Warmly recommended to anyone who, like me, especially enjoys the sacred music of the German Baroque.
FANFARE: James A. Altena
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