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Bach - Böhm: Music for Weddings and other Festivities
Clematis, Leonardo García Alarcón
Let us once more immerse ourselves in the musical life of Eisenach as it was at the end of the 1670s. One Sunday afternoon, after having played for the services in their respective churches, the cousins Johann Ambrosius Bach and Johann Christoph Bach were sitting in a Bierstube, each with a mug of beer and a meerschaum pipe. A moment of relaxation, with word games, laughter and a discussion about Johann Christoph’s coming marriage. There would naturally be music for the wedding, with a cantata for the church service at the very least. That particular Sunday morning’s cantata had been based on texts from the Song of Solomon — not Böhm’s, of course, because Böhm had only been born in 1661. The sensual and at times erotic flavour of the words amuses them and, after several beers and pipefuls of tobacco, they have an idea for a secular cantata for the festivities that will follow the wedding ceremony. Christoph will compose the music, whilst Ambrosius will put together the text and instructions for its performance. Even though we do not know how this cantata was performed, its score has survived complete with all of its the puzzles and riddles.
The sublime chaconne in which the beloved proclaims her love and in which the violin line (as demanded by Ambrosius) symbolises her dreams and desires is both sensual and strong, the image of love itself and its blend of tenderness and strength: it is indeed a love scene. The two other sections are more theatrical in character: an introduction in dialogue form that describes the clandestine meetings of the lovers and a finale that is an open invitation to the festivities and to the food and drink that will be served. But how can we convey something of the atmosphere of such festivities? It is difficult to imagine a performance that is based on the text alone. The musicians of the Clematis seize the opportunity to get into the spirit of the occasion: halfway through the wedding breakfast they get out their instruments, push the tables together and share the scores that have been placed wherever there is room — on the edge of a table, on a chair — and the party begins with Esset und trinket. The wine, however, has been flowing for some time and the tempi get slower... All of the above is of course accompanied by unceasing thanks to God for his gift of life! Johann Sebastian Bach must have heard talk of such festivities and their celebratory cantatas (the scores of which he knew) from his early childhood. It must have been very much in the same spirit that he was inspired to compose, heaven only knows for what occasion, the incredible Quodlibet that seems to be so out of place amongst all his other works. If, however we carefully examine how Bach composed his secular (and even a few sacred) cantatas, we can see that he had a great instinct for theatre and for amusement. Certain passages in his biography even reveal that he was not a man who would turn down a good glass of wine!
“this disc brings together music largely influenced by the Song of Songs, which was extremely popular amongst Catholic and Lutheran composers of the time...Mariana Flores sings her divisions with liquid authority over the sensitive organ’s warm registrations...[Meine Freundin] is a richly decorative and engaging one, revealing JC to be a forward looking composer, and one with impeccable technical control.” MusicWeb International, January 2013
(also available to download from $10.50)
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Beloved & Beautiful
Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, a collection of love songs grew up. Under the title of the “Most beautiful of songs”, they found a home in the Old Testament—it was Martin Luther who first gave them the name of “Song of Songs”—and since that time they have inspired and fascinated a vast number of theologians, mystics, philosophers, poets, painters, and, last but not least, composers.
Particularly during the Baroque period, these poetic, sensual, vividly descriptive texts were set over and over again to music, and they inspired librettists to expand on the original texts. Some of the most beautiful settings of the Song of Songs were produced in Germany.
Founded in 1921, The Netherlands Bach Society is the oldest Early Music ensemble in the Netherlands, and possibly in the whole world. Yet along with the musicians, its artistic director Jos van Veldhoven is still continually in search of contemporary ways of presenting this music, whether it be the traditional performances of the St. Matthew Passion in Naarden, other works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) or music by his predecessors, successors, contemporaries and fellow spirits.
Beloved & Beautiful is the fourth cd in a series of songs, carefully chosen and combined because of the themes they represent. The programmes are often compiled in an original way and thus give a refreshing view of the various musical styles from Schütz/Monteverdi to Haydn/Mozart, as well as of the central composer Bach himself. The flexibility of the ensemble makes it possible to perform works from the secular and sacred repertoires in a great variety of combinations of musicians.
“the performance maintains the high standards established by the NBS and van Veldhoven in the Passions and Oratorio. Classical CD of the week The Sunday Times
“Dutch soprano Johannette Zomer leads a fine team of soloists with the society singers under their eminence grise, Jos van Veldhoven, in an ethereal version of this magnificent work, recorded with crystal clarity.” The Observer
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Georg Böhm - Mein Freund ist mein
Irmela Bruenger, Inga Schneider, Beat Duddeck, Joern Lindemann, Markus Flaig
Capella Sancti Georgi, Musica Alta Ripa, Ralf Popken
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