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Thomaskantoren vor Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Wir glauben all in einen Gott BWV 437 [6:32]
Kyrie aus BWV 236 (1738) [3:03]
Sethus CALVISIUS (1556-1615)
Praeter rerum seriem (Parode ad Josquini) [7:12]
Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist (1597) [5:30]
Johann Hermann SCHEIN (1586-1630)
Verleih uns Frieden (1627) [3:18]
Gott, sei mir gnädig (1615) [13:21]
Johann SCHELLE (1648-1701)
Komm, Jesu, komm, mein Leib ist müde (1684) [3:55]
Johann KUHNAU (1660-1722)
Tristis est anima mea [4:44]
Gott hat uns nicht gesetzt zum Zorn (1707) [4:44]
Ach Gott, wie läßt du mich erstarren (1681) [4:27]
Sebastian KNÜPFER (1633-1676)
Mein Gott, betrübt ist meine Seele (1667) [4:53]
Tobias MICHAEL (1592-1657)
Unser Trübsal, die zeitlich und leichte ist [[2:44]
Aus der Tiefe [2:35]
Hartmut Becker (cello); Daniel Beilschmidt (organ)
Kammerchor Joaquin des Préz/Ludwig Böhme
rec. May and July 2012, Lutherkirche, Leipzig
CARUS 83.342 [66:58]  

This interesting project presents the music of seven Kantors of St. Thomas’s, Leipzig. The monastery of St Thomas’s was founded in 1212 but it was after the Reformation that the choir came under the control of the city authorities and that the succession of great Kantors and composers were drawn to Leipzig. Chronologically the sequence of seven begins with Sethus Calvisius (1556-1615) who became Kantor in 1694, and ends with the most famous, Johann Sebastian Bach, who took the position in May 1723.
 
Calvisius is represented, as are most of the seven, by two works. His Praeter rerum seriem is a parody mass, a reworking of a setting by Josquin, an act of devoted appropriation though not representative of Calvisius stylistically. That can be ascertained when one listens to his setting of Komm, Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist in which the directness of the Lutheran Chorale is accompanied by some rich cello continuo and organ writing, an appealing mediation, and well performed here. Johann Hermann Schein’s 1627 Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich reflects once again the strength of Leipzig chorale settings pre-Bach. His German Motet of 1615, Gott, sei mir gnädig is by far the longest setting, a work of imaginative scope, wide-ranging moods and fluidly controlled tempi.
 
A lighter setting of a six-part motet comes in the shape of Johann Schelle’s 1684 Komm, Jesu, Komm, mein Lieb bist müde which employs a solo cello to good expressive effect. The setting Tristis est anima mea is not wholly authenticated as being by Johann Kuhnau, Kantor from 1701 to 1722, and therefore Bach’s predecessor in the position. Yet whoever wrote it, this Motet, so sure, direct and moving, is one of the most ear-catching in this selection. Kuhnau offers the briskness of consolation in his fast setting of 1707, Gott hat uns nicht gesetzt zum Zorn. Tobias Michael (1592-1657) who was Kantor from 1631 to 1657 provides a genial five-part piece of considerable concision.

In this context Bach sits as both the musical but also the chronological apex of the seven Kantors. His two pieces reveal self-borrowing and imagination, as one would expect, but the main function of including his music is to place him in the continuum of cantorial composition in St Thomas’s and to enable one to trace music there from the first decade or so of the seventeenth century to near enough the 1740s.
 
There are seven premiere records in the thirteen. It’s not wholly inappropriate that the choir who sings so well here is the one that bears the name of the composer of the work appropriated as a parody mass by Sethus Calvisius, namely the Kammerchor Josquin des Préz.
 
Jonathan Woolf