Teil III: Cantatas and Organ Works by Schelle und Kuhnau
Johann Schelle (1648-1701) and Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722) both were born in the saxon town of Geising and started their musical career as discant singers in the court orchestra of Dresden. With the support of Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), Schelle was able to perform as a singer in the ducal chapel of Wolfenbüttel and in 1665 became a pupil of the Thomasschule of Leipzig for two years. He then studied at the University of Leipzig and worked as cantor in Eilenburg. In 1677 Schelle succeeded Sebastian Knüpfer (1633-1676) as Thomaskantor of Leipzig. During his tenure he gained much reputation, both as a fatherly teacher and through his innovative composition style. Significant for the development of the musical genre of the cantata are Schelles works based on various poetry cycles, wherein he already uses early forms of the recitative. The two cantatas we recorded, however, do not contain such passages and can rather be defined as so-called concerto-aria-cantatas. The texts used by Schelle have been written by David Elias Heidenreich (1638-1688) in 1665, including a Bible verse followed by a poem explaining it. Each cantata starts with said Bibel verse in form of a concerto for bass singer, two obbligato instruments and basso continuo. After a strophic aria including instrumental ritornellos, this part is repeated. Seven cantatas in this instrumentation and form have been handed down to us. It can be assumed that there once was a complete cycle of Heidenreich-Cantatas by Schelle. Apparently, he set the texts to music even twice, since
some of the poems by Heidenreich are also existent in lager instrumentation. Because one of the cantatas was composed for the rare 6th Sunday after Epiphany, it is possible to limit the creation of these pieces down to the years following Schelles employment in Eilenburg. A performance of the cantatas by the very talented bass singer Johann Christoph Urban (1671-1756) can be assumed to have taken place in 1696. From 1684 on, Johann Kuhnau was the new organist at the Thomaskirche of Leipzig. After working as discant singer in Dresden, Kuhnau spent a few years in Zittau, where he held various musicial positions. Afterwards he studied law at the University of Leipzig. During that time he also directed music performances by his fellow students. Kuhnau was considered a polymath. Throughout his life he published various collections of music for keyboard instruments, treatises on music theory, as well as some novels. Particularly outstanding is his collection »Musicalische Vorstellung einiger biblischer Historien« (Leipzig, 1700), one of the earliest examples of program music in European music history. Kuhnau’s sonatas, suites, preludes and fugues always enjoyed great popularity among his contemporaries. The form and sophistication of his sonorous Toccata in A major already points to the great organ virtuoso Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). When Johann Schelle died in 1701, Johann Kuhnau had already acquired an excellent reputation in Leipzig, so that the city council nominated him as his successor from among four other candidates without much
hesitation. As the new Thomaskantor, Kuhnau continued Schelle's work, whom he held in high esteem. This can be seen by the fact that he wrote an obituary after the death of his predecessor.
Vol. 1: Anton Colander (1590-1621): Sacred Concertos
Anton Colander was born on November 30th 1590 in Weißenfels. He was a cousin and childhood friend of Heinrich Schütz, who most likely received his first musical training from Colander's father, who was cantor in Weißenfels at the time. From 1602 on Colander attended the Fürstenschule of Schulpforta, where the later cantor of St. Thomas, Johann Hermann Schein studied at the same time. Around 1610 he became court organist in Dresden on the recommendation by Heinrich Schütz. During that time he also received composition lessons from the latter. Unfortunately Colander's organ works have not survived, which is probably due to the improvisational practice of organ playing at the time. However, some sacred concerts, composed for one to four voices with continuo accompaniment, have been preserved. Printed by Wolfgang Seyffert, they haven’t been published until long after Colander's death, namely in 1643. This happened, as Seyffert states in his foreword, in order to prevent someone else to "[...] adorn himself with these beautiful and graceful feathers and thus alienate the name of Mr. Colander.”.
Vol. 2: Songs and Arias by Nauchwach, Albert, Kittel, Löwe and Weckmann
Johann Nauwach served from 1608 to 1612 as a choirboy and from 1616 to 1629 as a lutenist in the Dresden court orchestra. To expand his skills, he was also sent to Italy to study with Lorenzo Allegri at the court of Turin. There Nauwach probably met Guilio Caccini, whose monodic style was the basis for his italian Arie passeggiate. Heinrich Schütz greatly appreciated his pupil, which he expressed by contributing the composition »Glück dem Helikon« to Nauwach's second print from 1627. This print, entitled as »Erster Theil Teütscher Villanellen« (Dresden, 1627), contains one- and two-part songs with continuo accompaniment, based on texts by Martin Opitz. Kaspar Kittel and Johann Jakob Löwe, both pupils of Heinrich Schütz, also engaged in the baroque song genre, which was just emerging at the time. Like Nauchwach, Kittel composed and published virtuoso arias in the style of Caccini. Entitled as »Arien und Melodeyen« Heinrich Albert, a cousin and student of Heinrich Schütz, composed and published eight prints during his lifetime. The second one of those is dedicated to his teacher himself. The famous composer and keyboard virtuoso Matthias Weckmann, court organist and student of Heinrich Schütz in Dresden, also composed several songs based on texts by Philipp von Zesen.