In Convertendo

In Convertendo
Sacred Music From The Düben Collection

Abendmusiken Basel, Jörg Andreas Böttiche
Coviello Classics, COV 91733.  63’25

Abendmusiken Basel group takes its name from the monthly Abendmusik concerts in the Predigerkirche, Basel: in turn, based on the famous series of concerts in Lübeck’s Marienkirche, initiated by Franz Tunder in 1646 and continued under his successor Dieterich Buxtehude. These Lübeck concerts took place on the five Sundays preceding Christmas, but the present day Basel version is on the second Sunday of the month throughout the year. As in Lübeck, the music focusses on the 17th-century, as does this impressive CD, which draws on music from the Düben Collection, now part of the library of Uppsala University. It is one of the most important sources of 17th-century German music, not least because it contains the only known copies of many works by Buxtehude. Appropriately, this recording focusses on some of the many lesser-known composers of the time, with six of the eleven pieces being world premiere recordings. 

The CD opens with a most impressive piece by a composer that has almost completely passed under the radar – Vincenzo Albrici’s In Convertendo. One of around 70 Albrici pieces in the Düben Collection, it was probably written while he was in Dresden. It is a grand affair with five soloists, chorus and a rich instrumental accompaniment. It opens with what I assume is an improvised organ introduction. It is followed by a Sinfonia a 4 con Cimbalo e Spinetta by Gustav Düben himself (1628-1690). He succeeded his father as organist of the German Church in Stockholm and also played in the Swedish Court orchestra. This colourful piece, like many other pieces of the recording, is composed in the stylus phantasticus manner, and includes some delightful passages for harpsichord and theorbo, played by director Jörg-Andreas Bötticher and Matthias Spaeter respectively. 

An anonymous Psalm setting (Was betrübst du dich) follows that, according to the programme note writer Peter Wollney, could be by the celebrated Hamburg organist and composer. Matthias Weckmann. It certainly shows Weckmann’s Italian influence and love of word-painting, a trend throughout the recording and one of the aspects that makes music on this recording so fascinating. One feature is the integration of instruments with voices, with a number of the vocal pieces including extended instrumental passages, along with four specific instrumental pieces. These include a rather surprising composer found in the Düben Collection – Marin Marais, showing the interest in French music in the Stockholm Court. His Lamento is anonymous in Düben, but is a Plainte from Marais’ 1692 Pièces en trio. Bertali’s Sonata 6 a 5 is scored for the typical Renaissance ensemble of two cornetts and three sackbuts playing in dialogue. 

Balthasar Erben’s O Domine Jesu Christe is another piece of special interest, not least for its harmonic invention. Peter Wollny suggests that this piece might be an example of a piece that resulted from musical discussions in Rome that challenged the inherited Medieval and Renaissance concepts of modality, looking back to ancient Greek ideas of chromatic an enharmonic tonality. The final work, Johann Vierdanck’s Der Herr hat seinen Engeln befohlen is one of the earliest. It demonstrates the influence of Schütz on composers of the period.

The overall programme is well-conceived and well-balanced, and the performances from the six vocal soloists and 17 instrumentalists alike are excellent. Director Jörg-Andreas Bötticher uses appropriate speeds, and shows real sensitivity in the interpretation of music of this period. Programmes notes are in German and English, and include translations of the vocal texts and many photographs of the score, historic Stockholm, and the recording process. The full list of performers is below, together with a video of part of the recording process.

Soprano: Ulrike Hofbauer, Jessica Jans
Alto: Alex Potter
Tener: Jakob Pilgram, Raphael Höhn
Bass: Dominik Wörner

Flute/recorders: Liane Ehlich, Katharina Bopp
Cornett: Bork-Frithjof Smith, Josué Meléndez Peláez
Sackbut: Catherine Motuz, Claire McIntyre, David Yacus
Fagotta: Krzysztof Lewandowski
Violin: Regula Keller, Plamena Nikitassova
Viola: Katharina Bopp
Viola da gamba: Brian Franklin, Tore Eketorp
Violone: Ján Krigovský
Theorbo: Matthias Spaeter
Harpsichord: Nicola Cumer
Organ/DIrector: Jörg-Andreas Bötticher