Easter Cantatas of 18th-century Gdansk
Someone, it seems, is keen on putting Gdan´sk on the musical map of Europe. A little while ago I reviewed a disc of perfectly decent harpsichord concertos by du Grain (5/13), and this anthology of 18th-century Easter cantatas from a local collection is labelled as Vol 5 of ‘Musical Heritage of Gdan´sk’ (or Danzig, as it was known then). The four composers here will be new to most: the most distinguished is Johann Balthasar Christian Freislich, Kapellmeister at the Marienkirche from 1731 to 1764. Johann Daniel Pucklitz, the only one actually born in Gdan´sk, worked under him, and Friedrich Christian Mohrheim, who trained under Bach in Leipzig, was his son-in-law and successor. Johann Teoderich Roemhildt was court Kapellmeister at Merseburg but his works were popular in the city.
The Gdan´sk-based composers all use trumpets and drums and a double-choir layout, here realised as solo-versus-choir in a near-and-far relationship. The results can be swimmy in the whopping church acoustic in which they are recorded, but Freislich for one seems to have found it a stimulating way of decorating choral melodies. A few serious moments apart, the music is predominantly tuneful and often pleasantly lilting. My favourite cantata is Roemhildt’s, opening rather like a Bach motet and containing some attractive and imaginative arias, and my favourite movement is the aria welcoming death with delightful pizzicato bell effects in the slightly more galant Pucklitz’s Erstanden ist der heil’ge Christ. The performances are spirited if not particularly finessed in the singing department. A disc of reference rather than one to put aside your Bach or Telemann for.