Fasch und die Konfessionen

Bericht über die Internationale Wissenschaftliche Konferenz am 21. Und 22. April 2017 im Rahmen der 14. Internationalen Fasch-Festtage in Zerbst/Anhalt
Fasch-Studien 14
Ortus Verlag om243. 432pp. €40.50
ISBN 978-3-937788-58-6

2017 MARKED THE 500TH ANNIVERSARY of the beginning of the Reformation. Martin Luther, whose Wittenberg Theses set the whole thing in motion and who, to a very large part single-handedly, established the liturgy (including its music) of the church which still bears his name, had very close connections with Zerbst, so it was thought appropriate to theme the conference that took place there during the Fasch Festival that year against a religious background. At various points in his life, the composer was employed by Catholic and Protestant nobles, and struggled with his own Pietist beliefs which were considered heresy by the Anhalt court censors. The present volume includes the texts of the 13 papers given, a comprehensive index and biographies of the authors.

Michael Maul opened proceedings with an introduction to the development of musical establishments within the Lutheran church; likening the push to educate boys in the art of singing to Germany’s determined efforts to rebuild their football team after a disastrous World Cup competition, he portrayed Luther’s drive as political expedience and a formative influence on the way music held a central place in the new church. Jan Brademann then explained developments in Zerbst where the court remained Lutheran while the town adhered to the Reformed church and the reaction of both to the rise of Pietism (of which Fasch was a proponent) and the consequences for musicians.

An important figure in the early 18th century was Johann Baptist Kuch; Rashid-S. Pegah took over 50 pages to fill out his biography and details of music in Zerbst immediately before and during his tenure as Capell Director. After several readings, I still feel I have not absorbed all the information he gives! Gerhardt Poppe’s paper focuses on Fasch’s settings of the mass for Zerbst. His studies of the Dresden chapel repertoire are well known, but there are clear gaps in his knowledge of the Fasch literature; firstly, [now Dr] Maik Richter was certainly not the first person to recognise the regular use of mass movements in the Zerbst liturgy; secondly, the Latin movements were not replaced by German hymns on the third days of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun, but by settings of the German mass text (of which there were two settings in the “Zerbster Musikstube”); and thirdly, as I explained to him at the conference, the chronology of the F and G major versions of the mass known as FR 1260 is reversed, so movements he calls “new” in his analysis are actually “old”…

Gottfried Gille surveyed the contents of the surviving editions of the Zerbster Gesangbuch, the bespoke hymn book used in worship throughout the principality, including discussions of local poets whose works are included. My own paper focused on a set of part-books that contained music for an annual cycle of chorales; the fact that the text of the first was by one of the local poets Gille had identified (Johannes Betichius) led me to realise that the chorales were those Fasch used in 1738 to craft two cantata cycles from a single cycle. The only cantata from the cycle that had survived (without the central chorale!) was performed in its 1738 version in the church service that took place in the Bartholmäikirche on the Sunday after the conference.

The next four papers investigated figural music in the court chapel. Nigel Springthorpe’s “Roellig in charge” set out to establish which cycles were performed in which years, and Marc-Roderich Pfau introduced details of a cycle by Christopher Förster. Beate Sorg and Evan Cortens are recognised Graupner specialists: Sorg explored his contributions to the so-called “Dresden Jahrgang”, which Marc-Roderich Pfau had postulated Fasch compiled in advance of his sabbatical in the Saxon capital, and challenges some of Pfau’s conclusions. Cortens sought to demonstrate how the musical origins of Neumeister’s “new” cantata form lay in the opera house, and argued that the crippling financial impact of even attempting to maintain such an institution was alleviated by moving the musical style into the liturgical sphere.

The final three papers concerned music for funerals. Barbara Reul established the format of funerals in Zerbst and produced new evidence about the locations where such things were held. Irmgard Schaller’s focus was on the texts written (and printed) for such events. From a Fasch perspective, perhaps the most important revelation came in Maik Richter’s paper which introduced a series of letters he had found in the Cöthen court records concerning music that he was commissioned to write for a funeral there that (in conjunction with his previous archival research that had established that Fasch was paid for birthday and New Year cantatas) suggest that he was pretty much considered the Kapellmeister for all of the Anhalt lands. Personally, I see no point in speculating which musicians from Zerbst might have taken part in the services in Cöthen. On the other hand, it is invaluable to have the full texts of the three cantatas, and – obviously – to have letters in which the composer explains how he will set about dealing with the texts he had been sent.

Such a fine volume – handsomely printed by ortus verlag – could not have been produced without an enormous amount of editorial work; two former presidents of the Internationale Fasch-Gesellschaft e. V. (Konstanze Musketa and Barbara M. Reul) are to be commended for seeing another fine volume of Fasch-Studien through the press.
Brian Clark