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Dip Your Ears, No. 259 (Böddecker: Bridging the Froberger Gap)

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Philipp Friedrich Böddecker, Sacra Partitura
Sacred Solo Motets & Sonatas
Knut Schoch / I Sonatori

In 1652, the 45-year old Philipp Friedrich Böddecker became organist and de-fact music director at Stuttgart’s Collegiate Church, a post he would remain at for the next 31 years until his death in 1683. Previously he had held the positions of organist of the Strasbourg Cathedral and music director of the Strasbourg University. That is where he prepared his “Sacra Partitura”, a series of sacred solo motets for high voice and basso continuo, in order to facilitate his move to Stuttgart in general and its court in particular. The former worked out, the latter not, as the 21-year younger Samuel Friedrich Bockshorn (a.k.a. Capricornus) eventually got the job and held onto it until his own death in 1665.

Böddecker’s music itself is austere to our ears today, even if it was considered Italianate and ornate in its time. But that time, of course, was just after the Thirty Years War, when German lands were bled white. That also explains the minimal cast for these works, which was not a musical decision but a practical one: There simply weren’t any more good singers or orchestral musicians at hand, at any given point. To lighten the texture, ensemble-leader and somewhat indistinct tenor Knut Schoch and his 4-piece I Sonatori early-music group have included instrumental works of two Böddecker contemporaries: Four of the 40 keyboard-Variations on the Lord’s Prayer by Johann Ulrich Steigleder and a violin sonata of said Capricornus’. On the other hand, Schoch & Co dropped all those works from the Sacra Partitura that Böddecker had included and adopted (and fully credited!) from his colleagues Gasparo Casati and Monteverdi. It’s not clear why; surely some of those might still have fit into the potential 15 more minutes on this disc.

If you are into a somber, vocal appendage to, say, Frogberger compositions, then Böddecker is a fine option. And while much of this is more early-music specialist than mainstream fare, the bassoon sonata “La Monica” is a real highlight: Böddecker treats his own preferred instrument with great imaginativeness and Ursula Bruckdorfer plays her bass dulcian with panache. For those who keep track of these things: The players use a quarter-comma meantone temperament.


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