Gustav Düben at Work – Musical repertory and Practice of Swedish Court Musicians, 1663-1690.

Schildt, Maria. Gustav Düben at Work: Musical repertory and Practice of Swedish Court Musicians, 1663-1690. Diss., Uppsala Universitet, 2014, 590 s., notex., ill.

We are very lucky indeed that such a thing as the Düben Collection, a huge repertoire of Italian, German and French vocal and instrumental ensemble music from the period c.1640-1700, still exists. Painstakingly put together by Gustav Düben (c.1629-1690), its contents and the style they represent were quickly going out of fashion rather after his death. Especially after c.1700 this repertoire must have seemed not worthy to perform any more and therefore completely useless in a practical sense. In most places it took quite some time before some sort of historical awareness of its value dawned upon the inheritors, and in many cases this awareness came too late. Quite infamous in this regard is the comment by a successor of Buxtehude in Lübeck, Caspar Ruetz, who wrote in 1753 about the Marienkirche’s music collection from the seventeenth-century: “Alles was diese Männer mit saurer Mühe und Arbeit zusammen geschrieben, oder mit viel Kosten gesammlet und abschreiben lassen, hat nicht den geringsten Wehrt mehr, ob gleich kein geringes Capital darinnen steckt. Es ist diese Menge musicalischer Papiere von vielen Jahren her wohl bey nahe biss auf die Hälffte geschmoltzen, indem gar vieles dem Ofen zu Theil, und an statt der Spähne gebraucht worden, vieles zum häuslichen Gebrauch angewandt, und vieles an solche Leute, die zu ihren Geschäfften allerley Maculatur und Papiere gebrauchen, dahin gegeben worden.” Many collections comparable to the Düben Collection must have perished in this way. In the history of the Düben collection this perceptual, historical vacuum was obviously filled by the fact that it was kept in the family collection (thus also escaping obliteration, as many other musical sources, in the burning down of the Tre Kronor Royal Castle in 1697), and the fact that Gustav’s son Anders von Duben somehow recognized its antiquarian value and donated it to Uppsala University.

In this monograph the Düben Collection is the focus of an investigation regarding its background in multifarious ways: origin, genesis, concordances, copyists, attributions, chronology, uses of the music and history of the collection. Building on previous work done on the Düben Collection, notably by Tobias Norlind, Carl-Allen Moberg, Bruno Grusnick, Friedhelm Krummacher, Erik Kjellberg, Jan-Olof Rudén, Geoffrey Webber, Lars Berglund and Peter Wollny, the author casts her nets as wide as possible. Thus, this investigation not only sums up this previous research, but goes a long way beyond it, underpinned by a strictly systematic approach. The provenance of the music, identifying segments of the collection as having either a local origin or stemming from a specific German context, is summarized and elaborated. Closely bound up with this are such matters as the original organization of the Collection and its chronology. Most importantly, the question of compositions without a composer’s name is systematically addressed, principally by means of an extensive sifting-through of a vast number of contemporary prints, and also manuscripts. Of course, there are problems with conflicting attributions as well, but considering the size of the Düben Collection as a whole they are surprisingly marginal. Gustav Düben was also in this respect a trustworthy mediator.

The main protagonist of this dissertation, Gustav Düben, became court chapel master in 1663 (when he was about 34 years old) and remained so until his death in 1690. The final chapter of the book is devoted to Gustav Düben’s own compositions. It was already noted in earlier research that they are both few in number and not very sophisticated. Although the author is able to widen the list of work somewhat, mainly with a number of occasional aria’s, it is clear that Gustav Düben had considerably difficulties with the art of composition, even in simple aria’s, relying in the more ambitious pieces heavily – one could perhaps argue too heavily – on the principle of imitatio. Once Gustav had secured the succession of his father Andreas as court chapel master in 1663, he seems to have given up his attempts in concertato writing altogether. This chapter could easily have stood at the beginning of the book, since it goes a long way in explaining the character of the collection as a whole. It shows Gustav Düben sporting a keen sense for quality, both in terms of the music itself as well as in the reliability of the copying and the organization of the collection. He must altogether have been all too sharply aware of his lack of compositional skill, and he obviously did his utmost to compensate this hiatus by procuring the best contemporary and up-to-date music he could lay his hand one as well as – one can surmise – turning out fine performances during the approximately 40 years he was active as a court musician and chapel master.

Indeed, the author goes a long way proving that the Düben Collection was not, as was once thought, the result of a private collector’s enterprise, but was closely bound up with musical life in Stockholm in the second half of the seventeenth century, encompassing the court, the German Church as well as occasions outside these domains, providing music for funerals and weddings of nobles and the higher bourgeoisie. It is demonstrated that indeed a large part of the repertoire had its well defined function on a local level. While some of the music in the Düben Collection did not seem to have made it into practical use – Gustav Düben clearly collected more than was ultimately necessary, providing him with a rich choice of repertoire – most of it was actually used in performance, principally visible in the presence of separate parts, but also in performance indications as well as modifications to pieces to fit it into a local context. The latter can be divided into two categories: modification of the text – necessitated by the use of much Italian repertoire with their sometimes too outspokenly Roman Catholic texts – and alterations of the scoring. These principally consists of the addition of string parts, either to Italian sacred concerti originally written only for one or more voices and continuo, or filling out the trio texture of two violins and continuo with extra viola parts. The North European predilection of a full string sonority for sacred concerted music is thus considerably clarified. Indeed, both the retexting and the enriching of the instrumentation has many forerunners in Northern Germany, and Gustav Düben was clearly strongly influenced in this regard through his travels in that region.

While these observations are generally no doubt valid, on a more detailed level one may encounter problems. As a case in point, consider the music of Franz Tunder. The author questions the authenticity of several of his compositions (pp. 162, 328 and 365), based on the two criteria outlined above. Modification of text is found in Tunder’s case with two pieces, both concerning altered versions of the Salve Regina, a Marian text of course unacceptable in the Lutheran church: “Salve mi Jesu” (A, 5str, bc) and “Salve coelestis pater” (B, v, bc). As indeed one of them has actually been identified as a Salve Regina by Giovanni Rovetta, this casts serious doubt on Tunder’s authorship of the other. However, rather different nature and weight is the criterion of instrumentation. All of Tunder’s vocal works use a string ensemble, usually in the form of full scoring with (two) viola’s. This is indeed a typical hallmark of North German sacred music. There are two exceptions (not three, as state on p. 365): “Dominus illuminatio mea” (SATB, 2v, bc) and “O Jesu dulcissime” (B, 2v, bc), which restrict the instrumental part to two violins and continuo. The author argues that this scoring is more Italianate in character and unlikely for a North German composer, thus casting doubt on the authenticity of these two pieces. For one thing, restricting the upper strings to two violins in sacred concerti has a strong tradition in Germany as well. One only has to remind of Heinrich Schütz’ first and second parts of the Symphonia Sacrae (1629 and 1647 respectively) and the many sacred concertos using such a scoring by Tunder’s successor Dietrich Buxtehude. Secondly, one of them actually survives in vmhs 79, which has very close ties with Tunder, as is amply demonstrated by the author herself. (Indeed, there once even existed a Tunder autograph set of parts for a sacred concerto within the Düben Collection which was lost only in the last century.) So I would suggest retaining for the time the authenticity of “Dominus illuminatio mea” and “O Jesu dulcissime” as being composed by Tunder, and this in contrast with the two Salve Regina paraphrases.

A similar scoring (S, 2v, bc) is used in the only preserved vocal piece by a fellow student of Gustav’s father’s while in Amsterdam, as well as the namesake of the author, Melchior Schildt. His concertato setting of the Christmas chorale “Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein” bears the remarkable information “1657, 21 Januarij Hamb[urg].” It forms yet another example of a North German composition without viola’s! Thanks to a discovery made by Anna-Juliane Peetz-Ullman (see STMf 2012) we now know that Gustav Düben travelled frequently to Northern Germany in the years 1657-61 (and beyond), no doubt diligently collecting music, so he seems also to have been in Hamburg early in 1657 and acquired this piece. This item is conspicuously missing from the discussion of sources from the period 1654-62 on pp. 112-15. The author is occasionally unclear about scoring matters. On p. 350 it is stated about a composition of Kaspar Förster that it is “scored for four string parts” even though (as the author herself mentions) the source mentions “5 viole”. Similarly, on p. 355 one finds: “The scoring is … often notated in the sources as a five-part string scoring, despite there being in general only four independent parts.” Of course, five part string scoring includes doubling of the continuo with a fifth string instrument, resulting in five, rather than four instrumental parts.

Although the focus of this study is, of course, on Gustav Düben, there are some interesting outlooks on the repertoire and musical practice after 1690. However, comparable outlooks on the pre-history of the collection are comparatively rare – apart from those sources written by or otherwise associated with Gustav Düben himself. One wonders if there is not more known about the repertoire of the Royal Chapel under Andreas Düben the Elder, and what of this, if any did survive into the Düben Collection? And what about the stylistic breach of the music at court obviously triggered by the visit of the Italian group of musicians in 1652-1654? In the brief discussion of sources connected with this Italian troupe under the leadership of Vincenzo Albrici, no mention is made of the important article by Geoffrey Webber on the subject which appeared in 1993 (STMf; it is missing in the Bibliography as well). Also absent there is the Weissenfelser Aufführungsverzeichnis Johann Philipp Kriegers, republished in 2001 by Klaus-Jürgen Gundlach, which in its earliest layer has interesting overlaps with the Düben Collection. Yet another missing item, Andreas Waczkat’s Deutsche Parodiemessen im 17. Jahrhundert (2000), which could have mitigated a statement on p. 540: “there are few published works considering the practice of imitation of musical models in the seventeenth century”.

In the discussion of losses of sources from the Düben Collection (pp. 64-74), keyboard sources are not mentioned at all. The few bits of keyboard music now present there, notably

the keyboard book started for the young Gustav Düben in 1641 (imhs 408), seem to have been included only by accident in the two chests of music presented by Anders Düben in 1733 to Uppsala University. But there is no reason to doubt that there once existed a tablature collection parallel to and comparable with the vocal and instrumental ensemble collections. Gustav not only succeeded his father as court chapel master in 1663 but also as organist of the German Church, where there was a fine large organ in North German style. Moreover, from his father’s time (1630s to 1640s) stems a very important tablature collection with organ music (now kept in Berlin). It is also hard to imagine that on his many travels to Northern Germany, where he was in touch with members of the Sweelinck school of keyboard composers, he did not acquire a substantial body of organ music as well. The complete disappearance of such a no doubt very important collection begs for an explanation.

I have two quibbles of a practical nature: First, there are some problems of language; the text would have benefitted from some additional English editing. Secondly an index is sorely missed; I think it is indeed vital for such a book, and quite literally so, because it really unlocks the rich contents. It is the lifeline of such a study and much enhances its prestige. And prestigious this study certainly is; the criticisms given above are decidedly marginal. It forms in all a highly important contribution to musical life in Stockholm in the second half of the seventeenth century, and it greatly illuminates the background of one of the main repositories of seventeenth-century music. 




Bibliografiska data: 

Schildt, Maria. Gustav Düben at Work: Musical repertory and Practice of Swedish Court Musicians, 1663-1690. Diss., Uppsala Universitet, 2014, 590 s., notex., ill.