Ach Swea Trohn – festival music from the Düben collectionGöteborg Baroque
For more than 80 years, spanning from 1640 to 1726, the Düben family practically monopolised the position of Kapellmeister to the Swedish court. The prestigious position was awarded to four members of the family in succession. When Anders von Düben, the fourth family member, resigned as Kapellmeister and conductor of the court orchestra in 1726 in order to concentrate on his duties as marshal of the court, he clearly expected that his nephew Carl Gustav would be appointed in his stead, thus securing the clan’s hold on the royal music sphere. Only this was not the case. The position of conductor was awarded to the Chamberlain and baron Carl Franc, while Johann Helmich Roman was appointed Kapellmeister. Perhaps this was the reason why Anders von Düben at some point during 1727 or 1728 decided to donate the family’s substantial music collection to Uppsala University and their musical endeavours. This endowment is now known as the Düben Collection.
Myths abound regarding this collection. One is that it was the result of bibliophilia on the part Gustav Düben the Elder (1628–90), the member of the family most strongly associated with the collection. However, a view such as this would diminish the importance of such a rich collection of music. During the Early Modern Age, it was the Kapellmeister’s duty to supply the court and its orchestra with music, either with his own compositions or with pieces composed by others. A corpus such as this was apparently regarded as being the property of the Kapellmeister – he could take it with him if he moved on to another position, and his heirs could sell it in the event that he retired or passed away – but the purpose behind such a collection was to serve the Royal court with music. During the 16th century, when notated music was a highly exclusive commodity, the collections assembled by individual musicians were a decisive factor in establishing their qualifications and thus could pave the way to high-status positions. Yet the fact remains that collections of this type were established for practical use by the institution in question, and the selection reflects the musical needs of that particular community.
Another myth has it that the music in the collection was regarded as outmoded and therefore of little use even at the time of Anders von Düben’s donation; that the collection was merely of historic or documentary value. This misconception appears to be based on a statement found on one of the documents referring to the collection as a “collection of rare and curious Musick”. In this context, however, “curious” should not be interpreted in the modern sense of “odd” or “strange”, but rather in the original French sense of the word: “desirable”, “unique”. Most records indicate that both von Düben and the representatives of Uppsala University regarded the collection as being extremely valuable and comprehensive in range, a corpus that would greatly benefit the University orchestra.
Another prevailing myth, that the University never quite realised the inherent value of the collection, was based on the assumption that it was never catalogued, and that it was left for a considerable amount of time in the two chests used to transport it from Stockholm to Uppsala, in a sled on frozen waterways in 1733, and that these chests were also stored in a damp room where vermin was allowed to nibble on the contents. This is also false. An inventory was conducted almost immediately by the professors Hermansson and Frondin, in accordance with a stipulation made to that effect by Anders von Düben. Unfortunately, at some point in time, this list was lost or destroyed. The contents of the collection were, in fact, transferred to two specially designed cabinets equipped with iron gratings that stood in the gallery of the main building of the university, presently known as the Gustavianum.
Consequently, the Düben Collection consists of the repertoire of the Royal court orchestra dating from the time of Queen Christina until the first year of King Fredrik I’s reign. It consists of some 2,500 handwritten works of music and more than 120 printed pieces. The corpus reflects the daily needs of the Royal court orchestra, and thus includes sacred and secular music as well as instrumental and vocal pieces. The emphasis, however, is on religious vocal music, since the most important function of the court orchestra was to supply music for the court’s religious services. In addition to this, it features instrumental dance music, sonatas, secular vocal pieces and a considerable number of French opera pieces, acquired roughly between 1685 and 1725.
A large portion of the handwritten material consists of copies made from prints circulating during that period. Most of the Italian repertoire was recorded and collected in this manner. Other contributions consist of pieces by composers affiliated with the Swedish court such as members of the Düben family as well as musicians like Christian Geist, Christian Ritter and Pierre Verdier. Many of these pieces were commissioned for specific events such as coronations, funerals, royal birthdays, or other celebrations and commemorations. Additionally, the collection features a great deal of music that Gustav Düben in one way or another received from various parts of Europe. This category includes an extensive number of vocal pieces from Lübeck by Dieterich Buxtehude and Franz Tunder; large bodies of music from Danzig, Copenhagen, and Gottorp; and court music from Dresden by composers such as Gioseppe Peranda as well as Vincenzo Albrici, who spent a few years in Stockholm back in Queen Christina’s day, which could possibly account for how that particular contact was established. It is the two latter categories that make the Düben collection so outstanding, since many of these pieces have not been preserved elsewhere. Without the Düben Collection, we would have a far more fragmentary picture of Northern European music during the 1660–90 period.
Recorded in Örgryte New Church, Göteborg, 4–7 May 2009
Recording and sound design Per Sjösten, Sound Processing ab?www.sound.se
producers Per Sjösten and Magnus Kjellson