Reinhard Keiser (1674–1739) is counted among the most prolific and influential German composers of the time around 1700. The growing perception of an aesthetically independent German music – on a par with that of France and Italy – in the first two decades of the 18th century derived to a large degree from his works. For Keiser’s pronounced melodic style, which aimed at a direct sensual effect, achieved paradigmatic significance in northern and central German music aesthetics. And as the contemporary interest focused primarily on the large-scale vocal genres – opera, oratorio, and (liturgical) passion music –, these have also primarily attracted the attention of musicological research and publishing.
Yet Keiser’s pioneering role also comprised the smaller vocal genres, especially the secular cantata, where again he has to be credited for establishing specific German traditions based on Italian models. The cantatas are at the core of the present edition; added to these are chamber and concert pieces closely associated with them as they were transmitted together either in printed editions or in manuscripts. Altogether this is a comparatively small yet highly diverse body of works: There are German and Italian solo cantatas, more lavishly orchestrated works for festive occasions (only a fraction of the music having survived), duets, and individual arias. It is the aim of this series to present both performers and scholars with reliable musical texts of this repertoire, most of which has not been available in modern editions so far. The study of Keiser’s vocal chamber music opens new fields of research, which may be explored on the basis of this edition. The pieces were composed for the private and semi-public spheres of the courtly (Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel) and urban (Hamburg) environment. As a consequence, they were addressed to an audience distinct from that of the opera and oratorio, and the conditions of their textual and musical production were altered accordingly. This music documents the functional and thus the textual and musical complexity of non-scenic genres. Besides, it opens up a new perspective regarding Keiser’s social activities in an elitist circle beyond stage, concert hall, and church. The publication of this kind of music led to yet another change of perspective: Now these compositions were addressed to a large buying public from different social strata, their impact reaching far beyond the place of publication. Through printing they are fixed in a definite form and consigned to the public discourse, supported by the prefaces in a variety of ways.
It is remarkable in this context that Keiser did not hesitate to use music from his operas for his chamber works. The adaptations he made to the new receptional context allow us to take a close look at his understanding of the
difference between music for the chamber and that for the stage. We may perhaps also be able to gain an idea of the general level of expectations concerning the quality of chamber music in Hamburg. Also, this will be the first time that we may examine Keiser’s practice of self-parody on the basis of numerous examples. To facilitate this, the parody models are published in the appendix (unless they are already available in other modern editions).
Regarding the unpublished cantatas and arias as well, the close relationship between music for the stage, for the concert hall, and for the chamber becomes apparent, now as a phenomenon of contemporary reception. Frequently anthologies contain both cantatas and opera arias, and a cantata may also have been compiled from opera excerpts by another musician. To exemplify this, volume 2 of this series in addition to the cantatas contains
such an anthology and a cantata assembled from opera movements. Works of uncertain authorship that most probably were composed by Keiser appear in the appendix. Apart from the music and poetry Keiser’s printed collections offer further valuable material. In addition to his “Anmerckungen” on Johann Mattheson’s Neu-Eröffnetes Orchestre (Hamburg, 1713), some of the prefaces contain his only transmitted remarks on the aesthetics of music. All prefaces to the printed cantata collections appear in complete facsimile. Finally, the
dedications illustrate Keiser’s excellent contacts within the cultural scene of Hamburg and the close relationships he maintained with many of his patrons.
This two-volume edition concludes an editing project begun for Florian Noetzel (Wilhelmshaven). In 2005 Noetzel published a first volume containing the two large-scale pieces Hercules auf dem Scheide-Wege (before 1713, for an unknown occasion; text by Johann Ulrich König), and Entlaubte Wälder (wedding serenade, 1716; text by Michael Richey).