De Profundis Clamavis (Nicolaus Bruhns 1665 – 1697)

Brass font Marienkirche Husum cast in 1643 with textNicolaus Bruhns (1665 – 1697) was born in Schwabstedt near Husum in Northern Germany sometime during Advent in 1665. He is sometimes said to have influenced Johann Sebastian Bach while that’s possible I find the evidence somewhat thin. It’s true that some of Bach’s works such as the Prelude in G Major (BWV 568) show a superficial resemblance to some of Bruhns’ work but the resemblance is superficial and unconvincing. Yes Bach employs some of the same musical formulae as Bruhns but so what? These musical formulae were in use all over Germany if I were to put the names of all of Bach’s contemporaries and those of the immediately preceding generation into a hat and pick out a name at random I could make a case that they influenced Bach based upon the musical formulae found within their works.

Bruhns was born into one of the musical dynasties so common to the period, members of his family were employed by royal courts, towns, and churches all over Northern Germany. When he was 16 his father sent him to his uncle Peter in Lübeck to learn violin and bass viol from his uncle Peter. While at Lübeck he also studied composition and the organ under Buxtehude who thought highly of his abilities. After Lübeck he moved to Copenhagen for a few years where he being exposed to music and musicians from a number of countries broadened his stylistic range. He returned to Husum in 1689 and was appointed organist of the Stadtkirche after only two months on the job he was offered a prestigious post by the authorities in Kiel. The Husum authorities got wind of this and promptly raised his salary. He remained in Husum enjoying the praise, support, and admiration of the townspeople, clergy and musicians until his death in 1697.

His setting of De Profundis (Psalm 130) performed here by the Dutch group «Barokensemble Consort of Voices » with Pieter van der Wilt, bass is one of twelve vocal works that establish Bruhns’ importance in Lutheran Germany’s musical history. It may have been written for a very famous bass who had been Kantor at Husum for nearly 15 years before moving to a more prestigious post in Schleswig. It’s an Italian style solo cantata that incorporates vocal weaving lines and an accompaniment that accentuates both the darkness of the devotional atmosphere and the bass voice. The video, lyrics, and a translation into English are all below the fold. Enjoy :-).


Video Source: De Profundis Clamavis (Nicolaus Bruhns 1665 – 1697)  –  Uploaded by SuperPw12 on Aug 21, 2011  YouTube

De Profundis Lyrics


De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine:
Domine exaudi vocem meam;
fiant aures tuae intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meae.
Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine, quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est,
et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo eius;
speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem
speret Israel in Domino;
quia apud Dominum misericordia,
et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israel ex omnibus iniquitatibus eius.

Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord:
O Lord, hear my voice;
let thine ear be attentive to the voice
of my supplications.
If thou, Lord, should mark iniquities, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, O Lord,
and I wait on account of thy law.
My soul waits on the word of the Lord;
the Lord is the hope of my soul.
From the morning watch until the night,
Israel awaits the Lord;
for there is mercy with the Lord,
and he gives plenteous redemption.
And he shall redeem Israel from all her iniquities.

Psalm 130

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