What is the Tunder Project?

Franz Tunder

The Spring edition of Early Music Today featured a fascinating interview with Music Poetica’s Oliver John Ruthven. Here are some of the edited highlights from this interview in advance the final three concerts as part of the lunchtime ‘Tunder World’ series in the heart of London.

So why the focus on Franz Tunder?

2017 is the 350th anniversary of his death in 1667. His music is not widely performed, especially in the UK, and we wanted to use this anniversary as an opportunity to share his works with more people.

In addition, Tunder’s music personifies the ‘musica poetica’ style after which we are named. This was a school of thought in which musical rhetorical devices were defined and linked back to those of classical literature and art. Tunder was therefore paving the way for the masters of the high Baroque, most particularly Johann Sebastian Bach.

What are you performing as part of this concert series?

We are performing all 17 of Tunder’s surviving vocal works ranging from miniature solo cantatas for one singer, one obbligato and basso continuo, to grander chorale cantatas for vocal consort and strings. Although these were published in 1901, a newer edition of all the vocal works doesn’t exist – so we are taking this opportunity to create a comprehensive new edition together with recordings of all of Tunder’s 17 vocal works.

And what instruments and voices are needed to perform Tunder’s music?

As organist and director of music at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, Tunder had a team of very capable instrumentalists at his disposal. These included violinists, viola da gambists and at least one lutenist. This was in addition to trained singers, capable of singing as a choir and as soloists.



In our concert series, almost every performance involves a string consort of violins and viola da gambas, underpinned by a basso continuo team of violone, chamber organ and lute. For the larger chorale cantatas this dense string texture provides a luxurious bed of sound for the choral movements, as well as intricate interplay with single voices in his smaller solo cantatas.

And from where did Tunder draw his musical influences?

Tunder, like any composer of his day, was writing music to accommodate the tastes of his audience. A vogue for all things Italian may well explain the italianate-ness in much of his music. We know that as a young man Tunder travelled to Italy and may have studied with Girolamo Frescobaldi. His music certainly shows a distinctly Italian influence and there are similarities in the scoring of some of his work with the music of Monteverdi.

Girolamo Frescobaldi

Girolamo Frescobaldi

But in terms of the texts he set, the inherent piety of his North German world, derived from its Lutheran roots, meant that the words are all taken from (and inspired by) the Bible, some in German and some in Latin.

So what have we got to look forward to this Autumn?

We have some real highlights to look forward to this Autumn when we will be performing Tunder’s larger scale cantatas. These clearly prefigure Bach’s own cantatas, whilst still retaining an antique quality which harks back to Schütz and Lassus. We look forward to seeing you at our forthcoming lunchtime concerts at the exquisite church of St Sepulchre’s without Newgate.

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