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"Salzburg Barock"

Emma Kirkby, sopranoa
Bell'Arte Salzburg
Dir: Annegret Siedel

rec: Feb 20 - 23, 2010, Forstern, Wallfahrtskirche Tading
Berlin Classics - 0300120BC (© 2011) (63'06")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: D
Cover & track-list

anon: Ach kommet vom Himmel, ihr göttliche Flammena; Ad pulpituma; Steffano BERNARDI (c1580-c1638): Magnificata; Carl Heinrich BIBER (1681-1749): Concerto a 4 per la chiesa; Heinrich Ignaz Franz VON BIBER (1644-1704): O dulcis Jesua; Sonata VI in a minor [3]; Mathias Sigismund BIECHTELER (1668-1743): Aria de Sancta Scholasticaa; Andreas HOFER (1628/29-1684): Nisi Dominusa [1]; Abraham MEGERLE (1607-1680): Gaudete et exultatea; Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704): Sonata II in g minor [2]

Sources: [1] Andreas Hofer, Salmi e motteti, con e senza volini, 1654; [2] Georg Muffat, Armonico tributo, 1682; [3] Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, Fidicinium sacro-profanum, 1683

A number of prominent composers of the 17th and 18th centuries are associated with Salzburg. Among them are Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, Georg Muffat and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Its status as music centre was largely based on the fact that since its foundation in the 8th century Salzburg was the seat of prince-archbishops. Their court played a key role in the musical life of the city. In the baroque era the Kapellmeister was not only responsible for the music in the cathedral, but also for theatrical and instrumental music to be performed at the court. This disc concentrates on music from the second half of the 17th century when musical life particularly flourished, especially due to the acitivities of Biber.

What makes this disc particularly interesting is that it pays attention to lesser-known musicians who were active in Salzburg before, during and after Biber's time in office. The earliest composer in the programme is Steffano Bernardi, who was born in Verona and was active there as well as in Rome as maestro di cappella. In 1624 he became Kapellmeister in Salzburg. During his time in office Salzburg Cathedral was consecrated, in 1628. The Magnificat is an alternatim setting: the uneven verses are for solo voice and basso continuo, reflecting the modern Italian concertato style, whereas the odd verses are in plainchant. Emma Kirkby rightly sings these in baroque style - more declamatory than one would normally expect in plainchant. Bernardi's employer was Paris Lodron, who was archbishop from 1619 to 1653. Under his reign the Benedictine University was established which was to play a central role in musical life in the city. Bernardi was succeeded by Abraham Megerle who was of Austrian birth and was Kapellmeister in Konstanz from 1634 to 1640. He took the same position in Salzburg from 1640 to 1651. His growing reputation resulted in him being raised to the nobility in 1652. Gaudete et exultate is a hymn written at the occasion of the election of Paris Lodron as archbishop.

Andreas Hofer, also of Austrian birth, received his musical education at the above-mentioned Benedictine University. In 1654 he was appointed vice-Kapellmeister and in 1679 Kapellmeister. Nisi Dominus has the form of a sacred concerto for solo voice, two violins and bc and was included in a collection of 15 concertos which was dedictated to Lodron's successor in the office of archbishop, Guidobald, count of Thun. These pieces as well as other works by Hofer bear witness to the influence of the Italian concertato style. Biber is mostly associated with the violin; he not only composed a large number of pieces with solo voilin and for ensemble with virtuosic violin parts, in his vocal music the violin also often takes an important role. That is certainly the case in the sacred concerto O dulcis Jesu, which is in fact a dialogue between the singer and the violin. As so often in Biber's music the violin makes use of scordatura; in this case the violin is tuned b-f#-b'-e". The text is a typical example of Roman Catholic mysticism in which Jesus is called "dulcis Amor" (sweet love) and "Amor meus" (my love). The piece ends with a short brilliant episode for violin.

Biber joined the court in Salzburg in 1670 and became vice-Kapellmeister under Andreas Hofer and succeeded him in 1684 as Kapellmeister. At that time Max Gandolph von Kuenburg was archbishop, who ruled from 1668 to 1687. He appointed Georg Muffat as organist and chamber musician in 1678. His employer granted him leave to visit Rome; here he became acquainted with the works of the organist Bernardo Pasquini and the instrumental music of Corelli. The latter had a lasting influence on Muffat's development as a composer, as his collection Armonico tributo shows. The score includes the letters T and S, referring to tutti and solo respectively. These pieces can also be played with one instrument per part, and that is the way the Sonata II is performed here.

Musicians of the court chapel sometimes also made an appearance at the women's convent Nonnberg, founded in the early 8th century. The convent was an important centre of music making; for thirteen years Biber's daughter was Kapellmeister and regens chori. A substantial part of the convent's repertoire consisted of sacred songs on German texts. The two anonymous pieces are examples of this genre. Ach kommet vom Himmel, ihr göttliche Flammen reflects the spirit of Roman Catholic mysticism, just as Biber's sacred concerto mentioned before. It is in three arias, connected by two recitatives. The singer is accompanied by violin and viola d'amore. Not sacred is Ad pulpitum, an aria in 26 stanzas of which seven are sung here. It is a kind of ironic song which draws a bead on male musicians.

A daughters of Mathias Siegmund Biechteler also entered the convent. He was another Austrian and a pupil of the Benedictine University. He entered the court chapel in 1688 and was appointed Kapellmeister in 1706. It is notable that he was educated as a lutenist. This explains the obbligato part for a mandora, a sort of lute with six to eight courses of strings, in Biechteler's Aria de Sancta Scholastica, written for the Feast of St Scholastica, sister of St Benedict. Another member of the convent was the daughter of Carl Heinrich Biber, son of Heinrich. He became vice-Kapellmeister in 1714 and succeeded Biechteler as Kapellmeister in 1743. His Concerto a 4 per la chiesa is stylistically far away from the works and his father and is influenced by the modern style of violin playing in Italy.

As you will see the programme of this disc gives some insight into the versatility and development of the musical scene in Salzburg with in a span of about one century. The fact that it includes many pieces which are unknown and are probably even recorded here for the first time makes this disc even more worthwhile. The performances do full justice to this repertoire. Emma Kirkby is one of those rather few Anglosaxon singers who have a perfect command of German. Her pronunciation is immaculate, and her delivery is excellent, as always. She has a specific gift of expressing the text, and adds tasteful ornaments where they are needed. The pieces by Biechteler and the anonymous Ad pulpitum are printed in the booklet in a spelling which at least suggests the Austrian dialect. Ms Kirkby may be a language genius, but asking her to sing in Austrian dialect was probably a bit too much of a good thing. Bell'Arte Salzburg usually takes a rather modest approach to the playing of music from around 1700, largely eschewing strong contrasts in tempi and dynamics. I personally prefer a more radical approach, but that doesn't withhold me from greatly appreciating this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

Emma Kirkby
Bell'Arte Salzburg

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