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"Das ist meine Freude - Love Songs & Psalms"

Georg Poplutz, tenor
Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble
Dir: Arno Paduch

rec: May 17 - 20, 2020, Cologne, Deutschlandfunk (Kammermusiksaal)
CPO - 555 362-2 (© 2022) (69'23")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Christoph BERNHARD (1628-1692): Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein reines Herz; Niccolò CORRADINI (c1585-1646): Cantate Domino; Ecce veniet desideratus; Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo; Alessandro GRANDI (1586-1630): O quam tu pulchra es; Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643): Vespro della Beata Vergine (SV 206) (Nigra sum); Benedetto RE/REGGIO (?-1646): Ostende mihi faciem tuam; Tulerunt Dominum meum; Johann ROSENMÜLLER (c1617-1684); Aurora roea semper rutilans; Das ist meine Freude; Vulnera Jesu Christi; Thomas SELLE (1599-1663): Ich schlafe, aber mein Herze wachet; Nikolaus Adam STRUNGK (1640-1700): Laudate pueri

Arno Paduch, cornett; Uwe Haase, sackbut; Volker Mühlberg, violin; Matthias Müller, viola da gamba, violone, lirone; Johannes Vogt, chitarrone; Jürgen Banholzer, organ

The name of Johann Rosenmüller appears three times in this programme of sacred concertos and solo motets from the 17th century. That is no coincidence: this disc connects German and Italian music, and Rosenmüller's development as a composer can model for the dissemination of the Italian concertato style across Central Europe.

Rosenmüller was generally seen as one of the great composers of his time in Germany, who earned the respect of none other than Heinrich Schütz, the 'father' of German music. He matriculated in the theological faculty of Leipzig University in 1640 and very likely became a pupil of Tobias Michael, who was Thomaskantor at the time. Rosenmüller was the most likely successor of Michael, but his career came to an abrupt end in 1655, when he was arrested for paedophilia. He fled to Italy, where he became trombonist of the San Marco. He also acted as composer of the Ospedale della Pietà from 1678 to 1682. His ties with Germany remained intact: several German musicians studied with him, and he sent some of his compositions to his native country. Towards the end of his life he returned to Germany, where he held the position of Kapellmeister at the court of Wolfenbüttel.

It is no coincidence that he settled in Venice. From early on in his career he was strongly influenced by the Italian style. In 1648 and 1552-53 he published two collections of sacred concertos, either on Latin or on German texts. In these pieces he embraces the declamatory, monodic style that had emerged in Italy around 1600. In his treatment of the text one also notices the influence of Schütz. The inclusion of two instrumental parts - probably two violins, but here played on cornett and violin - is also the standard scoring of Italian sacred concertos, which Schütz adopted in his Symphoniae Sacrae (II), which he published during his stay in Italy in 1629. The programme opens with a piece that has been preserved in manuscript. The liner-notes don't indicate when Aurora rosea semper rutilans was written. It may be one of those pieces that Rosenmüller composed in Italy and sent to Germany. The two instruments often imitate the voice. The piece is full of text illustration, right from the start: it opens with rising figures, depicting the text "The dawn shall always rise, you are the one that always rises (...)". The word "suspirantem" (sighing) is followed by a pause. The piece comprises more lyrical episodes and passages of a recitativic nature. It ends suddenly after the words "adjuva me" (help me).

Given that this disc is entirely devoted to sacred music, one may be surprised about the term "Love Songs" in its subtitle. This refers to a number of settings of texts from the Song of Solomon, one of the Old Testament books, which is about the love between a young man and a young woman. Since ancient times these texts were given an allegorical interpretation, which explains why they have often been set by composers of sacred music, such as Lassus and Palestrina. Whereas the Catholic church identified the young woman with Mary and Christ with the young man, representing the church, Martin Luther returned to the allegorical interpretation of the early church. Here we get pieces from both traditions. The first is the best-known: Nigra sum, a concerto for tenor and basso continuo, is part of Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine of 1610. Another pretty well-known piece is O quam tu pulchra es by Alessandro Grandi. He worked for some time in St Mark's in Venice, as colleague of Monteverdi. The latter did not give him much opportunity to compose large-scale works. Grandi made a virtue of necessity and focused on the composition of concertos for solo voices. These belong among the best that was written in his time.

Niccolò Corradini is one of his lesser-known contemporaries. He worked his entire life in Cremona, as composer, organist and maestro di cappella. Only one collection of sacred concertos from his pen has been preserved. Ecce venit desideratus (Behold, the desire of all nations come, behold, my friend is white and ruddy) is scored for solo voice and basso continuo, and includes two obbligato parts in the treble and bass range respectively. As one may expect, the piece opens with a rising figure, and the process of coming - the words "ecce venit" appear three times - is vividly illustrated. Very little is known about Benedetto Re or Reggio (he has no entry in New Grove). He worked for some time in Padua, and was the teacher of the Caterina Assandra. In Ostende mihi faciem tuam he quotes the opening of Palestrina's madrigal Vestiva i colli, which was one of the favourite subjects of diminutions at the time. Reggio does not miss the opportunity to single out the word "langueo" (languish). These settings by Italian composers show that the new style that was in vogue at the time, and which aimed at expressing the affetti of a text, was tailor-made for texts from the Song of Songs.

The Protestant tradition is represented by Thomas Selle, who worked for most of his life in Hamburg and left a sizeable oeuvre, in which pieces for a large scoring take an important place. Ich schlafe, aber mein Herze wachet is scored for solo voice and basso continuo. The opening phrase - "I sleep but my heart waketh" - is set to contrasting musical figures. The word "Nachtstropfen" - drops of the night - is eloquently illustrated by staccato descending notes. The piece ends abruptly, reflecting the last words: "[my beloved] was gone".

We come now to the Psalms. Laudate pueri is a setting of Psalm 113, one of the Vesper Psalms. The composer is Nicolaus Adam Strungk, who was in the service of Duke Johann Friedrich of Brunswick-Lüneburg, who had converted to Catholicism and had close contacts to Rosenmüller. The latter may have influenced Strungk in his composition of this text. As is so often the case in 17th-century sacred concertos, the opening section is repeated a few times in the course of the work. According to what had become tradition in Germany, it includes two obbligato parts in the treble range. Obviously, the phrase "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill" is set to rising figures.

The two Psalm settings by Corradini have different scorings. Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo, a setting of two verses from Psalm 88 (89), is scored for solo voice and basso continuo. Coloratura is used to illustrate the word "cantabo" (I will sing). Cantate Domino includes two obbligato parts in the treble and bass range respectively. It is a setting of the three first verses from Psalm 98. The opening is a kind of proclamation. Christoph Bernhard was a pupil of Schütz, and studied with Giacomo Carissimi in Rome. Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein reines Herz is a setting of verses from one of the penitential psalms, known in Latin as Miserere mei Deus. As one may expect, it is largely restrained, but the mood changes in the closing phrase: "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit."

Lastly, Benedetto Reggio is the composer of Tulerunt Dominum meum, which is a piece for Easter: the women looking for the body of Jesus wonder where it may have been laid down, and an angel tells them that he is risen. Again it includes an obbligato instrumental part.

This disc offers a compelling survey of sacred concertos from the 17th century. It is the result of ten years of performing together by Georg Poplutz and Arno Paduch. They have performed these pieces, and in the course of time have added others to their repertoire. Shortly before recording this programme, Corradini's Misericordias Domini was included. It is easy to hear the fruits of a long-standing cooperation, as the ensemble is impeccable. I have nothing but praise for the level of performances and the interpretation by these artists. Poplutz is a wonderful singer, who pays utmost attention to the text and shows that he really understands what he is singing. His diction is excellent, and I very much like his ornamentation, which is just right, and never overdone - a real danger especially in Italian music of the early 17th century. The playing is also outstanding and the instruments, especially the cornett, substantially contribute to the impact of this repertoire. The fact that this disc includes no fewer than eight first recordings is one of its assets.

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

Relevant links:

Georg Poplutz
Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble

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