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Hieronymus PRAETORIUS (1560 - 1629): "Missa in Festo Sanctissimae Trinitatis"

Weser-Renaissance Bremen; Volker Jänig, organ
Dir: Manfred Cordes

rec: Sept 21 - 23, 2014, Lemgo, Marienkirche
CPO - 777 954-2 (© 2018) (70'27")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

[in order of appearance] Hieronymus PRAETORIUS: Adesto unus Deus a 5; Missa Benedicam Dominum a 6 (Kyrie) / Kyrie Magne Deus; Missa Benedicam Dominum a 6 (Gloria); plainchant: Salutatio, Collecta, Epistulum, Alleluja; Hieronymus PRAETORIUS: Domine, Dominus noster a 8; plainchant / Hieronymus PRAETORIUS: O lux beata Trinitas; Jacob PRAETORIUS (1586-1651): Wir gläuben all an einen Gott a 4; Hieronymus PRAETORIUS: Benedicam Dominum a 6; plainchant: Prefatio; Hieronymus PRAETORIUS: Missa Benedicam Dominum a 6 (Sanctus & Benedictus); Pater noster a 8; plainchant: Verba institutionis; Hieronymus PRAETORIUS: Missa Benedicam Dominum a 6 (Agnus Dei); plainchant; Salutatio, Collecta, Benedictio; Hieronymus PRAETORIUS: Te Deum patrem ingenitum a 8

Maria Skiba, Karin Gyllenhammar, soprano; Achim Schulz, alto; Mirko Ludwig, Jan Van Elsacker, tenor; Dominik Wörner, bass
Anna Schall, cornett; Veronika Skuplik, violin; Klaus Bona, viola; Simen Van Mechelen, Andreas Neuhaus, sackbut; Eva-Maria Horn, dulcian; Jörg Jacobi, organ [bc]

Hieronymus Praetorius was a member of a dynasty of organists who played a key role in music life in Hamburg from the mid-16th to the mid-17th century. Hieronymus is the only one who has left a substantial amount of vocal music. For the present recording, Manfred Cordes selected pieces from his oeuvre in order to reconstruct a service as it could have taken place in one of the major churches in Hamburg in the early 17th century. He could rely on an important document which includes the liturgical order there: Cantica sacra of 1588 by Franz Eler.

Although Martin Luther emphasized the importance of the use of the vernacular in church, he did not abolish the use of Latin altogether. Especially in larger churches, with choirs whose members were educated at Latin schools, it remained part of the liturgy. Luther himself laid down regulations for communion services in his Formulae missae of 1529. That said, most masses in Lutheran Germany composed in the course of the 17th and early 18th centuries comprised only a Kyrie and a Gloria. The other parts of the mass were mostly sung in the form of hymns in German, such as Wir gläuben all an einen Gott (Gloria), Jesaia dem Propheten das geschah (Sanctus) and Jesus Christus unser Heiland (Agnus Dei). Praetorius is one of the last composers in Lutheran Germany, who composed masses which comprise the complete ordinarium. They are collected in the Liber missarum of 1616, which was reprinted as volume III of his collected works (Opus musicum, III, 1624). Five of them are specifically connected to feasts of the ecclesiastical year (two for Advent, one each for Christmas, Easter and St Michael). The remaining mass, the Missa Benedicam Dominum, seems to be intended for other occasions. It is recorded here as the core of a service during the Trinity season, the period from the Sunday after Whitsun to the last Sunday before Advent. This is the kind of service presented here.

As the introitus of the mass, the motet Adesto unus Deus was chosen: "Be present, the one God, omnipotent Father". It is for five voices, and performed here by two singers (soprano and tenor), with cornett, sackbuts, dulcian and organ. Then we hear the Kyrie; in Praetorius' setting there are just three verses, but each section - Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie - was usually sung three times. For this recording some of the missing verses are played as organ versets from Praetorius' own pen and partly sung in plainchant. This is followed by the Gloria from Praetorius' mass which is for six voices. It is a so-called parody mass, as many were written during the Renaissance. Praetorius used his own motet, also for six voices, as his starting point.

Next follow Greeting (Salutatio), Collect and Epistle; the latter is from Paul's letter to the Romans (ch 11, vs 33-36). As a substitute for the Sequence, we hear the eight-part motet Domine, Dominus noster, a setting of Psalm 8: "O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the world". It is performed by three voices, cornett, sackbuts, dulcian and organ. Next is the hymn O lux beata Trinitas; it does not belong to the mass, but is included here to replace Gospel and Sermon, which are omitted. Although Praetorius set this entire text, here it is divided into three sections. The first is in plainchant, the second is played at the organ - probably an intabulation of the corresponding section of Praetorius' setting - and the third in Praetorius' setting for seven voices.

The Gloria of Praetorius's mass has been omitted; instead we hear the German hymn Wir gläuben all an einen Gott in a four-part setting by Jacob Praetorius. This was common practice, but considering that we have here probably the first and only recording of Hieronymus's mass, I would have liked to hear the Gloria in his version. The Offertory is his motet for six voices whose material he used for his mass. It is performed here by two singers, two sackbuts, dulcian and organ. The Preface (Praefatio) is in plainchant, which is followed by Praetorius's eight-part alternatim setting of the Lord's Prayer (Pater noster).

The words of the institution (Verba institutionis), which precedes communion, are again sung in plainchant. The Agnus Dei from Praetorius' mass is performed here as alternatim between polyphony (I,III) and organ (II). Greeting (Salutatio), Collect and Blessing (Benedictio) are again in plainchant. The service ends with Praetorius's motet Te Deum patrem ingenitum for eight voices in two choirs, performed here by the entire ensemble. On the words "toto corde" (with all our hearts) and the doxology the two choirs unite.

It brings to a close a very interesting recording which not only sheds light on a part of Hieronymus Praetorius's oeuvre that is not that well known, but also on the liturgical practice in Hamburg around 1600. It is a matter of good luck that we are so well informed about the way the liturgy was constructed. The performance is pretty much ideal. Excellent voices which blend perfectly, with each other and with the instruments, and a performance which pays much attention to the text. Obviously the rather reverberant acoustic causes some problems here, but that is the price one has to pay, if one wants to use an appopriate organ. The instrument in the Marienkirche in Lemgo, the so-called 'swallow's nest' organ, dates from the early 17th century and is in meantone temperament, which is essential for a stylish performance of this kind of repertoire.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Weser-Renaissance Bremen
Volker Jänig

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