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Johann Caspar KERLL (1627 - 1693): "Missae"

Anna Moritz, Dorothea Wagner, soprano; Alexander Schneider, alto; Clemens Volckmar, Christian Berger, tenor; Philipp Brömsel, bass
Knabenchor Dresden; Instrumental ensemble
Dir: Matthias Jung

rec: June & Oct 2007, April 5 - 6, 2008, Meißen, Lutherkirche
Cantate - C 58031 (© 2008) (51'04")

Missa Non sine quare; Missa Renovationis

Daniel Deuter, Beta Voigt, violin; Bernhard Hentrich, cello; Torsten Hoppe, Michael Poscharski, violone; Merit Eichhorn, Stephan Thamm, organ

Johann Caspar Kerll was one of the time's most important composers of sacred and keyboard music. Born in Saxony he worked most of his life in Munich and Vienna. His compositions were written under Italian influence. His first teacher was Giovanni Valentini in Vienna, and when he was organist at the court of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in Brussels his employer sent him to Rome to study with Giacomo Carissimi. In 1656 he went back to Munich where he became Kapellmeister. In Munich he composed a number of operas which have all gone lost. In 1673 he resigned and went to Vienna, where he became organist at the imperial court. Towards the end of his life he returned to Munich where he also died.

18 masses by Kerll have been preserved. Some of these have been recorded, for instance the Missa In fletu solatium obsidionis Viennensis which Kerll wrote during the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683. The Missa Non si quare on this disc has also been recorded before, by La Risonanza, directed by Fabio Bonizzoni (Symphonia SY 99171). This mass as well as the Missa Renovationis belong to the genre of the missa concertata which unites elements of the stile antico and the stile moderno.

The Missa Non sine quare is based upon a theme from the Magnificat 1. toni from the collection Modulatio organica which he had published shorly before. Within the mass concertante and homophonic sections alternate, but the 'Crucifixus' is strictly imitative. The Benedictus is entirely written in the stile antico.

The Missa Renovationis derives its name - mass of renovation - from the fact that Kerll here 'modernized' an older mass setting of his own which was written in the old motet-style. Part of this modenization was the addition of two violin parts. The mass is mostly polyphonic, and each section is based on a motif from the Kyrie.

The two masses on this disc are performed by the Knabenchor Dresden, which sings very well, but it is very questionable whether a choir of this size is really appropriate for this repertoire. The number of singers is not given, but it sounds pretty large. This is especially problematic because the soli and tutti are closely intertwined and require a good balance. That is not really the case here. The balance between adult soloists and a boys' choir is always a bit problematic anyway. Fortunately the soloists adapt well to the sound of the choir. The instrumentalists are all first-rate musicians and the instruments blend well with the voices.

In the case of the Missa Non si quare I rate Fabio Bonizzoni's performance higher as he performs the mass with four voices. He also uses a cornett in addition to the strings which is extending the colours of the instrumental ensemble. As far as I know the Missa Renovationis is recorded here for the first time. The critical remarks notwithstanding this is an interesting and musically worthwhile addition to the catalogue. It underlines once again the qualities of Johann Caspar Kerll as a composer of vocal music.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

Knabenchor Dresden

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