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"Vinum et musica - Songs & dances from Nuremberg sources (15th & 16th century)"

Dominique Visse, altoa
Capella de la Torre
Dir: Katharina Bäuml

rec: August 16 - 19, 2010, Heilsbronn, Refektorium
Challenge Classics - CC72544 (© 2012) (70'01")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

anon: Basse Danse Aliot Nouvelle; Fanfare; Hymnus in vitam S. Sebaldi a 3a; Ich spring in diesem Ringea [3]; Passamezzo [11] (with improvisations); Arnold VON BRUCK (1490-1554): Fortitudo Dei regnantis a 6a [6]; So trincken wir alle a 5a [8]; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (1450-1521): Ave Maria a 6a [6]; Salve Regina (1. pars)a; Guillaume DUFAY (1397-1474): Se la face ay pale a 3 [4] & a 4 [5]a; Bartholomäus & Paul HESS (?-?): Tanz & Nachtanz a 5 [11]; Paul HOFHAIMER (1459-1537): Exegi monumentum aere perenniusa [7]; Robert MORTON (1440-1478): L'homme armé a 4; Conrad PAUMANN (1410-1473): Benedicite Almechtiger Gottb [2]; Se la phase paleb [1]; Salamone ROSSI (1570-1630): Kaddish a 5a [12]; Ludwig SENFL (1486-1542): Fortuna - nasci, pati, mori; Adrian WILLAERT (1490-1562): Dulces exuviaea [9]; Vecchie letrosea [10]

Sources: div, [1] Buxheimer Orgelbuch (ms Munich); [2] Fundamentum organisandi (ms Berlin); [3] Lochamer Liederbuch (ms Berlin); [4] Schedelsches Liederbuch (ms Munich); [5] Trent Codices (ms Trent); [6] Hieronymus Formschneider, Novum et insigne opus musicum, 1537; [7] Johannes Stomius, ed., Harmoniae poeticae, 1539; [8] Georg Forster, Frische Teutsche Liedlein, zweiter Teil, 1540; [9] Sigmund Salblinger, Concentus octo, sex, quinque & quatuor vocum, 1545; [10] Adrian Willaert, Canzone Villanesce alla Napolitana, primo libro, 1545; [11] Bartholomäus & Paul Hess, ed., Viel feiner lieblicher Stucklein, 1555; [12] Salamone Rossi, Ha-shirim Asher li-Shelomoh, 1623

Annette Hils, recorder, bass dulcian; William Dongois, cornett; Katharina Bäuml, shawm, dulcian; Hildegard Wippermann, alto shawm, dulcian; Detlef Reimers, sackbut; Klaus Eichhorn, organb

Today the Bavarian city Nuremberg is especially known among musicians and music lovers for the important collection of musical instruments which is preserved in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. Long ago, from the Middle Ages until the 17th century, it was an important city in Germany. In the Middle Ages it was a trade centre as it was on the routes from Germany to the south and the east of Europe. In religious matters it also played a crucial role since it was the first imperial city to join the Reformation. In the 17th century Nuremberg was a centre of music printing and instrument making. The former had emerged in the 15th century, and many important collections of music by the most famous composers in Europe were printed here. At the same time the building of instruments came into existence. The city also had a lively music scene, and many prominent composers were born there or worked there for some time, such as Hans-Leo Hassler and Leonhard Lechner. The two main institutions were the St Sebaldus which had some famous organists, like Conrad Paumann and - at the end of the 17th century - Johann Pachelbel.

This disc pays tribute to this city and its music scene around 1500. The title of this disc is taken from the motto of a collection of sacred music which was printed by Hieronymus Formschneider in 1537 and which included Josquin's Ave Maria. It says "vinum et musica laetificant cor" (wine and music give joy to the heart), "a sign how much the spiritual and the secular permeated the mindset of the age", Thorsten Preuß writes in his liner-notes. The disc includes both secular and sacred pieces as well as vocal and instrumental items.

The programme is divided into four sections and are presented as a kind of musical tour through Nuremberg. First we visit the Kaiserburg, the castle of the emperor. It dates from the Middle Ages and was used for military purposes until the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). It was also the residence of the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire when they passed by. The military aspect is reflected by Robert Morton's setting of L'homme armé, the political function by the state motet for the Polish King Sigismund I, Fortitudo Dei regnantis by Arnold von Bruck, included in the same collection as Josquin's motet mentioned above.

Next follow "the principal churches", the largest being the St Sebaldus. Here Conrad Paumann was organist from 1447 to 1450. The inclusion of a piece by the Italian Jewish composer Salamone Rossi has a tragic reason. In 1349 the Jewish ghetto was destructed, killing 562 people. In 1352 the Frauenkirche was built on the ruins of the Jewish synagogue. It is a sympathetic gesture to bring this up with performing a piece like Rossi's, but musically speaking it is rather odd. It is from more than a century after the other music of the programme and a performance with voice and instruments is against the character of the music which was written for voices a capella. It was probably intended for performance in the synagogue of Mantua, where Rossi lived, and instruments were not allowed in the synagogue.

The third stage of the tour is the homes and patrician houses of the city. This section is called "the feast". We hear a dance, Dufay's Se la face ay pale, followed by Paumann's arrangement of that piece, an anonymous song, Ich spring in diesem Ringe from the Lochamer Liederbuch and a song by Arnold von Bruck, So trinken wir alle, a drinking song. In between is another sacred piece by Josquin, "indicating the widespread devotional practice of the burghers in singing the Salve Regina".

The last section is called "humanism" which pays attention to the role of intellectuals in Nuremberg. The fact that it was a pan-European movement justifies the inclusion of pieces from elsewhere: Ludwig Senfl was from Switzerland and worked for many years in Vienna, and Willaert worked in Venice. Hofhaimer's Exegi monumentum aere perennius is a clear token of his humanist orientation: it is from a collection of 35 settings of odes by Horace.

The conception of this disc is a good one: showing the music scene of an important city in one of its flourishing periods. I am less impressed by the way it has been worked out. There should have been more discipline in the choice of music, and probably more music could have been chosen by composers who actually worked in Nuremberg. The connection between the repertoire and the city is sometimes a bit loose. The performances are also disappointing. The playing of the Capella de la Torre is not always very engaging. Various pieces are to feeble, such as Morton's L'homme armé.

Most disappointing is the collaboration with Dominique Visse. He has a very characteristic voice with sharp edges, and it doesn't blend very well with the instruments. As a result the polyphonic pieces in which he sings one voice and the other voices are played turn into pieces for solo voice and instruments. There is just no real ensemble here. Dufay's Se la face ay pale is an example of an unsatisfactory division of the parts over voice and instruments. The upper voice - which holds the melody of the song which inspired composers to use it as cantus firmus for masses - is played at the recorder, with Visse singing the second voice, largely overpowering the recorder.

Visse uses the Italian pronunciation of Latin which is historically unjustified. His pronunciation of the German texts is also questionable. It seems that he uses a kind of modern pronunciation and I noticed some differences between his singing and the lyrics as printed in the booklet. In So trinken wir alle he sings the first stanza twice; the booklet has two other stanzas but these are not sung.

All in all, this interesting project has turned into a rather disappointing affair.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

Dominique Visse
Capella de la Torre

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