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"Luther's wedding day"

Capella de la Torre
Dir: Katharina Bäuml

rec: Oct 29 - Nov 2, 2012, Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum (Aufseßsaal)
Challenge Classics - CC72598 (© 2013) (69'02")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: D
Cover & track-list

anon: Fanfare [7]; Gagliarda Gentil Madonna; Gagliarda La Gambetta; Pavana Le forze d'Hercole; Pavana & Gagliarda La Traditora; Saltarello Torza; Heinrich ISAAC (1450-1517): Carmen; Fammi una gratia, amore; La morra; Loquebar de testimoniis [6]; Suesser Vater Herre Gott; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (1450-1521): Allégez moy [4]; In te domine speravi [1]; Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621): Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein [9]; Ludwig SENFL (1490-1543): Missa Nisi dominus aedificaverit domum (Kyrie; Gloria) [5]; Claudin DE SERMISY (1495-1562): Tant que vivray [3]; Johann WALTER (1496-1570): Beati immaculati [8]; Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott; Wir glauben all an einen Gott [2]

[1] Ottaviano Petrucci, ed., Frottole libro primo, 1504; [2] Johann Walter, Geystliche Gesangbüchlin, 1525; [3] Pierre Attaingnant, ed., Chansons nouvelles, 1527; [4] div, Selectissimae nec non familiarissimae cantiones ultra centum, 1540; [5] Georg Rhau, ed., Opus decem missarum 4 vocum in gratiam scholarum, 1541; [6] Heinrich Glarean, Dodekachordon, 1547; [7] Tilman Susato, ed., Het derde musyckboexken ... alderhand danserye, 1551; [8] Clemens Stephan, ed., Cantiones triginta selectissimae, 1568; [9] Michael Praetorius, Musae Sioniae ... geistliche Concert Gesänge über die fürnembste deutsche Psalmen und Lieder ... erster Theil, 1605

Cécile Kempenaers, soprano; José Pizarro, tenor; Matthias Gerchen, bass; Annette Hils, recorder, dulcian; Katharina Bäuml, Hildegard Wippermann, shawm; Falko Munkwitz, sackbut; Hildegard Saretz, organ; Peter A. Bauer, percussion

The Reformation year 2017 casts its shadows. Discs with music which is or can be connected to the Reformation, and especially the Lutheran Reformation in Germany, have been released in recent years. It may be expected that many will follow which - if possible - will be reviewed here. The present disc approaches the subject from a specific angle: Luther's marriage to Katharina von Bora on 13 June 1525.

This was not just a marriage; it was a major event and a theological statement, because Luther had been ordained a priest in 1507, and Katharina von Bora was a nun. She was one of twelve nuns he had helped to escape from their convent in 1523. It was the consequence of his condemning vows of celibacy, but for some time he resisted the idea of marrying as he didn't have much confidence in surviving the increasing persecution of 'heretics'. The wedding itself was according to the law, but in presence of only a few people. On 27 June the formal, public ceremony took place; the church ceremony was followed by a festive meal. This disc aims at documenting these two events. Nothing is known about the music which was performed at these occasions. However, there can be little doubt that music was an important part of the celebrations and the festivities. Music was an integral part of everyday life, Luther was a great lover of music and a skilled singer and also had a thorough theoretical knowledge of music.

Obviously the music chosen for this disc is largely based on speculation. The most logical choice is music by Josquin Desprez, the composer whom Luther admired more than anyone else. Also represented are some composers he knew personally. Johann Walter was one of the most significant composers from Lutheran circles. It was the Reformer's ideal to make the congregation sing in the vernacular. To that end he translated traditional texts which were not in conflict with his own doctrines and sometimes adapted the traditional melodies or added a melody from his own pen. He also wrote new texts, sometimes with melodies. The best-known specimen is the chorale Ein feste Burg, which earned the status of the 'national hymn' of the Lutheran Reformation, and is sung here in a setting by Walter. He was one of the most prolific composers of hymns which could be sung in services but also at home by the faithful.

Interesting is the performance of the Kyrie and Gloria from the Missa Nisi dominus aedificaverit domum by Ludwig Senfl. There is written evidence that he stood in contact with Luther and with Duke Albrecht of Prussia who had adopted the Lutheran Reformation. But how far Senfl was leaning towards Luther's ideas remains unclear. He had taken minor orders in Vienna, but in Munich he gave up his clerical status in 1529 and married that same year. Whether that has anything to do with his Reformation sympathies is impossible to decide. At least he was never submitted to any examination by the ecclesiastical authorities. The fact that these two sections of the mass are in Latin is not in contradiction to Luther's ideas on the liturgy. He never wanted to banish Latin completely. Johann Walter's Wir glauben all an einen Gott is a German version of the Credo; this was still part of the liturgy in Bach's time.

Heinrich Isaac's motet Loquebar de testimoniis is an appropriate part of the programme. It opens with the 46th verse from Psalm 119 (Vulgata 118): "I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and will not be put to shame." This was also the motto of the Confessio Augustana (The Augsburg Confession), the confession of faith which was submitted to emperor Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. Verses from Psalm 119 were also set by Johann Walter in Beati immaculati. The text of the Psalm is sung by four voices; a fifth voice sings a text in praise of Elector Johann Friedrich I of Saxony, called John the Magnanimous and considered 'champion of the Reformation', whereas a sixth voice has a text in honour of Martin Luther and his colleague Philippus Melanchton.

The second part of the programme is largely secular, and documents the wedding feast. Part of it are chansons and a madrigal as well as instrumental pieces. However, at that time there was no strict separation of the sacred and the secular, and that justifies the inclusion of Michael Praetorius' setting of the hymn Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein. Praetorius worked in a much later time, but many pieces in the programme are from a later date than Luther's wedding. It attests to the fact that this programme can't be considered a (imaginary) 'reconstruction' of the celebrations around Luther's marriage. The performers don't pretend it to be.

Considering that the celebrations took place in a relative small company the intimacy of this recording and the performances of the sacred music with one voice per part seem appropriate. The singing is alright, although I am not overly enthusiastic about the contributions of in particular the male voices. Some performances are a little too 'baroque' in the expression of the text. After all, the music performed here belongs to the prima prattica which requires a more restrained approach.

That said, this disc delivers an interesting and revealing musical portrait of the world of Martin Luther. It is a welcome contribution to the upcoming commemoration of the Lutheran Reformation.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

Relevant links:

Capella de la Torre

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