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Thomas SELLE (1599 - 1663): "Geistliche Concertlein - Newe amorösische Liedlein"

Ensemble Metamorfosi
Dir: Monika Mandelartz

rec: Sept 20 - 22, 2011, Mandelsloh, St. Osdag
Christophorus - CHR 77362 (© 2013) (75'55")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: D
Cover & track-list

A Domino factum est [8]; Ach, mein hertzliebes Jesulein [9]; Ach Anne fein [7]; Amarilli mein höchste Zier [10]; Beso las manos [10]; Charittis edle Schäferin [2]; Die Güte deß Herren [5]; Echo ich bitt [2]; Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort [9]; Es stund auff grüner Heyde [10]; Factum est praelium magnum [4]; Frisch auff [1]; Ich schlaffe; Kompt her und schawet [3]; Lieblich Musiciren [1]; Magna Dei bonitas [5]; Musica du edle Kunst [10]; O Unglück! [6]; Was betrübstu dich

Sources: [1] Concertatio castalidum, 1624; [2] Deliciae pastorum arcadiae, 1624; [3] Hagio-deca-melydrion, 1627; [4] Monophonia harmonico-latina, 1633; [5] Concertuum binis vocibus ... decas, 1634; [6] Deliciarum juvenilium decas harmonica-bivocalis, 1634; [7] Amorum musicalium ... decas I, 1635; [8] Concertuum latino-sacrorum ... pentas, 1635; [9] Concertuum trivocalium germanico-sacrorum pentas, 1635; [10] Monophonetica, hoc est, Allerhand lustige ... Liedlein, 1636

Julia von Landsberg, soprano; Florian Lohmann, tenor; Sönke Tams Freier, bass; Monika Mandelartz, recorder, harp, organ; Gabriele Nogalski, viola da gamba, violone; Eckhart Kuper, harpsichord, organ
with: Andreas Oesterley, tenor; Lara Kröger, harp

Thomas Selle is one of those German composers of the 17th century who has not been completely neglected but has remained in the shadow of the towering figure of Heinrich Schütz. Composers like Selle can take profit from the commemoration of their birth and death. He died in 1663 and this results in various concerts and recordings in which his music is performed. This disc is one of them.

If his music is performed it is mostly the sacred works he wrote during his time as Musikdirektor in Hamburg. However, before that he composed a considerable amount of music, including various collections of secular works. Not that much is known about his early years. He probably went to the Thomasschule in Leipzig, and certainly to Leipzig University, where he matriculated in 1622. From 1624 to 1641 he worked in the region of Dithmarschen, northwest of Hamburg. He first worked as a teacher in Heiden, then became rector of the school in Wesselburen and from 1634 he acted as Kantor in Itzehoe. Between 1624 and 1636 no less than eleven collections of music were printed. In addition he composed occasional pieces, for instance for weddings and funerals.

It is interesting to note that right from the start of his career Selle embraced the new Italian style which emerged in the first decades of the 17th century. He has set many texts to one or two voices in the style of the Italian monody. There is also a close connection between text and music, which was one of the ideals of the seconda prattica. In some of his sacred compositions he offers alternative scorings. In one collection, for instance, the pieces are written for one or two solo voices and basso continuo, but Selle added three part books for a capella fidicinia which offered the opportunity to turn them into choral pieces. That was mainly in the interest of those chapels which were not able to deal with the still relatively new basso continuo practice.

Some secular pieces may have been written on texts from Selle's own pen. In her liner-notes Monika Mandelartz admits that these poems are not of the highest quality. "The language is adjusted to the linguistic constraints of the verses, accentuations are altered and vocal colorations adapted; moreover, the many foreign words are striking". It wasn't without a reason that Martin Oppitz aimed at reforming German language, especially through his influential Buch von der Deutschen Poeterey.

The performance raises several questions which are partly the result of the lack of information in the booklet in regard to the scoring of the various items. The programme starts with Ich schlaffe, a wedding song on a text from the Song of Songs. It is for solo voice and basso continuo, and is sung by the soprano. However, some lines are given to the tenor, which suggests that this is a kind of dialogue. Considering the text there is some logic in this assumption, but it is anything but certain that this was the intention of the composer. It is quite possible that the girl who is speaking just quotes the words of her friend. I would like to know whether the score includes any indications in regard to the participation of an additional voice.

In 2009 CPO released a disc with mostly large-scale sacred works by Selle, performed by Weser-Renaissance, which included A Domino factum est in 14 parts. It is an example of a piece which Selle extended for larger forces during his time in Hamburg, reflecting the number of musicians he had at his disposal. Here we hear the same piece in its original scoring. According to the booklet it is for two tenors and bc, but then why are the soprano and the bass also participating in some passages? According to the CPO booklet the original scoring is alto, two tenors and bass, which explains the performance on the present disc. Another question regards the use of a harp in the basso continuo. This was a common basso continuo instrument in Austria and Italy, but I am not sure about its role in northern Germany. In the article on the harp there are no references to its use in Germany from before the early 18th century.

The performances are generally quite good, although I feel that more could have been made of this music. The tempi are mostly rather slow, and I wonder whether some of the items could have come off better with a faster tempo and a generally more lively performance. In some pieces ornaments are used as we know them from early 17th-century Italian music. Selle may have adopted the forms of contemporary Italian music, that doesn't imply that the performance practice, for instance in regard to ornamentation and dynamics, was also adopted.

This disc shows that there is every reason to further explore Selle's output, including his early compositions. As far as the latter is concerned this disc is a good start. Unfortunately the booklet leaves something to be desired. The liner-notes about life and work of Selle are informative, but there are various printing errors in the lyrics. In Factum est praelium magnum a part of the lyrics are omitted, and the text of Frisch auff is completely absent. The lack of English translations of the lyrics is also a serious omission; the Latin texts are translated in German.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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