musica Dei donum

CD reviews

The musical world of Maximilian I

[I] "Kaiser Maximilian I. - Lieder, Chansons, Tänze"
Dir: Sabine Lutzenberger
rec: Jan 11 - 13, 2019, Blaibach (D)
Christophorus - CHR 77438 (© 2019) (63'09")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: D
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: D'ung aultre amer/Dun uatre mer; Dung plus amer/De montre amer; Engoulesme; La basse danse de Cleves; La basse danse du roy d'Espaigne; La douce amour; La Margerite; La Portingaloise; ?Antoine DE FÉVIN (c1470-1511/12) / ?Jean MOUTON (c1459-1522): O pulcherrima mulierum; Paul HOFHAIMER (1459-1537), arr Hans NEUSIDLER (1508/09-1563): Ach lieb mit laid; Heinrich ISAAC (c1450-1517): Kein frewd hab ich uff erd; Mit Freud allein in aller Welt; Zwischen perg und tieffe tal; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1440-1521): Proch dolor/Pie Jesu; Johannes OCKEGHEM (1410/25-1497): D'ung aultre amer, rondeau; Ludwig SENFL (c1490-1543): Kain höhers lebt noch schwebt; Kein Freud' ohn' dich; ?Adrian WILLAERT (c1490-1562): Kein Adler in der Welt so schön

Sabine Lutzenberger, mezzo-soprano; Bernd Oliver Fröhlich, Richard Resch, Achim Schulz, tenor; Joel Frederiksen, bass; Baptiste Romain, fiddle, renaissance violin; Marc Lewon, viola d'arco, lute; Caroline Ritchie, Elizabeth Rumsey, viola d'arco, bass viol

[II] "Global player Maximilian - Musikalisches Networking um 1500"
Ensemble Rosarum Flores
Dir: Ilse Strauß, Wolfgang Praxmarer
rec: Feb 8 - 9, 2019, Innsbruck, Church of the Seminary of the diocese Innsbruck and Feldkirch
Musikmuseum - CD13042 (© 2019) (69'38")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Alexander AGRICOLA (1445/46-1506): De tous biens plaine; anon: Danse de Cleves; Hoff dancz - Nacn dancz; Missa O Österreich (Kyrie); Marco DALL'AQUILA (c1480-after 1538): Plus nulz regretz; Jacob BARBIREAU (1455-1491): Een vroylic wesen; Marchetto CARA (1465-1525): Non è tempo d'aspettare; Loyset COMPÈRE (c1445-1518): Magnificat 6. toni; Dux Burgensis (Charles the Bold) (1433-1477): Ma dame trop vous m'esprennés; Juan DEL ENCINA (1469-1529): Fata la parte; Partistes os mis amores; Walter FRYE (?-bef 1475): Ave Regina coelorum; Johannes GHISELIN (fl c1491-1507): Een vrouelic wesen; Le cueur le sveult; HAYNE van Ghizeghem (c1445-1476/97): De tous biens plaine; Paul HOFHAIMER (1459-1537), arr Arnolt SCHLICK (c1460-after 1521): Herzliebstes Pild; Heinrich ISAAC (c1450-1517): Ne più bella di queste; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1455-1521): Plus nulz regretz; Jacob OBRECHT (1457/58-1505): Fors seulement; Marbrianus DE ORTO (c1460-1529): Se je perdu mon amy; Balthasar RESINARIUS (c1485-1544): Fröhlich wollen wir Halleluja singen; Pierre de LA RUE (c1452-1518): Mijn hert heeft altijts verlanghen; Ludwig SENFL (c1490-1543): Kein Adler in der Welt/Es taget vor dem Walde/Ich stund an einem Morgen, quodlibet; Gaspar VAN WEERBEKE (c1445-after 1516): Quam pulchra es

Andrea Oberparleiter, soprano; Sabine Lutzenberger, mezzo-soprano; Bernd Ooliver Fröhlich, tenor; Martin Senfter, bass; Andrea Guttmann-Lunenburg, Ilse Strauß, recorder; Matthijs Lunenburg, recorder, cornett; Reinhild Waldek, recorder, harp; Norbert Salvenmoser, Johannes Giesinger, Bernhard Rainer, sackbut; Elizabeth Rumsey, bass viol; Wolfgang Praxmarer, lute, guitar; Marian Polin, clavisimbalum, organ, regal

One of the differences between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance regards human self-awareness. In medieval times, it hardly mattered who was the author of a text or the composer of a piece of music. Sacred music was written in the honour of God, and secular music was mostly transferred orally and largely improvised. This was going to change during the 15th century. Composers wrote pieces in honour of a deceased colleague; Josquin's Deploration sur la mort d'Ockeghem is a telling example. Not only does it refer to the deceased master's qualities, but it also mentions several composers who mourn for his death. Music started to be written down, and the emergence of a true music printing industry shortly after 1500 only furthered the fixation of music and the identification of composers.

Maximilian I (1459-1519), emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, can be considered a typical representative of the Renaissance spirit. He was well aware of his own personality, and wanted to be remembered after his death. It is telling that he wrote two autobiographies. In one of them, Weisskunig, he writes: "He who fails to secure himself a remembrance in his lifetime will have no remembrance after his death and the same man will be forgotten when the bell is struck (...)". Through his autobiographies as well as his plan to put together a book of the music performed at his court, he wanted to leave a legacy to generations to come, in order not to be forgotten after his death. The composition of a music book never materialized, but we are still pretty well informed about the kind of music performed at his court, first and foremost from the pen of composers who were in his service.

Like the Habsburg emperors of later generations, he was acquainted with music - which was part of the education of any man from the higher echelons of society anyway - and had learned to play the lute. Music was also an important means of representation, reflecting the wealth and power of a particular ruler. The two discs reviewed here are the result of the commemoration of Maximilian's death in January 1519. In different ways they document his musical world. Whereas Per-Sonat focuses on music by composers who in one way or another were connected to Maximilian and his court, the Ensemble Rosarum Flores rather performs music from a much wider circle, paying tribute to his "musical network", as the title says.

The problem with productions like these is that we often don't know exactly which music was performed at a particular court. Especially if composers moved from one position to another - which was more often the case than not - and most of their works can not be dated with any amount of certainty, the inclusion of music from their pen is largely speculative. Moreover, the performers are often not that critical with regard to the selection of pieces. From that perspective, this kind of projects have to be treated with some tolerance.

The Christophorus disc opens with a piece by Ludwig Senfl, who started his career as a chorister in Maximilian's chapel, but who was still very young, when the emperor died. A large part of his oeuvre was probably written well after 1519, but Kain höhers lebt noch schwebt is a song in Maximilian's honour. The liner-notes state: "At the end of the fourth verse, the biblical motto 'Hold moderation in all things' is heard, which Maximilian also had minted in Latin short form transcription on his coins." It is rather odd that this stanza is omitted here. The power of a monarch and the splendour of his court was reflected by the status of the musicians he was able to contract. Heinrich Isaac was one of the main composers of his time, generally considered the equal of Josquin Desprez. For some years he was in the service of Maximilian, and therefore pieces from his pen had to be included. As his pieces on a German text were of little use at other places where he has been active, there is every reason to assume that his German songs included here, were indeed written during his time at Maximilian's court.

In the programme, we also find pieces which were popular across Europe, and were arranged and adapted many times. Therefore it is not surprising that some of such arrangements can be found at places, to which the composer of the original work was never connected. An example is Johannes Ockeghem's chanson D'ung aultre amer, which is followed here by an arrangement from a manuscript of pieces written at Maximilian's court. Dance music was also widely disseminated across the continent, but it is unlikely that it was performed everywhere the same way. The dances included in the programme are all from a book of dances of Margaret of Austria, daughter of Maximilian and between 1507 and 1530 governor of the Habsburg Netherlands. These dances are performed here in arrangements by the players of the ensemble, which is in line with their naturally flexible character.

The song Kein Adler in der welt so schön is an example of a piece which is not directly connected to Maximilian's court, as it was written for a wedding in 1534. It is attributed to Adrian Willaert, but the German text makes this rather unlikely. One may wonder why it was uncluded here; the only reason seems to be that stylistically it fits with the songs written at Maximilian's court. The programme ends with a piece by Josquin, the most famous composer of his time. Proch dolor is a motet for seven voices; three voices in canon sing "Pie Jesu Domine, dona ei requiem". Maximilian is not mentioned, but there can be no doubt that this piece was written at the occasion of his death.

Despite some issues as mentioned above, this is an interesting disc, which includes some little-known items. Overall, the repertoire of songs in German does not get the attention it deserves. As secular music was more specifically connected to a court or a region in Europe, whereas sacred music was often of a more global nature, it seems right that the performers have focused on the former category. They do a fine job here: the ensemble comprises some of the best performers in the field, and singers and players deliver good performances, which results in a compelling programme. I am not entirely happy with the recording: the miking is a bit too close for comfort.

The second disc is slightly different, as I already indicated. Here Maximilian is portrayed as a member of a many-branched family. As marriages had political purposes in the first place, the Habsburgs had a finger in the pie almost everywhere in Europe. This explains the wide variety of pieces performed by the Ensemble Rosarum Flores.

Here we also find more of a mixture of secular and sacred works. The programme opens with a Kyrie from the anonymous Missa O Österreich. It is taken from a choirbook including about 180 secular and sacred pieces by some of the major composers of Maximilian's time, such as Josquin, Compère and Isaac. In the course of the programme we move across Europe, to the different places and courts, with which Maximilian stood in contact in one way or another. The chanson Ma dame trop vous m'esprennés, for instance, documents his acquaintance with the Burgundian court in the person of Duke Charles the Bold. He is the composer of this chanson, under the name of Dux Burgensis. Hayne van Ghizeghem was for some years in his service, and we hear his very popular chanson De tous bien plaine, one of those pieces, which were arranged and adapted numerous times.

The Spanish connections of Maximilian are documented with the pieces by Juan del Encina, as well as with Josquin's chanson Plus nulz regretz, which is included in the songbook of Johanna of Castile, known as 'Johanna the Insane'. She was the sister-in-law of Margaret of Austria, who is represented here with the song Mijn hert heeft altijts verlangen by Pierre de La Rue. He was her favourite composer, and many of his chansons and songs are included in her personal songbooks.

At the end of his life, Maximilian saw the rise and dissemination of the Reformation. This is documented by the inclusion of Fröhlich wollen wir Halleluja singen, a very short piece by Baltasar Resinarius, who started his career as a choral singer in Maximilian's chapel under Isaac, and later converted to Lutheranism.

The inclusion of the chanson Fors seulement by Jacob Obrecht is an example of a piece which can only be connected to Maximilian very indirectly. The piece itself has nothing to do with him, but in 1503 Obrecht sent his Missa Maria zart to Maximilian, apparently because he was hoping for a position at his court. He was also present at the meeting of the emperor and his son Philip the Fair, in 1503 in Innsbruck.

The programme ends as it started: with a piece from the choirbook from which the anonymous Kyrie was taken. Loyset Compère's Magnificat 6. toni is an alternatim composition, and was probably intended for Vesper services in the parish church of Innsbruck, which may have been attended by members of Maximilian's court.

The performance of this work is the least satisfying on this disc. Instruments were used in sacred music during the renaissance, mostly cornetts and sackbuts, playing colla voce and sometimes also substituting for one or several singers, but the mixture of instruments used here seems questionable. Some verses are performed instrumentally, which is also debatable. The rest of the programme comes off much better, although here I would have liked the miking to be a little closer. The songs by Encina are not very idiomatic; time and again it shows that Spanish music is very hard to perform for non-Spanish singers. In other pieces I now and then found the tempo a bit too slow and the performance a little stiff. Even so, this is another interesting disc, which nicely complements Per-Sonat's recording, and also includes some little-known items.

Together these discs offer a nice and entertaining survey of the musical world of one of the most powerful rulers from around 1500.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Rosarum Flores

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