musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Ich stuend an einem Morgen - German songs for tenor of the 16th century"

Marcel Beekman, tenora
Brisk Recorder Quartet Amsterdam

rec: Nov 2010, Cothen (Neth), Protestantse Kerk
Globe - GLO 5242 (© 2010) (58'18")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics: no translations
Cover & track-list

anon: Der Hund mir vor dem Licht umbgahta; Sixt (Xystus) DIETRICH (c1490-1548): Elslin liebes elselin min; Paul HOFHAIMER (1459-1537): tandernack uf dem Rin lag; Heinrich ISAAC (c1450-1517): Der Hund; Isbruck, ich muss dich lassen; La my; Ludwig SENFL (c1486-1542/43): [anon/Senfl] Ach Elslein, liebes Elseleina; Ach Elslein, liebes Elselein/Es taget vor dem Waldea; Amica mea/Ich stuend an einem Morgena; Dort oben auf dem Bergea; Ein Maidlein zue dem Brunnen gienga; Elend bringt Peina; Es taget vor dem Waldeab; Es taget vor dem Walde/Fortunaa; Es was eins Bauren Töchterleina; Es wollt ein Mann versuchen sein Weib; Es wollt' ein Frau zuem Weine gahna; Fortuna/Ich stuend an einem Morgena; Geduld umb Hulda; Ich stuend an einem Morgena; Im Maiena; Lust hab ich ghabt zuer Musicaa; M, dein bin ich/Es taget vor dem Waldea; Tandernac; Tandernakb; Wann ich des Morgens früeh aufsteh'a

Marjan Banis, Bert Honig, Alide Verheij, recorder; Saskia Coolen, recorder, viola da gamba; with Susanne Borsch, recorderb

This disc sheds light on a relatively neglected genre of the renaissance, the Tenorlied. The German term, which is also used in other languages, indicates that it was only practised in the German-speaking regions of Europe. Tenorlieder were composed roughly between 1450 and 1550 and are polyphonic pieces with a cantus firmus in the tenor. Early specimens are in three parts, later Tenorlieder are in four and sometimes five parts. It were mostly pre-existing songs which were used as cantus firmus, sometimes with newly written texts. These are of very different character: some are of high literary quality, others are humorous, satirical or obscene.

Several composers have contributed to the genre, but Ludwig Senfl has to be considered the main composer of Tenorlieder, with almost 250 songs from his pen surviving. Senfl was born in Basle and was devoted to music from early on, as he himself stated: "From my early childhood onwards I always took pleasure in music. The first thing that I practised was ut re mi fa sol la, because I liked singing more than anything else; nothing could stop me and that was how it all began". In his song Lust hab ich ghabt zuer Musica he pays tribute to his teacher Heinrich Isaac. Senfl entered the court chapel of the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I in Augusburg as a choirboy in 1496; Isaac became part of it in that same year. The next year the chapel was disbanded and reorganized in Vienna. Isaac was appointed court composer and it is likely Senfl was also part of the new chapel. When Isaac was commissioned by the chapter of Konstanz Cathedral to compose a cycle of Offices, Senfl acted as copyist. In 1517 he succeeded Isaac as court composer under Maximilian. When the Emperor died in 1519 the largest part of his chapel was disbanded by his successor, Charles V, and Senfl had to look for another job. In 1523 he entered the service of Duke Wilhelm in Bavaria, where he stayed the rest of his life.

There is quite a lot of variety within the corpus of Tenorlieder in Senfl's oeuvre. Among the most sophisticated are the quodlibets in which various melodies are combined. That explains the double titles in the track-list. In this recording only pieces with secular texts - some of which apparently written by Senfl himself - have been selected. Senfl also composed a number of German songs with sacred texts. To what extent the pieces are performed at full length is impossible to say. Lust hab ich ghabt zuer Musica has twelve stanzas; the first letters are an acrostychon: Ludwig Sennfl. Here only three stanzas are sung.

It is not fully clear how these songs were meant to be performed. According to the liner-notes in many songs only the tenor part has a text. This in itself is no evidence that the other parts should be performed instrumentally, but many of these parts are written in a more or less 'instrumental' style which makes a vocal performance rather implausible. The performance with a consort of recorders is a logical choice as the recorder was a popular and frequently-played instrument at the time. The Brisk Recorder Quartet Amsterdam have used consorts of recorders by one builder, copied after instruments by a single builder of the 16th century. That guarantees a maximum of unity in sound. In a number of pieces one of the parts is played on the viola da gamba. Marcel Beekman has a light and agile voice which is well suited to this repertoire. His voice blends well with the recorders, but at the same time he pays much attention to the text and makes sure the listener can understand it. The pronunciation is different from modern German; whether this is really 'authentic' I don't know. One of its features is that the ei is pronounced as in modern Austrian-German.

Tenorlieder are not that well represented on disc, and in general Ludwig Senfl's music doesn't receive the attention it deserves. Therefore this disc is most welcome. The quality of the repertoire and the standard of playing and singing are additional reasons to recommend this recording. The booklet includes the lyrics in the original, but no English translations. Only a short synopsis of the songs' content is given.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

Brisk Recorder Quartet Amsterdam

CD Reviews