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"O anima mea - Motets and Instrumental music by Georg Arnold and Ingenuin Molitor"

Melanie Hirsch, Maria Bernius, soprano; Matthias Helm, baritone
Vita & Anima
Dir: Peter Waldner

rec: May 4 - 5, 2015, Innsbruck, Church of the Seminary of the dioceses Innsbruck and Feldkirch
Musikmuseum - CD 13031 (© 2018) (63'20")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Georg ARNOLD (1621-1676): Aria [1]; Benedic Domine [2]; Canzona IV [1]; Capricio I [1]; Capricio XIII [1]; Estote fortes in bello [2]; Factus est repente [2]; Omnipotens et misericors Deus [2]; Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem [2]; Ingenuin MOLITOR (c1610-1669): Laudabo Dominum in vita mea [3]; Millies saluto te [3]; O anima mea [3]; Sic ergo, bone Jesu [3]; Sive comedam sive bibam [3]

Georg Arnold, [1] Canzoni, ariae et sonatae, 1659; [2] Liber II ... Sacrarum Cantionum, 1661; [3] Ingenuin Molitor, Fasciculus musicalis, 1668

Jolanta Sosnowska, Cecilia Bernardini, violin; Arno Jochem de la Rosée, viola da gamba; Andreas Arend, theorbo; Peter Waldner, organ

In recent years I have reviewed several discs which are part of a series of recordings released under the label 'Musikmuseum'. It includes repertoire by Austrian composers from the Renaissance to the romantic era which today are hardly more than footnotes in history. However, these recordings attest to the quality of their oeuvre, and they contribute to the knowledge of the musical landscape in a part of Europe, which was quite important, especially in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Through its geographical position, between Italy and Germany, it played a key role in the transportation of the latest trends in Italian music to the northern parts of the continent. Vienna was a centre of music for several centuries, and was under the spell of the Italian style since the early 17th century, but it was not only there that this style manifested itself. This disc attests to that.

The programme focuses on three editions, published by Michael Wagner in Innsbruck, who was an important music printer in his time. Ingenuin Molitor is represented with sacred concertos from a collection of 1668, and Georg Arnold with sacred concertos published in 1661 and instrumental pieces from an edition of 1659.

Molitor, who has no entry in New Grove, was born in Habach in Swabia and was educated as an organist. His first position was that of organist at the Franciscan monastery in Bolzano. Here he spent almost his entire life as a monk. In 1669 he died and his obituary reads as follows: "In the year 1669 the venerable Father Ingenuin Molitor of Habach passed away in Bolzano: he who was novice master and vicar, and in life proved himself in devoutness, in his outstanding skill at playing instruments and in the art of composing melodiesm, surrendered himself to fate on 31st March, at the age of 58, in his 38th year in the Order."

The collection of motets and canzonas, from which the pieces on this disc are taken, was printed one year before his death. The sacred concertos are written in the style which had become common at the time and had its origins in Italy. The scoring varies from one to three voices - two sopranos and bass -, two violins, viola da gamba or violone and basso continuo. The texts are mostly free poetry, and are often of a rather mystic character, especially in their description of the love of the faithful for Mary and Jesus.

In a way the writing and printing of this music is rather surprising. This kind of music was not in line with the Franciscan ideal of simplicity, modesty and poverty. When more elaborate music came into existence at the start of the 17th century, the Franciscans at first resisted its introduction into their monasteries. Only the singing of chants and the playing of the organ were tolerated. Gradually some elements of the new style were accepted, such as the basso continuo practice. In time soloists and other instruments than the organ made their appearance in the Franciscan monasteries. However, the fact that Molitor dedicated this collection to Augustin I Haas, abbott of the Cistercian Abbey of Stams, indicates, according to Franz Gratl in his liner-notes, that these pieces were rather intended for performance in that abbey.

Georg Arnold was born in Feldsberg in Lower Austria (now Valtice in the Czech Republic), and worked most of his life as an organist in Bamberg, from 1649 until his death. He was a prolific composer: between 1651 and 1672 nine collections of music were printed. The fact that 22 motets are included in the famous Düben collection attests to his international reputation. Arnold adopted the Venetian polychoral style, which was very popular in southern Germany at the time. Here he is represented with sacred concertos of the same character as those by Molitor. Although he was not a violinist himself, the instrumental pieces included here show a thorough knowledge of violin technique, as several of them are technically demanding. That goes in particular for the Capricio I. The Aria and the Capricio XIII are both based on a basso ostinato.

As the sacred concertos are products of the concertato style which emerged in Italy in the early 17th century, they show a close connection between text and music. Molitor underlines the contrast between the first and the second line in O anima mea with musical means: "Oh my soul, do you still lie sleeping? - Arise, look for Jesus who loves you". In Sive comedam sive bibam the word "suspiro" (I sigh) is illustrated with short ascending figures and general pauses. The word "langueo" (I languish) is set to a descending chromatic figure. Arnold opens his setting of Estote fortes in bello in the stile concitato, known from battle pieces: "Be strong in the fight, strive against the ancient serpent and you shall gain access to the eternal kingdom".

It is not indicated in the booklet, but I am pretty sure that these pieces - or at least the large majority of them - appear here on disc for the first time. Their performance and recording is well deserved. We have here a collection of beautiful pieces which bear witness to the influence of the monodic style in Austria. The three singers deliver immaculate performances, which do full justice to the character of these sacred concertos. Their voices blend perfectly, and they show much sensitivity towards the text and the affetti they aim to express. The instrumentalists play an important part here as well. In the sacred concertos they mostly imitate the voices - or the other way round - but especially in the instrumental items they can show their skills.

If you are willing to broaden your musical horizon and are ready to look beyond what is common repertoire today, you should investigate this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Maria Bernius
Matthias Helm
Melanie Hirsch
Vita & Anima

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