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Johann Melchior GLETLE (1626 - 1683): "Triumphale canticum - Motetti sacri concertati"

Musica Fiorita
Dir: Daniela Dolci

rec: October 2005, Binningen (Austria), Katholische Kirche 'Heilig Kreuz'
ORF – CD 461 (© 2007) (76'57")

Eja gaude, cor meum [2]; Expandisti in cruce [1]; Gaudeamus omnes [2]; Litaniae [3]; Magnificat [3]; Miseremini mei [2]; Omnis pulchritudo [2]; Salve, o amoris altare [2]; Salve Regina [1]; Stella coeli extirpavit [1]; Triumphale canticum [2]; Veni, Sancte Spiritus [2]

Susanne Rydén, Agnieszka Kowalczyk, soprano; Denis Lakey, alto; Henning Klocke, tenor; Sebastian Goll, bass; Henry Moderlak, Christoph Braeger, trumpet; Philipp Tarr, timpani; Bork-Frithjof Smith, Gebhard David, cornett; Eva Borhi, Peter Barczi, violin; Henning Wiegräbe, Henry Michel Garzia, Franck Poitrineau, trombone; Sergio Alvares, viola da gamba; Elisabeth Kaufhold, dulcian; Marie Bournisien, harp; Juan Sebastian Lima, theorbo; Daniela Dolci, harpsichord, organ

(Sources: [1] Expeditionis musicae classis I. Motettae sacrae concertatae ..., op. 1, 1667; [2] Expeditionis musicae classis IV. Motettae ..., op. 5, 1667; [3] Expeditionis musicae classis V. Litaniae ..., op. 6, 1681)

Johann Melchior Gletle is one of the very few composers in the baroque era who is of Swiss origin. He was born in Bremgarten near Zurich, but worked the largest part of his life in Augsburg in southern Germany. In 1651 he was appointed organist, and in 1654 Kapellmeister. He held both positions until his death in 1683.

In Augsburg he must have had fine singers and instrumentalists at is disposal, as the compositions performed on this disc are technically quite demanding. In particular some soprano parts have a pretty high tessitura. In the publications of his works Gletle often adds the remark ad libitum to instrumental parts. Not every church had the instruments he had at his disposal, and this way smaller churches could use (and purchase) his music too. In some cases he also gives an alternative instrumentation. That is the case with the Easter motet Triumphale Canticum, which has given this disc its title. It was originally set for solo voice with two trumpets, timpani and bc, but Gletle suggests – in case those instruments are not available – to use two violins, one viola and two trombones instead. It is rather strange that here the second alternative is used – although two trumpets and timpani are available – but the timpani of the first version are included. This isn't just in conflict with Gletle's own suggestions, it also seems to me that in the baroque era timpani were hardly ever used without trumpets.

As far as the character of Gletle's compositions is concerned, not only are they technically demanding, they are also expressive and reflect the strong influence of the Italian concertato style. There is plenty of text expression, like at the close of Expandisti in cruce, where on the text "commendo spiritum meum" (I commend my spirit) the short pauses in the instrumental parts depict someone breathing his last gasp. Very eloquent is the exclamatio on "o" (O quam mirabilis – O how wonderful) in Eja gaude, cor meum, which is repeated and followed by pauses. The motet Triumphale Canticum - already mentioned above – has a strongly military character: it is a kind of ode in honour of a king who has gained victory: "Let us sing a song of triumph, a song to Christ, our King, let us praise him, he who dath so gloriously overcame". Later on Christ is called "glorious victor", "triumphant king", "death's conqueror", "harbinger of life". Very different is the motet which opens the programme, Salve, o amoris altare: "All hail, thou altar of love, holiest of divinities, most beloved breast of my Lord Jesus Christ". The mystical character is reflected by a passage like this: "Allow me to enter you, o palace of pleasure, o most blessed dining room, o hall of true riches, o court of delights, o throne of love, o seat of honour, o tabernacle of joy, o shelter of pleasantness, allow me to enter into you, and open your sweet wound." One expects a piece like this to be pretty exalted, and that is exactly what it is.

That Gletle worked for the Roman Catholic service – in his time Augsburg's population was half Roman Catholic and half Lutheran – is not only reflected by those pieces which are specific for the Catholic liturgy, like Salve Regina and the Litaniae, but also from the motet Gaudeamus omnes, where the line "sub honore beatae Mariae Virginis" (in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary) is emphasized by long and virtuoso coloraturas. In the Salve Regina the words "lacrimarum valle" (valley of tears) are set for bass solo and contain some sharp dissonants.

The music by Gletle as presented on this disc is of high quality, and there is no reason to ignore this composer or label him a "minor master". He certainly deserves the attention Daniela Dolci and her ensemble have given him (as far as I know this is the second disc by this ensemble devoted to Gletle's music).

Musically speaking most performances on this disc are most impressive, and often outright exciting. In particular the sopranos give splendid performances, and tenor and bass also give fine interpretations. My main criticism is that now and then the diction leaves something to be desired. That is in particular true for the alto who also isn't quite able to meet the technical challenges of the music. There are differences between the text as printed in the booklet and as they are sung. This is something the musical director should have taken care of. Also the Italian pronunciation of the Latin texts is historically unjustified.
The instrumentalists are playing at a high level and give colourful performances of the instrumental parts.

The booklet contains a two-page essay on composer and music, but it could have been a little more extensive, as music encyclopedias have so little to say about Gletle. The editing of the booklet could have been more accurate: the information about which singers and instrumentalists are involved in the various pieces in the programme contains some errors.

I recommend this disc to anyone who likes to hear something less familiar.

Johan van Veen (© 2008)

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