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"Renaissance am Rhein" (Renaissance at the Rhine)

Singer Pur

rec: Jan 27 - 29, 2010, Cologne, Deutschlandfunk (Kammermusiksaal)
Oehms - OC 820 (© 2010) (66'39")

anon: Ein pauer gab seim son ein weib; Jean DE CASTRO (c1540/45-1600): Hactenus a longo praestolor [4]; Vien doux Hyménée [2]; Johannes DE CLEVE (1528/29-1582): Es wel uns Gott genedig sein; Mirabilia testomonia tua, Domine; Konrad HAGIUS (c1550-1616): Oh Herr dein ohr mit gnaden [3]; Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594), arr Johannes Mangon (?): O Mors, quam amara; Petit Jean DE LATRE (c1510-1596): Comme la rose; Qualis est dilecta mea; Si seulle estois; Johannes MANGON (c1525-1578): In craticula te Deum non negavi; Martin PEUDARGENT (c1525/30-c1594): O Dee cunctiparens [1]; Andreas PEVERNAGE (1542/43-1591): Salve Regina [6]; Nicolaus ZANGIUS (c1570-c1618): Ein Einfalt zu dem Pfarrherr sprach [5]; Tota pulchra es

(Sources: [1] Martin Peudargent, Liber primus sacrarum cantionum, 1555; [2] Jean de Castro, Livre de chansons, 1586; [3] Konrad Hagius, Die Psalmen Davids … durch den Herrn Casparum Ulenbergium in Truck verfertigt, 1589; [4] Jean de Castro, Cantiones sacrae, quae motetas vulgo nominant, 1591; [5] Nicolaus Zangius, Etliche schöne teutsche geistliche und weltliche Lieder, 1597; [6] Andreas Pevernage, Laudes vespertinae B. Mariae Virginis, 1604

Claudia Reinhard, soprano; Klaus Wenk, Markus Zapp, Manuel Warwitz, tenor; Reiner Schneider-Waterberg, baritone; Marcus Schmidl, bass-baritone

Our picture of the past is often one-sided. That is also the case with the music of the renaissance, in particular the sacred polyphony. The oeuvre of the main representatives of the so-called 'Franco-Flemish school' who worked at the main political and cultural centres of Europe is frequently performed and recorded. Lesser-known masters and composers who were active elsewhere receive less attention. This disc sheds light on music composed and performed in the region of the Rhine in Germany. It appears in conjunction with the exhibition 'Renaissance am Rhein' (Renaissance at the Rhine in the LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn which was held from September 2010 till February 2011.

In the 16th century Aachen, Düsseldorf, Cleves, Cologne and Liège were important centres of musical culture. The programme pays tribute to the composers connected to the region to which they belong. During the preparations Singer Pur made some interesting discoveries. "We did place some geographical restrictions on our 'treasure hunt', however", Marcus Schmidl writes in his liner notes. "Upstream, we stopped at Aachen; downstream we allowed ourselves to drift towards the sea into the Netherlands." The programme contains sacred and secular music, and pieces in various languages: Latin, German and French. This way this disc provides a good survey of what was written and performed in the region.

The best-known composer is Lassus, who was one of the last representatives of the 'Franco-Flemish school'. He has worked in various countries, but the largest part of his career in Munich. He is only included in the programme because his motet O mors, quam amara has been arranged, probably by Johannes Mangon, also from Flanders, who worked in Liège, and who is also represented with a motet of his own. In craticula te Deum non negavi is a setting of words of the martyr Laurentius. Mangon was a pupil of Petit Jean de Latre, who was from Utrecht in the Northern Netherlands and worked in Liège from the 1530s to the early 1560s. His motet Qualis est dilecta is written on a text from the Song of Songs. The chanson Come la rose has been used by Mangon as the cantus firmus for a mass setting. The disc ends with another chanson by De Latre, the gloomy Si seulles estois.

Martin Peudargent was also from Flanders and worked most of his life as Kapellmeister of Duke Wilhelm V of Jülich-Kleve-Berg. Two collections of motets were published in Düsseldorf in 1555. O Dee, cunctiparens is a sombre motet in which man confesses his sins and asks for forgiveness. Johannes de Cleve was born in Kleve, and worked in Augsburg as well as in the Northern Netherlands. The two pieces by him are interesting in that they show two aspects of music in the 16th century. Mirabilia testimonia tua, Domine contains a mirror canon for the two tenors - this kind of sophisticated compositional games were quite popular among composers of the Franco-Flemish school. Es wel uns Gott genedig sein is written on a text by Martin Luther and suggests De Cleve had at least some sympathy for the Reformation.

That could also be the case with Konrad Hagius who was from Westphalia and served various Protestant and Roman-Catholic courts. Interestingly the setting of a Psalm in a German rhymed version was composed when he was at the service of the Roman-Catholic court of Jülich-Kleve-Berg. The text was written by Kaspar Ulenberg who was educated as a Lutheran theologian but later converted to Catholicism. Also interesting is that Hagius uses the melody of Psalm 23 of the Genevan Psalter - the Psalm book of the French Huguenots - as the cantus firmus of Oh Herr dein ohr mit gnaden.

Jean de Castro was another Flemish composer, probably from Liège, who worked most of his life in Cologne. He was a prolific composer whose music was quite popular. As the music of his contemporary Lassus the oeuvre of De Castro shows an increase in text expression and a closer connection between text and music than before. That comes especially to the fore in Hactenus a longo praestolor which is an obituary for Margrave Philipp von Baden who died shortly before his wedding. Andreas Pevernage was born near Kortrijke in Flanders and died in Antwerp. His setting of the Salve Regina is an alternatim composition, in which plainchant and five-part verses alternate. The only connection with the Rhine region in the strict sense is that the collection from which this piece is taken was used in the Mass liturgy of the Hardenrath Chapel in Cologne. Lastly Nicolaus Zangius who is one of the two composers on this disc who was not of Flemish origin (the other being Hagius). He was from the mark Brandenburg and died in Berlin. He never worked in the Rhine region, and here it is the fact that the secular song Ein Einfalt zu dem Pfarrherr sprach is from a collection which was printed in Cologne which seems to be the reason to include two of his compositions in the programme.

This is certainly an interesting disc in that it pays attention to music by composers who are not well represented on disc. It also gives an impression of the various genres in vogue at the time as well as the coexistence of Protestantism and Roman-Catholicism in the region. The ensemble Singer Pur is a fine ensemble which only recently recorded madrigals by Adrian Willaert. In general the performances on this disc are very good. I would have liked a less direct recording: the microphones have been too close to the singers, and as a result there is less coherence in sound than would be ideal. The pronunciation is historically justified, both in the Latin and the French pieces.

One of the features of Singer Pur is the lack of a male alto. Here the second voice is a tenor, and I find that not really satisfying. Now and then Klaus Wenk's voice sounds a bit stressed, as if his part isn't quite comfortable for his range. And because of that his voice is sometimes too weak: in Es wel uns Gott genedig sein by Johannes de Cleve, for instance, his part isn't clearly audible as it is sandwiched between the soprano and the second tenor. The performance of Konrad Hagius' Oh Herr dein ohr mit gnaden is questionable: in the second stanza one of the tenors sings the cantus firmus whereas the other voices sing instrumentally, as it were. I don't think the composer intended the melody to be singled out this way. And if it should be it would have been better to perform the other parts on real instruments. I find it hard to believe that the performance given here is in accordance with the performance practice in Hagius' time.

Even so this disc deserves the attention of everyone with a special interest in the music of the late renaissance. The booklet contains programme notes in German and English, but unfortunately there are no English translations of the lyrics. As this product is apparently intended for the international market this is an incomprehensible omission.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

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