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"Jubilate Deo - Early Baroque Festive Music for the Christmas Time"

Andrea Brown, Roswitha Schmelzl, sopranoa; Gert Hohmann, alto; Robert Sellier, Manuel Warwitz, tenorb; Benedikt Göbel, Matthias Winckhlera, bass
orpheus chor münchen, Les Cornets Noirs
Dir: Gerd Guglhör

rec: Nov 25 - 27, 2011, Munich, St. Markus
Oehms - OC 839 (© 2012) (61'42")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: D
Cover & track-list

Giovanni GABRIELI (1557-1612): Hodie Christus natus est a 12 (C 133); Magnificat a 8 (C 32) [2]; O Jesu mi dulcissime a 8 (C 24) [2]; O magnum mysterium a 8 (C 3) [1]; Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672): Rorate coeli desuper (SWV 322)a [4]; Verbum caro factum est (SWV 314)b [4]; Johann STADLMAYR (1575?-1648): Domine Dominus noster; Exaltabo te Domine; Exultate Deo; Missa Jubilate Deo a 8 [3]; Venite filii

Sources: Giovanni Gabrieli, [1] Concerti ... continenti musica di chiesa, madrigali, & altro ... libro primo, 1587; [2] Sacrae symphoniae, 1597; [3] Johann Stadlmayr, Missae, 1610; [4] Heinrich Schütz, Kleine Geistliche Konzerte, II, 1639

[LCN] Frithjof Smith, Gebhard David, cornett; Simen Van Mechelen, Henning Wiegräbe, Christine Brand, Joseph Bastian, sackbut; Stéphanie Pfister, Cosimo Stawiarski, violin; Patrick Sepec, cello; Matthias Spaeter, theorbo; Markus Märkl, organ

Although this disc comprises music for Advent and Christmas by three composers, the central figure is Johann Stadlmayr to whom the largest part of the liner-notes is devoted. He is one of the lesser-known composers of the 17th century, and his oeuvre is not well represented in the catalogue.

Stadlmayr was born in Freising in Bavaria. The first sign of his activities as a composer is a collection of 8-part masses which - according to a catalogue from 1611 - was printed in 1596; this collection has been lost. After the turn of the century he entered the service of the archbishop of Innsbruck; in 1604 he was appointed vice-Kapellmeister and then Kapellmeister. In 1607 he was appointed in a similar position at at the court of archduke Maximilian II. Stadlmayr remained in Innsbruck for the rest of his life. The years from 1618 to 1624 were difficult, though. Maximilian died in 1618 and his successor, Leopold V, disbanded the court chapel. It was hard for Stadlmayr to support his large family; for that reason he worked as a government meat inspector. In 1619 his wife died; he remarried in 1621. It was apparently his application for a post in Vienna which made Leopold change his mind. Stadlmayr was restored to his former position with an increased salary. It was the start of a golden era for the chapel. After Leopold's death in 1632 his widow continued to support the chapel, despite the heavy financial burden of the Thirty Years War. She also made the publication of some of Stadlmayr's compositions financially possible.

Stadlmayr's oeuvre is quite large, and comprises only sacred music. He was held in high esteem, as the dissemination of his works and their inclusion in various anthologies show. Michael Praetorius praised him as "noble contrapunctista and musician". In his early works he is clearly influenced by the style which was practised in Venice. This disc contains one example, the Missa Jubilate Deo from a collection of 8-part masses which was printed in 1610. In his works from this period he juxtaposes polyphonic episodes and passages with homophony. He also pays much attention to the optimal clarity of the text. The Venetian influence is the reason that four pieces by Giovanni Gabrieli are included in the programme.

We also hear two pieces from the second collection of the Kleine Geistliche Konzerte by Heinrich Schütz. These reflect the modern concertante style from Italy which was also practised by Monteverdi. The reason is that in Stadlmayr's later works traces of this style can be found, as in the collection of motets, from which the other pieces on this disc are taken, and which was printed in 1645. In these motets solo episodes in monodic style are embedded in a polyphonic texture for the full ensemble. In the liner-notes it is mentioned that before Stadlmayr's oeuvre was thoroughly explored several of his works were attributed to Schütz. This is an indication that there are some stylistic similarities. These would have come more clearly to the fore if some works from Schütz's oeuvre would have been chosen which show stronger similarity in structure with Stadlmayr's.

In most pieces the voices are joined by the instruments of Les Cornets Noirs: two violins, two cornetts and four sackbuts, with cello, theorbo and organ playing the basso continuo. In Giovanni Gabrieli's motets the addition of instruments was usually left to the performers, but in Stadlmayr's the instruments have independent parts, which is another sign of their modern character.

The singing of the choir and the playing of the instruments is generally very good. The soloists also do a good job in the solo passages in the motets, and they sing the two sacred concertos by Schütz very well. So far so good. The approach of this repertoire is based on a fundamental misunderstanding, though. The list of performers includes seven soloists, a choir and an instrumental ensemble. But in the 17th century there were no such things as vocal soloists and choirs in sacred music. Pieces like these were sung by an ensemble whose members took care of solo passages when necessary. The orpheus chor münchen is a fine ensemble but far too large for this repertoire. The members are not listed in the booklet, but if the picture is anything to go by then their number is over 50. The effects are detrimental: the contrasts between soli and tutti are too large and the solo passages are not naturally integrated in the ensemble. There is a lack of transparency which also makes the text sometimes hard to understand. Passages in a swift tempo, for instance at the end of Gabrieli's O Jesu mi dulcissime, would have gained from the agility a smaller vocal group possesses.

I don't really understand why Gerd Guglhör insists - as in previous recordings - on performing 17th-century music with such large forces, which is at odds with all we know about common practice at the time and which has a negative effect on the outcome. That is especially hard to understand as he always makes use of historical instruments. A performance with such large forces has little to do with historical performance practice, though.

Even so, this disc is well worth investigating because of the mass and motets by Stadlmayr. There are very few discs which pay attention to his oeuvre, and that makes this disc welcome, despite its shortcomings.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

orpheus chor münchen
Les Cornets Noirs

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