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Johann Melchior GLETLE (1626 - 1683): "36 Motets op. 5"

Musica Fiorita
Dir: Daniela Dolci

rec: May 2000, Meiningen (CH), Reformierte Kirche; Oct 2005, Binningen (CH), Römisch-katholische Kirche Heilig Kreuz; Jan 2014, Basel, Adullam-Kapelle
Pan Classics - PC 10337 (4 CDs) (© 2015) (4.16'40")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Antonio BERTALI (1605-1669): Sonata IV à 5; Sonata VI à 5; Marco Antonio FERRO (?-1662): Sonata X à 4
Johann Melchior GLETLE: [in order of appearance in the printed edition]
I Benedic anima mea; II Cantate Domino; III Quis mihi det; IV Purissima virgo; V Celebremus cum gaudio; VI Hox est praeceptum; VII Justus germinabit; VIII Regnum mundi; IX In lectulo meo; X Eja gaude cor meum; XI Gaudeamus omnes; XII Salve pectus Salvatoris; XIII Quicquid agam; XIV Defecit gaudium; XV Salve o amoris altare; XVI Quousque dormis infelix; XVII Triumphale canticum; XVIII Victimae paschali; XIX Omnis pulchritudo; XX Veni Sancte Spiritus; XXI Te Deum patrem; XXII Domine non sum; XXIII Puer qui natus est; XXIV Tota pulchra es; XXV Salve pater Salvatoris; XXVI Factum est praelium; XXVII Transeamus pastores; XXVIII Qualis ista tam serena; XXIX Hodie nobis coelorum rex; XXX Ist dann so groß und greulich; XXXI Puellule decore; XXXII O wie ein so rauhe Krippen; XXXIII Miseremini mei; XXXIV Popule meus; XXXV Sancta Maria; XXXVI O Jesu Rex noster
Philipp Jacob RITTLER (1637-1690): Sonata à 6

Gabriele Hierdeis, Ulrike Hofbauer, Jessica Jans, Agnieszka Kowalczyk, Susanne Rydén, soprano; Daniel Cabena, Denis Lakey, alto; Hans Jörg Mammel, tenor; Raitis Grigalis, Ulrich Messthaler, bass
Jean-François Madeuf, trumpet; Philip Tarr, timpani; William Dongois, Gebhard David, Bork-Frithjof Smith, cornett; Adam Bregman, Henry Michel Garzia, Simen Van Mechelen, Frank Poitrineau, Henning Wiegräbe, sackbut; Peter Barczi, Eva Borhi, German Echeverri, Katharina Heutjer, Enrico Parizzi, Hélène Schmitt, violin; Sergio Alvares, Gebhard David, Franziska Finckh, Brian Franklin, Michael Lang-Alsvik, Rebeko Ruso, viola da gamba; Bernhard Maurer, cello; Armin Bereuter, violone; Eckhard Lenzing, Elisabeth Kaufhold, dulcian; Marie Bournisien, harp; Margit Übellacker, psaltery; Dolores Costoyas, Juan Sebastian Lima, Yasunori Imamura, theorbo; Daniela Dolci, harpsichord, organ

Source: Johann Melchior Gletle, Expeditionis Musicae Classis IV. Motettae XXXVI à Voce Sola, op. 5, 1677

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 these discs 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. 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. Both versions are recorded, but it is rather odd that in the second version timpani are also included. It is not in line with Gletle's own suggestions; moreover, in the baroque era timpani were almost exclusively used in combination with 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 the exclamatio on "o" (O quam mirabilis – O how wonderful) in Eja gaude, cor meum, which is repeated and followed by pauses. The words "obsecro te" (I beseech thee) in Sancta Maria show an increasing intensity. 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 death so gloriously overcame". Later on Christ is called "glorious victor", "triumphant king", "death's conqueror", "harbinger of life". A comparable piece is Factum est praelium (A great battle was fought in heaven), a piece which is probably intended for St Michael; here Gletle makes use of the stile concitato.

Very different is 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 Sancta Maria and Purissima virgo, 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. The collection also includes two pieces on a German text. Were these intended for Protestant use? The booklet doesn't mention the issue.

The texture of these motets is different. Some pieces are through-composed, others are divided into stanzas which are separated by ritornellos, such as Te Deum Patrem and Transeamus pastores. An interesting piece is Quicquid agam: "Whatever I do, I do it under Jesus' guidance". Its content is comparable to Bach's song Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn' ihn. The first half is a sequence of questions and answers. Every line closes with an instrumental echo in the background which is reminiscent of the use of the echo in Italian opera of the 17th century and also in sacred music, for instance in Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine.

The music by Gletle as presented here 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.

Musically speaking most performances on this disc are most impressive, and often outright exciting. The sopranos are excellent, although I have some reservations in regard to Susanne Rydén. I find her singing sometimes a little unstable and nervous and her diction is not the best. That goes even more for Dennis Lakey who isn't quite able to meet the technical challenges of the music. Daniel Cabena is much better. Hans Jörg Mammel and the two basses Raitis Grigalis and Ulrich Messthaler are excellent.

It is notable that in the earliest recordings the Latin texts are pronounced the Italian way, whereas in the most recent recordings a German pronunciation is used. Unfortunately it is not fully consistent; here and there words are pronounced in the old Italian manner. That should have been corrected. The instrumentalists are playing at a high level and give colourful performances of the instrumental parts. They are also responsible for the instrumental 'interludes' by contemporaries of Gletle. The Sonata à 6 by Philipp Jacob Rittler has the chorale Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr as cantus firmus.

The booklet provides us with the information we need. It is a shame that English translations of the lyrics are omitted. Many of these texts are rather obscure and it will often be impossible to find translations on the internet. Even if they would be available, a production like this should not come without translations, in particular because in music of the baroque era there is a close connection between text and music.

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. Moreover, there are several typos in the titles of the pieces.

To sum up: this is a most interesting and important release which is well up to repeated listening.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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