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Rupert Ignaz MAYR (1646 - 1712): "Confitebor tibi - Psalms, Motets, Concerti"

Mechthild Bach, sopranoa; Elisabeth Popien, contraltob; Hans Jörg Mammel, tenorc; Gotthold Schwarz, bassd
Capella Weilburgensis vocalise; L'arpa festante
Dir: Doris Hagel

rec: Sept 2 - 4, 2006, Schlosskirche Weilburg
Profil - PH08022 (© 2007) (73'47")

Ascendit Deusabcde; Ave Regina coelorumb; Beati omnesb; Confitebor tibic; Confitebor tibiabcd; Confitebor tibiabcde; Credidi propterabcde; Dominus regnavitabcde; Formula votiva sodaliuma; In terras descendama; Jubilate Deoabcde; Laudate Dominumabcde; Meditabor in mandatis tuisabcd; Passer invenitabcd; Scapulis suisabcd

Sources: Sacri concentus psalmorum antiphonarum, piarum cantionum, 1681; Gazophylacium musico-sacrum, 1702; Psalmodia brevis ad Vesperas, 1706

Rupert Ignaz Mayr is one of the representatives of the high baroque in Southern Germany. He was born in Schärding, near Passau, but nothing is known about his musical education. In 1670 he entered the service of the Prince-Bishop of Freising as a violinist. From 1683 he worked at the court of Elector Max Emanuel in Munich, where he not only acted as violinist but also started to compose. In 1706 he returned to Freising to work as Kapellmeister and composed religious and instrumental music. There he also wrote a number of school operas to be performed by the students of the episcopal seminary.

Today Mayr is a largely unknown quantity, but in his time he was a respected composer and 20 years after his death Johann Gottfried Walther included him in his Musicalisches Lexicon. In recent years there is an increased interest in his music. Music for Vespers was recorded on Arte Nova in 2002 (directed by Gerd Guglhör) and in 2006 the early music label of Austrian radio ORF released a recording with sacred concertos and one school opera, directed by Christoph Hammer.

Southern Germany was under Italian influence; it was in particular Johann Caspar Kerll - who had studied with Frescobaldi in Rome - who brought it to Munich. Mayr's music reflects this influence as he makes use of the Italian concertato style: on this record the solo pieces are testimony of this. In addition he composed motets in the stile antico. Another feature of Mayr's works is that he often treats voices and instruments on equal terms. One could probably argue that Mayr was a mostly rather conservative composer. The musical language of the 'school operas' on sacred subjects, for instance, is reminiscent of the oratorios of Giacomo Carissimi (1605 - 1674).

On this disc pieces are taken from three different sources. There is no specification as to which piece comes from which collection nor the scoring of the various works. That is in particular unfortunate as the programme contains several pieces with the same text. Also unfortunate is that a handful of works also appears on the disc released by ORF as mentioned above.

The most expressive works are the pieces for solo voice with instruments. Here we find some fine examples of text expression which the singers bring out very well. Soprano, contralto and tenor all give splendid performances, only the bass has no solo piece to sing, whereas the alto has two. Sometimes I find Elisabeth Popien a bit too restrained, but that is a minor detail. Hans Jörg Mammel is especially impressive in Confitebor tibi Domine which is the longest piece on this disc.

Two concertos have a remarkable scoring: Beati omnes is set for solo voice (alto), solo trombone and bc. This instrument regularly appears in music written in southern Germany and Austria, for instance in oratorios performed during Lenten. The trombone also appears in the Christmas concerto In terras descendam, with soprano solo, recorder and basso di viola.

The four soloists sing together in some four-part pieces which are performed here with one voice per part. Here their voices are blending excellently. Other pieces are performed by soloists and choir, and these are somewhat less convincing. The main problem is the difference in sound between the two groups, which is often a problem in music like this. It is difficult to decide with how many singers and players Mayr used to perform his music, but the basic rule in the 17th century is that all vocal music was written for an ensemble which sang the tutti passages and whose members also took care of the solos. That kind of performance guarantees a more homogenious sound than is the case here.

But there is no doubt that the Capella Weilburgensis vocalis is a fine ensemble, as it shows on this disc. The members of the choir are not listed in the booklet, but judging by its sound I think it is likely to be considerably larger than most ensembles of Mayr's time. A smaller ensemble had been preferable, in particular as the instrumental score is realised with one voice per part. The orchestra L'Arpa festante is a good ensemble, which perhaps is not that well-known outside Germany but shows its good qualities here. The list of players doesn't mention the player of the recorder in the solo concerto In terras descendam.

The booklet contains informative programme notes in German and English, but the Latin lyrics have not been translated, which is disappointing, as not all texts are commonly known - for instance Passer invenit or Scapulis suis - and nowhere the source of the text - for instance the Book of Psalms - is given. These are certainly no minor inconveniences, but I still would like to recommend this recording since music from this time and region is largely unknown and not well represented in the catalogue.

Johan van Veen (© 2008)

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