musica Dei donum
"Armarium - From the music cabinet of the Thomaner"
rec: May 2013 & June 2014, Polditz-Altleisnig, Kirche St. Nicolai
Raumklang - RK ap 10114 (© 2015) (57'17")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet
Sethus CALVISIUS (1556-1615):
Ades Pater supreme, Hymnus vespertinus ;
Deus sator mortalium, Hymnus ante cibum ;
Inventor rutili, Hymnus vespertinus ;
O Pater coelestis, Oratio Dominica ;
Te lucis ante terminum, Hymnus vespertinus ;
Sixt DIETRICH (1492/94-1548):
Heilig ist Gott der Vater;
Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594):
Confitemini Domino ;
Gaude felix India, sequence ;
Spe mercedis et coronae ;
Johann Hermann SCHEIN (1586-1630):
Von dem Leiden und Sterben Jesu Christi. Die sieben Wort 'Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund' ;
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672):
Viel werden kommen (SWV 375) ;
Giovanni Battista STEFANINI (1574-1630):
Christus resurgens ;
Thomas STOLTZER (c1475-1526):
Magnificat 6. toni;
Johann WALTER (1496-1570):
Mitten wir im Leben sind ;
Pandolfo ZALLAMELLA (1551-c1591):
Ingrediente Domino 
 plainchant, Thomas-Graduale, c1300 (ms);
 Peter Schöffer & Mathias Apiarius, ed., Wittenbergisch Gsangbüchli, 1537;
 Orlandus Lassus, Sacrae cantiones, 1562;
Erhard Bodenschatz, ed.,  Florilegium selectissimarum cantiionum, 1603;
 Florilegium selectissimum hymnorum, 1606;
 Florilegii Musici Portensis, 1621;
 Johann Hermann Schein, Cantional oder Gesangbuch Augspurgischer Confession, 1627;
 Heinrich Schütz, Geistliche Chor-Music, 1648
Wolfram Lattke, Martin Lattke, Robert Pohlers, tenor;
Frank Ozimek, baritone;
Daniel Knauft, Holger Krause, bass
Since the rediscovery of his St Matthew Passion the person and oeuvre of Johann Sebastian Bach has become the focus of attention for many generations of musicologists and performing musicians. It was only with the emergence of a more general interest in 'early music' that his predecessors in the office of Thomaskantorhave been investigated. However, although music by the likes of Sebastian Knüpfer, Thomas Selle and Johann Kuhnau is available on disc it would be exaggerated to say that their oeuvre is well-known; it is certainly not fully explored as yet. Johann Hermann Schein is probably the earliest of the Thomaskantors who appears now and then on disc and concert programmes.
The present disc goes further back in time; the central figure is Sethus Calvisius, who was Thomaskantor from 1594 to 1615. This was an interesting time: much changed in the musical style across Europe. However, in the music written for ecclesiastical use in Lutheran Germany little of this change was notable. It is telling that one of the collections from which music on this disc is taken, the Florilegii Musici Portensis, printed in Leipzig in 1621, was reprinted in large numbers and that Bach purchased several copies as late as 1729. Such collections included music for the regular services on Sundays and feastdays, mainly motets, sometimes completely original but also often arrangements or harmonizations of hymns. The form of the motet had become obsolete towards the end of the 17th century as it was completely overshadowed by the cantata, a result of the growing influence of the Italian style, and in the 18th century increasingly modelled after Italian opera. It was only the generation after Bach which turned towards the form of the motet again. Examples are Gottfried August Homilius, Johann Friedrich Doles and Johann Adam Hiller.
This disc includes music which in some way or another can be connected to the Thomasschule and Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Calvisius himself was active in putting together collections of music which could be used in church and in schools. He started his activities in this department as Kantor of the Fürstenschule in Schulpforta. He laid the foundation for a collection which his successor in Schulpforta, Erhard Bodenschatz, published under the title Florilegium selectissimum hymnorum. It was reprinted and in use until the late 18th century. It comprises hymns for daily use in school, either for the liturgy (matin hymns or vespertinus) and for prayers before meals (ante cibum). This disc includes several of such pieces. The importance of their inclusion cannot be overestimated. This kind of repertoire belongs to the very heart of liturgical practice in German Lutheranism from the late 16th to the 18th century. And because it is relatively simple - always in four parts and strictly homophonic - it is seldom performed and recorded. This disc shows that it still can appeal to the listener of today, especially if it is sung as well as here.
The other collection which I already mentioned was also published by Bodenschatz, but it is likely that its originator was again Calvisius. It includes motets for worship during the ecclesiastical year. Christus resurgens by Giovanni Battista Stefanini is a motet for Easter. A comparable collection, also published by Bodenschatz, is the Florilegium selectissimum cantionum of 1603. It includes Ingrediente Domino by Pandolfo Zallamella, which is for Palm Sunday: "As the Lord entered the Holy City, the children of the Hebrews proclaimed the resurrection of life, and, waving palm branches, they loudly praised the Lord: Hosanna in the highest". Johann Hermann Schein was Thomaskantor from 1616 to 1630. In 1627 he published harmonizations of congregational hymns under the title Cantional, oder Gesangbuch Augspurgischer Confession. Von dem Leiden und Sterben Jesu Christi is a poetical narrative of Jesus' words from the Cross, on the melody of Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund. This again is an example of music which is seldom performed. Schein is best-known for his collection of sacred madrigals, Israelsbrünnlein. Although some stylistic development is notable the continuity in the composition of music for daily use in church is far more striking. The same goes for the motets which Heinrich Schütz published in 1648 under the title of Geistliche Chor-Music. It is dominated by counterpoint which he considered "the true essence and the proper foundation" of any music. Schütz had no ties to Leipzig - his friend Schein had died in 1630 - but he dedicated this collection to the city council of Leipzig and its "famous choir".
The vocal ensemble amarcord is pre-eminently qualified to bring this repertoire to our attention. They are former members of the Thomanerchor and have grown up with the repertoire from which they offer here a small selection. The programme starts and ends with pieces from the Thomas-Gradual. In 2012 they devoted a complete disc to two masses from this source. By including two sequences for St Thomas - the first referring to the apostle, the second to St Thomas à Becket of Canterbury - they provide a link to their previous disc. The historical gap between the Thomas-Gradual from around 1300 and the music from the early 17th century is narrowed by the Magnificat 6. toni by Thomas Stoltzer and Heilig ist Gott der Vater by Sixt Dietrich. These pieces are part of another important collection in the armarium (musical cabinet) of the Thomasschule which was put together by Wolfgang Figulus, Thomaskantor from 1549 to 1551. The singers of amarcord also perfectly capture the style of the music they have selected. I could imagine a more 'baroque' interpretation of Viel werden kommen by Schütz, but the way it is sung here is certainly legitimate and underlines the continuity rather than the change in German liturgical music of the 17th century.
This is a most fascinating release: historically interesting and musically captivating. I hope that amarcord will continue its exploration of the musical heritage of the school where its members started their careers.
Johan van Veen (© 2015)