musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"verklingend und ewig (fading away and eternal) - Rarities from the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel"

Katharina Helda, Constanze Liebertb, Anna Mengelc, Jakob Rauschepauld, soprano; Lena Kutzner, mezzosopranoe; Nils Ole Peters, tenorf; Michael Jäckel, bassg
Mädchenchor Hannover (Gudrun Schröfel)h; Knabenchor Hannover (Jörg Breiding)i; Capella Augusta Guelferbytana

rec: July 4 - 9, 2011, Hanover, NDR (Großer Sendesaal)
Rondeau - ROP6054 (© 2011) (78'24")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

Maddalena CASULANA (fl 1566-1583): Il secondo libro de madrigali a quattro voci, 1570 (exc)ceh; Giovanni Battista CHINELLI (1610-1677): Ecce nunc benediciteh; Kaspar FÖRKELRATH (?-?): Wer überwindet sich, die Welt und was auff Erdendgi; Otto GIBEL (1612-1682): Die Liebe Gottesi; Andreas HAMMERSCHMIDT (1611/12-1675): Vater unser, der du bist im Himmeli; Verleih uns Friedeni; Johann Erasmus KINDERMANN (1616-1655): Ich hab ein guten Kampff gekämpfftf; Sebastian KNÜPFER (1633-1676): Erforsche mich Gott a 8i; Jacob PEETRINUS (c1553-c1591): Il primo libero del Jubilo di S. Bernardo con alcune canzonette spirituali, 1588 (exc)aceh; Christoph Heinrich PFEFFERKORN (?-?): Arie, darinnen die seeligst-Verstorbene von der noch lebenden Frau Schwester, und diese von jener, betrübten Abschied nimtbch; Johann SCHELLE (1648-1701): Ich weiß, daß mein Erlöser lebet a 8i; SOPHIE ELISABETH, Duchess of Braunschweig and Lüneburg (1613-1676): Gott geliebter Fürsten Heldah

[CAG] Friederike Otto, Arno Paduch, cornett; Hans-Dieter Gilleßen, Uwe Haase, Andreas Neuhaus, Gerd Schnakenberg, sackbut; Anne Röhrig, violin; Ulla Bundies, violin, viola; Cordula Cordes, Barbara Messmer, viola da gamba; Irmelin Heiseke, violone; Monika Fischalek, dulcian; Ulrich Wedemeier, chitarrone; Bernward Lohr, harpsichord, organ

The present disc was produced at the occasion of the exhibition with the title (translated) "Fading away and eternal - One Thousand Years of Musical Memory 800-1800". This exhibition "uncovers the relationships of book and sounds: for centuries, sounding material has been inscribed or printed in books of varying formats, and these written or printed traces in turn become the foundations of music performances", according to the liner-notes. Rather than documenting the entire period covered by the exhibition this disc focusses on books in the library which was built up by August the Younger, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, known as the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. At the end of the Duke's life it included more than 135,000 titles and was one of the largest in Europe.

Two parts of this library are explored here: first a collection of 20,000 funeral books, one percent of which include music which was performed during the funeral. This music - sometimes accompanied by detailed indications about the way it was to be performed - was written by various composers. Some of them belonged to the best of their time, such as Andreas Hammerschmidt and Johann Schelle. Others are of only regional importance, for instance Otto Gibel. Christoph Heinrich Pfefferkorn represents a third category: non-professional composers, sometimes connected to the deceased. That is also the case here: Pfefferkorn was the godfather of Sabine Elisabeth of Brandenstein who died in 1701 and for whose funeral he composed his Arie.

The form of the funeral pieces on this disc also greatly varies: Johann Schelle's motet Ich weiß, daß mein Erlöser lebt and Sebastian Knüpfer's Erforsche mich Gott are large-scale polyphonic motets for eight voices. Both composers acted as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. Wer überwindet sich, die Welt und was auff Erden by Kaspar Förkelrath is a dialogue in which the bass represents Jesus and the soprano the 'victorious soul'. Die Liebe Gottes by Otto Gibel also includes a solo part for bass, representing the vox Dei: "I have always loved you, therefore I have drawn you to me out of pure goodness". Pfefferkorn's Arie is another dialogue, between two sisters, one of them deceased, and the other still alive. The funeral book in which it is included indicates that it was sung after the sermon and before the burial of the body, by two singers "one of which stood next to the coffin, the other of which stood next to the chair of the deceased sister". It is a shame that only some sections from this piece are performed. That is also the case with Ich hab ein guten Kampff gekämpfft by Johann Erasmus Kindermann which is a piece for solo voice (tenor) and instruments.

The other part of this disc is devoted to Italian repertoire. This bears witness to the international circulation of music. In this case that was partly due to the musical interest of Duches Sophie Elisabeth, August's third wife, who played the lute and the viola da gamba. She composed Gott geliebter Fürsten Held for her husband. There were various ways in which music was transported from one part of Europe to another. German aristocrats travelled to Italy as part of their grand tour and brought back the latest music, musicians went south to broaden their horizon or Italian musicians travelled north to look for employment. In addition printed music was purchased, and there was a lively exchange of musical manuscripts. It is mostly madrigals by Italian composers which are performed here. Maddalena Casulana is a rare example of a female performer - singer and lutenist - and composer from the 16th century. Here a number of madrigals from her second book of four-part madrigals, printed in Venice in 1570, are performed. Some of them are sung by the Mädchenchor Hannover, others by soloists with additional instruments, and some are performed by instruments alone. The second composer from Italy is the Flemish-born Jacobus Peetrinus who in 1572 is mentioned as a singer in the Cappella Sistina in Rome. Here his book with spiritual canzonettas was printed in 1588; from this book seven pieces are performed.

The items on Italian texts are mostly performed with choir, and that seems rather implausible. Madrigals - whether secular or spiritual - are basically vocal chamber music and it is more likely that this kind of music was performed with one voice per part. The girls' choir is not specialized in early music; it mostly sings contemporary music. This could well explain that their performances are stylistically out of touch with what is thought to be the performance practice in the 17th century. Both the choir and the soloists sing with a considerable amount of vibrato, and the texts are difficult to understand. As a result the contributions by the Mädchenchor Hannover is the least satisfying part of this disc.

It also means that there is little stylistic unity in these recordings as the Knabenchor Hannover sings in a very different manner. It has a long tradition in performing German music of this time, established by the choir's founder and long-time director, Heinz Hennig. This kind of music belongs to the core of their repertoire and that shows. Despite its size it prodices a transparent sound which is especially necessary in the polyphonic items and the delivery is pretty good. The eight-part motets are especially well performed. Nils Ole Peters and Michael Jäckel give good accounts of their solo parts. Sometimes more could have been made of the text, for instance in Förkelrath's Wer überwindet sich. The instrumental ensemble's contributions are outstanding.

The information about the programme leaves something to be desired. The individual titles of the madrigals by Casulana and Peetrinus are not listed. Those which are sung can be derived from the lyrics, but the titles of those items which are performed instrumentally are omitted. There is also no information about which of the soloists sings in which madrigal. The members of the choir are also not listed, and therefore we don't know how large both choirs are. The lyrics are not translated; the Italian texts are not even translated into German.

All in all this disc leaves a bit of a mixed impression. The repertoire is interesting and that compensates for the not always ideal performances.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

Relevant links:

Knabenchor Hannover
Mädchenchor Hannover

CD Reviews