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"The Källunge Codex 1622"

Ensemble Villancicoa; Daniel Stighäll, tromboneb; Michael Dierks, organc
Dir: Peter Pontvik
rec: March 29 - April 1, 2005, Bunge Church, Gotland (S); April 17, 2005, Stockholm, St Gertrud's Church ($)
Sjelvar Records - SJECD 19 (© 2005) (54'25")

Gregor Aichinger (1564-1628): Duo Seraphim clamabant a 8abc; Johann Bahr (c1610-1670): Befiehle dem Herrenac; Magnificat 8. tonic ($); O lux beata trinitasc ($); So ziehet hin a 4abc; Philipp Dulichius (1562-1631): Exultate justi in Domino a 8ab; Jacob Handl-Gallus (1550-1590): O quam metuendus a 8abc; Hans Leo Hassler (1562-1616): Mein Lieb will mit mir kriegen a 8a; Orlandus Lassus (1532-1594): Deus misereatur nostri a 8a; Dominique Phinot (1510-c1556): Iam non dicam a 8abc; Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629): Videns Dominus a 8abc; Melchior Vulpius (c1570-1615): Exultate justi in Domino a 4ac; Johann Walter (1496-1570): Joseph, lieber Joseph mein a 5a; Nicolaus Zangius (c1570-1618): Congratulamini nunc omnes a 8a

Jessica Bäcklund, Nina Åkerblom Nielsen, soprano; Gonca Yazan, contralto; Dan Johansson, alto; Love Enström, Martin Vanberg, tenor; Yamandú Pontvik, baritone; Jens Malmkvist, bass

The popular view is that during the first half of the 17th century the music of the past, written in the stile antico disappeared into oblivion and was replaced by music composed in the modern Italian style. But that is a simplification: well into the 17th century the music of the previous era was still used in many churches, in particular in Germany. Few composers of the 17th century wrote motets which could be used in liturgy, and therefore a large part of the 'old' repertoire continued to be performed. The manuscript which is the subject of the present recording, the so-called Codex Kellungensis or Källunge Codex gives ample evidence of that. Music from this manuscript was first performed in the Källunge Church - where the manuscript has been found - on the Baltic island of Gotland.

The booklet tells how the Codex Kellungensis has been discovered. "On 31 March 1913, a music teacher named Birger Anrep-Nordin, deposited an incomplete partbook that he had found in Källunge Church, at the county archive in Visby. The manucript contained the alto parts of a collection of church vocal music. It is dated 1622 on the cover and originally contained at least 312 (or 315) 4-10 part works for the various feasts of the liturgical year. There are works in both Latin and German and in a mixture of the two. Some 150 of the pieces originally included in the codex are missing (...). So far about 100 of the pieces have been identified and are known to exist in other sources."

The importance of this manuscript is not that it contains previously unknown repertoire. The fact that only the alto parts have been preserved would make any performance of such repertoire impossible anyway. Its importance is that it gives us some insight in the use of liturgical repertoire in the first half of the 17th century. That music by German composers was used on Gotland doesn't come as a surprise: this area was strongly influenced by German culture since medieval times. It isn't quite clear who put the collection together. Suggestions are it was either David Herlicius (c1595/98-1638), an immigrant from the German city Stralsund and organist of Visby cathedral, or Johann Bahr, who was born in Schleswig-Holstein and came to Gotland as a music student around 1630. He became assistant organist and later organist of Visby cathedral. The fact that both were of German origin helps to explain the dominance of music by German composers. What is interesting is first of all the date the collection was put together: in 1622 the largest part of the music used in liturgy was written in the stile antico. Also interesting is that not only music by Protestant composers was performed, but also by Roman-Catholic composers. The use of this repertoire on Gotland isn't unique: the music in the manusript has been found in many regions in Central and Eastern Europe as well. Some of the pieces were widely spread which allowed the performance: whereas the manuscript contains the alto parts only, other manuscripts contain the compositions in complete form.

Most compositions on this disc are typical examples of the style of the late renaissance. Many are written for double choir, and - in line with a widespread practice in the second half of the 16th century - trombone and organ are used to play colla parte. A number of pieces contain strong text illustration, like Dulichius' setting of verses from Psalm 55, on the words "in psalterio decem chordarum, psalllite illi". In Gregor Aichinger's Duo Seraphim clamabant the two seraphim are represented by the two upper voices. They sing one after another ("clamabant alter ad alteram") and therefore the second follows the first in strict imitation. "Plena est omnis terra gloria ejus" is set for all voices. In the next section three are testifying in heaven ("tres sunt qui testimonium dant in coelo") and here a low voice joins the two upper voices.

Zangius' Congratulamini nunc omnes is a typical German piece for Christmas, in which German and Latin are mixed, just like Johann Walter's Joseph, lieber Joseph mein, on a text from the 14th century by the 'Mönch von Salzburg'. In particular Zangius' piece reflects the influence of popular music. A little strange is the inclusion of a secular song by Hassler, Mein Lieb will mit mir kriegen. It was originally published in a collection with secular songs on German texts, but the fact that it has been included in this manuscript which contains only sacred music seems to suggest it was given a religious interpretation, although this seems to me a little far-fetched.

As one can see from the list of performers, most pieces are performed with one voice per part, which seems to me historically very plausible. It leads to a crisp and clear sound, which is also due to the quality of the vocal ensemble, which very much impresses me. The blending of the voices, the articulation and the delivery of the texts are all very good. The disc also contains some organ pieces by Johann Bahr, which are not in the manuscript, but are added as he is the most likely editor of the collection. These pieces are written in the style of the North-German organ school, and played well by Michael Dierks. I have to say, though, that I have heard more interesting organ works than Bahr's.

In short, this is an interesting and excellently performed programme of music, which I have listened to with great pleasure and which I recommend to anyone interested in sacred music of the late renaissance.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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Ensemble Villancico

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