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Romanus WEICHLEIN (1652 - 1706): Sacred Music

[A]a Parnassus Ecclesiastico-Musicus
St. Florianer Sängerknaben (Franz Fahrnberger); Kepler Konsort
Ars Antiqua Austria
Dir: Gunar Letzbor

rec: Sept 26 - 27, 2004, St. Florian
Symphonia - SY 04213 (© 2005) (74'31")

[B]b Missa Rectorum Cordium a 15
Radu Marian, soprano; Martin Wild, soprano (treble); Markus Forster, alto
St. Florianer Sängerknaben (Franz Fahrnberger); Vokalensemble Nova
Ars Antiqua Austria
Dir: Gunar Letzbor

rec: Sept 2006, St. Florian
Symphonia - SY 06223 (© 2007) (50'22")

[A] Missa Gloriosae Virginis in Coelo [1]; Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis [1]; [B] Canon über das Post-Hörnl; Missa Rectorum Cordium; Officien für die Karwoche: Domine; Eripe me Domine

(Sources: [1] Parnassus Ecclesiastico-Musicus, 1702)

[SFS, soli] Quintus Moucka*a, Markus Stumpner*a, soprano; Deniz Erdebil*a, alto; [KK] Gernot Heinrich*, Gerhard Reiterer, tenor; Erasmus Baumgartner, Andreas Lebeda*, bass; [Nova] Jim Curry, Bernd Lambauer, tenor; Gerd Kenda, Colin Mason, bass

The Austrian violinst Gunar Letzbor pays much attention to Austrian music of the 17th and 18th centuries. He seems to have a specific interest in the oeuvre of Romanus Weichlein. For the Italian label Symphonia he has recorded four discs with music by this Austrian composer: two discs with instrumental works, and the two with sacred vocal music which are reviewed here.

Romanus Weichlein was born in Linz from parents who were both musicians and who gave him a good musical education. He received his first musical training at the abbey of Lambach and entered the Benedictine Order in 1671. He went to Salzburg where he got acquainted with Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber. He returned to Lambach, and later became chaplain and musical director of the Benedictine convent of Nonnberg in Salzburg.

His oeuvre consists of twelve sonatas for strings and bc opus 1 and a collection of seven mass settings opus 2. The latter collection is the source of the two masses of the first disc; the Missa Rectorum Cordium has been preserved in manuscript. The masses don't contain very virtuosic parts, with the exception of some vocal passages now and then. Polyphonic and homophonic episodes alternate, there are tutti and solo sections and instrumental preludes and interludes. Weichlein also makes use of the practice of instruments playing colla parte, for instance 3 trombones in the Missa Rectorum Cordium.

The first disc brings two masses which are of considerable length, which also has to do with the choice of tempi. But it is notable that Weichlein's settings of the Credo are particularly long - almost a third of the whole mass. There are some good examples of text expression, like the chromatic ascending figure on 'Crucifixus' and the diatonic ascending figure on the words "et resurrexit" in the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis. In the Credo of the Missa Gloriosae Virginis in Coelo there are strong dissonances on "et mortuos". At several moments in these masses words are singled out through a contrasting scoring, for instance soli vs tutti, or through general pauses after single words.

For some years Gunar Letzbor is working with the St. Florianer Sängerknaben. This choir may be not that well-known, but it is really an outstanding choir of boys - sopranos and altos - which produces a warm sound and sings with great flexibility and excellent text expression. What is in particular impressive is that for every recording the choir seems to have some very good soloists. That is also the case here. In the first recording two different sopranos and one alto sang the solo passages, and did so very impressively. On the second disc it is just one soprano whereas in one of the Offices for Holy Week (Domine), the solo is sung by the male soprano Radu Marian. With his slight vibrato he is a bit out of step with the choir; the male alto Markus Forster integrates better into the choir. On both discs the quartets of male singers blend well with the boys' voices.

The masses get very good interpretations, although one could discuss the choice of tempi. These are generally slowish, and sometimes I think they are too slow, when a phrase or a word is almost falling apart (for instance: cru-cifi-xus). But at the same time the very expressive singing of the choir and the colourful playing of the instrumental ensemble ensures there are no dull moments here.

In short, these are enthralling recordings which show a lesser-known aspect of Austrian music-making in the time of Biber.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

St. Florianer Sängerknaben
Ars Antiqua Austria

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