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Æmilian Rosengart (1757-1810)
Te Deum Laudamus: Sacred Choral Music
Veni Sancte Spiritus [3:20]
Tristes erant apostoli [2:44 ]
Magnificat V (1792) [3:27]
Veni Creator Spiritus [3:24]
Ave Maria [2:07]
Hostis Herodes [1:41]
Rorate cœli [3:25]
Iste confessor Domini [3:33]
Christe redemptor omnium [3:22]
Cantate Domino [3:08]
Tenebræ factæ sunt [4:07]
Lauda Sion [5:31]
Qua vocat me [5:56]
Ave maris stella [2:57]
Te Deum laudamus [7:32]
Orpheus Vokalensemble; Ars Antiqua Austria/Jürgen Essl (organ)
rec. Klosterkirche St Georg Ochsenhausen, 19-21 September 2007. DDD.
Booklet with Latin texts and German and English translations.
CARUS 83.427 [56:31]
Experience Classicsonline

I hadn’t heard of Father Æmilian Rosengart, which is hardly surprising when all but one of these pieces, the final Te Deum, receive here their world premiere recordings. Neither the Concise Grove nor the Oxford Companion to Music lists him. I can only praise Carus’s initiative in making his music available when it must be doubtful how many copies the CD will sell. This recording has not yet made its way to classicsonline, but several Carus recordings can be had there as downloads, so perhaps it will sell a few more in that format in due course. The association with Südwest Rundfunk presumably helps to offset some of the production costs. All the Carus products that have come my way have been recommendable – see my review of their Buxtehude recording on 83.193.
In the last year or so alone Carus has done sterling work in bringing us several works by Homilius, another composer who resided only in a dim corner of my memory until then. Try Carus’s version of his Ein Lämmlein geht (83.262 – see review – two CDs or available as a download from Classicsonline).
That Homilius cantata was written in 1775 during the intermediate period between the death of J.S. Bach and the full flowering of the great triumvirate of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Rosengart’s music, too, dates from this time when the late baroque was giving way to the early classical. Not surprisingly, it sometimes seems firmly rooted in the former, at other times it sounds like the precursor of the latter. As a South German composer, he also provides a bridge between the works of his fellow Roman Catholics in Italy and Spain and the North German Lutheran composers.
The music is, therefore, of considerable historical interest. Its musical merit, too, is far from negligible, though I must admit that I am unlikely to want to hear it as often as the choral works of Alessandro Scarlatti and Bach on the one hand or of Haydn and Mozart on the other. It isn’t, for example, a discovery of the same magnitude as the 1779 Requiem by Haydn’s younger brother Michael (Hyperion CDA67510) two recordings of whose music are advertised on the back cover of the booklet for the Rosengart CD.
Don’t be put off by the statement in the booklet that the music of this period is less immediate in its appeal than the visual arts and that the listener needs to absorb some of the literature and theology of the period. At least, that’s what the German original says – the English translation contrives not quite to hit the target. If you like Haydn’s Masses, you shouldn’t have any trouble responding to Rosengart.
Rosengart was a priest at the monastery of Ochsenhausen – where, most appropriately, this recording was made – between 1775 and its dissolution in 1803, when he went to Tannheim as a parish priest.
All the music on this CD was, or could be, employed within the liturgy at Ochsenhausen, some, like the Magnificat (track 3) and Te Deum (tr.15) in the unchanging daily offices, others for particular feast days. The texts of the two works invoking the Holy Spirit, Veni Sancte Spiritus (track 1) and Veni Creator Spiritus (tr.4) are associated with Pentecost (Whitsun) and with ordinations, Hostis Herodes with the Massacre of the Innocents (tr.6) and Rorate Cœli is the so-called Advent Prose. Apart from a slightly hesitant performance of track 1 – warm-up nerves? – the performances of all these pieces are more than adequate.
The setting of Tenebræ facta sunt (tr.11) for the Holy Week office of Tenebræ is particularly effective. It is a simple setting for tenor, bass, organ and violone though less affecting than other Tenebræ settings you may have encountered, and certainly much less so than parts of the Bach Passions. That’s especially true in such a fine, unforced performance. There’s no attempt to wring from it deep emotion that isn’t there. None of the soloists here or on other tracks are named.
Surprisingly, only one psalm setting is included, that of Cantate Domino (tr.10). Apparently Rosengart’s 90+ surviving compositions contain only two psalm settings. Probably he avoided them because they were chanted in the daily office. Be that as it may, this is an attractive setting for bass soloist, four-part choir and instruments. Once again, it receives a fine performance, though the soloist is perhaps a little unassertive.
Carus have chosen the title Te Deum Laudamus for the whole CD. This is not only the longest item on the CD (track 15), it is the only one which is not receiving its world premiere recording. An impressive large-scale setting for four-part choir, organ, flutes, timpani and strings, it here receives a performance to match. Though not billed by Carus as a premiere, I cannot find any other recording of this work in the current catalogue.
Apart from the slight awkwardness in the opening Veni Sancte Spiritus (tr.1) all the performances do justice to the music. Try the samples (Hörbeispiele – follow the link) at the Carus website if you have any doubts: the 1-minute excerpt from the final track is probably the best to try.
The recording quality is excellent throughout, especially as it captures the acoustics of the very Klosterkirche or monastic church for which the music was composed. The ambience is clearly not that of a recording studio, but in no sense is it over-reverberant; indeed, the sound is much ‘cleaner’ than I had expected.
The booklet is informative but not infallible. It implies that Te Deum is a Vespers canticle, when it is prescribed in the Roman and Anglican rites for Matins. The name of the director, Jürgen Essl, is sloppily misprinted minus the r on the rear insert. The English translation is mostly comprehensible, but not always idiomatic, despite the name of the translator indicating an Anglophone. The English translation of Te Deum employs the familiar words of the Book of Common Prayer but the Magnificat, which could also have been taken from the BCP, oddly begins ‘All my spirit exalts the Lord’: where is the word ‘all’ in Magnificat anima mea Dominum? Even more oddly, the Dominus tecum of Ave Maria is rendered as ‘God has been with you’, instead of the more usual - and more accurate - ‘the Lord is with you’. The German has the expected ‘Der Herr ist mit dir’. The English translations are not on the same pages as the originals, which is awkward.
I’d have liked more information about, for example, the dates of individual works. I’ve been able to give the date of the Magnificat only because the booklet contains a dated reproduction of a beautifully written autograph manuscript copy in the Swabian Music Archive.
The attractive cover offers a reproduction of part of the baroque ceiling of the monastic church where Rosengart served and where the recording was made.
No neglected masterpieces here, then, but attractive music, well performed and recorded.
Brian Wilson

see also review by Robert Hugill



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