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Hieronymus PRAETORIUS (1560-1629)
San Marco in Hamburg
Jubilate Deo omnis terra [4:02]

Ecce Dominus veniet [5:36]
Hodie Christus natus est [3:01]
Ab oriente venerunt Magi [6:03]
Nunc dimittis servum tuum [4:42]
O bone Jesu [6:50]
Magnificat quarti toni [11:15]
Wie lang, o Gott [3:24]
Surrexit pastor bonus [3:02]
Ascendo ad patrem meum [2:33]
Hodie completi sunt [6:14]
Adesto unus Deus [3:45]
Cantate Domino canticum novum [4:37]
Weser-Renaissance Bremen/Manfred Cordes
rec. 29-31 October 2007, Stiftskirche zu Bassum, Germany. DDD
CPO 7772452 [65:11]


Experience Classicsonline

In the Renaissance and Early Modern periods most composers were musicians first and only secondarily composers. They earned their living from royal, ecclesiastical or civic patronage. Specialist label, CPO's, enterprising "Musica Sacra Hamburgensis 1600-1800" series aims to highlight the contribution made to music by composers who benefited from their employment in Hamburg - specifically at one or more of the city's churches. The list of these composers includes Reincken, Mattheson, Telemann and C.P.E. Bach.

Hieronymus Praetorius served from the 1580s in various such roles until his death in 1629. By then he was chief organist at Hamburg's St. Jacobkirche. Other members of Hieronymus Praetorius' family held corresponding posts in the city, taught Hieronymus and forged a style and approach which he retained and continued. Although they were not related to their perhaps more famous namesake, Michael Praetorius.

The traditions in which Hieronymus Praetorius worked were heavily influenced by the developing styles of North Italian (and particularly Venetian) music. After all Schütz had visited Venice twice and absorbed the ideas of the Gabrielis, amongst other such innovators. The music written and heard in the (north) German states at that time was equally extrovert, it too used divided choirs, otherwise extended polychoral novelties, and experimented with contrapuntal ideas. Perhaps it also seems to our ears to emphasise the grandness of the music as much as its sacred import.

This CD contains a dozen or so sacred pieces ranging in length from two and a half to eleven and a quarter minutes from the very centre of that tradition. At times (the Nunc dimittis, [tr.5], for example) the atmosphere is utterly Venetian. Hence the CD's title… the spirit of San Marco transferred to Germany. Somehow, though, the music never achieves the brilliance, brightness or shine of a Canzon by one of the Gabrielis. Probably it's not meant to: Protestant, not Catholic. Not that it's in any way unpolished or deficient. Just more self-consciously ruminative… the O bone Jesu [tr.6], for instance, takes few simple musical ideas and appears to expand them logically as the composer ponders the Christ.

So it was necessary for the quietly distinguished Weser Renaissance of Bremen to approach the music in its own right and not as Gabrieli manqué. Their sensitivity and eagerness to give breadth and space to the music mean this balance is achieved admirably.

In places they confer a greater intimacy on the singing and playing than the Basilica ever allows… even the Magnificat [tr.7] is as thoughtful and subdued as it is resplendent. The music - and its performance here - is devotional, not spectacular. It's certainly more inward looking, though Weser Renaissance never lingers, indulges, stumbles.

Indeed the entire CD, whilst not being constructed to any internal or explicit sequence or progression, has a pleasant and discernible sense of movement. The instrumental playing is authoritative and contained. The singing full and calm. As a sampler of how music in provincial North German cities of the period sounded and what must have been the experience of those attended its performance. Justifiable claims to greatness were being made for the music - despite its northerly location. And this CD makes the case for such claims very well indeed. As an exposition of the work of a distinctly minor yet worthy composer a thoughtful one. As over an hour of uplifting and stimulating sacred music a delight.

Mark Sealey


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