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Das Gäsebuch (Geese Book)
The Late Medieveal Liturgy of St Lorenz, Nuremberg

Kaspar OTHMAYR (1515-1553) and Lucas OSIANDER (1534-1604) Bicnium and Chorale: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott [3:12]
Anonymous Introitus: Viri Galilei[2:41]

Hans KOTTER (ca. 1485-1541) Fantasia in C [1:21]
Anonymous Mass for the Holy Lance and the Nails [12:37]
Conrad BRUMANN (d. 1526) Carmen in G [1:19]
Anonymous Mass for Saint Deocarus [4:55]
Ludwig SENFL (ca. 1492-1555) Lied: Ewiger Gott [2:37]
Anonymous Mass for Saint Sebaldus [12:56]
Heinrich ISAAC (ca. 1450-1517) Ricercare in D minor [2:28]
Anonymous Mass for Saint Monica [1:10]
Arnold SCHLICK (ca. 1455-ca. 1525) Maria zart, von edler Art [2:18]
Anonymous Mass for Saint Lawrence [1:48]
Heinrich FINCK (1445-1527) Ich wird erlost [1:22]
Anonymous Bells of the Church of St. Lorenz [0:53]
Schola Hungarica/László Dobszay, Janka Szendrei, directors
Matthias Ank, organrec. Lutheran Church, Wendelstein, 9-12 Sept 2002; Church of St. Lorenz, Nuremberg, Germany, 25 Jan 2003 DDD
Naxos 8.557412 [70:53]

 

The Geese Book is the popular name for a two-volume collection of pre-Lutheran German church music. The name is taken from an illumination for the Feast of the Ascension showing a choir of geese being conducted by a wolf dressed as a cantor. The ostensible explanation is that this was a reminder to the young boys singing in the choir of their behavior while they were performing the introit. Beyond that, the name of the book is meaningless save that it serves as a handle for one of the most important documents of German liturgical music in the pre-Lutheran period. This liturgy was independently developed over the course of several centuries with additions on important feast days, and these books contain the most mature form of the completed liturgy. This disc presents selected works from the Geese Book along with contemporary organ compositions from Nuremburg and is intended to give a firm impression of the service as it would have existed between 1424 and 1524.

The choir is not quite period, as it contains women to bolster the treble section that would originally have been performed exclusively by boys. There are children’s voices used as well however, and the blending produces a very nice sound. From a purely musical standpoint, this is probably a better sounding performance than it would have been to produce things as accurately as possible. Otherwise the recording is very faithful to the notations and our understanding of the standard performance practices that would have been employed.

As a CD for listening, this is a disc much like many others on the market. The music is timeless and beautiful. The performances are quite good, and there are several selections from unfamiliar masses that those interested in early music should enjoy. The organ pieces interspersed do a nice job of changing the pace of the plainchant, even though strictly speaking they are not a part of the actual titular collection.

As a historical document this is perhaps less good, as the addition of mature female voices to the choir does change the timbre somewhat, and also because this contains only selected pieces rather than the entire liturgy. Even so, there are several works here that have never previously been recorded. Thus, although the recording is not perfect, it is probably at least worthy of interest.

Patrick Gary



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