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Heinrich FINCK (1444/5-1527)
Missa Domenicalis [28:08]
Hymnus: Veni redemptor dominum [6:10]
Introitus: Rorate cæli [4:15]
Tractus: Audi filia [3:39]
Communio: Ecce virgo [1:48]
Natalis Dominica cantica: Deo dicamus regi potenti [2:16]
Lieder: Von hin scheid ich [4:34]; Auf gut Gelück [2:40]; O schönes Weib [2:48]; Habs je getan [2:52]; Mein herzigs G [3:18]; Ach herzigs Herz [2:32]
Stimmwerk: Franz Vitzthum (counter-tenor), Klaus Wenk (tenor), Gerhard Hölzle (tenor), Marcus Schmidl (bass)
No recording date or location provided. DDD
CAVALLI CCD 325 [65:06]
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From his youth onwards Heinrich Finck earned his living as a musician. Born in Bamberg, as a young man he travelled to Poland and Lithuania - perhaps initially as a choirboy. As his talents as a composer developed, he worked by turns in Germany, in Poland again and in Austria. He spent some years in Salzburg and died in Vienna. In his later years his pupils included Thomas Stoltzer. In the year after his death, his last master King Ferdinand I commissioned a striking portrait medal in his honour – reproduced in the booklet here from a copy in the British Museum. Much of Finck’s work has been lost and some works survive only in an incomplete condition; most of what does survive cannot be dated with absolute certainty or precision. Modern scholarship attributes to him a total of some 110 works – including seven Masses (whole or partial), just under thirty hymns, over forty motets and roughly the same number of secular songs.

The Missa Domenicalis probably dates from the last decade of Finck’s life. It is unflamboyant, but often subtle in its effects. It shows the influence of the Netherlands school of composers, using imitation very interestingly. The Sanctus and (especially) the Agnus Dei contain some ravishing four-part writing. A number of the other religious works are impressive and attractive; ‘Veni redemptor dominum’ beautifully decorates the plainchant at its core. Here, and elsewhere in these ecclesiastical compositions, the dialogue of monophony and polyphony produces many exquisite moments. One is left in no doubt as to Finck’s sophisticated skills as a composer. ‘Natalis Domini cantica’ is simpler, with a radiant clarity reminiscent of the finest medieval carols.

The secular, vernacular songs celebrate the pains and joys of love, in idioms which are reminiscent of both folk-song and courtly melody. Generally the melody is presented in the tenor, with the other voices employed in decoration and imitation. The results are everywhere very graceful, if not especially powerful.

Cavalli specialise in the recording of material not previously recorded and certainly the music of Heinrich Finck has hitherto been under-represented in the catalogue. There are decent notes and texts (but no translations).

The vocal group Stimmwerk was founded in Munich in 2001 and this is their debut CD. It is planned as the first of a series of CDs devoted to Renaissance composers from the German-speaking world. The next will be devoted to the work of Adam of Fulda. To judge by the high quality of performance evident here, future CDs in the series will be well worth hearing.

Finck’s great-nephew Hermann Finck (1527-1558) wrote a treatise called Practica Musica, published in 1556. In it he complained that some singers sounded like bleating goats and advised that in polyphonic music "the treble and the alto should not ascend too high, and no voice should overpower the others and disturb us by shouting or be so strained that the singer changes colour, becoming black in the face or seeming to run out of breath, such as those basses who buzz like a hornet inside a boot, or puff and blow like a burst bellows". I feel sure that were he able to hear this recording of his great-uncle’s music he would have agreed that there are no goats or trapped hornets on show, and that no voice overpowers any other. Rather, Stimmung’s balance of tone and timbre is well nigh perfect and the intelligence of their interpretations is everywhere apparent.

This is music not previously available on CD; we are lucky that this first recording should be so accomplished.

Glyn Pursglove



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