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Das Gänsebuch (The Geese Book) - German Medieval Chant
Kaspar OTHMAYR (1515-1553)/Lucas OSIANDER (1534-1604)

Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, bicinium and chorale* [03:12]
plainchant

Mass for Ascension: Viri Galilei, introitus [02:41]
Hans KOTTER (c1485-1541)

Fantasia in C* [01:21]
plainchant

Mass for the Holy Lance and the Nails [12:37]
Conrad BRUMANN (d1526)

Carmen in G* [01:19]
plainchant

Mass for Saint Deocarus: Justus germinabit, alleluia; Dilectus deo et hominibus, sequentia [04:55]
Ludwig SENFL (c1492-c1555)

Lied: Ewiger Gott* [02:37]
plainchant

Mass for Saint Sebaldus [12:56]
Heinrich ISAAC (c1450-1517)

Ricercare in d minor* [02:28]
plainchant

Mass for Saint Monica: Jesu transfixi vulnera, offertorium [01:10]
Conrad PAUMANN (c1415-c1473)

Kyrie Angelicum* [02:25]
plainchant

Mass for Saint Martha [16:50]
Arnolt SCHLICK (c1455-c1525)

Maria zart, von edler Art* [02:18]
plainchant

Mass for Saint Lawrence: Confessio et pulchritudo in conspectu eius, introitus [01:48]
Heinrich FINCK (1445-1527)

Ich werd erlost* [01:22]
[Bells of the Church of St Lorenz] [00:53]
Schola Hungarica/László Dobszay, Janka Szendrei
Matthias Ank, organ (*)
rec. September 2002, Lutheran Church of Wendelstein, February 2003, St Lorenz in Nuremberg, Germany. DDD
NAXOS 8.557412 [70:53]

Soon after its foundation in 1050 the South-German city of Nuremberg developed into an important international trade centre. In 1530, the German reformer Martin Luther wrote: "Nuremberg truly shines in Germany like a sun among the moon and stars". And in the 18th century the city was called a "spider in the web" as it was located at the intersection of trade routes between the German-speaking world, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region. Usually affluence meant a large amount of independence, not only in political but also in religious matters. Nuremberg was part of the diocese of Bamberg and had to follow the liturgy as practised in Bamberg Cathedral. The churches in Nuremberg nevertheless developed their own liturgical habits, for example in regard to the choice of feast days. At the beginning of the 16th century the parish of St Lorenz commissioned a Gradual, to contain the music for the Mass liturgy. It was published in two volumes in 1507 and 1510. It wasn't used for long, because in 1524 the city joined the Lutheran Reformation.

The wealth of the city was also reflected in the publication itself. It contained many elaborate decorations. One of these was the illumination for the Feast of Ascension, showing a choir of geese directed by a wolf, dressed as cantor. Hence the nickname of the collection, 'Das Gänsebuch' (The Geese Book). "The Geese Book with a total of 1120 pages is the only complete extant source for the pre-Reformation liturgy of the Mass in Nuremberg and preserves the music of one of the most prominent city parish churches of the empire", according to the programme notes. This disc therefore only contains a small selection from the chants in the manuscript. It concentrates on those masses which are connected in one way or another to Nuremberg. We find masses for Saint Sebaldus and Saint Lawrence, those saints who have given their name to the most important churches in the city, St Sebaldus and St Lorenz. As only the propers of the mass are directly connected to specific feast days, only these are recorded here.

From 1424 until 1524 the main feast day in Nuremberg was the Feast of the Holy Lance and Nails, better known as 'Heiltumsweisung'. It was celebrated at the second Friday after Easter, when a collection of sacred objects (relics and regalia) which were mainly assembled by Emperor Charles IV, were displayed at the main market of Nuremberg. The singing of the Missa Lancea Christi et armorum domini (Lance of Christ and arms of the Lord) was sung as part of the ritual connected to the celebrations. Saint Deocarus, to whom another Mass was devoted, was one of the city's patrons, whose relics were preserved in St Lorenz in a shrine, which was carried in a procession around the church on 7 June.

The vocal items are interspersed with organ pieces, some of them by the most famous organists of the 15th and early 16th centuries, Hans Kotter, Conrad Paumann and Arnolt Schlick.

The Schola Hungarica contains a mixture of children's and adult voices, both male and female. No doubt this is an excellent choir, one of many in Hungary. During the past decades it has made a large number of fine recordings with liturgical repertoire from Hungarian and other sources, showing the variety in liturgical practices from one country or region to another.

There are some question marks in regard to the number of singers involved, as it isn't very likely the repertoire on this disc was originally sung by a choir of this size - 36 names are listed in the booklet. And the singers were certainly all male; not the case here where perhaps the majority of the singers are female. This doesn't take anything away from the quality of the performances. The choir produces a beautiful sound and brings stylish interpretations of this interesting liturgical repertoire, most of which are recorded here for the first time.

Considering the historical importance of this repertoire and the quality of both music and performance I recommend this disc to anyone interested in liturgical music.

Johan van Veen

 

 



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