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Festive Mass at the Imperial Court of Vienna 1648
Girolamo FANTINI (c.1602-1675)
Imperial Sonata No.1 (c.1638) [3:12]

Andreas RAUCH (1592-1656)
Atollite Portas, Principes
(1634) [5:15]

Jubilate Deo
for Four Choirs (c.1648) [3:31]
Christoph STRAUS (c.1575-1631)
Missa Veni Sponsa Christi (c.1620-30): Symphonia-Kyrie-Gloria [8:36]

Giovanni PRIULI (1575-1629)
Venite Exultemus
in 8 parts (c.1620) [2:31]

Missa Veni Sponsa Christi:Credo [8:06]

Antonio BERTALI (1605-1669)
Sonata I (c.1640) [2:12]

for Four Choirs (c.1648) [5:59]

Missa Veni Sponsa Christi: Sanctus-Benedictus [2:35]

O Quam Dulcis
in 8 parts (c.1620) [3:43]

Pater Noster
for Three Choirs (c.1648) [4:06]

Missa Veni Sponsa Christi
: Agnus Dei [1:55]

Sonata II (c.1640) [2:01]

Cantate Domino
for Five Choirs (c.1648) [5:59]

Imperial Sonata No.2 (c.1638) [2:25]

Yvonne Seymour (soprano); Margaret Cable (mezzo); Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor);
Phillip Daggett (tenor); Ian Partridge (tenor); David Collins (tenor); Stephen Varcoe (bass);
Roger Langford (bass)
Yorkshire Bach Choir; Yorkshire Baroque Soloists; Baroque Brass of London/Peter Seymour
rec. 11-13 July 1989, Chapel of St. Mary and St. Eviralda, Everingham
ALTO ALC 1006 [62:44] 


Here we have a CD recorded in 1989 and already in its third incarnation. What is interesting is that we hear not some warhorse but a collection of pieces that might have constituted a Festival Mass in Vienna to celebrate the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The sequence comprises a mass, three appropriate propers (if one can say that), four brass works and several motets. Some of the composers are better known than others, but none of them is of the fame of a Gabrieli or Schutz and most of the music here is unavailable elsewhere.  However, it’s all interesting and in the case of the Straus, quite impressive. 

The disc opens and closes with Imperial Sonatas by Girolamo Fantini, perhaps the greatest trumpeter of the period. The Sonata No.  1 is well known and except for No. 2 and the Bertali works, the only music available elsewhere (review). It is only one of many such works that Fantini wrote for both the Medici and the Hapsburgs, although these two pieces were probably written for the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II in 1619. As with No.1 the Second Imperial Sonata demonstrates the Gabrieli style, which was then arriving in the German-speaking countries. The second Sonata morphs into the first at the end. 

The Mass itself is by Christopher Straus, actually a native Viennese and Kapellmeister to Emperor Mathias. At the accession of Ferdinand II (see above) Straus was replaced by Priuli and “kicked upstairs” to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The Mass is a full-scale work and has thematic connections between the sections as well as plenty of reminders of the recent military events. The first section of the Kyrie comprises an opening symphonia that is a little disappointing after the Fantini mentioned above. This goes directly into an elaborate kyrie eleison followed by a simpler, more old-style christe eleison and then back to the first kyrie eleison. The Gloria flows thematically from the Kyrie. There are several beautiful unaccompanied parts for the men, which they sing excellently. Yvonne Seymour and especially Margaret Cable are even better as they alternate with the male voices. The Credo is less exciting than the first two movements of the mass, but acts as a kind of slower interlude before Rauch’s Benedicite and the triumphant Sanctus; in both of which Peter Seymour gets a beautiful sound from the singers. The Benedictus makes more use of the soloists, ending with interesting antiphonal work. In the impressive Agnus Dei one must again mention the singing of Margaret Cable, which stands out among a raft of talented singers on this recording. 

Of the smaller elements of the service one must say that the two Bertali Sonatas do not measure up to the two Fantini ones (review).  Similarly I found the first Rauch motet exciting but not as moving as the Rauch Jubilate Deo. This may be due to fact that the first is a political work and the second a liturgical one. It may also be due to the performers agreeing with my opinion since Atollite Portas gets the least committed performance on the disc. Rauch’s Benedicite must count as the most elaborate and rewarding work after the Straus Mass. It effectively alternates solos and chorus, punctuated by intradas from brass and drums. Peter Seymour handles the various forces with his accustomed subtlety. The Rauch Pater Noster is a little lacklustre after what goes before it, but the Cantate Domino is a wonderful example of combined polychoralism and concertato work. It’s a fine example of the various compositional winds that that were blowing through the Holy Roman Empire from  all musical directions at this time. The Priuli works are also worthy of notice.

Although this is a recording made almost twenty years ago the sound is surprisingly clear of interference. The Chapel of Stet. Mary and St. Evirilda is free from distortion and does not add “bounce” or flutter as happens in some recordings of music of this period. The only sonic complaint is that there is some flatness in the chapel sound, but this is not a major complaint in a recording made in 1989. It seems that the engineers at Alto have done a fine job on this reissue. 

Yvonne Seymour and Margaret Cable have been mentioned above. The male singers and the Yorkshire Bach Choir and Baroque Soloists are also fine, but the real reason, to me, for releasing this disc again is as an example of the excellent work that Peter Seymour has done in his various capacities at York and its University for three decades.

William Kreindler


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