This disc sets about presenting various sacred concerti by composers
working mostly in Leipzig during the period of the Thirty Year’s
War (1618-1648). Original instruments are used as specified by
Nancy Hadden especially wanted to put together a programme of
concerti which specifically uses the renaissance flute of which
she has made a study. Amongst the composers’ names are
a few which may be little known. They include Tobias Michael
whose setting of Psalm 127 for voices and instruments ends the
disc. It is a typical example of the genre with the verses broken
up with instrumental sections adding variety. Rather interestingly
Hadden points out that the transverse flute when partnered by
the violin is played with the second part down but up an octave.
It is therefore above the violin’s melody and so creates
a descant to it.
This is Circa 1500’s fourth disc for CRD. Back in the 1980s
when they began recording for CRD, the group comprised a small
instrumental set-up concentrating on the early 16th
as their name implies and normally using just one singer: Emily
van Evera. For this recording they are augmented to six singers
and eight instrumentalists. This allows more colour which is
suitable for this repertoire. Nancy Hadden has assembled some
of the finest early music singers and instrumentalists available
and they are a joy to hear. Just listen to the performance of
Tobias Michael’s setting of a section of St. Matthew Chapter
11 ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden”.
It uses a bassoon continuo. Michael’s Psalm 92 setting ‘It
is good to give thanks unto the Lord” - “Das ist
en kostlich Ding”- has theorbo and lute playing continuo.
Although this is pleasing music, despite what Hadden implies
in her notes it is not, to my mind, overly expressive.
However everything goes up another notch when listening to Heinrich
Schütz. His intense, perhaps Monteverdian setting of ‘Anima
mea liquefacta est’ from the Song of Songs includes a significant
part for the flute. It is the longest work on the CD. The text
includes the lines “His lips are like lilies, dropping
sweet myrrh”. I can’t help but think how much more
sensuous it would have sounded if set for or indeed performed
by two sopranos as Lully was to do fifty or so years later. Instrumental
sections again, split the verses almost commenting upon them.
The other concerto/motet by Schütz is his exultant setting
of the brief Psalm 133 (‘Sieh wie feinund lieblich ists’)
which opens the disc. It was written to celebrate his brother’s
wedding in 1619 soon after his return from studies in Italy and
is scored, unusually, for two flutes with continuo.
In his Opella Nova of 1619 and 1626 Johann Hermann Schein specified
his preferred instrumentation. This included the continuo, so
we find the trio sonata texture of violin, transverse flute and
bassoon. In addition he also asked for a plucked instrument to
double the organ which also offered the possibility of alto trombone
on the bass line. Circa 1500 utilize these combinations, with
the trombone accompanying the clear, ringing tones of Ian Honeyman
in the Christmas concerto setting of Isaiah ‘Uns ist ein
kind geboren’. The expressive Julian Podger in ‘Al
so heileg is der Tag’ - an Easter concerto - is impressive;
similarly in ‘Siehe das ist mein knecht’ also a text
from Isaiah. The versatile Schein, who wrote much purely instrumental
music, was a friend of Schütz and a pupil of Rogier Michael
the father of the aforementioned Tobias.
The other composers represented are also not that well known
and, curiously, they are not mentioned in the accompanying booklet.
Henrich Scheidermann a North German organist is represented by
two short organ works based on choral melodies. By contrast we
encounter Matthaeus Reymann through two brief and simple lute
pieces in the imitative style of the mid-16th
Incidentally the CD lasts ten minutes longer than the jewel-case
claims. All texts are enclosed and there are good translations.
There is a useful essay by Nancy Hadden herself and the recording
is clear and nicely balanced. It’s good to have a new CRD
early music disc on the market.