The ensemble sounds like a Scandinavian football team and its
individual members are described in the booklet in terms of
confectionery (‘Frederik is dark chocolate…‘Millis’ is a velvety
white champagne bonbon…’) but beyond all this stuff, there is
some serious musicological work on offer. The Düben Collection
is one of the most important collections of seventeenth century
music, and is housed in Uppsala University. It was acquired
by Gustav Düben, Kapellmeister to the Swedish court between
1663 and 1690. A significant amount of the music is unique to
Crato Butner flourished as a church musician in Danzig and his
highly engaging Laudate pueri dominum gets the disc off
to a vivacious start. There are a few quite spicy harmonies,
and a splendidly realised slowing for the concluding Gloria.
A composer who courts the ranks of the largely obscure is Didaco
Philitari, whose dates are unknown. A collection of his music,
published in Antwerp in 1645, described him as a priest in Rome.
The piece here was originally a Salve Regina, but its text has
been revised for a Lutheran service. There are some florid runs
amidst the warm and expressive music-making. Albrici, another
Roman, visited Stockholm in 1652 and maintained links with Düben.
His Omnia, qua fecit deus is a motet for soprano, two
violins and a basso continuo. The virtuosic demands of the piece,
with its rapid ornamentation, attest to the high standards cultivated
at the court – there were apparently some virtuosic castratos
available to sing such parts. A cadential passage over a pedal
note is especially striking as indeed are the repeated, quasi-echo
effects. This dramatic piece is well worth getting to know.
Thiele is better known and contributes Ach, dass ich hören
sollte dass Gott, a work of fluent, fluid cohesion. Ignatio
von Gnessel, or ‘Gebsel’ or ‘Ghesel’ or indeed ‘van Ghesel’
is another clearly obscure figure. No one seems to know whether
he was German or Flemish or really from which country he sprang.
Venite ad me is replete with tremolandi, warm string
textures and excellent melodic appeal. A blank he may be biographically,
but certainly not compositionally. This is a highly effective
work. An instrumental moment follows: Albrici’s sonata for two
violins and basso continuo, which is both a fine piece – scope,
imagination, drama - and also receives an excellent performance
here. Pfleger’s Justorum animae in manu dei sunt has
stately dignity, and finally we hear Ich will den Herrn loben
allezeit which may, or may not, be by the organist Johann
Nicholaus Hanff. This alternates between florid and contemplative
writing, integrating an important part for the violin. Once
again it displays the high level of musical accomplishment contained
in the collection and the equally persuasive performances that
bring the works to life.
The burden is borne especially by soprano Anna Jobrant who sings
with considerable precision and a good tone. The virtuosic demands
are considerable but she meets them squarely. At the top of
her range she can sound a little pinched, and the Albrici shows
this in particular. But she and her colleagues perform splendidly
throughout and have been well recorded.