Historia de Compassione Mariae - Marian Office, 15th Century
[Intonatio] Domine, labia mea aperies [0:23]
[Invitatorium] Christum regem adoremus [3:28]
[Ad Primo Nocturno]
Antiphona I: Domine, dominus noster [2:35]
Antiphona II: Ecce Maria dira pendet [2:08]
Antiphona III: Plangat cum virgine [2:37]
Responsorium I: Egressus est a filia Sion [3:21]
Responsorium II: Vide domine et considera [3:00]
Responsorium III: Quis dabit capiti meo [3:42]
[Ad Secundo Nocturno]
Antiphona IV: Quem genuit mater [3:03]
Antiphona V: Vidit Maria aquam [2:27]
Antiphona VI: Quia filia crucifixo fideliter [2:30]
Responsorium IV: Dilectus meus candidus filiae Jerusalem [2:44]
Responsorium V: Deduc quasi torrentem [3:22]
Responsorium VI: Quis mihi tribuat [3:18]
[Ad Tertio Nocturno]
Antiphona VII: Commota est terra [2:42]
Antiphona VIII: Consolare filia Sion [2:29]
Antiphona IX: O mater benedicta [3:10]
Responsorium VII: O vere stupendos visionis radios [3:53]
Responsorium VIII: Cum vidisset Jesus oculis [3:22]
Responsorium IX: Stella maris candoris ebur [3:30]
Amarcord (Wolfram Lattke, Martin Lattke (tenor), Frank Ozimek (baritone), Daniel Knauft, Holger Krause (bass))
rec. 24 Oct 2009, 17 January 2010, Lichthof of the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Hamburg.
CPO 777 604-2 [57:57]

The splendour of the music scene in Northern Germany, and especially in Hamburg, in the 17th and 18th centuries is well documented. Some of the music written in this period is included in the series Musica Sacra Hamburgensis 1600-1800 which CPO started some years ago. Works from the previous centuries are hardly known. In pre-Reformation Europe the famous masters of the Franco-Flemish school worked almost exclusively in the southern half of Europe. In the north liturgical practice was largely restricted to the performance of monophonic plainsong, so-called Gregorian chant.

For a long time it was thought that this repertoire was pretty much standardized and largely identical throughout the continent. Musicological research has shown that Gregorian chant was constantly developing, and strongly differed from one region to another. The repertoire as sung in Hamburg has hardly been investigated yet. Unfortunately few manuscripts have survived. This was largely due to the habit of re-using the old parchment on which manuscripts were written. Moreover, in 1784 the library of Hamburg cathedral was auctioned, and it is quite possible that some manuscripts found their way to various libraries and archives in Europe without being recognized as being of Hamburg origin.

Until recently only six manuscripts with liturgical repertoire from the pre-Reformation period were known. Therefore the discovery of another was of great importance. It contains two offices, one in honour of St Anne, the other in honour of the Virgin Mary. It is likely that these are the oldest complete cycles of liturgical music in the history of Hamburg. The late Viacheslav Kartsovnik, who discovered the manuscript, writes in his liner-notes: "The artistic value of the chants may be classified as very high; they use the so-called German chant dialect and stylistically are situated close to German late medieval vocal poetry."

The Marian Office which is recorded here has the title Historia de Compassione Gloriosissimae Virginis Mariae, the History of the Compassion of the Most Glorious Virgin Mary. The word historia refers here to a series of liturgical readings performed during one day, including the previous evening. This Office begins with the intonatio Domine, labia mea aperies (Lord, open my lips) and the invitatorium Christum regem adoremus (Let us adore Christ), followed by three Nocturns. Each Nocturn comprises three antiphons and three responsories. Each antiphon is followed by a psalm, after which the antiphon is repeated. The antiphons are strictly ordered according to the eight modes. Whereas the antiphons are mostly syllabic, the responsories contain frequent melismatic passages. As far as the texts are concerned, apart from the psalms most of them are free poetic texts or paraphrases of biblical passages. The Office concentrates on the sufferings of Mary at the foot of the cross and contains various texts which have been frequently set throughout music history. Examples are O vos omnes and Vulnerasti cor meum.

This recording has to be valued highly as it sheds light on an almost unknown period in the musical history of Hamburg. It also enhances our knowledge of liturgical practice in a part of Europe which receives little attention. The German ensemble Amarcord has a wide repertoire from the Middle Ages to modern times. As one would expect from an ensemble like this the music of the renaissance has an important place in its repertoire. That shows here as they provide a convincing interpretation of this Office. Sometimes I felt that the legato could have been more fluent, in particular at some wider intervals. Although the liner-notes don't say so I assume the manuscript contains the complete psalms. Here we only get a couple of verses from each psalm.

This is not a disc for the average music-lover, but it is indispensable for those who have a special interest in liturgical music.

Johan van Veen

Indispensable for those who have a special interest in liturgical music.