Although this disc comprises music for Advent and Christmas
by three composers, the central figure is Johann Stadlmayr to
whom the largest part of the liner-notes is devoted. He is one
of the lesser-known composers of the 17th century, and his oeuvre
is not well represented in the catalogue.
Stadlmayr was born in Freising in Bavaria. The first sign of
his activities as a composer is a collection of 8-part masses
which - according to a catalogue from 1611 - was printed in
1596; this collection has been lost. After the turn of the century
he entered the service of the archbishop of Innsbruck; in 1604
he was appointed vice-Kapellmeister and then Kapellmeister.
In 1607 he was appointed to a similar position at the court
of Archduke Maximilian II. Stadlmayr remained in Innsbruck for
the rest of his life. The years from 1618 to 1624 were difficult,
though. Maximilian died in 1618 and his successor, Leopold V,
disbanded the court chapel. It was hard for Stadlmayr to support
his large family; for that reason he worked as a government
meat inspector. In 1619 his wife died; he remarried in 1621.
It was apparently his application for a post in Vienna which
made Leopold change his mind. Stadlmayr was restored to his
former position with an increased salary. It was the start of
a golden era for the chapel. After Leopold's death in 1632 his
widow continued to support the chapel, despite the heavy financial
burden of the Thirty Years War. She also made the publication
of some of Stadlmayr's compositions financially possible.
Stadlmayr's oeuvre is quite large, and comprises only sacred
music. He was held in high esteem, as the dissemination of his
works and their inclusion in various anthologies show. Michael
Praetorius praised him as "noble contrapunctista and musician".
In his early works he is clearly influenced by the style which
was practised in Venice. This disc contains one example, the
Missa Jubilate Deo from a collection of 8-part masses
which was printed in 1610. In his works from this period he
juxtaposes polyphonic episodes and passages with homophony.
He also pays much attention to the optimal clarity of the text.
The Venetian influence is the reason that four pieces by Giovanni
Gabrieli are included in the programme.
We also hear two pieces from the Kleine Geistliche Konzerte
by Heinrich Schütz. These reflect the modern concertante
style from Italy which was also practised by Monteverdi. The
reason is that in Stadlmayr's later works traces of this style
can be found. You can hear this in the collection of motets,
from which the other pieces on this disc are taken, and which
was printed in 1645. In these motets solo episodes in monodic
style are embedded in a polyphonic texture for the full ensemble.
In the liner-notes it is mentioned that before Stadlmayr's oeuvre
was thoroughly explored several of his works were attributed
to Schütz. This is an indication that there are some stylistic
similarities. These would have come more clearly to the fore
if some works from Schütz's oeuvre had been chosen which
show stronger similarity in structure with those of Stadlmayr.
In most pieces the voices are joined by the instruments of Les
Cornets Noirs: two violins, two cornetts and four sackbuts,
with cello, theorbo and organ playing the basso continuo. In
Giovanni Gabrieli's motets the addition of instruments was usually
left to the performers, but in Stadlmayr's works the instruments
have independent parts, which is another sign of their modern
The singing of the choir and the playing of the instruments
is generally very good. The soloists also do a good job in the
solo passages in the motets, and they sing the two sacred concertos
by Schütz very well. So far so good. The approach of this
repertoire is based on a fundamental misunderstanding, though.
The list of performers includes seven soloists, a choir and
an instrumental ensemble. In the 17th century there were no
such things as vocal soloists and choirs in sacred music. Pieces
like these were sung by an ensemble whose members took care
of solo passages when necessary. The Orpheus Chor München
is a fine ensemble but far too large for this repertoire. The
members are not listed in the booklet, but if the picture is
anything to go by then their number is over fifty. The effects
are detrimental: the contrasts between soli and tutti are too
large and the solo passages are not naturally integrated in
the ensemble. There is a lack of transparency which sometimes
makes the text hard to understand. Passages in a swift tempo,
for instance at the end of Gabrieli's O Jesu mi dulcissime,
would have gained from the agility a smaller vocal group possesses.
I don't really understand why Gerd Guglhör insists - as
in previous recordings - on performing 17th-century music with
such large forces. It’s a decision at odds with all we
know about common practice at the time and it has a negative
effect on the outcome. That is especially hard to understand
as he always makes use of historical instruments. A performance
with such large forces has little to do with historical performance
Even so, this disc is well worth investigating because of the
mass and motets by Stadlmayr. There are very few discs which
pay attention to his oeuvre, and that makes this disc welcome,
despite its shortcomings.
Johan van Veen