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Leonhard LECHNER (1553-1606)
Mein süsse Freud auf Erden: sacred choral music
Introitus [0:26]
Das erst und ander Kapitel des Hohenliedes Salominis (posth. 1606) [10:42]
Minne 1 [0:38]
Dieweil Gott ist mein Zuversicht (1589) [3:00]
Nun schein, du Glanz der Herrlichkeit (1582) [2:20]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (posth. 1606) [3:14]
Wohl dem, der den Herren fürchtet (1589) [7:47]
Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (1582) [3:34]
Danket dem Herren, den er ist sehr freundlich (1589) [2:30]
Christ, der du bist der helle Tag (1577) [10:10]
Christ ist erstanden (1577) [4:50]
Nackend bin ich aus meiner Mutter Leib kommen (1577) [1:55]
Deutsche Sprüche von Leben und Tod (posth. 1606) [11:07]
Wann wir in höchsten Nöten sein (1577) [3:40]
Minne II [0:51]
Mein süsse Freud auf Erden (posth. 1606) [3:40]
Gott b’hüte dich (1586) [5:25]
So wünsch ich ihr ein gute Nacht (1577) [3:19]
Extroitus [0:24]
Athesinus Consort Berlin/Klaus-Martin Bresgott
rec. February 2013, Christuskirche Berlin
Texts and English translations
CARUS 83.384 [79:40]

We open with the shimmer of the sansula, an introitus whose distinctive sound-world is imported from the Mediterranean, and we end with the extroitus played on the koshis, from the same geographical area. What, one may ask, have these particular and alien sounds to do with the songs and motets of the German composer Leonhard Lechner? He actually denoted himself Leonhard Lechner Athesinus to show that he came from Athesis/Adige in the South Tyrol. He began professional life as a singer, under no less than Orlando di Lasso (also his teacher) in Munich. Settling in Nuremburg in 1573 he soon came under Luther’s spell and became devoted to the idea of free strophic lied and the primacy of German-language settings. The word-orientated settings are often quite straightforward in construction, with chorale blocks surrounded by polyphony; but above all there is Lechner’s devotion to the Lutheran dictates of word-tone relationships.

In that context the use of unusual instrumentation should be seen as Athesinus Consort Berlin and Klaus-Martin Bresgott’s devotion to the power of the word. Thus representative passages encourage them to add instrumentation. I am dubious about this. It seems to be an act of veneration divorced from the historical realities of the day, and it can sound a sentimentalising, even trivialising of Lechner’s music. Surely he did not want to hear these instruments in his music and the anachronism of introducing them at various points detracts from the simplicity and directness of his message. We don’t always need things hammered out, however dulcet the hammer.

If you can live with this – and by ‘this’ I mean bells, drums, Jew’s harps, wind chimes, recorders and the two instruments already noted - you will find much modestly beautiful music. The instrumental interpolations recur in the long setting of Das erst und ander Kapitel des Hohenliedes Salomonis, published posthumously in the year of Lechner’s death. The use of bells and chimes in the Minne I, for instance, reflects ideas of salvation and redemption. Introduced instrumentally by the recorder Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ is subject successively to chimes, drums and a percussive crash before the reprise of the first verse. The singing is fully committed and attractively directed. Indeed the instrumentalists play their roles characterfully. Whether it’s either right or appropriate is another matter and at various points I felt it was, indeed, also rather New Age-y.

Lechner’s music itself occupies a niche post-Isaac but pre-Schütz, and he is a significant composer in German Protestant musical history, though not a pivotal one. I remain doubtful whether his message has been fully served here.
 
Jonathan Woolf