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It is not often that I hear the music of a composer for the first time and am taken with it as much as I have been with that of Johann Rosenmüller, a native of Oslsnitz in the Vogtland region of Germany. He studied theology at Leipzig where he also studied music, graduating in 1640, this led to a number of positions, including assistant teacher at the Thomasschule in the city in 1642, a position which gave him an opportunity to further his musical development. By the early 1650’s he had become acting Director of Music for the major churches of Leipzig due to the ill health of Tobias Michael, who along with Heinrich Schütz had been a great influence on Rosenmüller’s formative style. His promising career was abruptly halted in 1655 when he was reportedly involved in a homosexual scandal involving a number of his pupils; this led to him fleeing Leipzig, possibly via Hamburg, for Venice, where he was a composer and trumpeter in the church of San Marco. He spent the last years of his life back in Germany as Kapellmeister to the court of Duke Anton-Ulrich of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel.
Heinrich Schütz became a mentor to Rosenmüller, giving him access to not only his own compositions, but those to be found in his own musical library, especially those collected during Schütz’s second visit to Venice in 1628 to 1629, with these forming an inspiration to the young composer as can be seen here. The works here are strongly influenced by the Italian school, indeed it is almost like listening to Gabrieli with a German accent. From the opening piece
Nun gibest du, Gott, einen gnadigen Regen the influence is clear to hear, the timbre of the brass set against the voices and strings can only be influenced by the music collected by Schütz. This influence is less evident in the instrumental pieces, especially the Sonata XII, which is scored for five stringed instruments and basso continuo; although there is still an Italianate feel to the music, a definite adherent to new music coming from Italy. The final work gives the disc its name, the Psalkonzert
Laudate Dominum ones gentes, and you can understand why, here the fusion of the Italian and German styles is complete, this is a masterpiece of the baroque, one that makes me wonder why I have not heard it before.
The performances, whether by the soloists, choir or instrumentalists, are excellent, here.
Johann Rosenmüller has worthy champions for his cause, only serving to give me a desire to hear more of his music, especially is performed as well as it is here. The recorded sound is very good, with the church acoustic giving the recording a nice ambience, with the detailed notes by Markus Berger being exemplary.