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Rupert Ignaz MAYR (1646-1712)
Psalms from Sacri Concentus 1681
Laudate pueri Dominum [11.09]
Nisi Dominus [13.19]
Beati omnes [9.58]
Confitebor tibi Domine [11.02]
Venite gentes [13.42]
Fabian Winkelmaier (soprano), Markus Miesenberger (tenor), Markus Forster (alto), Gerd Kenda (bass), Alois Mühlbacher (soprano)
Ars Antiqua Austria/Gunar Letzbor
rec. 2017, Royal Altomonte-Saal, Stift St.Florian, St.Florian, Austria
Hybrid SACD/CD Surround 5.1 & Stereo reviewed in surround
CHALLENGE CLASSICS CC72759 SACD [59.13]

Rupert Mayr certainly falls into the category of little-known-composer. The one and a half page essay by Gunar Letzbor, the director of Ars Antiqua Austria, summarises everything that is known about him. He was a typical musician of his age, serving as a Kapellmeister, composer and violinist to Prince-Bishop Johann Franz Eckher von Kapfing und Liechteneck at the court in Freising around the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. Unusually he is remembered not only for his sacred music and violin sonatas but also for his music for school plays. Much of Mayr's oeuvre is lost. This SACD contains four psalm settings and a hymn Venites gentes. Each item is accompanied by a small complement of instrumentalists playing violins, violas, a cello, a theorbo and an organ. The first soprano on the list above is a member of the St Florian boys choir. In case you are allergic to boy sopranos I must stress that Fabian Winkelmaier is outstandingly good. The psalms are given both standard numbers as well as numbers from the Vulgate so one can very easily look up the latin words and translations on line. This is just as well because they are not in the booklet.

As for my subjective reactions to these pieces and their performances, they were much more positive than I expected. Those expectations were that this music would be worthy but interesting. It turned out to be extraordinarily beautiful, leading me to guess that if most of Mayr's music had not been lost, he would be vastly better known. Letzbor's evident enthusiasm for this music and for these performers is reflected in his extended note about the tradition and the process of working with the St Florian choristers.

The recordings are typically pure and clear as one expects from Northstar Recordings, but they are surprisingly lacking in spaciousness suggesting that the Altomonte-Saal is actually of quite a moderate size. I could find no pictures online to confirm or deny this speculation.

Note: the booklet information reverses Tracks 2 and 4. The correct sequence is above.

Dave Billinge



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