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Johann Caspar KERLL (1627-1693)
Missa non sine quare (MŘnchen, 1689)
La Risonanza/Fabio Bonizzoni (organ)
rec. May 1999, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Laino (Italy)
Texts and translations included
Reviewed as downloaded from press preview.
Previously released by Symphonia as SY99171 and by Pan Classics as PC10259.
GLOSSA GCDC80033 [54:01]

This recording seems to have been playing a game of musical chairs. When first released by Symphonia in 2000, it received a hearty 5-star recommendation from Peter Grahame Woolf, who thought it the ideal way to set yourself up for the day – review. Since then, it has been reissued by Pan in 2012 – where it remains available as a download – and now by Glossa. I presume that the migration has been made because of La Risonanza’s distinguished association in recent years with Glossa rather than from any perceived lack of merit; PGW was far from alone in praising it back in 2000.

Bach spoke highly of the music of Kerll, and Handel ‘borrowed’ it. The name Kerll is cognate with the English ‘churl’, a word which has gone down in value since it referred to the close companions of the pre-Conquest Kings, the house-carls, but there’s nothing churlish about this uplifting music. It’s more appropriate to take the English equivalent of the name of the group La Risonanza and describe both the music and performances as resonant.

Whereas the North German Lutheran composers who were his contemporaries have been faring quite well of late, from labels such as CPO and Carus, the adopted South German Kerll’s music has had fewer advocates. I mentioned the Ricercar recording of his Requiem, coupled with Fux’s Kaiserrequiem in another review, but that’s about all of his music that I could find on my hard drive, apart from walk-on parts on other recordings.

On the basis of the Requiem and this Glossa reissue, I would certainly like to hear more. The Missa non sine quare (literally ‘not without reason’) and the instrumental pieces interspersed in this recording may not be the most original that you have heard, but it is all very well wrought, and the performances do it full justice. I did wonder about the authenticity of the insertion of the motets and of the instrumental music at the gradual and post-communion, but this seems to have been established practice at the time.

It also allows the performers to give us a cross-section of Kerll’s music, which brings me to my one criticism of this recording. 54 minutes was short measure in 2000; it’s even shorter measure now. Could Glossa not have recorded La Risonanza in some extra music for this release? Perhaps Fabio Bonizzoni could have given us some of Kerll’s keyboard works, though these are covered by a 2-CD Tall Poppies pair (TP121, John O’Donnell) and a recent 3-CD Brilliant Classics super-budget set (94452, Matteo Messori).

Kerll was renowned above all in his time as a superb organist, so that Brilliant Classics set, currently on offer for as little as ú7.87, or download in CD-quality for as little as ú6.49, with booklet, is well worth choosing in addition. (Don’t pay the same price for mp3; certainly, don’t pay over ú10 for the second-hand CD being offered by one dealer.) I obtained the Messori recording, too, from my B2B access; having dipped into it, I predict that I shall be dipping into it regularly. The delightful harpsichord Capricccio sopra il cucu may well have been Handel’s inspiration for his ‘the Cuckoo and the Nightingale’ organ concerto; the organ Canzona No 4 was certainly lifted for Israel in Egypt.  The Battaglia which follows the cuckoo is also highly picturesque, while the 55-minute Modulatio organica on the Magnificat, which fills CD3, is widely regarded as some of the finest extended organ music before Bach, who was born just one year before its publication. It’s performed here with the solo voice introducing each of the modulations.

Go for the Glossa first, on sale for mid-price, around ú8.50 in the UK, but also add the Brilliant Classics at its even more modest price.

Two decades since its original release have not dimmed the quality of La Risonanza’s performances or the quality of the recording. My press download came without the booklet, but I was able to find the Pan version. I’m sure that the Glossa will maintain the high standards of their label and come with something at least as good. I note with approval that the commercial download will include it. Third time lucky, I hope, for this attractive recording; it deserves to sell well.

Brian Wilson

1 Cibavit eos (Gregorian) [1:03]
2 Kyrie, Christe, Kyrie * [3:31]
3 Gloria * [4:49]
4 Sonata in F for two violins & b.c. [6:32]
5 Credo * [7:15]
6 Plaudentes Virgini for soprano, alto, tenor, bass & b.c. [3:45]
7 Sanctus et Benedictus * [4:17]
8 Agnus Dei * [2:18]
9 Ama cor meum for alto, tenor, two violins & b.c. [7:25]
10 Dignare me for soprano, alto, bass & b.c. [2:34]
Post Communio
11 Sonata in g minor for two violins, bass & b.c. [7:13]
Deo Gratias
12 Regina cŠli laŠtare [2:31]
From Missa non sine quare *
b.c. = basso continuo

La Risonanza:
Elisa Franzetti (soprano)
Emanuele Bianchi (countertenor)
Mario Cecchetti (tenor)
Sergio Foresti (bass)
Carla Marotta, David Plantier (violins)
Peter Birner (cornett)
Olaf Reimers (violoncello)
Giorgio Sanvito (violone)
Ivan PelÓ (theorbo)
Fabio Bonizzoni (organ/direction)

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