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Johann ROSENMÜLLER (1617/19–1684) Magnificat anima mea Dominum: Geistliches Konzert
(Sacred concerto) [15:26]
Der Name des Herren: Geistliches Konzert
Domine, probasti me: Psalmkonzert
(Psalm concerto) [6:32]
Ego te laudo: Geistliches Konzert
(Suite from Sinfonie e sonate da camera, Venice, 1670) [7:58]
Confitebor tibi, Domine: Psalmkonzert
Welt, ade! ich bin dein müde: Chorale
Nunc dimittis: Geistliches Konzert
Bleibe bei uns, denn es will Abend werden: Dialogus
Ensemble 1684/Gregor Meyer
rec. St Georgen Rötha, 24-26 September 2019.
Texts and translations included
Reviewed as downloaded from press access.
Having run out of words of praise, soon I shall have to cut and paste my
words from one CPO recording of baroque music to the next. I’m writing this
on the day that my
of music by Georg Caspar Schürmann has appeared and, though that comes from
Weser Renaissance and Manfred Cordes, this recording of sacred concertos and other music by Johann Rosenmüller
from Ensemble 1684 and Gregor Meyer is
just as fine.
In my review of the Schürmann, volume 5 of a series of CPO recordings of
music associated with Wolfenbüttel Castle, I mentioned an earlier
Rosenmüller recording of seven sacred concertos based on Psalm 31 (CPO 555165-2). That
fine recordng came, like the rest of that series, from Weser Renaissance, but Ensemble
1684 have also recorded Rosenmüller’s sacred concertos in a double
celebration of the composer: it appeared in 2018 to mark (approximately)
his four hundredth birthday, while the ensemble’s very name commemorates
the year of his death (555187-2).
Reviewing that recording,
Stuart Sillitoe expressed a desire to hear more of Rosenmüller’s music;
here it is, and it’s just as good.
Rosenmüller’s dates are significant: during his formative years Monteverdi
was composing his finest madrigals, Books 6-8, the Scherzi musicale, Selva morale e spirituale, Il ritorno d’Ulisse and L’incoronazione di Poppea, and he
died one year before the birth of Bach and Handel, so his music represents
that transitional period when North German composers were greatly
influenced by the Italian style. Indeed, his biography spans Lutheran North
Germany, which he fled, and Venice where the Sinfonia prima on
this recording was published. Some of the music he composed there for
Compline has been recorded by the eponymous Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble and
Arno Paduch (Christophorus CHR77333, rec. 2009, texts and translations
included). His style hardly changed in the meantime; as his friend Caspar
Ziegler commented, any visitor to Leipzig hearing Rosenmüller’s music could
easily have imagined themselves in Venice and Telemann mentions him along
with Italian composers as his models for sacred and secular music.
Inevitably, the music for this final office of the day – not ‘Evensong’ as
the English translation of the title, misleadingly, has it – is quieter in
tone than the Vespers Magnificat on the new CPO, but the music is
still of a high quality, especially the canticle Nunc Dimittis and
the closing antiphon, Salve Regina, and the performances and
recording do it justice.
The Magnificat which opens the new CPO recording would not have
been out of place in St Mark’s, Venice. Scored for two each of sopranos,
altos, tenors and basses, with cornets, sackbuts, strings and continuo, it
receives a stirring performance. All it lacks to compete with settings by
Monteverdi, Rigatti, Grandi and Cavalli – the latter an especial influence
on Rosenmüller – is the Venetian practice of spatially divided choirs. I’m
pleased to see that Presto have reissued on two special CDs the Paul
McCreesh recording of Venetian Vespers 1643, including music by all the
Venetian composers that I have just named, and it’s slightly less expensive
than the lossless download, which comes without booklet (4761868). Ignore the typo which calls this ‘Five Vespers’, instead of ‘First
I have seen it suggested that the vocal contribution to the new CPO could
have been a little more positive within the overall balance. Certainly,
it’s always a problem in music of this style for neither the singers nor
the instrumentalists to dominate, but I was not troubled by any serious
imbalance on the new recording.
Even in the domestic setting of Bleibe bei uns, where the
travellers to Emmaus beseech the risen Jesus to stay with them for the
night, the dialogue is perfectly balanced against the instrumental
accompaniment. If anything, the singers are a little prominent; at this
stage in the narrative they have not yet realised who their mysterious
companion is. The dramatic moment when they do is captured in Caravaggio’s
dramatic chiaroscuro painting The Supper at Emmaus.
As well as the more dramatic Vespers Magnificat, the new recording
includes the Compline canticle Nunc Dimittis; that, too, receives
a very fine performance, as do the other pieces, several of which appear to
be receiving their first recordings.
The DG Archiv McCreesh recording of Venetian Vespers has been a constant visitor to
my CD player since it was released in 1993, so it’s a measure of my
appreciation of the Rosenmüller if I say that the new CPO may well now be
making that journey as often, albeit digitally from my computer via the
Dragonfly DAC. If you are contemplating making the leap to streamed and
downloaded music, the Dragonfly is one of the least expensive ways of
cleaning up the music between computer and amplifier. The Mark II Dragonfly
black is now less than half its original price despite being improved in
quality, while the better still red and even better cobalt are still
The Sinfonia or Suite which comes at the midway of the recording not only
provides a welcome, slightly less dramatic intermission from the vocal
music, it also sent me in search of more of Rosenmüller’s purely
instrumental music on record. The King’s Noyse offer such a collection on
Harmonia Mundi HMU907179, download only, no booklet. Purchasers in US$ will
price more amenable than UK purchasers, who should be able to find it for
around £10 in lossless sound. In addition to the Suite in C from Studentenmusik, it contains five short sonatas and settings for
soprano, sung be Ellen Hargis. It’s fine music in very sympathetic
performances; only the lack of a booklet is a problem.
On his return to Germany in 1682 Rosenmüller published a set of twelve
sonatas for 2-5 instruments which bear the marks of his time in Venice.
Once again, CPO have done the composer excellent service with a recording
of these from Musica Fiata and Roland Wilson (777688-2). That was reviewed
alongside a rival recording from Ensemble Masques on Atma by Johan van
Veen, who was impressed by both –
The new CPO sent me in a most enjoyable search of these other CPO and Christophorus recordings
of Rosenmüller. Best of all, there’s still more to explore, enough to keep
me happy for a week, but, alas, there are other things to do.
All the recordings mentioned, except the Harmonia Mundi, come with texts and translations and
informative sets of notes. It’s a sad refection of the disappearance of
Latin that the booklet for 555165-2, having correctly spelled In te Domine speravi (In thee, O Lord, have I
mis-spells it seven times as In te Domino in the track listings.
The use of Latin by a Lutheran composer at this time is in no way
remarkable; as recently as Bach’s time and even later parts of the Mass and
the Magnificat at Vespers were still sung in Latin on high days.
There’s one more recording to mention, of Vespers for the Virgin Mary,
composed in Venice, and very well performed by Cantus Cölln and Conrad
Junghänel (Harmonia Mundi HMC91611/12). It’s download only and, like the
majority of this label’s back catalogue, comes without a booklet. UK buyers
should be able to find it for around £15; US$ purchasers may be better
served by the
version. When it was released in 1997, Cantus Cölln had recently made a
fine recording of the Monteverdi Vespers; the Rosenmüller was hailed as
even more persuasive. I missed it then, but, listening to it now, it seems
likely to be another Venetian recording as regularly heard as the Archiv.
On this basis, the story that Rosenmüller received death threats from other composers
in Venice seems plausible.
Rosenmüller’s music is a real find if you don’t yet know it. The very fine
new CPO is as good a way as any to begin to explore it, but I make no
excuse for having mentioned some other recordings here. Even then, the list
is not exhaustive; the recording companies, not least CPO, have been doing
well in recent years for a composer who receives such a brief
mention in the text books – the standard biography dates from 1898 – and I
hope that their efforts will be duly rewarded. If you can afford only one
recording of his music, go for the new CPO, but do try to listen to some of
the others, via Naxos Music Library, for example.