Notes and Editorial Reviews
In nomine Iesu. Ecce quomodo moritur iustus. Vae nobis. Natus est nobis. Ante luciferum genitus. Canite tuba in Sion. Ascendit Deus in iubilatione. Civitatem istam.
Cantate Domino. Dixit Maria ad angelum. Missa Super Dixit Maria. Laetentur coeli.
Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott. Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin. Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz. Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ. Christ lag in Todesbanden. Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht
Thios Omilos; Alexandra Skiebe (org); Benjamin Dreßler (vne)
RONDEAU ROP6041 (54:59
Text and Translation)
This disc presents a well-conceived and nicely balanced program of sacred music by a trio of Reformation-era composers who, for the most part, remain unjustly neglected: Jacobus Gallus (1550–1591), now generally referred to by the German version of his name, Jakob Handl; Hans Leo Hassler (1546–1612); and Johann Hermann Schein (1586–1630). A search of both domestic and foreign classical music websites turned up only one CD in print devoted entirely or primarily to music of Gallus, eight for Hassler, and 12 for Schein, with a majority of those for Schein being of complete or excerpted sets of his
(see my reviews of two of the complete sets in 35:4 and 36:3). The centerpiece of this program, centered around the chief Christian liturgical feasts of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, is the
Missa Super Dixit Maria
by Hassler, with three additional motets by Hassler, eight motets by Gallus/Handl, and six
(spiritual concertos) by Schein.
Jacobus Gallus—to use the version of his name employed on this disc (other variants of his last name besides Handl are Händl and Handelius)—was actually of Slovenian descent and born in the region of Carniola, though the exact place is disputed. His original last name may have been Petelin, which is “rooster” in the Slovenian tongue, for which Handl and Gallus are the Latin and German equivalents. He left there c.1565 for Austria and then went to the Czech lands, where he spent most of his career. He was a member of the Viennese court chapel, served as
to the bishop of Olmütz in Moravia 1580-1585, and ended his career as cantor at the Church of St. Jan na Brzehu (St. John of the Balustrade; it was destroyed in 1896) in Prague. He composed over 500 works, mostly motets notable for their unusual degree of complexity; 374 of these, along with 16 of his 20 surviving Masses, were published in his multivolume
, which appeared between 1586 and 1590. About 100 secular madrigals were published in the
Hans Leo Hassler was born in Nuremberg; his father Isaak (1530–1591) was an organist, and his brothers Kaspar (1562–1618) and Jakob (1569–1622) also became composers. After his initial training under Orlando di Lasso, during 1584 and 1585 he studied in Venice under Andrea Gabrieli and Claudio Merulo and became friends with Giovanni Gabrieli. Upon the elder Gabrieli’s death he returned to Germany and assumed a position in Augsburg as organist to Octavian II Fugger of the extremely wealthy and influential Fugger banking family. By the time he moved back to Nuremberg in 1602 to become the city’s
, he had become renowned as one of Germany’s leading experts on organs and frequently traveled to other cities to inspect instruments. He married in 1604, and then in 1608 assumed successive appointments in Dresden as organist and
to Elector Christian II of Saxony. After his death from tuberculosis, he was succeeded in turn by Michael Praetorius and Heinrich Schütz. While he remained a lifelong Protestant, he served primarily in Roman Catholic courts and composed sacred works for their liturgical use.
Johann Hermann Schein was born in Grünhain bei Annaberg in Saxony, on the northwest border of the modern Czech Republic. In 1593 he moved to Dresden upon the death of his father, where he sang as a boy soprano in the Hofkapelle of the Elector of Saxony and began his musical studies. From 1607 to 1611 he was schooled at the Pforta Monastery near Naumburg, and then studied law and music at the University of Leipzig from 1608 to 1612; a skilled poet as well, he would write all of the texts for his secular songs and madrigals. After briefly holding positions in Weissenfels and Weimar, in 1616 he was appointed cantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, a position he held until his death. His life was marked by suffering and tragedy, he was afflicted with poor health, his first wife died in childbirth, and four of his five children pre-deceased him. He was a close friend of Heinrich Schütz, who visited him on his deathbed. Unlike Gallus and Hassler, Schein composed sacred and secular music in almost equal measure, and was notable for being one of the first German composers to adopt the Italian madrigal style of composition in his works.
Thios Omilos, founded in 2002, is a quintet of young male singers, consisting of two tenors, one baritone, and two basses, who were all members together of the Thomaskirche boys’ choir in Leipzig. This is the ensemble’s first CD release, and it is a most auspicious debut. The choice of programming for such a venture is nothing if not audacious, since the Hassler Mass has a previous recording by the Ensemble Vocale Européen de la Chapelle Royale under Philippe Herreweghe (see the review by J. F. Weber in 16:3). Surprisingly, Thios Omilos offers the superior rendition by a wide margin; its sound is no less robust than that of the 14-member choir under Herreweghe, but it has far greater clarity of individual voices, a smoother blend of parts, and clearer and crisper diction, and offers a far more lively rendition at brisk tempi that make its competitor seem positively lethargic. It also uses a more elaborate version of the Agnus Dei movement, and unlike its competitor precedes the Mass with the motet upon which it is based. The other motets and sacred concertos are given equally fine performances, and organist Alexandra Skiebe and violone player Benjamin Dreßler are excellent accompanists in the six pieces by Schein. The recorded sound is well-nigh ideal, with just the right amount of space and amplitude around the voices to give them presence and body. Let’s hope that this is the first of many similar releases to come; enthusiastically recommended, and possible Want List material for 2013.
FANFARE: James A. Altena
Works on This Recording
Canite tuba in Sion by Jacob Handl
Written: 16th Century; Austria
Ante luciferum genitus by Jacob Handl
Written: 16th Century
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