Notes and Editorial Reviews
Well-prepared and spontaneous performances of religious music by Demantius, an original voice that is rarely heard.
Christophorus Demantius was born and died in exactly the same years as Monteverdi, but there the similarities stop. A Bohemian craftsman who spent most of his professional life in Freiberg in Saxony, he is revealed in this disc of Whitsun Vespers to be a confident individualist, combining the polyphonic fluency of the great 16th-century masters with the strong harmonic kernel derived from the clear phrasing of the early German Lied.
The Huelgas Ensemble are about as convincing advocates of this sonorous repertoire as one could imagine, supported as they are by Paul van Nevel's luminous
textural palette — a palette varied by such pleasing instrumental contributions. His ear for detail and the sense of meticulous preparation is immediately noticeable, though he also lets his singers sail into the intensely worked flourishes of the hymn, Veni Creator, with radiant abandon. Previously, we see Demantius — `an inconsiderate man and a turbulent genius', as one contemporary put it — conduct an impressive journey of church modes, and their variants, in 28 different Psalm verses. It makes for a slightly exhausting voyage, despite the imaginative way the composer traverses the rigid, alternating sections with rich five- and six-part sonority in the best of German traditions.
The solo singing is altogether less memorable than the fragrant coloration (which is central to van Nevel's approach) of the integral ensemble. The vespers, which were published in Nuremberg in 1602, also contain a variable Magnificat and an all-too-short, brilliant Benedicamus Domino a 6, confirming Demantius's natural grasp of decorated homophony. This is music of great dignity and an unassailable momentum. The disc ends with two extended chorale settings from Threnodiae, an extensive litany for the dead, from 1620; a touching melodic intimacy abounds, with correspondingly sensitive instrumental additions.
One feels a bit short-changed by just 47 minutes of music, but only because the Huelgas Ensemble bring a distinctive vitality to their music-making which calls for at least an hour. Demantius was prolific enough!
-- Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, Gramophone [12/2000]
Reviewing original release, Harmonia Mundi 901705
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