Notes and Editorial Reviews
Missa non sine quare
Fabio Bonizzoni, cond; La Risonanza (period instruments)
PAN 10259 (54:01
Text and Translation)
High praise was given to Johann Caspar Kerll (1627–93) by both Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel, who admired his counterpoint, exacting harmony, and precise handling of melody. Indeed, Kerll might be placed upon the pedestal of German Catholic music as the equal of Heinrich Schütz, though of course he belongs to the generation after the
older master. Still, the old
that was a legacy of the Venetian School can be discerned in the works of both composers, and given that Kerll was prolifically active at the Holy Roman court of Leopold I, it is not surprising that he came to represent a fresh view on an older style during his lifetime.
Missa non sine quare
, translated as “Mass not without reason,” was printed as the lead-off in a collection of six in 1689, but since it uses material from a set of published
written a decade earlier, it may have long predated its appearance in print. The reason may be larger than simply wishing to concoct an entire Mass on an organ piece, but Kerll, in his preface, does not elaborate. He does, however, explain that various instruments should be added to reinforce the voices, which is precisely what the early-music vocal and instrumental group La Risonanza does in this recording, first released on the Symphonia label in 2000. Moreover, Bonizzoni arranges, presumably with the help of Marc Vanscheeuwijck, who wrote the very informative notes, for the disc to present a complete Mass, both the Ordinary (this work) and Proper, for which he inserts several other works by Kerll, including two instrumental church sonatas and four motets. Apparently the composer did not have an Introit available, but this is added in plainsong. The result is a nice collection that fills the disc and allows for a glimpse into the worship service of late 17th-century Vienna. I won’t say in all of its glory, but rather in a way that shows what most ordinary Sunday services may have been like.
Of the Mass, it is worthwhile noting that La Risonanza is a tight-knit ensemble, which in turn makes it rather easy to discern the often interwoven lines. Kerll’s excellent sense of counterpoint is evident in the flowing and intricate fugue that concludes the Gloria, and one only has to listen to the sustained soprano line of the Sanctus, here reinforced by the dead-on accuracy of Peter Birner’s cornett, to know how Bach may have learned to write his chorale
in his cantatas. Both have a similar pure, sustained quality, though of course Kerll’s is much briefer. The powerful and abrupt Agnus Dei, with its swinging “qui tollis peccata mudi,” is also an original and carefully crafted movement. The motets are likewise interesting, such as the imitative melodies of the soprano and alto in the “Dignare Domine” or the undulating cello of the Regina coeli. There is even more than a hint of Corelli in the two sonatas, where Kerll demonstrates his subtle use of harmony and counterpoint in the interlocking violin lines.
Compared with the other recording of this work by the Dresden Knabenchor on Cantate and which tends toward the solemn and lugubrious in terms of texture and performance practice, La Risonanza makes full use of a lighter texture. This allows for the doublings of the voices by the strings and cornett to be heard, but they are so carefully controlled in terms of intonation and rhythm that the blend is superb. I like Sergio Foresti’s resonant bass, and Elisa Franzett and Emanuele Bianchi have light, flexible, and clear upper voices. Tenor Mario Cecchetti is also brilliant in his interpretation. The result is a fine recording that, despite being more than a decade old at this point, does Kerll’s Mass justice, as well as providing other interesting smaller works. If you don’t already have this in your Baroque collection, now would be a good time to add it.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Missa "Non sine quare" by Johann Kaspar Kerll
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