Monday 29 April 2013

Soloists are the crowning glory in this new release from Mirare featuring the Ricercar Consort directed by Philippe Pierlot in music by Matthias Weckmann

Matthias Weckman (c.1615-1674) was born in Thuringia, Germany, the son of a Lutheran pastor. At an early age he was received into the Electoral Chapel as a choirboy, receiving instruction from Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672). It was Schütz that recommended that Weckmann should receive instruction in organ playing and composition form Jacob Praetorius (1586–1651), to whom he was sent at the expense of Elector Johann Georg I. On his return to Dresden in 1636/7 he was appointed organist to the Electoral Chapel. A visit from King Christian IV of Denmark resulted in Weckmann being allowed to serve for a time as Capellmeister at the Danish court, only returning to Dresden in 1647. There is an account of a trial of skill which took place at Dresden between Weckmann and Johann Jakob Froberger (c.1616-1667), who parted from each other with expressions of mutual respect, Froberger declaring his competitor to be a real virtuoso.

In 1655 Weckmann was permitted to apply for the post of organist at the churches of St James and St Gertrude in Hamburg. With the exception of the occasional visit to Dresden he remained in Hamburg for the rest of his life, dying there in 1674.

Weckmann founded the Collegium Musicum, a music society that gave frequent performances of the best and newest native and foreign music and was the beginning of public concerts in Hamburg. None of Weckmann’s works were published in his own lifetime and only eight of his larger works for voice and instruments have survived many of which are now preserved in the Upsalla University Library.

Mirare have just released a new recording of instrumental and vocal works by Weckmann with the Ricercar Consort directed by Philippe Pierlot The instrumentalists of the Ricercar Consort are Sophie Gent, Tuomo Suni and Gabriel Grosbard (violons), Philippe Pierlot, Kaori Uemura and Rainer Zipperling (violes de gamba), Eduardo Egüez (theorbo) and Maud Gratton (organ). The soloists are Maria Keohane (soprano Carlos Mena (alto), Hans-Jörg Mammel (tenor) and Stephan Macleod (bass)

MIR 204
Weckmann’s Concerto I. Weine nicht, Es hat überwunden. à 9 for three voices and six instruments has an instrumental opening before alto, Carlos Mena, enters on the words ‘Weine nicht es hat überwunden der Löwe, von Stamm Juda (Weep not the Lion of the Tribe of Juda the root of David has overcome). After an extended section for instruments, bass, Stephan Macleod, enters with light instrumental accompaniment. After a short instrumental passage the alto and tenor sing ‘Weine nicht’ (Weep not) a particularly beautiful setting. Tenor, Hans-Jörg Mammel, and alto, Carlos Mena and bass Stephan Macleod, introduce a more vibrant setting of the second verse ‘Das Lamm das erwürget ist (The Lamb that was slain). As the soloists weave around each other the music works its way to, not a massive amen, but a light textured and ornamented amen.

Concerto II. Zion spricht: Der Herr hat mich verlassen. à 8 for three voices and five instruments.

A slow theme for instruments opens this concerto before the soloists enter in an attractive ‘Zion spricht’ (Zion speaks). After a short instrumental section bass, Stephan Macleod, enters in ‘Kann auch eine leibliche Mutter ihres Kindleins vergessen’ (Can a mother of flesh forget her child) combining beautifully with the viols. Tenor, countertenor then bass then come together with a terrific blend of voices to bring this concerto to a close.

Weckmann’s grand organ Praembulum Primi toni a 5 that follows is played with clarity and style by Maude Gratton, making a fine interlude between the vocal works.

Concerto III. Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe. à 8 also has an instrumental opening before tenor, alto and bass enter weaving a tapestry of words on ‘Herr wenn ich nur dich habe’ (Lord if only I have you). Alto, Carlos Mena again shows himself to have a fine voice as does tenor, Hans-Jörg Mammel, when he joins at ‘Wenn mir’ in this slower section.  The three male voices continue to give terrific performances in ‘…so bist du doch, Gott…’ (…you remain God…).

Soprano, Maria Keohane, and organ open the Concerto IV. Wie liegt die Stadt so wüste. à 7 with a lovely ‘Wie liegt die Stadt so wüste’ (How desolate lies the city) a magical setting from Lamentations. Instruments herald bass, Stephan Macleod, in ‘Euch sage ich allen’ (I say to you all) another fine setting, so finely sung. When the soprano enters again in ‘Sie weinet des Nachts’ (She weeps in the night) with lovely ornamentation, it creates a lovely effect even more so when Stephan Macleod joins her. Maria Keohane has a beautifully pure tone in ‘Jerusalem …’ and with such perfect diction; Stephan Macleod is wonderful in the lovely ‘Man höret’s wohl.’.(One hears clearly). There is an unusual setting of ‘Ach Herr, siehe an meine  Elend’ (Alas Lord, behold my affliction) with soprano and bass before the work is brought to an end.

Weckmann’s three pieces for organ Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein (Rejoice my dear Christians) has a striking Primus Versus displaying the organ of Saint Amant-de-Boixe to fine effect, an attractive Secundus Versus Auff 2 Clavir with hints of Buxtehude and Tertius Versus with a simple descending motif that leads to some attractive and individual music. These pieces make one want to hear more of any organ music of Weckmann’s that exists.

Kommet heer zu mir alle die ihr Mühselig und beladen seÿdt. à 6 (Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened) The instrumentalists of the Ricercar Consort open Kommet heer zu mir in an extended introduction before bass, Stephan Macleod, enters in a rich voiced ‘Kommet her zu mir’.(Come to me) After another instrumental section Stephan Macleod sings ‘lernet von mir, dennich bin sanftmutig’ (learn from me, for I am gentle) in an equally pleading voice.

Wenn de Herr die Gefangenen zu Zion for 4 voices and five instruments

Alto, Carlos Mena, opens in this fine work, in a pure toned ‘Wenn der Herr die Gefangenen (When the Lord will return). As soprano, Maria Keohane, joins, then bass, Stephan Macleod, and tenor, Hans-Jörg Mammel, they again weave some lovely sounds. Maria Keohane leads the other soloists into a joyful ‘Dann wird unser Mund voll Lachens’ (Then our mouth will be filled with laughter) and Stephan Macleod opens in ‘Herr, wende unser Gefängnis’ (Lord transform our captivity) before the others soloists join. There is an instrumental opening before the soloists enter with a particularly attractive and individual setting of the words ‘Die mit Thränen säen’ (They that sow in tears).

In the Magnificat Secundi Toni, Primus Versus a 5 proves to be another quite individual piece. There is a gentle Secundus Versus a 4 Auff 2 Clavir and a steady paced Tertius Versus a 5 before the lively final Quartus Versus a 6. These are some lovely little organ works beautifully played by Maude Gratton.

With the fine Ricercar Consort, the soloists are the crowning glory of this new release. The recording is excellent and there are informative notes as well as full texts and translations.

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