Forgotten Composers Brought to Life in Magnificat's Concerts

October 19th, 2007 Comments off

Magnificat’s first concerts feature music by composers that are obscure even by Magnificat standards. The four composers whose polyphonic works are featured on the program are hardly household names, but each was a significant composer during his lifetime. The compositions on the Magnificat program demonstrate that the high regard of their contemporaries was well deserved.

Pierre Bonhomme (Latinized Bonomius) was a Flemish composer who lived most of his life in Liège. In addition to several published volumes, his works appear in many manuscripts and his elegant contrapuntal writing seems to have been much admired. The Motet In nomine Jesu appears in a collection published in Frankfurt in 1603 and was dedicated to Ferdinand of Bavaria. Bonhomme’s style most closely resembles the Roman compostions of Soriano and the Nanino brothers, whom he may have encountered during the time he spent in Rome in the early 1590s. Read more…

Hamburg Gertrudenmusik

September 13th, 2007 1 comment

by Frederick K. Gable

On the weekend of October 26-28, Magnificat will open our 2007-2008 season with a recreation of the service marking the re-dedication of St. Gertrude’s Chapel in Hamburg. Professor Gable has very kindly provided these notes revised from the booklet for the CD recording “Gertrudenmusik Hamburg 1607” Intim Musik, Lerum, Sweden: IMCD 071.

On Thursday morning, April 16, 1607, many professional musicians of Hamburg participated in a festival service dedicating for the third time the newly re-furnished St. Gertrude’s Chapel. The music was so splendid that Lucas van Cöllen, the Chief Pastor of the nearby St. James’s Church (Jacobikirche), described its performance in the published version of his sermon (reproduced following this commentary). This detailed account, supplemented by information from musical, pictorial, liturgical, and theological sources, makes possible a reconstruction of the full liturgical context. The service includes impressive double-choir works by Bonhomme, Lassus and Hieronymus Praetorius, a triple-choir motet by Jacob Handl, and the magnificent German Te Deum setting for four choirs of instruments and voices also by Praetorius. A complete edition of the service, along with an extensive introduction, is available in Dedication Service for St. Gertrude’s Chapel, Hamburg, 1607, edited by Frederick K. Gable, in vol. 91 of Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era (Madison: A-R Editions, 1998). Read more…

Alessandro Stradella's Oratorio per Musica La Susanna

January 8th, 2007 Comments off

astradellaSome years after Stradella’s murder, Pierre Bourdelot and Pierre Bonnet-Bourdelot included an account of the event in their Histoire de la Musique. Published in Paris in 1715, theirs was the first history of music in French and therefore it attracted quite a bit of attention, with the result that news of the composer –‘the most excellent musician in all of Italy around the year 1670’– was circulated throughout Europe.

However, their fascinating tale of romance, wherein Stradella ran off with the mistress of a Venetian nobleman, who then had the lovers pursued from one city to another by a band of assassins, was not all true. Certainly false was the scene where the thugs were restrained from carrying out the murder because of the beauty of Stradella’s music, obliging the Venetian to hire other assassins to carry out the deed. Since the real facts were not generally known, and the fabricated story too exciting to resist, it was repeated and embellished in the succeeding centuries in novels, operas, poems and scholarly texts of music history: thus was born the ‘Stradella legend’. Only recently has enough research been accomplished to be able finally to say who the ‘real’ Stradella was and what music he actually composed. Read more…

Buxtehude Cantatas for Advent and Christmas

November 20th, 2006 Comments off
Dietrich Buxtehude

Dietrich Buxtehude

Dietrich Buxtehude was born in 1637 in what is now Denmark. At the age of 20 he was appointed organist at St. Mary’s Church in Helsingør, where his father had earlier worked and in 1660, he took a position at another St. Mary’s Church, this time in Halsingborg. For the last forty years of his life he worked in Lübeck, where he was organist at yet another St. Mary’s Church.

Buxtehude’s fame as an organist during his lifetime was considerable and for the first two centuries after his death, knowledge of Buxtehude’s works was limited almost entirely to his organ works. When the composer was “rediscovered” in the mid-nineteenth century, and his organ works were republished as an example of the style current before J.S. Bach. Interest in his vocal and chamber music works, however, has grown since the discovery of a significant collection of his works in the university library in Uppsala Sweden. The works on our program were part of this collection. Read more…

Charpentier's Music for the Red Mass & The Judgment of Solomon

September 16th, 2006 Comments off

Marc-Antoine Charpentier was appointed as music master of the Saint-Chapelle in 1698. Founded in the 13th century by Louis IX (Saint Louis) as a sanctuary for the crown of thorns, which he had purchased at great expense from the Latin emperor of Constantinople Baldwin II, the Sainte-Chappelle enjoyed the special attention of the kings of France. Described by a 14th century theologian as “one of the most beautiful abodes in paradise” the Sainte-Chapelle was also an important center for music, and Charpentier’s position as music master was second in prestige only to the Surintendant at the Chapelle Royale.

The Sainte-Chapelle was situated in the heart of a walled enclosure of what was formerly the palace of the king and, during Charpentier’s tenure, the Parlement. The reconvening of the Parlement, which took place annually on November 12, the day after the Feats of St. Martin, was commemorated by the celebration of a grand ceremonial mass, called the Messe Rouge because of the magistrates scarlet vestments. The two large works on today’s program were written for performance at the “Red Mass”, the Motet pour une longue offrande in 1698 and Judicium Salomonis in 1702. The circumstances of their intended performance, the justice of humanity being transported to the realm of God, inspires both. Read more…

Rosenmüller Vespers for The Feast of Annunciation

March 27th, 2006 Comments off

Vespro della Beata Vergine, with music by Johann Rosenmüller, Giovanni Rovetta, and Pier Francesco Cavalli will be performed on Friday March 31, 8:00 p.m. at First Lutheran Church, Palo Alto; Saturday April 1, 8:00 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club, Berkeley; and Sunday April 2, 4:00 p.m. at St. Gregory Nyssen Episcopal Church, San Francisco. The program featured Laura Heimes, soprano; Jennifer Ellis, soprano, Margaret Bragle, alto; Daniel Hutchings, tenor; Hugh Davies, bass; Rob Diggins, violin; Jolianne von Einem, violin; David Wilson, viola; Vicki Gunn Pich, viola; John Dornenburg, violone; David Tayler, theorbo; Hanneke van Proosdij, organ.

One of the most highly regarded German composers of the second half of the seventeenth century, Johann Rosenmüller’s music has been rarely performed since then. Following the practice of many northern composers of the period, he preferred to have his sacred music disseminated in manuscript. Fortunately a considerable number of those manuscripts have survived and we are pleased to feature Rosenmüller in this reconstruction of a vespers service as it would have been performed in Venice, the composer’s adopted home.

Born around 1619 in a small town near Zwickau in Saxony, Rosenmüller studied theology at the University of Leipzig and music with Tobias Michael, cantor of the Thomasschule. His quickly rose to the postion of assistant cantor by 1650. He was appointed organist at Nikolaikirche in 1651 and in 1653 he was promised the succession to the cantorate. Read more…