Posts Tagged ‘ Baroque choral music ’

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643): Missa Sancta Maria à 4 Voci da Capella (Mass of Thanksgiving) – Cantores Musicæ Antiquæ, Live performance

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April 24, 2015

salute interior

Monteverdi's 'Mass of Thanksgiving' or Solemn Mass for the Feast of Sancta Maria della Salute to give it its formal title was specially composed for performance on 21 November 1631 during the ceremonial Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in St. Mark's Basilica held to give thanks for Venice's delivery from the ravages of the plague.  It's a gloriously rich and expressive piece of music written in the Stile Antico packed with variation and musical interest. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Jean GILLES (1668-1705): Messe des Morts – Requiem

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March 15, 2015

Jean Gilles and his music are not now well-known but during his lifetime he was well thought of. His requiem which was composed either in 1704 or 1705 was at one time one of the most admired pieces of music in France. It held sway fro two generations and was performed at the funerals of the great and the famous amongst them Rameau and King Louis XV.  We think of Requiems as dealing with dread and fear – think of Mozart's Dies iræ or Verdi's setting of the Requiem or Berlioz's come to that so Gilles' sometimes jaunty, sometimes cheerful, and sometimes downright sunny setting can come as something of a shock.

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Antonio Caldara (1670-1736): Stabat Mater

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March 6, 2015

Caldara by no means confined his compositional efforts to sacred vocal works but it is those works by which he is best known today. His Missa Dolorosa, Stabat Mater, Passione and Magnificat are all works that repay investigation. Whenever I think of him I cannot help but feel that despite the fact that he was an Italian composer working for the  devoutly Catholic Hapsburg court in Vienna that he strongly prefigures Bach. Like Bach his music is characterised by dense (and very difficult to sing) counterpoint, by sweeping musical architecture and some very dramatic chromaticism. His setting of the Stabat Mater is scored for two sopranos, alto, tenor, and bass whose singing he combines in various solos, duets, and cori with some very colourful instrumental writing in support of the solisti.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Andreas Hammerschmidt (1612-1675): Sonata super: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren

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February 19, 2015

Hammerschmidt was an organist and composer who survived the hardships caused by the Thirty Years War to become a wealthy and successful man admired and respected by his contemporaries – Schütz and Rist both wrote poems lauding him and his music. He was a prolific composer mostly of sacred vocal and choral music publishing more than 400 such works in 14 collections. Most of his works are concertatos and he himself classified his works as either motets, concertos or arias. There's a strong Italianate tinge to much of  his music which as he never travelled to Italy I suspect he got from Schütz. That being said it would be a mistake to write him off as "school of" his music may have been influenced by the Italians and by Schütz but he was a vigorous and original composer with a distinctive musical voice of his own. The present work his Sonata super: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren is very Italianate it could be inspired by Schütz but I think it more likely that it takes its inspiration directly from Monteverdi's Sonata sopra Sancta Maria ora pro nobis. Whichever is the case it's a beautiful setting of the first two verses Johann Gramann's hymn paraphrasing Psalm 102  (103) in its own right. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Sunday Concert: Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644–1704) : Missa Alleluia – Ars Antiqua Austria – YouTube

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February 8, 2015

I can think of no higher praise than to say that Biber's sacred compositions are at least as wonderful as his works for violin. As a virtuoso violinist and composer for the instrument his rich colourful music has assured him a permanent place in the Pantheon but it's only fairly recently that attention has turned to his work as a composer of sacred music and instrumental ensemble music. Biber who was the  most highly honoured violin virtuoso of his time spent a fair bit of his career as a violinist at the Salzburg court but he also stood out as a composer and in 1684 he was appointed Kapellmeister which position he held for remaining twenty years of his life composing Masses, and other sacred music as well as some operas. Salzburg as you might expect of a wealthy and politically important Imperial city was an important cultural centre whose patrons of the arts could afford and expected nothing but the best. Musically the city rivalled and perhaps even surpassed Venice in its appreciation of good music. Venetian composers had pioneered polychorality but Salzburger composers such as Biber took up the technique with élan. All of his Masses whether they're a cappella masses or huge concerted works for solo and ripieno voices with large instrumental accompaniment are distinguished by his superb vocal writing, his use of a sometimes bewildering array musical instruments, very strict counterpoint,  and often spectacular variations written over a basso ostinato. If I had to nominate a composer who epitomises the combination of discipline and exuberance that was Salzburger Baroque Biber's strong sense of late 17th-century tone-colour both vocal and orchestral would undoubtedly make him my choice. All of these characteristics are wonderfully on display in the performance of his Missa Alleluia performed by Ars Antiqua Austria conducted by Gunar Letzbor at a concert given as part of last year's Utrecht Early Music Festival at the Vredenburg Tivoli. The singing, playing and conducting are all superb, so perhaps it's somewhat invidious to single out the three trebles and alto from the St. Florianer Sängerknaben but their singing is so good and their performance so consummately professional that really I feel that the three trebles Josef Pascal Aur, Simon Paul Bernhard, and Daniel Mandel, together with their alto colleague Alois Mühlbacher deserve particular mention. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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