Rosenmüller- Lo Zuane Tedesco

The German Giovanni


Johann Rosenmüller’s place as one of the most important and influential masters of the period between Schütz and Bach was researched and recognised by musicologists astonishingly early. Carl von Winterfeld wrote in 1845 in his expansive monograph titled Song in the Protestant Church and its relationship to the Art of Composition that Rosenmüller had «transformed the contemporary overall preferred Italian forms, which he had been fully imbued with during his long sojourn in Venice, into a genuinely vivid German style thus giving them a new cultural home; that which the subsequent 18th Century Masters achieved is mostly thanks to him.» In the last few years this insight has again entered mainstream consciousness, with Rosenmüller’s elegant and musically rich compositions winning new friends through concerts and CD recordings.

…In the last years of his time in Leipzig Rosenmüller had already mastered the Italian style to the point that a colleague compared the music performed in the Church of the University of Leipzig to that which could be heard in St. Mark’s Cathedral (whether this was based on personal experience is, however, not indicated). On the other hand, Rosenmüller’s Venetian concerti still offered enough «German gravity» to become mainstays in Middle and North German court orchestras. Clearly he was capable of consciously combining both stylistic spheres.
It is likely that the conditions surrounding Rosenmüller’s departure from Leipzig after being accused of pederasty in May 1655, he escaped arrest by fleeing in dramatic circumstances and so solidifying the impression of his guilt – have led to the apparent sparseness of reliable biographical information, as one spoke of him thereafter seemingly only in whispers. A whole collection of anecdotes naturally appeared whose accuracy is difficult to ascertain. In one example, Rosenmüller had, thanks to the beauty and skill of his works for the church in Venice, «induced so much jealousy that he feared for his life.» …
This recording contains in greater part works from the some 25 year span of Rosenmüller’s Venetian residency. During this period he developed a similarly complex and unmistakable style in his extensive vocal and instrumental compositions that is exemplarily presented in these recorded works.

«O dives omnium bonarum» is the setting of a meditation ascribed to saint Augustinus and notated by the theologian and reformer Andreas Musculus (1514–1581) from Brandenburg. The piece originates from the second part of a collection of sacred concertos penned by Rosenmüller and published in Leipzig in 1653, titled Kernsprüche. The polyphonic movement, made less through solistic concertante elements is here lent a particularly festive splendour as a result.
The text to «Estote fortes in bello» originates from a Magnificat Antiphon from the Middle Ages. The portrayed struggle between the Devil’s representative «old snake» and the promise of the Eternal Kingdom inspired in Rosenmüller a great musical canvas portraying a battle scene, with singularly effective blaring fanfares and a heroic tone. …
The two Sonatas presented here appear in the second collection of Sonatas from Rosenmüller published in 1682, and as such were written towards the end of his eventful life. Dedicated to his new employer the Herzog Anton Ulrich von
Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and printed in Nürnberg, Rosenmüller presents in this collection the sum of the musical experience that he garnered in Venice.
Many formal and structural parallels between the instrumental Sonatas and vocal Concertos exist within Rosenmüllers oeuvre. These are particularly evident in the instrumental presentation of the concerto «Surgamus ad laudes». The stimulating intricate text structure is transformed into a fully formed Sonata concertata with expressive recitative-like solos and motivically dense Allegro sections. Despite showing evidence of following the
text, the Soggetti primarily follow abstract musical principals in their development and progressive compression. The same
can be seen in the original three part concerto «Ego te laudo» for two Sopranos and Bass, here performed in a duet setting
(Soprano and Bass) with an obligato cornett.

Still more attention was lavished by the composer on the 112th Psalm «Laudate pueri Dominum», of which he penned no less than ten separate settings. The here recorded version with three vocal and seven instrumental parts shows a particular brilliant sonority. The quick triple time, the virtuosic coloraturas, the precise voiceleading and the concerto-like grouping of the three vocal and four treble instruments suggest this as a late work, and indicate the enormous stylistic development that Rosenmüller, and with him European musical history, underwent during the four decades of his creative activity.

(c) 2010 Peter Wollny
(Translation: Simon Martyn-Ellis)

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