Rosenmüller Magnificat & Sacred Concertos

Rosenmüller Magnificat & Sacred Concertos

Some absolutely glorious recordings of equally glorious music today. But first: who was Johann Rosenmüller (1617/19-1684)? Born in Oelsnitz, Saxony, he was lauded by Heinrich Schütz no less (and similarly by the music theorist Johann Matheson (he of Der Vollkommene Capellmeister). Rosenmüller's music has, though, generally withdrawn from public consciousness. The fabulous cpo label from Osnabrück clearly aims to right this wrong with a series of Rosenmüller recordings, of which this is the most recent. The performers are the superb Ensemble 1684 under Gregor Meyer.

Manfred Bukofzer, in his masterly tome Music of the Baroque Era, mentions the intensity and adventures in dissonance of Rosenmüller's Kern-Sprüche in the same breath as Schütz's 1625 Cantiones sacrae and Schein's Israels Brünnlein. Bukofzer also calls Rosenmüller "a composer of unquistionable genius" who "wrecked his promising career by questionable morals which made it necessary for him to flee Leipzig and live in Venice". Rosenmüller studied at the University of Leipzig (theology) and taoght at the Thomasschule for a decade. The loss of status occurred in 1655 from whence he went to Hamburg and then to Venice, initially as a trombonist at St Mark's and later a composer to the Pietà. He eventually returned to his native Germany in 1682 (to Wolfenbüttel); sadly he died two years after his return.

One can hear a deliciously light Italianate style in much of this music, not least the Allegro of the Sinfonia prima that acts as an instrumental interlude to cpo's programme:

Rosenmüller: Sinfonia prima

The Magnificat, which begins the disc and is the most extended work here, is beautifully varied, passages shot through with light against heavier, darker counterpoint and low-pitched cadences. We can make a parallel between Schütz and Rosenmüller in their melding of Germanic and Italianate styles, but distinguish them by realising that the Italianate is more pronounced in Rosenmüller.

We can hear this mixing of styles beautifully in Confetibor tibi, Domine, from its Venetian opera opening:

... and if you want to hear Rosenmüller in truly lamenting mode, try Der Name des Herren:

It is worth reading the detailed commentary on this track included with the disc, as it points out many small details of how Rosenmüller illustrates his text.

This disc presents a well-chosen cross-section of Rosenmüller's output, with a focus on the Venetial period (ie works post-1655). The booklet notes do claim "as far as they know" first recordings of Der Name des Herren, Domine, probasti me, Ego te laudo, Con- fitebor tibi, Domine and Bleibe bei uns, denn es will Abend werden. Certainly Ego te laudo was recorded on a 2011 Pan Classics disc performed by I Fedeli, though.  

Fans of Jordi Savall might be interested in an all-Rosenmüller disc on Astrée from 1992 of Sinfonias, the Suite No. 1 and three Sonatas, with Savall's group Hespèrion XX (we'll be hearing from Savall on Classical Explorer soon when we look at his new recording of Haydn's Creation).

Having said that Rosenmüller is deserving of resurrection (and he absolutely is!), he didn't quite "die" in musical terms. Fritz Wunderlich, no less, showed a predilection for his music, recording several pieces. Here he is, as a sort of "coda" to this post, in a 1957 recording of "Lektion zum Karfreitag" from the Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetae:

I have linked Ensemble 1784's previous Rosenmüller's disc below, for ease of reference. The Savall on Astrée might be hard to locate, but I've included a link for a 99p track below for sampling purposes.