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Recordings

Bartholomaeus Stockmann: Musica Nuptialis
22 Sep 2005

STOCKMANN: Musica Nuptialis

This recording of Musica Nuptialis celebrates occasional music and does so in a fittingly occasional manner.

Bartholomaeus Stockmann: Musica Nuptialis

Capella Hafniensis, Ole Kongsted, Director. Allan Rasmussen, organ.

Da Capo 8.226024 [CD]

 

In 1590 Bartholomaeus Stockmann published a collection of wedding motets, a number of which are associated with particular weddings, including that of the Danish Princess Elisabeth to Duke Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel in 1590. This present recording on the Danish national record label, Da Capo, is in turn dedicated to the present Crown Prince and Princess—the Prince is a descendant of the 1590 royal couple—on the occasion of their first wedding anniversary. A gratifying confluence of events!

We know little of Stockmann. For a brief period he was Cantor in Flensburg. Later he surfaces as a bass singer in the royal choir in Copenhagen, significantly only a few weeks after being jailed for a now unknown offense. Musica Nuptialis claims historical distinction as the earliest collection of motets composed in Denmark.

The motets, perhaps owing to their nuptial context, are generally bright and animated works. Where motivic imitation is used, the material tends towards the lively. And this, with much use of chordal material, ornamental melisma, and even some sprightly dance-like rhythms, sounds closer to the madrigal vocabulary than the late sixteenth-century motet, albeit without the madrigal’s representational bent. The Latin texts are sometimes marked with Classical allusion; other times they present Biblical love poetry from the “Song of Songs.” Interestingly, the “Song of Songs” texts can be erotically intense, and with Stockmann’s distance from a staid view of the motet, one might have expected a more impassioned engagement of these texts.

The performances by Capella Hafniensis are accomplished renditions. The ensemble has effectively attended to expressive contour at the level of both the note and the phrase, and their bright and free sound is well matched to the affectivity of the motets. Additionally, the members of the ensemble seem particularly responsive one to another, with gestural interplay a refined part of their performance.

The recording also includes a few New Years’ motets from 1584 and a handful of organ intabulations of motets and chansons. These latter pieces, unattributed in the sources but conjecturally associated with Cajus Schmiedtlein, are “division” or “diminution” works, a popular ornamental style where the keyboardist plays a transcription of a polyphonic vocal piece whose upper voice has been decorated with florid passage work. The organist, Allan Rasmussen, plays these with engaging confidence, and he does so on the famous Compenius organ now at Frederiksborg Castle. The organ is a jewel of color and vocality, and its presence on this recording is a most satisfying coda in this salute to Danish music.

Steven Plank
Oberlin College

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