Soli Deo Gloria: Cantatas of Johann Rosenmüller

Floral design

Barbara Hollinshead mezzo-soprano, Ryland Angel countertenor, Artek, Gwendolyn Toth organ/director
Zefiro Recordings ZR107
Ach Herr strafe mich nicht, Aeterne Deus, Ascendit Christus in altum, Christum ducem, Lieber Herre Gott, O dives omnium, O Salvator dilectissime, Salve dulcis Salvator, Treiffet ihr Himmel & Vox dilecti mei

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his survey of Rosenmüller’s music for solo voices (five pieces each for alto and soprano) takes us from the depths of despair in Ach Herr, strafe mich nicht to the bliss of Ascendit Christus in altum. Artek (from “art of the early keyboard”) is a very fine New York-based continuo ensemble, here consisting of two theorbos and organ. Rosenmüller’s writing for solo voices involves extended passages of simple continuo accompaniment, then contrasted with the same music played by an instrumental ensemble (here either a very, very nice string group led by violinist Cynthia Freivogel, or – in O dives omnium – a trio of dulcians! The composer asked for violas or trombones, but who cares? The reedy combination with countertenor is glorious! And the violas had shone in the previous track, Lieber Herre Gott, in any case.) Five of the pieces come from the two sets of ‘Kern=Sprüche’ issued in Leipzig before he fled to Venice, four others are from the Bokemeyer Collection, so their heritage is rather more difficult to track; the other work survives in both Dresden (as part of the Grimma collection) and Uppsala, suggesting that it, too, dates from the German period – given the plaintive nature of the text, perhaps it was after the scandal that saw him forced to flee. Whatever the history of the music, these beautifully paced and elegantly sung and played renditions confirm its consistently high quality, and all credit to Artek for producing such an impressive recital of still largely unknown music.

Brian Clark