Cantica Obsoleta

Forgotten Works from the Düben Collection
[Hélène Brunet, Reginald Mobley, Brian Giebler, Jonathan Woody SATB], ACRONYM
Olde Focus Recordings FCR917

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As someone who has spent most of his adult life exploring the riches of the Düben Collection, named after a 17th-century family of musicians and music collectors/transcribers, this recording is an absolute joy. Even being fortunate enough to be able to “hear” music just by reading it off the page, nothing beats hearing it played/sung, especially when those performing it are a versatile and committed group like ACRONYM. This is not the first of their discs I have heard (or reviewed), but still I find things in their readings of this repertoire that make me smile. The tone of this recording is set right from the get-go: Schmelzer’s 5-part sonata in D minor takes no prisoners and the fiddlers in particular get stuck right in, and I totally LOVE it! There’s no break before Johann Philipp Krieger’s Cantate domino canticum novum, on whose text the disc’s subtitle is a play. This neatly introduces us to the four singers, whose voices blend well together. Thereafter, we have music by Carissimi (perhaps the only well-known name on the list), Geist (who would have known the Dübens personally), Löwe (whose instrumental music does not deserve the neglect in which it languishes), Capricornus (who should also be heard far more frequently), Flor, a very rare piece from the collection by a female composer, Caterina Giani, Radeck, Ritter and finally Eberlin, who contributes the longest work in the programme at just over nine minutes. In the course of the disc, we have pretty much been put through the emotional wringer – life in the 17th century was tough, and many of the texts set to music tended to be on the bleaker side, which inspired some fantastic works which, in turn, sought to inspire believers. In recording this rich repertoire, ACRONYM will hopefully inspire further exploration of the Düben Collection – and its fellow repositories in Berlin and Dresden. I cannot wait to hear their next CD!

Brian Clark

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