Heironymus Praetorius: Missa in Festo Sanctissimae Trinitatis

Volker Jänig (organ), Weser-Renaissance, Manfred Cordes
cpo 777 954-2

As usual with these performers, this recording is so much more than just a recital. This time, in conjunction with Frederick K. Gable (an Emeritus Professor from California), they offer us some idea of what high mass on Trinity Sunday might have sounded like. But it comes with a caveat: “Since little archival information has survived about singing the mass in Hamburg, it is impossible precisely to determine how these works were performed during Praetorius’s time.” Now that’s what I call a “get out” clause! At its heart is Praetorius’s Missa Benedicam Dominum, whose Credo is replaced by Jacob Praetorius’s setting of its German reincarnation, Wir gläuben all an einen Gott. The programme also includes settings of the introit and offertory for Trinity Sunday, and substitutes for the other mass propers. The tri-partite scheme of the Kyries, the Christe and the Agnus Dei sections are created using chorale and organ versions, giving a range of styles and sounds that probably (in my opinion) was not a feature of period performances, but I think it both valuable and informative to hear the differing approaches. The singing and playing, as always with Cordes, is very finely crafted – with a total of six singers (SSATTB) and seven players (violin, cornetto, viola, two trombones, dulcian and continuo orgennot played by Volker Jänig!) he creates a rich and warm soundworld. The instrumental substitutions for voices in the larger pieces (as would surely have happened at the time) are judiciously selected, and no one voice is ever allowed to dominate the texture – in other words, this is in many ways an ideal exposition of Hieronymus Praetorius’s church music.

Brian Clark

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