The distinctively hued scoring of high voices in combination with viols was an ensemble sound much favored in seventeenth-century Germany—here enhanced by abundant ornamentation. The featured composer is the Bohemian, Samuel Capricornus, whose few extant works deserve a present-day revival. "O Traurigkeit, O Herzelied" is a profound Good Friday lament. It is followed by "Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld" which uses the Lamb to symbolize Jesus’ martyrdom. These two pieces comprise his "Zwei Lieder von dem Leiden und Tode Jesu" of 1660. Capricornus, like the incomparable Franz Tunder in his "An Wasserflüßen Babylon," followed the principles of musical rhetoric, wherein melody, harmony, and rhythm amplified every nuance in the text. To separate the five movements of "Ein Lämmlein," the performers adopt the time-honored baroque practice of creating transcriptions. These, for viols, use the chorale settings "O Welt, ich muß dich lassen" by Johann Sebastiani from his "St. Matthew Passion," and "Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund" by Samuel Scheidt from his monumental keyboard collection, "Tabulatura Nova." Additional music for viols includes a five-movement suite by Johann Hermann Schein and an instrumental lament by David Funck.
REVIEW from the Viola da Gamba Society of America Newsletter, Dec. 2011, December 27, 2011
By Hannah Davidson
Ein Lammlein: 17th-Century German Passion Music (Audio CD)
The Teares of the Muses, the New York University Collegium Viol Consort, directed by Margaret Panofsky, with Kathleen Cantrell and Campbell Rightmyer, sopranos and Morwaread Farbood, organ, has just released its CD Ein Lammlein: 17th Century German Passion Music. The CD is both very well constructed and very moving in meditations on the death of Christ and its significance. The viol consort (Margaret Panofsky and Caroline Marris, treble; David Fenton, tenor; Jeremy Brandt-Young, bass; Christina Brandt-Young, continuo bass) has been in residency at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in New York City since 2007; members include both NYU faculty and students and NYU community viol players.
The central work on the CD, Ein Lammlein geht und tragt die Schuld, is a lament in five sections on Christ's death, written by Samuel Capricornus (1628-1665), for two sopranos, viol consort and continuo. The opening work, O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid!, for the same combination, is also by Capricornus; the two pieces were published in 1660 in a volume titled Zwey Lieder von dem Leyden und Tode Jesu (Two Songs on the Suffering and Death of Jesus). The works of Capricornus are not well known, although according to the article in New Grove, they are deserving of more study and performance. Like Schutz, who praised his work, and Tunder, Capricornus often chose to employ the viol consort with his vocal textures. He is known to have written theatre music, now lost; however, his gift for expressive detail is evident in the two works presented here.
The two texts are by different poets. The first, O Traurigkeit, was written by Friedrich Spee von Langenfeld (1591-1635), a Jesuit priest; Ein Lammlein is by Paul Gerhardt, poet and hymn writer. The texts share an exclamatory quality, setting off emotional gestures: Oh, great woe! Oh, sweet mouth! Oh wonder! O Traurigkeit has a simple structure of eight five-line stanzas with consistent rhyme and meter. The opening sinfonia is repeated after the fourth stanza. Capricornus does not linger over the text; after an opening duet, each voice has a solo verse, delivered almost conversationally in spite of the solemnity of the subject: the sorrow of Christ's death, and the sins of mankind. In verse five, there is a striking harmonic crunch on the word "mourn" (beklagen); in verse seven, the viol consort is brought in, making brief exclamatory exhalations as the body is lowered into the grave with gentle triplets from the singers.
Ein Lammlein, a longer work, has greater variety; a basic ten line stanza is established and then disturbed in the first two sections. The opening section, the longest, contains a bit of dramatic action: God asks Jesus to go forth and bear the sins of his children, and Christ responds that he is willing to carry the load. The second verse, "O Wunderlieb, O Liebesmacht!" marvels at Christ's sacrifice; the two stanzas are shorter. The viols again repeat their introductory sinfonia between the two verses, and then play in the second verse, highlighting the falling gestures of the voices at the pouring forth of the Lamb's noble blood. The final three sections are a personal response to the sacrifice and love that the crucifixion represents; the speaker desires to keep Christ as a friend, to relinquish "the gold of Arabia" and its spices, to be nourished and guided by Christ, and finally at death to be placed at his side: the "beautifully bejeweled bride" is splendidly bedecked by the full consort of viols.
These two works, each full of interest, easily stand by themselves; however, the CD is enhanced still further with works for viol consort (one also with voice) by a variety of contemporaneous German composers, between each section of the vocal music. After the final chord of O Traurigkeit, the viols enter with a chord of almost identical sonority, thus beginning Schein's Suite No. 1 from Banchetto Musicale. The ensuing instrumental texture (viols out from under wraps) is further enlivened with ornaments on the repeat--trills starting on the note; graceful turns and connecting passagi, carefully considered and placed, are evident throughout the recording, and suggestive of a distinctly Germanic style. After the dialogue between God and Jesus, the Intrad and Lamento by David Funck provide a brief but likewise dramatic interlude, with fast-slow, stop-start motion, suitably exclamatory. The third interlude, transcribed from Scheidt's organ chorale and variation no. 5, Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund, prepares by its use of chromaticism the fourth interlude: Tunder's exquisite An Wasserflussen Babylon. The opening phrases of the five viols establish a rich tonal world which the singer enters with another, different lament, the hanging of the harps on the willow trees. The final interlude, a small gem from the St. Matthew Passion by Johann Sebastiani (1622-1683), O Welt, ich muss dich lassen (Oh world, I must leave you) borrows its melody from another famous song of leavetaking, Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen.
From the first, the singers captivate with expressive, open, wonderfully blended sound. The themes of the recording are complex and interesting, and these singers make repeated listening a real pleasure. The continuo team is also very fine; the bass viol is consistently attentive to the gestures of the music. The viol consort functions impressively as a single entity, coordinated at repeats and moments of heightened emotion, yet each individual voice is clear. The liner notes by Margaret Panofsky are thorough and provide a springboard for further research; texts and translations are well laid out and easy to follow. Although passion music is associated with a specific time of the year, the uplifting quality of the music and performance on this CD belongs to a timeless season.