Melchior Franck

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Melchior Franck
LABELS: Thorofon Capella
WORKS: Motets, German Lieder,
PERFORMER: Orlando di Lasso Ensemble/Detlef Bratschke
CATALOGUE NO: CTH 2343
A revelatory disc. Melchior Franck is virtually unknown except to scholars writing about rather than hearing his music. He lived in Saxony during a musical revolution, from 1579 to 1639, as Kapellmeister to the Duke of Coburg. His early vocal music, words and passions often intensely coloured, include a heart-rending six-voice lament on the death of his mother.

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A second period includes German secular songs – of love, hunting, alcoholic exuberance and, a delightful curiosity, a threefold echo, each reverberation a subtly punning transformation of the initial word. Here, and elsewhere, the original text would have been helpful alongside the translations provided. By the last part of his life, Franck had absorbed the new Italian continuo style: the unpredictable repeats of ‘Heulet’ (Howl ye…!), from his final publication of 1636, have a dramatic impact worthy of Monteverdi.

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The Ensemble is superb, its strongly focused continental voices blending with spine-tingling intonation, supported by varied continuo – archlute, harp, and an organ momentarily oppressing the voices at times. Of individuals, Nele Gramss’s gloriously fresh soprano above bleak archlute continuo is riveting. George Pratt