Rosenmáller: Vespro della beata Vergine

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COMPOSERS: Rosenmáller
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Vespro della beata Vergine
PERFORMER: Cantus Cölln, Canticum, Concerto Palatino/Konrad Junghänel
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901611/12
Johann Rosenmüller was active during the second half of the 17th century. Though German by birth he worked for much of his life in Venice, returning to Germany only at the very end of his career. His music was greatly admired by contemporaries, as it was to be later on by JS Bach who incorporated a poignantly affecting chorale harmonisation by Rosenmüller into one of his Leipzig sacred cantatas.

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Rosenmüller, a Lutheran, left no complete Vespers cycle, though probably all of the sacred vocal music that he wrote in Venice was, understandably, intended for the Catholic church. Konrad Junghänel with his Cantus Cölln and instrumental ensemble, Concerto Palatino, perform a reconstruction of a complete cycle of Venetian Vespers which, in all likelihood, comes close to what the composer had in mind. If the music, over two hours of it, is not quite of uniform interest it matters little, since the largest set pieces, the Dixit Dominus, Laudate pueri, Nisi Dominus and Magnificat, are outstandingly effective. As in the vocal pieces, so too in the two instrumental Sonatas included here – the Italian style rather than anything distinctively German prevails. Tonal shifts often recall Monteverdi, though essentially Rosenmüller’s style is individual and forward-looking.

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The performance is thoroughly alive to the engaging subtleties of this highly gifted but as yet underrated composer. Nicholas Anderson