Rosenmáller: Requiem

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Rosenmáller
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Requiem
PERFORMER: La Capella Ducale, Ensemble Canticum, Musica Fiata Köln/Roland Wilson
CATALOGUE NO: S2K 89470
‘Paedophile? No problem, as long as he was a good composer.’ I thought we’d moved on – but I was surprised to read, in Roland Wilson’s otherwise excellent booklet note, that after Rosenmüller was jailed in 1655 for abusing choirboys, ‘Luckily, he managed to escape’. Whoops! Unfortunately, Rosenmüller was a good composer, strong and singable; and ‘luckily’, after going AWOL in Italy, he brought home a new Italo-German fusion for the post-Schütz generation.

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Rosenmüller left no Requiem, so Wilson has cooked up a plausible one from unpublished pieces, interspersed with plainchant. But of two mid-priced discs lasting just under 91 minutes, only one CD’s worth – 73 mins – is Rosenmüller. And the chants, dutifully but hardly ravishingly sung, were clearly recorded separately: the heating that audibly warms La Capella Ducale’s Rosenmüller seems to have been switched off for Ensemble Canticum’s chants, as if to keep them on the straight and monophonic. By now we’ve sat through liturgical reconstructions aplenty and for us to shell out over £20, they have to be in the McCreesh or Parrott class. This isn’t.

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That’s not Wilson’s only problem. The Capella’s four voices are harshly recorded; likewise, there’s little light or shade in their singing – relentless, in places – or in Musica Fiata’s playing. There are fine moments, such as the opening concerto’s warlike clamour at the word ‘sagittae’ (arrows). But put on the best current single Rosenmüller CD – Cantus Cölln’s Sacri Concerti on DHM – and within seconds you’ll be more beguiled, more excited, more persuasively transported to some princely chapel, chant or no chant. Nick Morgan