by ROBERT STEVENSON
Like a stroll through a picture gallery on the scale of the Louvre or Prado - hanging the world's supreme canvases - tonight’s concert gives us an opportunity to sample the choicest works of Victoria (who has been compared with El Greco), of Andrea Gabrieli (comparable with Tintoretto), of Claudio Monteverdi (with Caravaggio), and of another half-dozen late Renaissance and Baroque masters.
Every concert goer knows what prodigies Mozart and Mendelssohn were. No less of a prodigy was Victoria, who was already in his early twenties a consummate composer. Vere languores - suffused with the sorrows of the Suffering Servant – was published at Venice in 1572 when he was a mere 23 or 24. He again included it in his Holy Week anthology published at Rome in 1585, and in motet collections of 1583, 1589 (twice), and 1603. Before his death it circulated as far away as Bogota (in what is now Colombia). On the other hand, his exquisite Ave Maria for four voices was a private gift to Munich treasured secretly until Carl Proske published it in Musica divina, l/iv (1863), 400-402. Its intimate tenderness has never been exceeded.
Of similarly soulful character is the Ingegneri responsory (1588) for Good Friday, Tenebrae facta sunt, sung just after Victoria's Vere languores. Because it was published in Volume 32 of Palestrina's Werke (1892), this responsory was for a long time programmed (along with others in the set of 27) as a work by Palestrina rather than by Monteverdi's teacher who came to Cremoni in 1568 and became chapelmaster there in 1581.
In contrast with Ingegneri who reached expressive heights when alone before the Cross, Giovanni Gabrieli (c. 1557-1612), nephew of Andrea Gabrieli (c. 151 0-1586), specialized in capturing the brilliant pageantry of Venice at the height of her trading prosperity. In the eight-voice Jubilate Deo heard this evening, Giovanni celebrated the coronation of a doge's wife (or at least so claimed Carl von Winterfeld with good reason). Elected doge in 1595, Marino Grimani had his wife Morosina Morosini crowned with unprecedented magnificence in 1597. Only twice before in Venetian history had a doge's wife been thus honored (in 1457 and in 1566). As evidence for its having been composed for the doge's wife, the Jubilate Deo heard this evening (one of four different motets beginning with the words Jubilate Deo = "Rejoice in the Lord," that he wrote) combines verses from these psalms: 100, 128, and 134 (A.V. numbering). The verses from 128 and 134 belong to psalms used in the wedding liturgy.
So far as musical style goes, the present Jubilate Deo (first published in 1613) seizes the mood of ecstasy, pomp, and splendor as do few festal works in even Giovanni Gabrieli's repertory. First published at Strasbourg (1613), then two years later at Nuremberg (1615), and again in 1621 at Leipzig, this Jubilate Deo begins with a canon between two voices symbolizing the doge's union with his wife. Snatches of two-part canon between the two top voices recur frequently later on, to keep the hearer reminded of the symbolism. To unify the entire work, the opening Jubilate Deo omnis terra ("Rejoice in the Lord all ye lands") recurs with variants three times. These recurrences take the place of a ritornello in a baroque concerto. Between the four ritornelli, come three interpolations. The second interpolation, which is the longest, sets the verse "Deus Israel conjugal vos" ("The God of Israel joins you"). What makes this motet so outstandingly fine is its unique joining of old and new techniques. The older technique of imitation includes its most rigorous type-canon. The newer technique of divided choirs answering each other is most exquisitely employed. Not only does the large choral bloc of four lower voices reply to the bloc of four upper voices, but also within each quartet Gabrieli induces constant light and shade in the texture. Because the two blocs constantly intermingle, the first performance of this coronation motet (climaxing with the verse "Serve the Lord with gladness") may well have been not in St. Mark's Cathedral where the choirs would indeed have been spatially divided, but in the ducal palace throne room.
The popularity of the two favorite chansons, Au joly bois by Claudin de Sermisy and II est bel et bon by Pierre Passereau - first published at Paris by Attaingnant in 1529 and 1534- caused them to be immediately reprinted in France and Italy (both as vocal pieces and instrumental arrangements). Much the more famous composer, Sermisy wrote 200 chansons. These set the Parisian pace with identifying traits such as dactyl rhythms, no triple meter, no canons, lithe and supple melodic lines, chords. Despite spending a lifetime as a priest-musician in the French royal chapel (he became a canon in 1533), Sermisy's fame today depends much more on his chansons depicting the sorrows and joys of love than on his 90 motets, 13 Masses, or 10 Magnificats. Passereau, who in 1535 was a singer in the cathedral of Bourges, excelled with "rustic" texts with a refrain. II est bel et bon, published five times as a vocal piece (1534, 1535, 1536, 1555, 1571) and twice in instrumental arrangement (1543, 1549), became so widely popular that, according to Andrea Calma, it was sung on the streets of Venice.
Claudio Monteverdi, who wrote nothing hummed along Venetian canals, had more right to such popularity - since he it was who from 1613 to 1643 was chapel master of St. Mark's, Venice. Far removed from the frivolity and occasional obscenity of the Parisian chanson, his madrigals frequently set poetry by poets of such high rank as Guarini and Tasso. Ecco mormorar l’onde with verse by Tasso belongs to his second book of madrigals (Venice, 1590). On the title pages of both his first and second books of madrigals he calls himself Ingegneri's pupil at Cremona. Already, however, in his second book he was studying more up-to-date models, Giaches de Wert (1535-1596) for instance. In Ecco mormorar, the most famous madrigal of his second book, every concrete image in Tasso's verse - the waves murmuring, leaves rustling, mountains rising high - inspires its appropriate musical gesture. Andrea Gabrieli's through composed Magnificat in Tone VIII, first published (1587) the year after his death thanks to his nephew's piety, is an unrivalled example of antiphonal choir mastery. The three choirs (SSTT, STTB, TBBB) constantly interact, only joining in 12- part tutti passages at such phrases as omnes generationes ("all generations"), et divites ("and the rich"), Abraham, Gloria Patri ("Glory to the Father"), and seculorum amen ("throughout all ages, Amen"). All the more impressive is Andrea's sumptuous treatment of the choirs, when it is recalled that he was organist at St. Mark's, Venice (second organist 1564, first 1585) - not choir director.
Heinrich Schütz, pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli, profited in every way from his long 1609-1612 Venetian sojourn (and again from a 1628-1629 visit). The supreme German composer of his century, Schütz exploited all the techniques learned at Venice to glorify not the Latin, but German, texts of his Psalmen David published at Dresden in 1619, as his second opus. Placed last in this group of Schütz's 18 "German psalms composed in the Italian manner into which I was carefully initiated by my dear and world-famous preceptor, Giovanni Gabrieli," Psalm 150 is framed by an opening and closing tutti Alleluia. In conformity with the psalm text (that itself mentions trumpet, lute, harp, strings, cymbals, and drums), Schütz prescribes unusually grandiloquent use of instruments. To mark off section corresponding to the six verses, he changes meter. Or, more importantly, he changes vocal and instrumental registration. As for tonality, he follows traditional usage by staying throughout in a single psalm tone (corresponding with A minor). Because of the framing Alleluia, he forgoes the Gloria Patri with which he closes 12 of the other items in his 1619 collection. He does strengthen the architecture by anticipating in solo sections motives to be used later in tutti sections.
Johann Pachelbel, teacher of J.S. Bach's eldest brother Johann Christoph and godfather of one of his sisters, was court organist at Eisenach in 1677-78. Later he occupied organ posts at Erfurt, Stuttgart, and in his native town, Nuremberg. Famous formerly because he influenced J.S. Bach, he now enjoys great fame in his own right - thanks to the prodigious popularity of his Canon in D for violin trio and continuo (first edited by Max Seiffert in 1929). Constructed over a ground bass repeated 24 times, this canon presently boosts Pachelbel close to the peak of the Baroque hit parade.
The two most popular movements from J.S. Bach's 200 church cantatas may well be the choral movement ending Parts I and II of his Cantata 147 (Feast of the Vistitation, 1723) and the duet that comes second among the seven numbers comprising Cantata 78 (14th Sunday after Trinity, 1724). Both Cantatas 147 and 78 were therefore composed when he neared 40, according to presently accepted dates of his church cantatas (Alfred Durr, Zur Chronologie der Leipziger Vokalwerke ). Although the date of his monumental double-choir motet Singet dem Herrn has not yet been settled to the satisfaction of all Bach experts, current opinion gives it to the New Year's peace celebration in 1746. Whenever composed, this touchstone of choral art continued to be performed during even the decades when his other works fell into desuetude.
Mozart heard Singet dem Herrn during his three-day stopover at Leipzig April 20-23, 1789. According to the eyewitness report of Friedrich Rochlitz (AIIegemeine muikalische Zeitung [Leipzig], 1798-99, I, 116-117), he was enthralled. "The choir had sung only a few measures when Mozart exclaimed, 'What is that?' His attention was immediately riveted. At the end he joyously cried out, 'Now here is a work one can learn from!'" Afterwards Mozart went to Cantor Doles's house to study the complete collection of Bach's motets. Spreading the parts before him, he avidly looked through all of them, then asked for a copy. Although not published until 1803, Singet dem Herrn had therefore already circulated far beyond Leipzig in manuscript copies.
The text combines psalm verses with text of a chorale by Johann Gramann (1487-1546). The borrowed tune to which the chorale text is sung has been credited to Johann Kugelmann. Whereas older masters divided double choir motets between higher and lower choruses, Bach instead pitted two SATB choirs against each other. In the first section of Singet dem Herrn (Psalm 149: 1-3) the choirs answer and join each other in animated waves of what is essentially chordal music. In the second section, Chorus II sings Gramann's text to Kugelmann's tune. Chorus II answers each incise of the chorale text with a short interlude. During section 3 (Ps. 150:2), the choirs constantly alternate in section 4 (Ps. 150:6) they reunite in a fugue the subject of which closely resembles that of the Pieni sunt coeli in Bach's B minor Mass.
C.P.E. Bach's Magnificat composed at Berlin in 1749 recalls his father's 1723 Magnificat in such verses as the Fecit and Deposuit. As for its construction, the closing Gloria Patri of the C.P.E. reverts to the same music used for the opening verse. If C.P.E. borrowed from and imitated his father, so also Mozart borrowed from C.P.E. For example: the opening fugue subject in C.P.E. Bach's Sicut erat in principia is precisely the same at that of the Kyrie in Mozart's Requiem (1791) - the only change being from D major to D minor.
C.P.E. Bach's skill as a contrapuntist never shown better than in the Sicut erat in principia. Conceived as an elaborate double fugue, the Sicut erat includes a second subject (later combined with the first) that begins with an independent fugue exposition on the word Amen. Why did C.P.E. Bach write such a Magnificat at Berlin where he spent 28 years (1740-68) in the comparatively humdrum role of accompanist for Frederick the Great's flute playing? To prove his competency for a higher post? At Hamburg he four times revived movements from his 17 49 Magnificat - adding German words to the Quia respexit, Suscepit, Et misericordia, and Sicut erat in principia (1769, 1769, 1770, 1784 ). The whole work was first published by Simrock at Bonn in 1830. From 1950 onward, it has been frequently reprinted in places as far apart as New York and Budapest.