In Himmel und auf Erden: Antonio Scandello
Chordae freybergenses, Susanne Scholz
Querstand VKJK 1503. 63’07
Newe Teutsche Liedlein mit Vier und Fünff Stimmen, Nürnberg 1568;
El primo libro de la Canzoni Napolitane a IIII voci, Nürnberg, 1572.
Right from the start of this fascinating CD (‘In Heaven and on Earth’), you know you are entering a completely different world of sound. And there is an extraordinary story behind it.
Many musicians visit Freiberg Dom to see and hear the magnificent 1714 Silbermann organ at the west end (and a smaller one in the north gallery). At the other end of the church, in the chancel, is the spectacular burial chapel of the Albertine branch of the Royal House of Wettin, rulers of Saxony, dating from just before 1600. Amongst the many decorative figures and sculptures on the upper levels of the chapel are several depictions of musical instruments. Some years ago, it was discovered that these instruments were not sculptural models, but real, playable, Renaissance instruments, complete with the maker’s signatures. It took many more years before these were properly researched by staff of Leipzig Museum for Musical Instruments, leading to reconstructions of the instruments, using techniques of the late 16th century. Violinist Susanne Scholz founded Chordae freybergenses in 2005 specifically to perform and demonstrate the reconstructed Renaissance instruments. Included amongst these instruments are the consort of five violins (and two bows) used on this CD.
As well as a traditional Renaissance violin, the consort includes one matching Praetorius’s 1617 description of a “rather tiny discant violin”, with three strings (tuned g1, d2, a2) as well as a large tenor violin/large viola that went on to develop into the violoncello da spalla; and two bass violins, smaller than the later cello. Their sound is quite unique, closer to a viola da gamba timbre than the later Baroque violin, with their distinctive over-layering of overtones and harmonics.
For this CD, Chordae freybergenses have chosen two contrasting sets of pieces by Antonio Scandello, an Italian who eventually became Kappelmeister to the Wettin Court in Dresden. The pieces represent the contrast between the Italian and German musical styles, with German sacred songs contrasted with secular Italian Canzonas. The former are sung beautifully by soprano Clarissa Thiem, the later with equal conviction by tenor Giovanni Cantarine, both voices melding well with the evocative sounds of the strings. Based on the different musical environments that the two types of piece would have been performed, two different recording venues were used, the German sacred songs being recorded in the same space occupied, high up near the ceiling, by the original Renaissance instruments.
The CD notes give full details (in German and English) of the instruments, the pieces and the reconstruction project. The texts are not translated into English. The first of the Canzona set is performed with the substitute religious text, found in handwriting on the original score. This CD hits all the buttons, with fascinating music, well performed and an extraordinary back-story.