Hieronymus Praetorius: Missa Tulerunt Dominum Meum

Hieronymus Praetorius: Missa Tulerunt Dominum Meum
Siglo de Oro, Patrick Allies
Delphian DCD34208. 59’27

Hieronymus Praetorius is one of the finest, but one of the least-known, of the magnificent sequence of North German organist-composers centred around Hamburg during the 17th century.  He represents what to many is a surprising reflection of the state of music in Hamburg in the years before the influence of the Amsterdam-trained generation of Sweelinck pupils. These included Hieronymus’s own sons, Jacob II and Johannes, together with Samual Scheidt, Heinrich Scheidemann and Melchior Schildt.  In the ‘family-business’ world of German organists, Hieronymus was the son of an organist (Jacob I) and eventually replaced him as organist of the Hamburg Jacobikirche. 

His family were not related to Michael Praetorius, but they probably did meet at the famous 1596 organist congress in Gröningen, celebrating the opening of a new David Beck organ. The Duke Heinrich Julius of Braunschweig-Lüneburg had gathered 53 organists from all the German-speaking states to try out the new organ, including Hans Leo Hassler, who is represented on this recording alongside Orlande de Lassus, Andrea Gabrieli, and Jacob Handl. it is possible that it was through this musical meeting that the Italian late-Renaissance polychoral style of composition spread to Northern Germany. This recording certainly demonstrated Praetorius’s mastery of the genre.

Patrick Allies and Siglo de Oro have assembled a fine group of pieces, representing the vocal aspects of what might have been heard during Easter Week services in seventeenth-century Hamburg, with music ranging from Maundy Thursday to Easter Day. The former is represented by Orlande de Lassus’s Tristis est anima mea and Jacob Handl’s exquisite gently rocking Venetian-style double choir setting of Filiae Jerusalem, nolite; followed by the Good Friday pieces, Hieronymus Praetorius’s beautiful O vos omnes and Hans Leo Hassler’s Deus, Deus meus. 

The focus of the recording is the Easter Day sequence, featuring the world-first recording of Praetorius’s motet Tulerunt Dominum Meum and its companion Mass setting. The text of Tulerunt Dominum Meum reflects Mary Magdalene’s emotions on finding the empty tomb on Easter morning (‘They have taken away my Lord’), but the exuberant music in the second part of each section expresses her realisation, aided by two angels, that her Lord is risen and gone before her to Galilee, each verse ending in a glorious Alleluia as the voices tumble over each other. The Mass setting uses the contrasting moods of the motets in its various sections. Andrea Gabrieli’s reflective Maria stabat ad monumentum is interspersed between the Gloria and the Credo. The recording ends with Praetorius’s Surrexit pastor bonus, the rising phrases reflecting the risen shepherd.

The singers of Siglo de Oro range from 12 to 16 (for the Tulerunt Dominum Meum motet and Mass setting). They sing with an outstanding sense of consort, the voices blending superbly. I particularly liked the clarity and purity of the four sopranos: Rachel Ambrose-Evans, Christine Buras, Hannah Ely, and Helena Thomson. Director Patrick Allies controls the timing, pacing and dynamics brilliantly. I have reviewed Siglo de Oro a number of times before (see here). They are a very impressive addition to the ever-increasing number of a capella choral groups that the UK seems to breed.


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