Capella Claudiana: O Mirandum Mysterium

O Mirandum Mysterium
Sacred works by Giovanni Legrenzi from the music archive of the
Benedictine monastery in Marienberg in South Tyrol

Capella Claudiana, Marian Polin
Tiroler Landesmuseen. Musikmuseum 47, CD13046. 52’00

Although Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690) was well known in his own lifetime, he is one of those frequent composers whose name and music is almost unknown today. In Legrenzi’s case, he is probably only known through Bach’s youthfully flamboyant organ Fugue “on a theme of Legrenzi”, although this is either based on a lost Legrenzi work or one that is not a by Legrenzi at all. This compelling recording should help to bring him to the attention of a much wider audience. It is based on music by Legrenzi found in the remarkably wide-ranging musical archive of the remote Marienberg monastery in Vinschgau in the South Tyrol.

Following earlier posts in Bergamo and Ferrara, where he established himself as a composer, Legrenzi settled in Venice around 1670. His first opera performance there had been in 1664 and was followed by nearly 20 more operas, few of which have survived, and a wealth of other music publications. He taught at Santa Maria dei Derelitti (the Ospedaletto) until 1676, when he narrowly missed (by a single vote) replacing Francesco Cavalli as maestro di cappella of San Marco, a post he eventually achieved in 1685, five years before his death.

After the introductory instrumental Sonata La fugazza (Op 8/14), the well-chosen programme contrasts five dramatic double-choir Vespers psalms from Legrenzi’s Sacri e festivi concenti (Op.5, Venice 1667) with several very attractive smaller-scale works from other manuscripts and publications. The Vespers Psalm settings are powerful examples of the Venetian double choir genre. Of the smaller scale pieces, I particularly liked the motets for solo soprano, Congratulamini filiae sion and O magnum mysterium, here sung by Andrea Oberparleiter. Her beautifully pure and focussed voice is an ideal vehicle for projecting the sound into the sizable acoustic of the recording. She joins Caterina Chiarcos for the motet Quam amarum est Maria, a touching musical conversation between the two Mary’s – the Mother of God and Mary Magdalena. Another motet for two sopranos (Hodie collaetantur coeli cives) is sung here by two tenors.

The performers are the choir and instrumentalists of Capella Claudiana, based at the University Jesuitenkirche in Innsbruck, directed by their founder Marian Polin. They are named after the Archduchess Claudia de’Medici who, with her husband, Archduke Leopold V, founded the Jesuit Church, where they are buried. As well as providing choral music for the church, they also explore music of the Innsbruck Hofkapelle, once known throughout Europe for it music. For this recording, of music from further south, the eight-strong choir are supported by a string quintet (2 violins, alto & tenor violas, and violone), theorbo and organ.

The choir sings with a fine sense of consort, helped by sensitive playing from Marian Polin on what I think is a small continuo organ that, although it does not have the distinctive ‘vocal’ timbre of a full-sized Venetian organ of the time of Legrenzi, certainly makes itself heard very effectively. It was recorded in the chapel of the Priesterseminar, Innsbruck, the generous acoustic suiting the music well. The programme notes are in German and English and include texts.

16 Sonatas, Op. 8/11: La fugazza
Sacri e festivi concenti, Op. 5/I: Domine ad adiuvandum
Acclamationi divote a voice solo, Op.10: Congratulamini filiae sion
Sacri e festivi concenti, Op. 5/VIII: Nisi dominus
Harmonia d’affetti devoti: Op. 3/I. Hodie collaetantur coeli cives
Sacri e festivi concenti, Op. 5/IX: Lauda Ierusalem
Harmonia d’affetti devoti, Op. 3/I: Quam amarum est Maria
Sacri e festivi concenti, Op. 5/XI: In convertendo
Motetti sacra a voce solo, Op.17: O magnum mysterium
Sacri e festivi concenti, Op. 5/XIII: Magnificat
Harmonia d’affetti devoti, Op. 3/11:. Salve Regina