Barock Ensemble Colcanto
The present recording is devoted to sacred concertos and cantatas for bass, violin, and continuo. The sacred concerto genre encompasses the bulk of short sacred works written in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a time in which the sacred concerto flourished. The form was conceived with modest performing forces in mind, and together with the larger cantata format it provided many opportunities for exploring the tonal possibilities of new instruments in various combinations tailored to church, oratorio, and chapel. The stylistic and formal roots of the sacred concerto originate in monody, the solo recitative, and virtuoso songs. But the form also finds antecedents in polyphonic textures such as one finds in the motet with its more demanding compositional and technical requirements. Cantatas that were written for only one solo voice and continuo, with the occasional addition of a handful of other instruments, were also designated as chamber cantatas.
Sacred concertos and cantatas were the New Music of their time. One aspect of their novelty could be found in the virtuosic handling of instruments, as is illustrated by the use of the violin on this recording. By the late 16th Century, the violin had developed into one of the most important instruments, a status that it has retained right up until the present day due to its versatility as a chamber, orchestral, and solo instrument. In addition, the development of violin technique also played a large role, with composers exploring ever-widening tonal possibilities, physical demands, the use of higher and higher tessituras, and various bowing techniques, not to tuning possibilities such as the scordatura tuning found in Biber.
In addition to their challenges, chamber cantatas are very gratifying to perform. For the singers, instrumentalists, and continuo players, they constitute wonderful chamber music in which the individual parts, which by themselves may appear insignificant, add up to more than the sum of their parts. Each musical line asks for only one player and in essence makes soloistic demands on the musicians. That being said, the technical requirements of the violin part in Telemann, Tunder, Graupner, and Mayr are quite moderate even though Mayr was himself a violinist. Somewhat more demanding passages may be found in the works of Pachelbel. But with Biber it is obvious that the music was conceived for a violinist possessing a virtuoso technique.
Also, in view of the constant tension between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire, it was very important, from the point of view of both clergy and secular authorities, that the realm of faith find expression and confirmation through music.
Cantatas are exemplary in their practical demonstrations of Baroque rhetorical devices in music. During the Baroque, music theorists wrote a great deal about musical rhetoric, and the literature ranges from Joachim Burmeister’s Musica Poetica (1606), to works by Christoph Bernhard and Wolfgang Caspar Printz (1696), and on to Johann Mattheson’s Der vollkommene Capellmeister (1739). But because these theoretical works contain few practical examples, we must turn to the compositions themselves in order to find actual applications of the various rhetorical devices. The musical settings have a close connection to the statues, pictorial depictions, and symbols in the various churches and chapels. The result is a kind of comprehensive artistic synthesis that emerges in the new settings of well-known texts (such as the two Nisi Dominus versions recorded here) as well as newly written texts (such as those by Erdmann Neumeister) on familiar themes and contexts, especially when the music is given in venues that are adorned with appropriately corresponding works of art. This is a process that has continued to exert fascination right up until the present day, and it is only through the rediscovery of more of these compositions (which number in the thousands) that we will really become fully aware of the extent of the valuable cultural legacy that is still tucked away in archives.
Reinhard Mayr was born in Grieskirchen in Upper Austria. He began his vocal training with bass Franz Kalchmair, and continued at the Anton Bruckner Conservatory in Linz. He then transferred to the Music Academy in Basel where he worked with Kurt Widmer, and finally went to Robert Holl at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. It was after his time in Basel that Reinhard Mayr began singing bass roles in the opera house. He started out at the Volksoper in Vienna and soon after made his debut at the Vienna State Opera. Since 2001, he has sung at the opera house in Zurich. Over the years he has enjoyed collaborating with many important conductors, including Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Christoph von Dohnányi, Franz Welser-Möst, Sir John Elliot Gardiner, and Fabio Luisi.
Inspired by his vocal professors Kurt Widmer and Robert Holl, bass Reinhard Mayr has also cultivated his passion for recital and lieder singing, something that has occupied him over the years while working as an opera singer. He is especially fond of the sacred works and lieder of Franz Schubert. Mayr has performed concerts and oratorios in many distinguished venues such as the Musikverein in Vienna, London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdan, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Berlin Konzerthaus, and Severence Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. Reinhard Mayr has been appearing regularly with Baroque Ensemble Colcanto for over ten years.
Christiane Gagelmann was born in Geislingen an der Steige and studied violin at the Music Universities in Lübeck and Freiburg as well as at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Her first musical position was with the Folkwang Chamber Orchestra in Essen. A fascination with the musical possibilities of the Baroque violin then led her to the University of the Arts in Berlin where she studied with Irmgard Huntgeburth and graduated with honours. She also worked with Hiro Kurosaki, Monica Huggett, Margaret Faultless, Andrew Manze, and Jordi Savall. In 2001, she was invited to be part of the European Union Baroque Orchestra, where she performed under the direction of Andrew Manze, Alfredo Bernadini, Roy Goodman, and Edward Higginbottom. She does freelance work (often as a concert master) with the Dresden Baroque Orchestra, the Musical and Amicable Society in Birmingham, The Göttingen Baroque Orchestra, and the Chemnitz Baroque Orchestra. She performed as soloist with the latter ensemble under the direction of Peter Schreier at the Schubertiade in Schwarzenberg
Barbara Julia Reiter
Barbara Julia Reiter was born in Raab, Austria. She developed her interest in period instrument performance while studying cello, and obtained teaching and performing degrees with distinction from the Anton Bruckner University in Linz. This led to a post-graduate degree in Baroque cello in the United States, at Ohio’s Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where she was a scholarship student of Catharina Meints. In 2001, during the final year of her studies in the United States, Barbara was offered a position in the European Union Baroque Orchestra. This launched her career as a period instrument specialist, and since that time she has performed throughout Europe and abroad with groups such as Lauttencompagney Berlin, the Dresden Baroque Orchestra, L’Orfeo Baroque Orchestra, the Sweelinck Players of London, La Stravaganza in Cologne, the Main Baroque Orchestra, the Musical & Amicable Society in England, and the Wiener Akademie. Since 2009, Barbara Julia Reiter has resided in The Hague.
Bernhard Prammer studied organ and harpsichord in Vienna, Linz, and The Hague. He is the founder and director of the Baroque Ensemble Colcanto and makes guest appearances with ensembles such as Ars Antiqua Austria, Musica Antiqua Salzburg, and the L’Arpa festante München Baroque Orchestra. He also teaches organ and harpsichord at the Landesmusikschulwerk in Upper Austria and is active as an instructor at training seminars for music pedagogy.
Along with his artistic commitments he devotes much time and energy to various cultural projects and the organization of concerts, and considers himself a “creative contributor to culture”. He has served as organist on the Bruckner Organ in the Old Cathedral in Linz since the fall of 2007 and is responsible for the “Bruckner stairs” exhibit in Linz’s Bruckner Museum. In 2013, Bernhard Prammer was awarded the Landeskulturmedaille of Upper Austria for his contributions to culture.