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SAMUEL CAPRICORNUS

DNI 152

DNI170   [8595066601701]   released 02/2022

Continuation der neuen wohl angestimmten Taffel-Lustmusic – Sonata a 8 – Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina – Dixit Dominus – Magnificat – O felix jucunditas – Amor tuus in nos – Justorum animae – Adesto multitudo coelestis exercitus

Ensemble Inégal directed by Adam Viktora

play all Music of Baroque Bohemia 63:57
1.
Sonata a 8 6:48
2.
Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina 0:53
3.
Dixit Dominus 3:35
4.
Sonata 1 5:39
5.
Magnificat 4:33
6.
Sonata 2 6:09
7.
O felix jucunditas 3:43
8.
Sonata 3 8:21
9.
Amor tuus in nos 4:07
10.
Sonata 4 4:25
11.
Justorum animae 2:19
12.
Sonata 5 5:43
13.
Adesto multitudo coelestis exercitus 4:07
14.
Sonata 6 2:45

The seven instrumental sonatas - which seemingly correspond with the same number of excerpts from the spiritual work of Samuel Capricornus (1628-1665) on this recording, as if in a playful allegory so typical of his music - they refer in their numerical symbolism to one of the happier periods in the life of the composer whose destiny is significantly connected with historical upheavals in Central Europe of the second third of the 17th century. Five of the seven spiritual vocal-instrumental compositions (Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina; Dixit Dominus; Magnificat; Amor tuus in nos; Iustorum animae) come from the collection Opus musicum, which Capricornus published under his name in 1655 in Nuremberg, at that time "the capital of Central European music printing”, at the printer Christoph Bernhard (active in 1654-1681).

Why are we talking about a happy period in Samuel Capricornus' life? He then worked as a regenschori ("director musicae") in German Evangelical Church of St. Trinity in Bratislava and he had been enjoying married life for four years. He was apparently well-off because he published the above mentioned collection Opus musicum at his own expense, albeit with the financial contribution of a wealthy Bratislava burgher and a multiple mayor Andreas Segner Sr. to whom he dedicated this printed debut.

However, the happy years in Bratislava were preceded by a rather sad childhood and youth, coincidentally influenced by the course of the Thirty Years' War in the Czech lands. Samuel Capricornus was born on December 21, 1628 in Žerčice near Mladá Boleslav in the family of a German Protestant pastor Georg Bockshorn who used the Latinized form of his surname Capricornus, i.e. "wild goat". (Some sources place his birth in the Moravian village of Šardice near Hodonín, based on an ambiguous interpretation of the local name "Schertitz". Both the place of birth and the exact date of birth are mentioned in the printed funeral sermon dedicated to Capricornus' memory by Stuttgart clergyman Johann Jacob Miller.) Capricornus' family was forced to emigrate when the winner over the Czech estates on the White Mountain, the re-installed Czech King Ferdinand II, directed strict measures against non-Catholics and especially against Protestant clergy. In December 1640, twelve-year-old Samuel Capricornides (i.e. from the Capricornus' family) is documented as a student at an evangelical lyceum in Sopron, Hungary. After his father's death, he and his classmate J. Scopio applied for a winter clothing allowance, saying they had no money to buy the clothes; both apparently received finance for livelihood and studies from the support for singers because they argued that they faithfully served the city in choir loft ("alumni chori musici").

Material distress accompanied Capricornus probably throughout the 1640s and drove him from place to place: in 1643 he studied in Silesia, after finishing the studies he went to Germany in 1646 and allegedly worked as a cantor in Strasbourg and in Reutlingen. After the end of the Thirty Years' War, he headed for Vienna where he perfected his composition skills with the leading composers of the imperial court orchestra ("durch Communication mit den vortrefflichsten Componisten grosse Fundamenten und Perfection erlangt"). One of those "prominent composers" was most likely the Italian violinist Antonio Bertali (1605-1669) who worked from May 1649 as the "Kapellmeister" of the Habsburg imperial orchestra. Capricornus is connected with Bertali not only by this "Viennese" episode, but also by the controversial authorship of some of the pieces that are included on this CD. The musical expression of the works is so similar to the authentic Capricornus' compositions that without detailed knowledge of the sources it is practically impossible to determine which ones are included in our selection. (However, you can try to solve this problem. We will come back to it at the end of this informative text.) However, their form indicates strong Italian influence, brought by Bertali and his predecessor in the kapellmeister position at the Habsburg court, the Italian organist Giovanni Valentini (1582/83-1649).

At the same time, Fortuna finally showed Capricornus her more favorable face. From 1649 he became a private teacher in the family of a famous physician Wilhelm Rayger in Bratislava, a year later he began teaching at the Bratislava Evangelical Gymnasium, and in 1651 he got the above mentioned position of regenschori in the church of St. Trinity, after his predecessor Jacob Sebald Ludwig returned to his native Nuremberg. Getting this post gave Capricornus access to a rich collection of authentic musical instruments and an extensive collection of manuscripts and printed compositions which included not only Central European Protestant composers (Heinrich Schütz, Michael Praetorius, Johann Hermann Schein, etc.), but also Italian Catholic masters (Claudio Monteverdi, Antonio Bertali, Giovanni Carissimi, Alessandro Grandi, Antonio Rigatti, etc.) and important instrumentalists (Giovanni Battista Buonamente, Carlo Farina, Marco Uccellini). Enriched with these opportunities and satisfied in his personal life (in Bratislava he had three of his four children that we know about today) Capricornus devoted himself intensively to composing: only in the first years of his prolific Bratislava period (until 1655) he created according to his own handwritten list (Index operum musicorum Samuelis Capricorni) 112 compositions. He partially published them during his lifetime (22 of them in the already mentioned collection Opus musicum), others were published shortly after his death.

Opus musicum from 1655 shows Capricornus' distinctive application of Italian influences when it comes to setting Latin liturgical texts for the needs of the Lutheran Augsburg confession to music. The compositions on this CD are a perfect illustration of that. The short composition Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina (Lord, make haste to help me; here no. 2) is based on the first verse of Biblical Psalm No. 69. Dixit Dominus (The Lord Said; no. 3) is the setting of Psalm No. 109, the text of Magnificat (no. 5) is based on the song of the Virgin Mary in the Gospel of Luke (1.46-55) and in Iustorum animae (Souls of the Just; no. 11) the first verse of the third chapter of the Old Testament Book of Wisdom is repeated (Sap 3: 1). The composition Amor tuus in nos (Your Love for Us; No. 9) is based on a yet unspecified text.

The year 1655 marked a turning point not only in Capricornus' artistic career, but also in his personal life. Thanks to his fame in Europe, which he gained due to the collection Opus musicum, the envoy of Duke of Württemberg visiting the coronation of Leopold I in June 1655 in Bratislava offered Capricornus the position of court kapellmeister in Stuttgart. Capricornus moved there with his family in April 1657, after a preceding successful six-month probationary period. On May 6, 1657, he was officially appointed court kapellmeister and composer of Duke Eberhard III from Württemberg, but Fortuna turned away from him again just before he turned thirty. Although he continued his honourable composition work in Stuttgart and during his lifetime he published his music in seven collections of sacred music, the prestigious music post did not bring him the expected peace of mind. From the very beginning, he had to face attacks of a composer and organist Philipp Friedrich Böddecker (1607-1683), who obviously applied for the same position, but did not succeed and thus tried to reverse the situation in his favor by questioning Capricornus' competence both as kapellmeister and composer. In his defense, Capricornus wrote an extensive document addressed directly to Eberhard III, thanks to which we can today confirm Capricornus' extraordinary knowledge of contemporary music production (Antonio Bertali, Giovanni Valentini, Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger, Giacomo Carissimi), as well as theoretical writings (Andreas Ornitoparchus, Franchinus Gaffurius, Sethus Calvisius, Giosefanas Zarlino Kircher). He also had some disputes with the musicians of his court orchestra - he was not satisfied with the quality of their playing and criticized them for devoting themselves more to drinking than practicing, he also struggled with education of young vocalists ("Kapellknaben"). The demanding office and composing duties undoubtedly exhausted him both mentally and physically, but on the other hand his growing musical fame and his stable family background gave him some comfort: in Stuttgart his third daughter was born and his musically gifted son Samuel was matriculated at the University of Tübingen in 1662. The life of Samuel Capricornus Sr. ended after a short illness on November 10, 1665 in Stuttgart, only a few weeks before his thirty-seventh birthday.

The popularity and the undeniable quality of Capricornus' music caused that after his death not only that his work was not forgotten, but publishers’ interest in it did not fade. Thus, in 1669, the Würzburg printer Johann Bencard published collections of spiritual compositions Theatrum musicum, quod per duodecim scenas seu sacras cantiones aperuit Samuel Capricornus (The musical theater that Capricornus Samuel opened with twelve scenes or sacred songs) and Continuatio Theatri musici seu Sacrarum cantionum pars secunda (Continuation of Musical Theater or Sacred Songs). The first collection, inspired by Augustinian religiosity and containing twelve compositions for three voices (alto, tenor, bass), four violas da gamba and basso continuo, contains the composition O felix iucunditas (O Blessed Consolation; here No. 7). It is the beginning of the 16th chapter of the Pseudo-Augustine Manual set in music: “O felix iucunditas et iucunda felicitas, sanctos videre, cum sanctis esse et esse sanctum, Deum videre et Deum habere in aeternum et ultra." In the Old Bohemian translation of Daniel Adam of Veleslavín from 1583: "O blessed consolation, O comforted beatitude, to see holy, to be with holy and to be holy, to see God and to have God forever and beyond." One of the shortest texts in the entire collection which Capricornus masterly developed into a composition of over 100 bars! The following Continuatio Theatri musici lacks the formal and ideological constraint which is indicated in the title of the first part by the popular image of the world as a theater. According to some experts, the unusual structure of the collection and the lack of musical invention testify rather against Capricornus' authorship. The fact that Carissimi's oratorio Iudicium Salomonis (Solomon's Court) is included in the collection under the text incipit A Solis ortu (From Sunrise) and that other compositions are also attributed to different authors according to contemporary inventories leads us to the hypothesis that it is a publishing trick how, through Capricornus' name and the success of his previous title, to attract potential buyers of a collection compiled for this particular purpose. This is also indicated by the fact that the successful Theatrum musicum was reissued by the same printer only a year later with a modified title showing a certain ambiguity: Theatri musici pars prima auctior et correctior (The first part of the Musical Theater, in an expanded and corrected version). The problematic second part of the Musical Theater contains the "Christmas" motet Adesto, multitudo coelestis exercitus (Come, the multitude of the heavenly army; here no. 13) for soprano, violin, bassetto (bass gamba) and basso continuo whose Latin text is based on traditional celebration of the birth of Christ the Savior.

If we return to the seven instrumental sonatas performed by the Ensemble Inégal, then only the first of them, the Sonata for Eight Instruments (here No. 1), is the unquestionable work of Samuel Capricornus. The unique copy of the first sonata, stored in the so-called Düben Collection at the University Library in Uppsala, Sweden, is written for three violins, two violas da braccio, two violas da gamba, viola di basso and basso continuo. The remaining six sonatas (Nos. 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14) come from the anonymous collection Continuation der neuen wohl angestimmten Taffel-Lustmusic, published by an unknown printer in 1671. And it is these six sonatas that raise the above-mentioned questions about the controversial authorship of Capricornus' compositions. They are intended for two violins, viola da gamba and basso continuo - with the only exception of Sonata II (here no. 6), where the composer added to the three instruments a bassoon / viola part. They were reprinted by an unknown publisher from identical engraved plates and placed at the beginning of another anonymous collection Prothimia suavissima sive Duodena secunda sonatarum selectissimarum (The sweetest pastime or the Second twelve of the most refined sonatas). The title page lacks any printing or copyright data, there is only an abbreviation "J. S. A. B.”, which a French music theoretician, composer and expert of 17th century music Sébastien de Brossard (1655-1730) interpreted as “Antonio Bertali” and he entered this information into a copy which is now stored in Paris. Copies of the sonatas in the Düben Collection in Uppsala list both Bertali and Capricornus as the authors. The question of the authorship of these works therefore remains open even today.

Whether the capricious Fortuna attributes these sonatas to Samuel Capricornus, or his idol and probably also a teacher Antonio Bertali, or even to someone else, it remains the unquestionable credit of the Ensemble Inégal to present us with an interesting selection and inspiring interpretation of a top musical personality of the 17th century whose compositions from the collection Opus musicum were called by a musical giant and Capricornus' contemporary Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) "virtuoso works" ("opera virtuosa") …

Jiří K. Kroupa

© Studio Svengali, June 2022
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