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Volume 15, no. 1:

Crossing Confessional Boundaries: The Patronage of Italian Sacred Music in Seventeenth-Century Dresden. By Mary E. Frandsen. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. [xiv, 514 pp, ISBN 0-19-517831-9. $70.]

Reviewed by Alexander J. Fisher*

1. Introduction

2. Johann Georg II and the Ambiguity of Confession

3. Albrici, Peranda, and the Sacred Concerto at Dresden

4. Frandsen’s Appendices

5. Conclusion

References

1. Introduction

1.1 At the very beginning of this new study by Mary Frandsen stands a remarkable irony. Having recently returned from his second visit to Venice, Heinrich Schütz dedicated his first book of Symphoniae Sacrae (1629) to the young prince Johann Georg II of Saxony, praising his musical taste and lauding the novelty of modern Italian composition, which he insisted would “play with fresh enchantment on today’s ears” (Frandsen, p. 3). Ascending to the position of Elector of Saxony in 1656, it would be this very prince (1613–1680) who presided over a thorough Italianization of the Dresden court chapel, in the process marginalizing the elderly Schütz and his German colleagues. It was as if Schütz’s formidable essays in Italianate music had been entirely forgotten: even court preacher Martin Geier, who gave a fiery eulogy at Schütz’s funeral in 1672 attacking the “unspiritual, dancelike, yes, even ridiculous, modes of song and music” (66) he saw in modern Italian church music seems only to have remembered the Schütz of the Becker Psalter, not the Schütz of the Symphoniae sacrae or the Kleine geistliche Konzerte.

1.2 Geier might have taken satisfaction in the fact that the music he was excoriating—sacred compositions by Vincenzo Albrici (1631–1690/96), Carlo Pallavicino (ca. 1640–1688), and Giuseppe Peranda (ca. 1625–1675), all Italians in the service of Johann Georg II—would largely remain overshadowed in the musical historiography of seventeenth-century Dresden by the figure of Schütz. Mary Frandsen, however, has now offered a corrective in her new study of sacred music in Dresden during the reign of Johann Georg II, a work that is illuminating not only in its exploration of the productive tensions between German and Italian musical cultures at mid-century, but also in its nuanced arguments concerning confessional identity and absolutism in the decades after the cataclysm of the Thirty Years War. Beginning even before his accession in 1656, Johann Georg II, an otherwise ineffectual leader from the standpoint of Electoral Saxony’s politics and finances, crossed boundaries of confession and nationality to found a tradition of sacred music rooted in contemporary Roman musical styles. Although this self-conscious Italianization of the Dresden court chapel did not last beyond Johann Georg’s death in 1680, the music composed during his reign set vital precedents for the sacred cantata in Germany.

2. Johann Georg II and the Ambiguity of Confession

2.1 In her Crossing Confessional Boundaries, an expansion of her 1997 dissertation on the sacred concerto in Dresden between 1660 and 1680,1 Frandsen reminds us that confessional identity was hardly a straightforward matter, even after a century and a half of religious struggle in central Europe. Confession was undoubtedly of great interest to the principal political and religious stakeholders in Saxony: indeed, Frandsen devotes her third chapter entirely to a discussion of Johann Georg II and the “problem” of Catholicism. Despite his outward (and politically necessary) profession of Lutheranism, Johann Georg was widely suspected of Catholic tendencies, and given his position as one of the seven electors of the Holy Roman Empire a conversion would have been momentous (one recalls the so-called Cologne War of 1583–1588, when the conversion of archbishop and elector Gebhard Truchseß von Waldburg of Cologne to Lutheranism touched off a short but brutal conflict2). These suspicions were stoked by the presence of many highly placed foreigners at Johann Georg’s court, especially Italians who were wont to have Catholic Mass celebrated in their residences. This naturally courted a reaction from the established Lutheran consistory, clergy, and estates: Johann Georg was compelled to issue formal restrictions against the celebration of the Catholic liturgy in Saxony, while expressing religious tolerance for those Italians—including his court musicians—close to his person. “In religious matters,” Frandsen tells us, “Johann Georg seems to have developed his own brand of Realpolitik, one mixed with a healthy dose of opportunism” (99). It is difficult to divine Johann Georg’s personal confessional convictions, but the intimate symbiosis of the Saxon state and Lutheran orthodoxy—expressed so effectively in Martin Geier’s anti-Italian and anti-Catholic oration—would seem to demand some engagement with theories of European confessionalization, one area that could use further expansion in this otherwise outstanding book.3

2.2 At first glance the texts used by Albrici and Peranda seem to heighten the confessional ambivalence of Johann Georg’s chapel (Chapter 4). These are primarily non-liturgical, non-Scriptural Latin texts that would seem to have little to do with Lutheran traditions of Spruchmotetten and chorale-based compositions, the “noble and spiritual songs” praised by Martin Geier in contradistinction to the “unintelligible” Latin psalter (67). Frandsen does a great service, however, in arguing that highly affective Latin texts, especially of a Christological, moralistic, or penitential nature, were entirely consistent with a contemporary Lutheran spirituality that reveled in the writings of medieval mystics like pseudo-Augustine and pseudo-Bernard.4 The Christological medieval hymn Jesu dulcis memoria—the so-called Jubilus Bernhardi—left its traces in numerous concerti by Albrici and Peranda, for example (125–6). Also favored were texts on the themes of vanitas and penitence, well established in the writings of Lutheran devotional authors like Johann Gerhardt, Martin Moller, and Johann Arndt; in Dresden these ideas found musical outlets in works like Albrici’s Quis est mundus and Peranda’s Peccavi O Domine (141–58). Despite the insistent Latinity of the repertory, there is really little question of Roman Catholicism here; texts praising the Virgin Mary, the transsubstantiated Eucharist, and the saints are almost entirely absent, leaving a body of music that easily crossed confessional boundaries. Indeed, the fact of this music’s survival speaks for its versatility. The larger-scale concerted music for the Dresden morning services does not appear to be extant, while these more intimate Latin vocal concerti—performed at vespers and likely also in non-liturgical contexts—are found today in collections not only of Protestant origin, like the Düben Collection at Uppsala and the State Library of Berlin, but also stemming from Catholic institutions in Kroměříž, Prague, and Trier (102). Frandsen is quite right to state that the Dresden court chapel was unusual among Lutheran institutions not in the nature of the texts its composers set to music, but rather in the simple fact of its domination by foreign, Catholic musicians (171).

2.3 The more we consider the music of Italians like Albrici and Peranda in its liturgical context, the less confessionally ambiguous it appears. The relationship of music to the Dresden court liturgy is the object of Chapters 7 and 8, which lay out Johann Georg’s vision for court worship and its execution. If the elector was an indifferent politician, he was a committed liturgist. Only a year after his accession, Johann Georg began to sketch out a new vision of worship that placed greater emphasis on the musical elaboration of vespers, a service that would provide ample scope for the concertos of his Italian maestri. The progressive musical elaboration of vespers in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Catholicism is well-known, but Frandsen reminds us of the parallel expansion of music in the Lutheran afternoon service, showing that Johann Georg’s emphasis on vespers music was less an innovation than an effort to make it more of a counterweight to the morning Hauptgottesdienst (357–8). If the virtuosic, concerted music by Albrici and Peranda readily found a place in these services, it is something of an irony that on weekdays and most Sundays and vigils the vespers services were conducted not by the Italians (significantly known as die Musica), but rather by the German cantor and his choralists. The German musicians were hardly neglected in the new liturgical regime—on the contrary, their workload relative to the Italians was high, and their relatively modest compensation compared with the Italian newcomers surely accounted for some of the tensions between the two groups.

2.4 Frandsen’s discussion of the relationship of music and liturgy benefits greatly from the survival of numerous court orders of worship after 1660 that indicate the performance of specific compositions. Even if this series of worship orders is incomplete (no orders whatsoever survive for the period from October 1656 to December 1660, for example), those that do survive in their entirety (1662, 1665, 1666 are nearly complete) allow a view of liturgical-musical integration that is unparalleled in any other seventeenth-century German court or city (434). The diaries reveal the structure and codification of the liturgy and the place of specific compositions within it; more broadly, they offer a vivid picture of the Dresden services as multimedia events blending visual and aural stimulation. The specificity of the court diaries demonstrate clearly that composers like Albrici and Peranda strove to link their compositions intimately with the season and with the prescribed Gospel readings of the day. As only one of Frandsen’s many examples I will cite here the worship orders for the first Sunday in Advent, which in fact provided a template for ordinary Sundays throughout the church year (366–7). Peranda’s Veni Domine, heard in the Hauptgottesdienst in both 1666 and 1673, naturally reflects the general mood of anticipation of Christ’s arrival, but more intimate connections with the liturgy may be seen in the performance of Albrici’s Ad te levavi in 1676, a setting of the traditional Introit for this feast, Peranda’s O vos omnes after the Magnificat in 1666, which relates to the morning Epistle of St. Paul (Romans 13:11–14), and Albrici’s Jucundare filia Sion in 1676, selected to complement the minister’s vespers sermon on Zephaniah 3:14–15, a prophetic exhortation to the Daughter of Zion. The court diaries, it is worth noting, also show that visual and aural spectacle were not always confined to the court chapel alone. Particularly striking are accounts such as that for Christmas 1677, when the holy day was begun with signal calls, bells, shawm playing, and the firing of cannon with live ammunition, all before the morning service (377–8). On this day the predawn cityscape was enveloped in a web of significant sound that dramatized the festal nature of the day as well as the absolutist pretensions of the Saxon electoral house.

3. Albrici, Peranda, and the Sacred Concerto at Dresden

3.1 Johann Georg’s political ineffectiveness may help to explain the relative scholarly neglect of music and culture during his reign, but Crossing Confessional Boundaries demonstrates that political and artistic significance need not coincide in a patron. For Johann Georg a “perfect ensemble in the eyes of all potentates” meant, above all, a thorough engagement with contemporary Italian music. He was not willing to wait until the death of his father, however: already in early 1652 the prince had engaged four new Italian musicians, including the Venetian castrato Giovanni Andrea Angelini Bontempi. The prince assigned his new musicians to his father’s chapel, not his own, and the resulting conflicts between the newcomers and the existing ensemble led Schütz to protest in writing. The prince would not meddle in his father’s ensemble again, but with the recruitment of Giuseppe Peranda (between 1652 and 1656) and Vincenzo Albrici (1656) he had laid the foundation for the Italianization of the court music. Recruitment, however, was an ongoing challenge. The high turnover rate of Italians in the chapel may have reflected their discomfort with the confessional situation, the resistance of Schütz and the Germans in the chapel, or with the lack of operatic opportunities in Dresden. More likely, they feared not being paid: indeed Johann Georg continually fell behind in paying the comparatively high salaries he offered to his Italian recruits (19–20, 37–41). Nevertheless, by the late 1650s Johann Georg had doubled the size of his father’s chapel, and succeeded in maintaining an ensemble of some fifty musicians, a quarter of which were Italians, for a twenty-three-year period (49–50).

3.2 The textual choices made by Albrici and Peranda appear to reflect established currents in Lutheran devotion, but Frandsen shows that the sacred concertos themselves are quite novel in the German context and set stylistic precedents for the development of the sacred cantata. In Chapter 5 she draws our attention to Roman music as a principal stylistic influence on the Dresden concerto, notably that of Bonifazio Gratiani and, to a lesser extent, Giacomo Carissimi. Critical to this analysis is the previous work of Graham Dixon on the concertato alla Romana, involving the fragmentation of texts into short units that are assigned distinct musical motives; these motives then are subjected to imitative or concertato treatment until the arrival of the next semantic unit.5 If the widespread adoption of this approach by the 1640s would seem to make the question of a “Roman” approach moot, the examples of Gratiani and Carissimi show the continuing relevance of distinctly Roman models in Dresden. Albrici and Peranda expanded the concerto form, though, to encompass aria strophes and instrumental passages, leading ultimately to Albrici’s highly patterned “concerto with aria” which emerges as a kind of signature form in Dresden sacred composition by the time of Johann Georg II’s death in 1680.

3.3 However interesting from a formal perspective, the concertos also reveal an intense focus on affective interpretation that found theoretical exposition both in Athanasius Kircher’s category of musica pathetica (music “arousing all sorts of affects in men”) and in the writings of Christoph Bernhard, who served alongside with Peranda as Vizekapellmeister in Dresden (Chapter 6). Bernhard cited Albrici and Peranda as exponents of the stylus luxurians communis (in which music and text contribute equally to affective expression) and Albrici alone as a master of the stylus [luxurians] theatralis (in which language is the dominant partner); both composers’ music fell under the aegis of contrapunctis luxurians, “consisting in part of rather quick notes and strange leaps—so that it is well suited for stirring the affects” (248).6 Common to Frandsen’s successive analyses of concertos by Albrici (Omnis caro foenum, Cogita o homo, Spargite flores) and Peranda (O Jesu mi dulcissime, Jesu dulcis, Jesu pie, Quis dabit capiti meo aquam, Dedit abyssus, Accurrite gentes) is a focus on how these composers represented textual affect as a means of capturing a subjective religious experience. Here the sectional character of the concerto alla Romana proved its worth, as ever-changing textual sentiments readily found a suitable musical frame. A fine example is Peranda’s Jesu dulcis, Jesu pie (260–69): a through-composed work rather than a patterned “concerto with aria,” this concerto responds nimbly to changing textual sentiments through alterations in scoring (vocal ensemble vs. solo soprano with string “halo”), meter, and prevailing harmony. Frandsen illustrates Peranda’s effective handling of a phrases like “Cor meum te desiderat” and “et totus amore tui langueo” with dissonant leaps and chromatic progressions, echoing Bernhard’s keen interest in the harmonic practice that underpinned the contrapunctis luxurians.

4. Frandsen’s Appendices

4.1 Frandsen includes an exemplary series of appendices, which include a series of twenty-four transcriptions of archival documents, bibliographies of primary and secondary sources, and a general index. Especially valuable is Appendix II, which provides a catalogue of known sacred music for Dresden by Albrici, Cherici, Pallavicino, and Peranda in turn. Surveying at least eleven different libraries in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Sweden, Frandsen gives details on extant sources with their scoring, as well as listings of known performances in Dresden and modern editions, where available. The only regret here is the confusing layout of the work-lists, as titles of works are indented and not set off by spacing or bold type.

5. Conclusion

5.1 Returning to Frandsen’s prologue on Johann Georg II as the “forgotten patron,” it is worth recalling that the historiographical lacuna with respect to his reign has found a parallel in the relative lack of attention given to the Dresden repertory of the post-Schütz period. We have been perhaps too ready to take Martin Geier at his word when he fulminated against the quasi-operatic, virtuosic, and Latin-texted music that increasingly dominated the chapel after Johann Georg II’s accession. It seems obvious that Geier failed to take into account the Italianate production of the man he was eulogizing, but in fact this type of confessionalism lived on in music-historical writing, particularly during the late nineteenth-century Kulturkampf accompanying the rise of the German national state. Latin-texted sacred music of a devotional cast—particularly that written by Italian emigrés—fit poorly into a narrative that identified German cultural destiny with Luther’s introduction of vernacular song as an essential liturgical component.7 Frandsen has done a great service in reminding us that music like that of Albrici and Peranda was in fact part of the Lutheran mainstream in the mid-to-late seventeenth century, even if Johann Georg’s recruitment of Italian personnel was atypically enthusiastic. Confession, of course, is critical to an understanding of the complex webs of politics and patronage at Johann Georg’s court. Crossing Confessional Boundaries reemphasizes the significance accorded to confession by contemporaries, but it also recognizes its ambivalence, and its limits.

References

*Alexander J. Fisher (alex.fisher@ubc.ca) is Associate Professor of Music at the University of British Columbia and studies music, sound, and religious culture in early modern Germany. His monograph, Music and Religious Identity in Counter-Reformation Augsburg, 1580–1630, was published by Ashgate in 2004.

1 Mary E. Frandsen, “The Sacred Concerto in Dresden, ca. 1680–1680” (Ph.D. diss., University of Rochester/Eastman School of Music, 1997).

2 See Max Lossen, Der Kölnische Krieg, 2 vols. (Gotha: Friedrich Andreas Perthes, 1882–1897).

3 Some of the foundational literature on confessionalism and confessionalization includes Ernst Walter Zeeden, Die Entstehung der Konfessionen: Grundlagen und Formen der Konfessionsbildung im Zeitalter der Glaubenskämpfe (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1965); Wolfgang Reinhard, “Konfession und Konfessionalisierung in Europa,” in Bekenntnis und Geschichte: Die Confessio Augustana im historischen Zusammenhang, ed. Wolfgang Reinhard (Munich: Ernst Vögel, 1981), 165–89; Heinz Schilling, “Die Konfessionalisierung im Reich: Religiöser und gesellschaftlicher Wandel in Deutschland zwischen 1555 und 1620,“ Historische Zeitschrift 246 (1988): 1–45;  and Schilling, “Die Konfessionalisierung von Kirche, Staat und Gesellschaft – Profil, Leistung, Defizite und Perspektiven eines geschichtswissenschaftlichen Paradigmas,” in Die katholische Konfessionalisierung, ed. Wolfgang Reinhard and Heinz Schilling (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1995), 1–49. See also Thomas Brady’s recent historiographical overview in “Confessionalization: The Career of a Concept,” in Confessionalization in Europe, 1555–1700. Essays in Honor and Memory of Bodo Nischan, ed. John M. Headley, Hans J. Hillerbrand, and Anthony J. Papalas (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 1–20.

4 On the nexus of mystical literature, meditative practice, and Lutheran church music see also Janette M. Tilley, “Dialogue Techniques in Lutheran Sacred Music of Seventeenth-Century Germany” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 2003), esp. Ch. 4.

5 See Graham Dixon, “Liturgical Music in Rome (1605–45),” 2 vols. (Ph.D. diss., University of Durham [Faculty of Music], St. John’s College, 1981), as well as his essay “Progressive Tendencies in the Roman Motet during the Early Seventeenth Century,” Acta musicologica 53 (1981): 105–19.

6 Frandsen cites Walter Hilse’s translation of Christoph Bernhard’s Tractatus, in “The Treatises of Christoph Bernhard,” in The Music Forum, ed. William J. Mitchell and Felix Salzer (New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1973), 3:35

7 For a taste of this brand of musicological writing I will cite one example here by Franz Brendel, whose Geschichte der Musik in Italien, Deutschland und Frankreich von den ersten christlichen Zeiten an bis auf die Gegenwart (Leipzig: Hinze, 1852) was one of the most widely read general music-historical overviews of the time. Referring to the period following the Lutheran Reformation, Brendel writes that “Deutschland eröffnet eine neue Zeit und wird zum Träger des fortschreitenden Geistes; es zeigt darum eine werdende, in die Zukunft hinausgreifende, mächtig aus den Tiefen des Geistes hervordrängende Welt, und darum, wie wir später sehen werden, zu einer Zeit, wo Italien in Erschlaffung sank, den mächtigsten Aufschwung. In Italien erblicken wir eine fertige Welt, auch in der Tonkunst, eine gewisse Sättigung und Befriedigung, eine Ruhe der Vollendung, welche allem Kampf und Streben entsagt hat. Der alte katholische Bau war ausgezeichnet durch seine Ganzheit und Geschlossenheit, trotz aller Widersprüche im Inneren, die durch äussere Autorität niedergedrückt wurden. Die Kirche dominirte die Geister, und betrachtete die Wahrheit als ein Monopol; dem Einzelnen war nicht gestattet, eine abweichende Meinung zu haben; er trat ohne Selbstständigkeit ein in diese äusserlich vollendete Welt” (150–1).


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