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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 6 (2000) No. 2

Dedication Service for St. Gertrude’s Chapel, Hamburg, 1607. Edited by Frederick K. Gable. Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 91. Madison: A-R Editions, 1998. [xl, 146 pp. ISBN 0-89579-418-7. $64.95.]

Reviewed by Steven Saunders*

1. Reconstruction of a Service

2. The Problems Posed by the Sources

3. Editorial Methods

4. Other Features of the Edition

5. Conclusion


1. Reconstruction of a Service

1.1 Liturgical reconstructions—performances that seek to place sacred polyphonic compositions in historical context by interpolating chants, prayers, sermons, instrumental works, and other items that might have surrounded the figural music in religious celebration—have gained considerable currency on recordings. The themes of such recordings vary widely, ranging from generic recreations of particular liturgies (e.g., Marian Vespers) to reconstructions of particular events (e.g., the Mass celebrated in November 1631 to mark lifting of the plague in Venice). Although such performances often result from collaborations between scholars and performers, complete editions of liturgical reconstructions remain rare, doubtless because of the significant editorial obstacles they pose. Such impediments include the intricacies of local liturgies and language, the presence of works by numerous composers in diverse genres, the challenges of conflating musical, liturgical, and archival sources, and not least, the amount of sheer conjecture that is inevitably involved. Frederick K. Gable’s edition confronts these myriad challenges squarely, resulting in a carefully documented study of one of the most imposing religious ceremonies in seventeenth-century Hamburg.

1.2 The focus of the edition is the rededication of St. Gertrude’s chapel held in Hamburg in April 1607. This important church began as the seat of a charitable confraternity in the fourteenth century, was expanded somewhat in the fifteenth century, and was renovated again in the 1570s to adapt it for Protestant worship. In June of 1606, however, the building suffered heavy damage in a fire; the service that forms the locus of Gable’s interest took place upon the completion of the ensuing repairs. According to Gable, the music for the rededication was probably planned by the Hamburg organist Hieronymus Praetorius (1560–1629), perhaps with assistance from the city cantor, Erasmus Sartorius (1577–1637). Over more than twenty years, Gable has amassed abundant documentation concerning the lavish polychoral music for these ceremonies.1 The cornerstone of his reconstruction is the remarkable preface to a published sermon by Lucas van Cöllen, head pastor of the Jacobikirche in Hamburg in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Van Cöllen’s pamphlet provides a detailed description of the music for the rededication service, including titles and composers for most of the major figural works, descriptions of the performing forces and their placement in the chapel, and details concerning the accompaniment of chorales. Although this crucial document was lost during World War II, a transcription survives in the 1933 dissertation of Liselotte Krüger.2 Gable augments the sermon’s remarkable account with an impressive network of additional sources, including scores for the polyphonic works, floor plans for the chapel, Kirchenordnungen (orders of service) of the era, printed sources for the chants and chorales sung in early seventeenth-century Hamburg, pay lists for musicians, and descriptions the chapel’s organ. His deft treatment of these disparate documents provides more than just accurate editions of the texts and music for the observance; his book manages to convey a vivid, multi-layered impression of the ceremonies.

1.3 The edition’s extended introductory essay is naturally integral to the volume, and divides into three main sections. The first, “The Dedication Sermon and St. Gertrude’s Chapel,” comprises a translation of van Cöllen’s sermon, a brief history of St. Gertrude’s Chapel, an introduction to the building’s architecture, and a treatment of the placement of the musicians for the performance of polychoral works. The second section, “The Reconstructed Dedication Service,” includes a survey of the liturgical sources used to reconstruct the chant, chorales, and spoken parts of the service, a proposed order of service coupled with commentary on each item in the liturgy, and stylistic notes on the major polyphonic items, while the third, “Performance Practice,” ranges over topics as diverse as the identities of the performers, the chapel’s organ, instrumental scoring, continuo playing, tempo, and pronunciation.

2. The Problems Posed by the Sources

2.1 The reconstruction of the service in the second part of the introduction forms the heart of the preface. After presenting a proposed order of service in a well organized and informative table, this section justifies the details of the reconstruction and discusses the textual, musical, and performance problems presented by each item in the conjectural liturgy. Several examples will illustrate the types of problems posed by the sources, as well as the persuasiveness, and even elegance of the edition’s solutions.

2.2 The first major polyphonic piece, according to the seventeenth-century sermon account, was an “introit ‘In nomine Jesu’ in eight parts by Bandovius.” Gable surmises that the composer is Pierre Bonhomme, and that the printer misread “Bandovius” for “Bonhomius” in van Cöllen’s manuscript. As it turns out, Bonhomme published an eight-part setting of “In nomine Jesu” in 1603, the only eight-part setting of this text published before 1607.

2.3 Gable also provides organ preludes for no fewer than six items in the service, though the sermon account mentions only a single such prelude. Although the inclusion of so many organ preludes remains somewhat speculative, especially in light of their omission from the otherwise detailed sermon account, Gable supports their addition with descriptions of early seventeenth-century liturgical practice, information about organ playing in Hamburg, and quotations from contemporary treatises, in particular Michael Praetorius’s Syntagma musicum. His selection of organ preludes also seems felicitous: early seventeenth-century preludes from the Lüneburg tablatures K. N. 146 and K. N. 208, and works from Bernhard Schmid’s Tabulatur Buch (Strassburg, 1607). These pieces naturally correspond in mode to the polyphony that follows, and, in the case of the chorales, also introduce the appropriate chorale melodies.

2.4 The edition also includes a collect and epistle between the Gloria and the first motet, their absence in the contemporary account notwithstanding. Gable not only justifies these sensible insertions with citations from numerous sixteenth- and seventeenth-century service orders from Hamburg and elsewhere, but also locates plausible texts for them (a collect from Luther’s Deutsche Messe and an epistle from Johann Spangenberg’s Uthlegginge der Episteln unde Evangelien), along with chants for their recitation (from Luther’s Deutsche Messe and Johannes Bugenhagen’s Der Ehrbaren Stadt Hamburg Christliche Ordnung).

2.5 A final, telling illustration of the editor’s approach to reconstruction is the transposition of the chorale O Gott, wir dancken deiner Güt down a fourth from the pitch level found in the hymnal used in Hamburg in the early seventeenth century, the Melodeyen Gesangbuch (Hamburg, 1604). Gable defends this transposition by claiming that the chorale’s “f' to f'' range is high for a group of untrained singers, the congregation, [and] this tessitura may discourage participation.” Yet he supports even this decision, which seems motivated primarily by practical concerns, with discussions of two seventeenth-century sources (one from Hamburg itself) that transmit the chorale at the lower pitch level. In sum, while Gable’s reconstruction is both inventive and attuned to the practical exigencies of performance, it remains grounded in an understanding of contemporaneous musical and liturgical practice.

3. Editorial Methods

3.1 The larger part of the volume, of course, is devoted to the music needed to recreate the service. This service music falls into three categories. The first group includes the major items of polyphonic music, all mentioned with varying degrees of specificity in van Cöllen’s sermon preface (polychoral motets by Bonhomme, Jacob Handl, and Hieronymus Praetorius; a two-choir setting of the Kyrie and Gloria by Arnold Grothusius; a massive four-choir Te Deum by Praetorius and the two chorales, O Gott, wir dancken deiner Güt and Sey Lob und Ehr). The second category contains several less significant items mentioned in the sermon preface (including the chant antiphon “Veni sancte Spiritus,” a blessing, and the sermon), while the third group comprises items not mentioned in the sermon but added editorially (the aforementioned organ preludes, two collects, the readings for the gospel and epistle, the Lord’s Prayer, and a closing Benediction).

3.2 Such a diverse body of musical works and liturgical texts might prompt a number of editorial approaches. The most conventional strategy would be to select a suitable primary source, or copy text, for each item in the service, and to prepare a more or less traditional critical edition from this source, relegating a discussion of the actual performance practice to the preface. A second alternative would be to produce an edition that shows the copy text refracted through the performance—an edition, in other words, that reflects not an idealized abstraction of the musical work, but rather the particularity of a single performance. This approach is especially inviting, not only because it highlights the performative aspects of music-making, but also because virtually all of the music for the 1607 service has already been published in conventional modern editions. Finally, an editor might pursue a third path, producing a practical performing edition, editing each composition so that it allows performers the greatest flexibility in realizing the scores. Gable steers a somewhat inconsistent course among these three options, and while the results are never less than satisfactory, the edition does fail to convey a coherent, unified editorial conception.

3.3 The editing of two very similar works, the motet “Alleluia. Cantate Domino” by Jacob Handl, and the setting of the German Te Deum by Hieronymus Praetorius, illustrate these inconsistencies. In the original source of “Alleluia. Cantate Domino,” Handl’s Secundus tomus musici operis (Prague, 1587), all the parts for this three-choir motet are fully texted. The sermon by van Cöllen, however, describes a type of realization common in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, wherein the music for some of the choirs was performed instrumentally:

Alleluia by Handel was sung, composed for twelve parts, but in three choirs. The first choir was sung by the boys and the musicians in the chancel, the second [was played] by cornetts and sackbuts, the third by the organ. Both these choirs were placed on special platforms, in the corners of the octagonal chapel, because of the way it was built, so arranged and erected for the people to stand on and to hear the sermon (p. viii).

Gable’s edition mirrors the actual performance practice neatly: the four parts from the first choir receive full text underlay, those of the second choir are untexted, and the parts for the third choir are transcribed on two staves to accommodate performance at the organ. This approach seems judicious; indeed, I wish that Gable had taken this idea of allowing the edition to reflect the performance still further by replacing the vocal part names in the lower two choirs (cantus, altus, tenor, and bassus) with indications of the instruments that probably realized these lines. Such a procedure would have necessitated only the inclusion of his bracketed editorial suggestions for the instrumentation of the second choir, and the labeling of the third choir organo.

3.4 Gable takes a very different tack in editing the opulent four-choir setting of the German Te Deum, Herr Gott, dich loben wir, by Hieronymus Praetorius. Van Cöllen’s account of this work’s performance is as follows:

After that was sung Herr Gott, dich loben wir which Hieronymus Praetorius, our church organist, composed for sixteen parts in four choirs. The first choir was sung, the second was played by cornetts and sackbuts from a special platform, the third by string instruments and regals from another place... [and] the fourth by the organ (p. viii).

Despite the parallels between the Te Deum’s performance and that of the Handl motet, Praetorius’s music receives very different editorial treatment, appearing in a fairly conventional score with all parts fully texted and printed on separate staves. The edition does include a keyboard reduction of the vocal parts from choir four as an appendix; yet in contrast to the procedure adopted for the Handl “Alleluia. Cantate Domino,” this keyboard score is not a literal reduction of the vocal parts, but rather an outer-voice short score of the type described in Michael Praetorius in his Puercinium (1621).

3.5 The reason that these similar compositions received such divergent treatment is not clear from the introduction, though it may be that the conventional layout and text underlay of the score for Praetorius’s Te Deum stems from Gable’s suggestion that one of the parts in each of the predominantly instrumental choirs may have been sung in order to avoid the omission of text (p. xx). Such a practice is mentioned in Michael Praetorius’s Syntagma musicum,3 yet even this sort of realization—which seems improbable in light of the amount of detail provided by the sermon description—would have required underlaying the text in only a single part.

3.6 A different editorial priority comes to the fore in the editions of the two chorales. Here Gable adopts a forthrightly practical approach, providing text underlay only beneath the chorale melody in the cantus part, claiming that, “in a modern performance without congregational participation, the choir must sing the unison melody.” The preface, however, acknowledges the possibility that the choir may have sung the lower three voices along with the instruments in the 1607 service, leaving the congregation to fend for itself. While these sorts of editorial inconsistencies are not likely to hinder serious users of the edition, they do perhaps suggest the lack of an overarching vision for the volume.

4. Other Features of the Edition

4.1 The only other feature of the edition that seems somewhat ill-considered is the continuo realization for the large-scale polychoral works. The decision to include editorial continuo lines for each choir in the three- and four-choir compositions seems entirely appropriate and very likely mirrors the original performance practice. (The contemporary description is silent on this count.) Given the inclusion of multiple continuo parts for these large-scale polychoral works, however, it is surprising that the edition fails to include a second continuo line for the two-choir works, though admittedly the use of two continuo groups in the double-choir works is not essential. The preface merely states that a performance of the two-choir compositions with two continuo instruments “requires preparing separate parts from the single continuo part in the edited score and playing unison bass lines in the tutti passages.”

4.2 A more serious drawback is the unidiomatic character of the editorial continuo lines for the three- and four-choir works, which slavishly double the bass part of the choir that they accompany. In tutti passages, this often means that a continuo line doubles a bass part that is functionally an inner voice rather than the true fondamento or functional bass, resulting, at times, in passages that need to be realized with an astonishing number of 6/4 chords. Organists would routinely have prepared a continuo score that included the functional bass to accompany such polychoral works.4 Indeed, an organ short score showing the bass parts to all four choirs accompanied Hieronymus Praetorius’s Herr Gott, dich loben wir when it was published in 1618;5 the purpose of such a short score was to enable an organist to realize a part above the true fondamento at sight. Ironically, Gable’s own suggestion for preparing an extra continuo part for the double-choir works (quoted above) seems to advocate more or less the procedure that he shunned in editing the three- and four-choir compositions.

4.3 With few exceptions, the mechanics of the volume’s editing are unexceptionable and accurate. The decision to retain the original spelling and orthography of the German texts is commendable, for they convey important clues to the original pronunciation. In contrast, however, the edition does not retain the original mensuration signs, and more seriously, fails to report the original signs in the critical reports. Nor is its claim that the original mensuration signs are inconsistently notated completely accurate; Roger Bowers has carefully shown which meter signatures were used interchangeably in the seventeenth century, and the pieces in this edition seem largely to conform to seventeenth-century standards.6 There is also a passage in the Bonhomme motet “In nomine Jesu” (mm. 30–31) where the alto of choir two requires emendation, since the printed version is a second too low.

4.4 Gable writes with clarity and enthusiasm concerning the performance options for each work in the edition, conveying his considerable knowledge of performance practice, as well as his clear hope that the edition will encourage performances of the service music.

5. Conclusion

5.1 In the end, the Dedication Service for St. Gertrude’s Chapel, Hamburg, 1607 is perhaps less interesting for the music itself, which is mostly workmanlike and conservative, than as an exercise in documenting the confluence of music, liturgy, and civic pride that informed the festivities. Producing a complex, multi-faceted edition like this one inevitably involves trade-offs and compromises, yet the edition remains highly successful on nearly every level, a few minor inconsistencies notwithstanding. It documents the rededication service in loving detail, provide a plausible reconstruction of the liturgy, furnishes accurate, usable scores of the appropriate text and music, and contains a wealth of information concerning performance practice. Even more, it affords an unusually panoramic view of musical and religious life in the seventeenth century, offering an object lesson in the complexity and variety that characterized Protestant sacred music in Early Modern Germany.



*Steven Saunders (sesaunde@colby.edu) is Associate Professor of Music at Colby College. His research interests include seventeenth-century sacred music and American popular song of the nineteenth century. Return to beginning


1. Some of his preliminary findings were published more than a decade ago in his “St. Gertrude’s Chapel, Hamburg and the Performance of Polychoral Music,” Early Music 15 (1987): 229–41. Return to text

2. Liselotte Krüger, Die hamburgische Musikorganisation im XVII. Jahrhundert (Strassburg: Heitz, 1933; reprint, Baden-Baden: Valentin Koerner, 1981). Gable dedicates the volume to Krüger and, in his acknowledgments, writes touchingly of his meetings with her before her death. Return to text

3. Michael Praetorius, Syntagma musicum III: termini musici (1619), ed. Wilibald Gurlitt (Wolfenbüttel, 1619; facs. ed., Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1988), 134–35. Return to text

4. F. T. Arnold, The Art of Accompaniment from a Thorough-Bass as Practised in the XVIIth and XVIIIth Centuries, (London: Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1931; repr. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.: 1965), 1:6–7; Tharald Borgir, The Performance of the Basso Continuo in Italian Baroque Music (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1987), 16. Return to text

5. Hieronymus Praetorius, Cantiones variae (Hamburg: Heinrich Carstens, 1618); a page from the bassus continuus partbook is reproduced as plate 5 in the edition. Return to text

6. See esp. Roger Bowers, “Some Reflection upon Notation and Proportions in Monteverdi’s Mass and Vespers of 1610,” Music and Letters 73 (1992): pp. 347–398. Return to text

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