, December 2006
I admit it was the cover that got my attention--first, the title, referring to an 1120-page manuscript collection containing the only existing original copies of pre-Reformation liturgical music from Nuremburg; second, the illustration, an illumination from the collection that depicts a wolf directing a choir of geese singing from a large music book, a hungry-looking fox sitting on hind-quarters just behind the choir. Upon listening to the music, I was reassured that there was more to appreciate here than the intriguing, colorful illustration and charming title.
The focus of the singing is late-medieval chants from various Masses particular to the church of St. Lorenz in Nuremburg. The disc's producers wisely interspersed the chant selections with short organ pieces from 15th- and 16th-century German composers. The combination works well, retaining the appropriate celebratory mood and church ambience while offering the ear welcome variety of sounds and textures. (The notes also mention that organ music was part of the St. Lorenz liturgy, thus its inclusion here, performed on the St. Lorenz organ by the church's music director Matthias Ank.)
Some of the chants offered are world-premieres--particularly interesting are those from Nuremburg's "most important feast day", the Feast of the Holy Lance and Nails. The celebration involved significant pomp and circumstance where imperial relics were displayed in the market square. Another appealing feature of this program is the alternating use of different voices--men, children, and women sing together and separately, the range of colors and relative "weight" of the voices giving a distinctive character to various parts of the Mass. All of the singers are first rate, but special mention goes to the children's lovely tone and impeccable phrasing and diction. The liner notes are informative and pertinent; the sound conveys the natural resonant space of the church while clearly, cleanly capturing the voices. If you enjoy chant--and beautiful illuminated manuscripts--you'll find this 71 minutes well worth your while.