About this Recording
8.553334 - MERULO: Missa in Dominicis Diebus / Toccata / Magnificat

Claudia Merula (1533 - 1604)

Messe d'intavolatura d'organo (1568) Vol.1

Claudio Merulo was born in Cremona in 1533 and is considered, with his colleague Andrea Gabrieli, some twenty years his senior, among the composers who provide a model in the sixteenth century for North Italian keyboard composition, of which Venice was the centre. The Venetian school was established under a Flemish composer, Adrian Willaert, who was appointed maestro di cappella at the Basilica of San Marco in 1527. Cultivating the vocal polyphony of Josquin, Willaert wrote madrigals and gave importance to instrumental music, which gradually detached itself from the vocal to develop its own idiom. The subtitles of publications go from per cantare e suonare (to sing and play) to per ogni sorte di stromenti (for every sort of instrument), and then, more precisely, per organo o cimbalo (for organ or cembalo). Willaert had his compatriot Jacques Buus appointed organist in 1541 and this was followed shortly afterwards by collections of music for organ, notably those of Cavazzoni. This was the school of composition to which Merulo belonged. After a short stay in Brescia, in 1557 he was appointed second organist with Padovano at St Mark's, to be promoted soon after to first organist, with Andrea Gabrieli as second organist. Following the example of his predecessors mentioned above, in 1584 he left this prestigious position to settle in Parma, where he was responsible for three organs.

The renown of Merulo soon spread from Italy to northern countries. Works of his are found published in Nuremberg from 1585 and some organ compositions are found in the tablatures of Bernard Schmid in 1603 and of Woltzin 1617. Sweelinck also shows traces of the influence of Merulo. It is not surprising to find Hieronymus Praetorius in Hamburg around 1600 writing in the Venetian style at the same time as Hans Leo Hassler in Augsburg. The latter, having studied in Venice, met Praetorius at the Congress of Organists, attended by no less than fifty-four organists from northern and central Germany, among them Michael and Hieronymus Praetorius, held at Gröningen near Halberstadt in 1596. Little attention can be given here to Merulo' s work for the organ, which includes a considerable number of works, ricercari, canzone, Masses, Magnificats and his famous toccatas.

The organ Mass presented here dates from a relatively early period, 1568. Vocal in conception, the work reminds one of Cavazzoni, but account must also be taken of its liturgical function. As a musical and liturgical genre the organ Masses consist of a series of versets that replace Gregorian chant in alternation, thus adding a certain brilliance to the well known monody. The character of these pieces recalls, of course, the music of the chant. In choosing Masses for Sunday, for the Blessed Virgin and for the Apostles, Merulo follows a tradition of which the beginning can be seen in the Faenza Codex.

The Italian organ of the period, in particular in St Mark's, remained conservative, with one manual and a limited pedal-board. In addition to the principals and ripieno there was a four-foot flute and a regal. The organs developed in Brabant were not generally accepted. Diruta, a pupil of Merulo, explains in his Discorso the contemporary Italian organ and its use. The musicologist and historian Willi Apel has claimed the organ Masses of Merulo as of the first rank, wedding the art of counterpoint with expressive lines and exquisite harmony, works of sublime beauty in the liturgical organ repertoire of the sixteenth century, as it were a first breath of the spirit of the Baroque.

Alfred Ebner (English version by Keith Anderson)

Frédéric Muñoz
Frédéric Muñoz was born at Ales in 1954 and showed an early aptitude for music, and particularly for the organ. He studied music first in Nîmes and then in Montpellier, while at the same time studying pharmacy. Organist since 1980 at the church of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, with its historic instrument, he is also President of the Organ Association of the Temple of Alès, responsible with Jacques Bétoulières for the organ class at Montpellier and for the Stage National "Orgues en Cévennes". Frédéric Muñoz regularly takes part in the Saison Musicale de saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, broadcast by Radio France, and in numerous concerts in France and Spain, in the latter notably in Cádiz and in the Segovia Holy Week. His first two recordings, one of L'orgue de Terraube and the other of Hymns and a Mass by Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers, with plain-chant sung by John Elwes, were warmly welcomed by the critical press. Since 1992 he has been responsible for a monthly broadcast on Maguelone Région of a programme, grand jeu, devoted to the organ. A man of wide culture, his interests are reflected in the imagination and musicality of his performance.

Grupo Vocal Gregor
The Gregor vocal group was established in 1970 by Dante Andrea and has given concerts throughout Europe and the Americas, all to very considerable critical acclaim. The group has a repertoire that embraces much of Renaissance vocal music, with special attention to the Golden Age of Spain. For some years there has been research and performance of music preserved in the archives of the cathedrals and monasteries of Spanish America, compositions for the most part unpublished and by some of the greatest Spanish and Portuguese composers and their pupils in the New World. The Grupo Vocal Gregor has taken part in international early music festivals, with the support of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, the Ibero-American Cultural Institute, embassies and foundations. Recent concerts have been at the York Early Music Festival in England, the Paris Festival d'ete, the International Jugendchor-Festival in Totenburg, with many other appearances throughout Europe and the Americas. This international activity has brought many compact disc recordings, including a release of a disc devoted to the music of Juan Gutierrez de Padilla, maestro di capilla in Mexico in the seventeenth century and another of the music of Tomás de Torrejón y Velasco, composer, in Peru, of the first opera to be written in the New World.

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