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8.573743-44 - HAKENBERGER, A.: 55 Motets from the Pelplin Tablature (Polish Chamber Choir, Musica Fiorita, Łukaszewski)

Andreas Hakenberger (1573/74–1627)
55 Motets from the Pelplin Tablature


Andreas Hakenberger was a musician who spent his entire professional career within the territory of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland: in Kraków, possibly in Warsaw, and also in Gdańsk. He was born in Pomerania in 1573 or 1574. We do not know where he trained as a musician. From at least 1602, possibly even 1599, he was employed as a singer in the music chapel of the Polish king Sigismund III Vasa. In the court accounts, his name occasionally appears in the group of ‘Polish musicians’. In those days, the royal chapel numbered almost 40 musicians, and it was led by the Umbrian-born Asprilio Pacelli, who trained in Rome. Many other Italians also worked in that ensemble, including Vincenzo Bertolusi, Vincenzo Gigli (Lilius), Giulio Osculati, Antonio Patart and Giovanni Valentini. They all composed, and Hakenberger no doubt learned a great deal from them. He made his debut as a composer with the five-part motet In die magna, published in the anthology Melodiae sacrae (Kraków, 1604), which consisted of motets (some of them polychoral) written by the king’s musicians. In later years, the cori spezzati technique, which entered the repertoire of the royal chapel thanks to the Italians, became Hakenberger’s favourite composition technique.

In June 1607, Hakenberger, a Catholic by confession, applied to Gdańsk City Council for the prestigious post of chapel-master at the Lutheran Church of St Mary’s, which had become vacant. He appended to his letter two works attesting to his compositional mastery. For several months, the councillors debated whether to entrust the liturgical music in their city’s most important church to a ‘papist’, but ultimately the artistic arguments prevailed. The councillors were won over by Hakenberger’s polychoral output in the Venetian style that was becoming increasingly popular north of the Alps. It was considered that a musician, after all, was not a theologian, so his confession presented no real threat to the congregation, and at the beginning of 1608 the composer was awarded the position. Initially employed for one year, he ultimately remained chapel-master at St Mary’s to the end of his life, leading an ensemble of around 20 musicians. He died in 1627 and was buried on 5 June in the Catholic Church of St Nicholas.

Hakenberger’s most outstanding works include motets for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12 parts published in two collections: Sacri modulorum concentus (Szczecin, 1615) and Harmonia sacra (Frankfurt, 1617). They attest to the composer’s links with the Catholic environment. The first collection was dedicated to the Bishop of Włocławek, Wawrzyniec Gembicki, known for his Counter Reformation work aimed at the Lutheran community of Gdańsk. The second print was dedicated to Hakenberger’s former employer, the ultra-Catholic king Sigismund III. The texts of most of these motets, however, conformed to both Catholic and Lutheran doctrine, so they were also performed in Gdańsk.

The popularity of this repertoire can be gauged from copies in the Pelplin Organ Tablature. That manuscript, containing around 850 works, was prepared during the third and fourth decades of the 17th century for the Cistercian monastery in Pelplin, situated around 50 km south of Gdańsk. Vocal compositions were notated there essentially without any alterations to the original versions, and they also include the full texts. Most of the works from Hakenberger’s two printed collections found their way into the Pelplin Tablature (53 out of 62). They were not copied from the original collections in a mechanical way: their order was changed, and they were placed individually or in groups in different parts of the tablature. The two Hakenberger works written earliest into this manuscript—Bernardus Doctor Incilitus (CD 2  7 ) and Magnificat (CD 2  26 )—are not known from other sources. It could be that the composer wrote them expressly for the Pelplin Cistercians, who then took an interest in the rest of his output. The present recording contains all the Gdańsk chapel-master’s compositions written in the Pelplin Tablature.

Few of Hakenberger’s motets are for one choir. They include the eight-part Veni Sancte Spiritus (CD 1  25 ), perhaps his only work to feature the technique of pervading imitation. His oeuvre is dominated by motets written in cori spezzati technique. They are scored for two or three choirs, usually in different chiavette, and sometimes even clearly contrasted in terms of register, such as the two choirs in Surgens Iesus (CD 1  16 )—a high four-part choir and a low five-part choir. The rich tonal colouring obtained through various combinations of vocal parts is further enhanced by the instruments that accompany them. In those days, the use of accompanying instruments, recommended by the composer on the title page of Harmonia sacra (‘qui octoni vocibus non minus instrumentorum quam vocum harmonia, choris et conjunctis et separatis, suaviter concini possunt’ / ‘which can be sung harmoniously, eight to a part with no less instruments than voices with harmony, chorus, both together and separate’), was the norm, depending of course on the local possibilities. Both of the chapels with which Hakenberger worked had musicians playing on various instruments, including violin, viol, lute, theorbo, cornett, dulcian, trombone and organ. The sound of those instruments undoubtedly shaped the composer’s musical imagination, and he no doubt assumed that they would be used as much as possible in performance. He also obtains colouristic effects through quite intense use of chromaticism, as in Veni dilecte mi (CD 1  23 ). Hakenberger readily employs a variety of contrasts: setting polyphonic passages with the use of imitation against homophonic passages adhering to nota contra notam counterpoint; sections in a duple metre against sections in his favoured triple metre; long, cantilena phrases against short, recitative phrases.

Hakenberger takes most of his texts from the liturgy for the most typical feasts of the year—these are antiphons, responsories and psalms. He uses non-liturgical texts in two Christological works that have parallels in earlier and later European repertoire. The text of O bone lesu (CD 1  11 ) is part of the anonymous medieval prayer Anima Christi. Here, the composer employs an unusual procedure: his ten-part work for two choirs is a parody of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s six-part motet O bone Iesu, from 1575. The text of Dulcis Iesu (CD 1  10 ) is part of a meditation at the feet of Christ on the cross, taken from Rhytmica oratio ad membra Christi. Ascribed to the Cistercian abbot Arnulf of Louvain (13th century), it is known today thanks to Dietrich Buxtehude’s cantata cycle Membra Iesu, from 1680. The contemplative character of Hakenberger’s setting, dating from more than 60 years earlier, is achieved through a profusion of chromaticism and dissonant suspensions.

The two works by Hakenberger preserved solely in the Pelplin Tablature, possibly written specially for the local Cistercians, were scored for alternatim performance, with the use of plainsong passages. In the hymn Bernardus Doctor Incilitus (CD 2  7 ) in the odd-numbered stanzas, the composer gradually increases the volume of sound from five to eight parts. Thanks to the plainsong rendition of the even-numbered stanzas, it becomes clear that the first letters of successive stanzas form an acrostic with the Christian name of St Bernard. In the two-choir Magnificat sexti toni (CD 2  26 ), Hakenberger sets the even-numbered verses in a simple homophonic way, leaving the odd-numbered verses for plainsong rendition. Where plainsong melodies appear in his other works, they are generally quoted sparingly, usually as incipits alone, as in Salve Regina (CD 2  18 ). In Domine in virtute tua (CD 2  10 ), the composer employs a pseudo-plainsong long-note cantus firmus Domine salvum fac regem. This is the text of an antiphon performed during royal coronations, and this motet, first published in Harmonia sacra, is no doubt a tribute to King Sigismund III.

In Hakenberger’s motets, we find many examples of the use of musical rhetoric, and also illustrative effects. One of his favourite rhetorical devices is a general pause emphasising the meaning of the words that precede it; in the Christmas motet Verbum caro (CD1  8 ), to words from the Gospel according to St John, for example, it appears after the words ‘plenum gratiae’ (‘full of grace’). A pause is used in a similar way in the Easter motet Surgens Iesus (CD 1  16 ), after the words ‘pax vobis’ (‘peace be with you’). Sometimes used to reflect a cheerful mood is a triple metre, as in Domine quinque talenta (CD 1  3 ), where it is introduced on the words ‘intra in gaudium’ (‘enter into the joy’). This kind of metre holds a similar function in the motet Surgens Iesus (CD 1  16 ), on the words ‘gavisi sunt discipuli’ (‘the disciples rejoiced’). Notions related to direction are reflected in Ecce quam bonum (CD 1  9 ), where the word ‘descendit’ (‘descends’) is illustrated with a falling motif and the words ‘in montem Sion’ (‘on mount Sion’) with a rising motif.

Multiple repetitions of passages of text usually serve an illustrative function. The eight-times repeated phrase ‘da perenne gaudium’ (‘give joys that never end’) towards the end of O lux beatissima (CD 1  27 ), the second part of Veni sancte spiritus (CD 1  26 ), illustrates the notion of joy that is multiplied through the years. In the three-choir Benedicamus Patrem (CD 2  3 ), the expression ‘in saecula’ (‘for ever’) that is repeated several times in each choir emphasises the boundlessness of eternity. The phrase ‘sonet vox tua’ (‘your voice resounds’), sung five times like an echo in Surge, propera (CD 2  17 ), is meant to illustrate the sound of that voice. Onomatopoeic effects appear in the joyous Exultate Deo (CD 1  1 ), where we hear the sound of the various instruments mentioned in Psalm 80, such as the ‘tympanum’ (‘drum’) and ‘tuba’ (‘trumpet’).

Although Hakenberger was not an avant-garde composer, that does not diminish the value of his colourful, graceful and vibrant music, which enchants contemporary listeners just as it captivated the councillors of Gdańsk more than four hundred years ago.

Agnieszka Leszczyńska
English translation: John Comber

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