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Johannes ECCARD (1553-1611)
Sacred and Secular Works
Opella Musica; Ensemble NOEMA/Gregor Meyer
rec. 10-13 July, 2011, Marienkirche Mühlhausen, Germany. DDD
CPO 777 700-2

Experience Classicsonline

Gut Singer Und Ein Organist [1:18]
Ein Fuhrmann, Der Fort Kommen Will [1:28]
Missa Mon Coeur Se Recommende A Vous: Kyrie [2:15]
Nu komm, Der Heiden Heiland [1:23]
Ubers Gebirg Maria Geht [3:16]
Missa Mon Coeur Se Recommende A Vous: Gloria [3:23]
O Freude Uber Freud [3:50]
Maria, Das Jungfrauelein [3:40]
Missa Mon Coeur Se Recommende A Vous: Credo [6:02]
Im Garten Leidet Christus Not [1:58]
Der Grosse Tag Des Herren [1:49]
Christ Ist Erstanden [1:19]
Zu Dieser Osterlichen Zeit [2:03]
Wir Singen All Mit Freudenschall [2:32]
Missa Mon Coeur Se Recommende A Vous: Sanctus [1:35]
Missa Mon Coeur Se Recommende A Vous: Benedictus [1:13]
Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott [3:31]
Der Heilig Geist Von Himmel Kam [3:24]
Zacharias War Ganz Verstummt [4:08]
Missa Mon Coeur Se Recommende A Vous: Agnus Dei [2:10]
Herr Christe, Tu Mir Geben [1:03]
Es Ist Viel Not Vorhanden [1:37]
Dieweil Umsonst Itzt Alle Kunst [1:12]
Der Musik Feind Seind Ignoranten [1:26]
Orlando di LASSUS (c.1532 - 1594)
Mon Coeur Se Recommande A Vous [1:41]

Johannes Eccard’s output is varied and colourful. This recording is obviously intended as an introduction to his world … chiefly his sacred and secular small-scale vocal music. There can be no doubt, even after listening to just a few of the CD's two dozen or so tracks, of the composer's versatility and creativity. This hour's worth of lovely and stimulating smaller-scale vocal music contains plaintive almost personal laments such as Im Garten Leidet Christus Not [tr.11], joyous ensemble pieces (Der Heilig Geist Von Himmel Kam [tr.19]), reflective and introspective works of regret and sadness (Ubers Gebirg Maria Geht [tr.6]) - and several pieces which address the power of music itself (Der Musik Feind Seind Ignoranten [tr.25]). The bulk of the works here is upbeat and celebratory. A good portion is taken up with the Missa Mon Coeur Se Recommende A Vous which is interspersed across the tracks. Everything has great confidence and punch.
So you might expect the performance style of German performers Opella Musica; and Ensemble NOEMA under Gregor Meyer to be extrovert, pointed towards the immediate and as colourful as the texts suggest. In fact they adopt a much more measured approach as if they have little or nothing to prove. It is as if Eccard's gentle contours needed no spotlight. They work on the basis that the great benefit of our appreciation will come from slow and paced familiarity - which is best served by equilibrium and gravitas; not by ostentation.
On the other hand the singers never underplay nor hide the strengths of this music. The subtle lines and implied harmonies of Es Ist Viel Not Vorhanden [tr.23], for example, speak for themselves. They convey a misery which we would do well not to deny for we all share it at one time or another. Superb musicianship and dedication to the era in which Eccard worked and the influences to which he was exposed lead this professionalism. Yet this is always without a hint of sounding superior and through the musicians' identification with the values of Eccard and his world.
Eccard's is the milieu into which Bach would eventually be born. Mühlhausen was the former's birthplace; Eccard was a chorister at the court in Weimar. Bach inevitably drew on the inter-relationship between the poetics of post-Reformation devotional writing and techniques on the one hand; and the vibrant creativity of such practitioners as Eccard on the other. All that said, these performances are not trying to make any historical point. They are performances of Eccard's music first and last. The delivery of the singing, the diction, the precision and lines of the instrumental accompaniments and the enunciation of the poetry are clear, clean, crisp and full of light. If there is a comparison of styles to be made, it is with that of Lassus. Indeed his Mon Coeur Se Recommande A Vous, on which the mass is based is included on the CD.
This is the first recording by the German group, Opella Musica, although its five members have had distinguished individual careers for some time. Similarly, Ensemble NOEMA was only founded in 2004 but shares the former group's intention and commitment to bring historically-informed performances with period authenticity of sixteenth and seventeenth century music to modern audiences.
This is exactly what they do: just the right amount of drive, drama and directness … and no more. Their style is compelling. But it's neither cloying nor unduly lugubrious or bright. It makes for an ideal introduction to a composer with only a handful of recordings dedicated to his fresh and enjoyable music. The disc is well recorded in a transparent acoustic. There’s an informative booklet containing the texts in German/Latin and English. An excellent introduction to the composer.
Mark Sealey
















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