Hieronymus Praetorius (1560-1629) is perhaps best known for certain key 8-part works such the Christmas ‘Quinti Toni’ Magnificat and its associated carols Joseph lieber, Joseph mein and In dulci iubilo. However his large-scale polychoral works have until now received little attention, doubtlessly owing to the sheer number of forces required for their execution. His music has often been likened to the great Venetian polychoral tradition mastered by his near contemporary Giovanni Gabrieli whom he never met. Heironymus does not disappoint, with his vivid expression of texts, intricate counterpoint, and sumptuously sonorous and inventive harmonies: this is Germany’s noble response to the Italians, and to the Roman Counter-Reformation. The programme displays his creativity and ingenuity across a number of compositional forms, from the grand polychoral works (performed here with various combinations of cornets and sackbutts with organ continuo) solo choir and instrumental items, to plainchant alternatim featuring the great historical organ at Roskilde in Denmark. This is the first recording under the new Early Music label INVENTA.

In the press

I love the warm, unhurried grandeur His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts bring to this performance, and they are well balanced with the superb singers of Alamire in the acoustic of St Augustine’s, Kilburn … Stephen Farr’s performances on the magnificent organ of Roskilde Cathedral are joyful. The change of venue is carefully engineered and these organ intabulations bring an exciting injection of colour and texture to the whole disc. – Edward Breen (Gramophone)

Voices and instruments are heard separately and, most thrillingly, together. Skinner plays with texture, interweaving brass and voices in the arresting opening Dixit Dominus and, to lighter more agile effect, in the exhilarating dance Iubilate Deo. But it’s the mighty 20-part Decantabat Populus that is most striking. Here voices and instruments find themselves in opposition – echoing one another, sharing phrases and motifs that are subtly transformed by each texture. The effect is magisterial and spacious, the engineers preserving an impressive vertical clarity through the densest passages. – Alexandra Coghlan (Limelight)

This recording is an excellent advocate for Praetorius’s music. I am particularly pleased that they have included so much organ music, here recorded on the magnificent organ in Roskilde, Denmark, which to this day retains pipework of Praetorius’s time and before … The choral singing is outstanding, as is the direction of David Skinner and playing of the 10 members of His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts. Skinner takes appropriate speeds, allowing the music to speak into the acoustic without blurring the underlying polyphony. – Andrew Benson-Wilson (Early Music Reviews)

Inventa Records, INV001
Total Time: 57.46 (CD1); 42.39 (CD2)

Released: 2019

Stephen Farr

His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts
Directed by David Skinner