American Record Guide

By Peter V Loewen

Posted: March/April 2018

REVIEW: Capricornus: Jubilus Bernhardi Collection

Samuel Capricornus (1628-65) composed his Jubilus Bernhardi in 1660, while serving as choirmaster at the Stiftskirche in Stuttgart. It is a collection of 24 sacred Latin concertos for five solo voices, chorus, viol consort, and continuo. Composed in the Italian stile moderno, the concertos strike me as strongly reminiscent of Heinrich Schütz's Op. 6 Symphoniae Sacrae (1629), minus the variety of wind instruments in Schütz's orchestration. Such mastery of the Italian style would suggest a prolonged period of study in Italy, but that appears not to have been the case. Rather, Capricornus may have learned it in Vienna while working in the Imperial Chapel under Giovanni Valentini and Antonio Bertali. And, of course, there is also the possibility that he knew Schütz's Op. 6 and imitated its style. Regardless, it is an effective set of concertos, brilliantly performed by the Bach Choir of Holy Trinity and the string ensemble Acronym.

Each concerto has its own charm, beginning with its short Sinfonia. There is the remarkable use of dissonance between the upper voices in 'Cum Maria Diluculo.' The descending chromatic motives in 'Jesu, Rex Admirabilis,' with pairs of voices on the words "dulcedo ineffabilis" (ineffable sweetness), sounds dramatic if also ironic. The "call and response" between soprano and chorus in 'Jesu, Mi Bone, Sentiam' sounds playful, as though it were a simple dance song. Cross rhythms and hemiolas in 'Tua, Jesu, Dilectio' seem analogous to the spiritual struggle inherent in its words. The plodding, chaconne-like progressions of 'Amor Tuus Continuus' get to the heart of the obsessive "laguor" of love described in the text. And each variation impresses on the listener the meaning behind the words "mihi Jesus mellifluus." Notes are brief and texts are in English.