Precious little is known for certain about the composer Samuel Capricornus; like Purcell and Mozart, he died at a tragically young age, and yet his prodigious output demonstrates what a wealth of talent and invention he had. Born the son of a Lutheran pastor in what today is the Czech Republic, he Latinized his name according to a common habit at the time, and he was fortunate enough to work at the imperial chapel in Vienna under two of the leading Italians of the age, Giovanni Valentini and Antonio Bertali. Capricornus's setting in 24 parts of the Jubilus Bernhardi was published halfway through his tenure as Kapellmeister to the court in Stuttgart in 1660. Scored for five soloists, five ripieno vocal parts and a consort of violas da gamba with continuo, it is a glorious demonstration of every facet of the composer's craft: the short introductory sinfonias that set the tone, the careful juxtaposition of solo voices and tutti sections, the skillful balancing of voices and instruments, the minutely observed rhythms of the word setting, and—above all—the overarching structural sense. Even in such a grand design, the music remains ever-changing yet profoundly uplifting and moving by turn.
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