Maulbronn Chamber Choir · Man lives and exists
Man lives and exists
"Der Mensch lebt und bestehet"
Birth ~ Finiteness ~ Eternity,
performed by the Maulbronn Chamber Choir
An a-cappella concert with works by Franz Biebl, Benjamin Britten,
Arvo Pärt, Morten Lauridsen, Jan Sandström, Wolfram Buchenberg,
Max Reger and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
Conductor: Jürgen Budday
Concert recording from the church of the German
UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Monastery
HD Recording · DDD · c. 55 Minutes
t must have been at the turn of the new century when I had a conversation with Jürgen Budday in the cloister of the Maulbronn monastery and talked of how superb the church was as a performing space and how its atmosphere might be put to use. By expanding the dimensions of the performance and incorporating the audience into the tension, the euphoria of the concert, without a single instrument with the pure power of those human gifts that we receive from our Creator at the moment of birth. But you know, of the many demands that a project like this makes of those involved, I want to single out just one the human factor, plain and simple.
When a group of people work together, it takes time to develop a certain intimacy, to acquire experience of working as a team simply to establish respect and friendship. For, after more than ten productions, we have come to know “our Chamber Choir” very well, to realize what high demands the choir director and the singers make of themselves. All of them have worked hard for this live recording, on the concept as well as the music, just to capture the moment, to give you pleasure and this over and above the daily demands of their private and professional lives. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated and leave it to the director to explain the content and concept of the programme in the section that follows.
Josef-Stefan Kindler, Publisher
n this collection entitled “Der Mensch lebt und bestehet” (Man lives and exists), the Maulbronn Chamber Choir presents compositions that are interconnected in themselves and in content, in that they regard birth as more than just a joyful event. It is an act of creation, in which the divine and the human find each other and which implies earthly finiteness, but at the same time transcends this and leads back to its divine beginnings. This is how the prophetic words of the Old Testament are taken up, words that are substantiated in the annunciation to Mary of the incarnation of Christ (“Angelus Domini Ave Maria”) and that lead into the events of Christmas (“Gloria” and “O magnum mysterium”). Yet at the same time, their central theme is the union of man with divine reality by means of reformation and contemplation (the “unio mystica”). Each life has a goal that transcends earthly finiteness, leading to what Reger calls that “hellen, schönen, lichten Tag, an dem er/sie selig werden mag" (that bright, beautiful, clear day when he or she blessed be).
In the “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl (1906-2001), we find the current text of the Ave Maria surrounded by recitations in unison, in which the Angel of the Lord announces the coming birth of Jesus to Mary (cf. the Magnificat), culminating in the words of the Gospel according to St. John: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The motet is divided into two 3 and 4-part choirs. The sound has a romantic sonority with some surprising harmonic twists.
“A Hymn to the Virgin” by Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), a composition for two choirs, is presented in a very similar vein. The text dates from about 1300 and praises Mary as a lovely, radiant, adorable maiden carrying the Son of God in her womb. Britten has set it to music that is basically archaic in mood and melody. The first choir sings the text in English and the second interpolates and comments on it in Latin.
One might well ask oneself with some astonishment what a composer could find so appealing about setting a family tree to music. In his motet “Which was the son of”, the minimalist composer Arvo Pärt (born 1935) succeeds most impressively in transposing the 77 (!!) names that comprise the family tree in Luke 3, 23-38. After a short introduction, he enumerates the names: very softly at first and in unison. Gradually, the movement grows in intensity, both in the number of voices and in its dynamics. Tonally, the composition reaches its climax in the middle section, when Luke enumerates the great progenitors, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. An opulent five-voice male choir is followed by a homophonic choral movement with eight mixed voices, symbolising the significance and greatness of these men. This is imitated in the subsequent movement, which is lighter and shifts the emphasis of the composition from the harmonic to the motoric, before the final phrase traces the entire family tree back to God in another glorious burst of sound. Throughout the entire composition, Pärt only uses harmonies that range between E minor and G major, with just the final “Amen” switching to a light E major.
The motet “O magnum mysterium” is the work of Morten Lauridsen (born 1943), an American composer of Danish origin. It speaks of the wonder of the birth of Jesus. Here, too, the “unio mystica“ is the theme of this composition, the union with the Divine through redemption and ecstatic contemplation.
Jan Sandström (born 1954) dedicates his “Gloria” to “la Casa de la Madre y el Niño” in Bogotá. The idea behind the composition came to Sandström in a dream, which he describes as follows: “In a church on a mountain high above Bogotá, a children’s choir sings the Gloria over and over again, during which first one child, then another and another steps forward to interject “Gloria in excelsis.” Sandström has incorporated this pattern of fast switches from choir to a single chorister into his composition vibrant rhythm, detailed and delightful harmony combined with a sound that envelopes the listener from all sides, making listening a real experience.
“Ich bin das Brot des Lebens” (“I am the bread of life”), composed in 2001 by Wolfram Buchenberg (born 1962), is an eight-part motet that lives mainly from the confrontation between male and female voices. It is composed mainly to the text of Psalm 1 and verse 35 of the sixth chapter of John, and describes Christ the person as the basis and, indeed, the prerequisite for human existence. The piece begins in a very meditative vein and in part with tone clusters based on the five scales of D E - F sharp - G sharp A. Then the words of Christ ring out from the male choir “I am the bread of life” as if they come from another sphere, and in bold harmony. In the middle section, a short motif is given a rhythmic and melodic improvisation by the middle female voices, with each of the singers drifting apart in individual tempos. The composition then merges into an eight-part homophonic portrayal of the text and ends as it began.
The programme turns to the themes of transience and eternity with 3 Motets from Opus 138 by Max Reger (1873-1916). The choral compositions are homophonic and have a clarity about them that is otherwise only found in old A-cappella artistic renderings. This is seen in the way each voice is kept melodically independent as well as in the economy of chromatic notation. The movements have great tonal and expressive density and a wide range of expression. „Der Mensch lebt und bestehet nur eine kleine Zeit" (text: Matthias Claudius) is a motet written for two choirs - and it turned out to be of fateful relevance for Reger himself. At 11 p.m. on 10 May, 1916, he left the café where he had met up with the Thomaskantor, Karl Straube. The next morning, Reger was found dead at home in his bed. Open on the table were the galley proofs for the motet “Der Mensch lebt und bestehet nur eine kleine Zeit”.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847) composed the 16-part “Hora est ” for four choirs in 1828 for the Singakademie in Berlin. The text is based on an antiphone and a Responsory from the Divine Office for the period of Advent. “It is time to rouse ourselves from sleep.” The piece opens in G minor with a male choir, followed by the lighter sound of higher voices singing the declamatory “Ecce apparebit” in D major as a contrast. The fugato that follows this is reminiscent of the final fugue in the Gloria from the Bach Mass in B minor (“Cum sancto spiritu”). What makes this composition particularly charming is the division between women’s choir, men’s choir and mixed choral groupings, all culminating in the exuberant and overwhelming sound of a 16-voice choir.
This programme is exceptional in that it includes choral works written for more than one choir. The effect of these compositions is heightened appreciably by positioning the various performers in different areas of the church, and they were, in fact, originally composed with this in mind. In the Biebl and Britten motets, we therefore experience a separate smaller choir singing far up in the gallery of the monastery church. Even the soloists in Sandström’s “Gloria” enhance the effect of the performing space by being positioned opposite the choir. The Reger motets also develop a unique sound of their own, due to mixed groupings of voices being placed extremely far apart throughout the entire area. In the Maulbronn Monastery church, the conditions are ideal for these innovate concepts of sound.
he Maulbronn Chamber Choir was founded by its director, Jürgen Budday, in 1983 and is one of the top choirs in Germany today. In addition to learning a baroque oratorio, the ensemble compiles a sacred and secular a-cappella programme every year, its focal point being 19th and 20th century literature. First prize at the Baden Württemberg Choir Competition in 1989 and 1997, second prize at the Third German Choir Competition in Stuttgart in 1990, and a victory at the Fifth German Choir Competition in Regensburg in 1998 document the chamber choir's extraordinary musical standard. The Maulbronn Chamber Choir has received, among others, invitations to the Ettlingen Palace Festival, the chamber music series of the Dresden Philharmonic, the cloister concerts at the Walkenried convent, the First International Festival of Sacred Music in Rottenburg, and the European Music Festival in Passau. The choir has also made a name for itself internationally. The 1983 debut tour through the USA with concerts in, among others, New York and Indianapolis, and the participation in the Festival of Music in New Harmony, Indiana, as well as concert tours through numerous European countries, Israel, Argentina (1993 and 1997), South Africa, and Namibia (2001) were all greeted with similar enthusiasm by the public and critics alike. The third tour through South America followed in autumn 2003 with concerts in Argentina and Uruguay.
ürgen Budday (Conductor) is artistic director and founder of the Maulbronn Chamber Choir. He studied church music and musicology at the Academy of Music in Stuttgart from 1967 to 1974 and, since 1979, he has taught at the Evangelical Seminar in Maulbronn. This also involved his taking over as artistic director of the Maulbronn Monastery Concerts and the cantor choir. In 1992, he was named Director of Studies, in 1995 came the appointment as Director of Church Music and in 1998 he was awarded the "Bundesverdienstkreuz" (German Cross of Merit) as well as the Bruno-Frey Prize from the State Academy in Ochsenhausen for his work in music education. At the Prague International Choir Festival, Jürgen Budday received an award as best director and, since 2002, he has also held the chair of the Choral Committee with the German Music Council. Jürgen Budday has started a cycle of Handel oratorios that is planned to span several years, which involves working with soloists like Emma Kirkby, Michael Chance, Nancy Argenta and Mark Le Brocq (to name but a few). The live recordings of these performances, that have received the highest praise from reviewers, has won him international recognition. Till these days 10 oratorios by G.F.Handel are documented on discs.
"No conductor and no choir have so consistently recorded so many Handel oratorios as Jürgen Budday and his Maulbronn Chamber Choir."
(Dr. Karl Georg Berg, Handel Memoranda Halle 2008)
Franz Biebl (died 2001):
1. Ave Maria
for two 3- and 4-part choirs
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976):
2. A Hymn to the virgin
Motet for two 4-part choirs
Arvo Pärt (born 1935):
3. Which was the son of...
for 8-part choir
Morten Lauridsen (geb. 1943):
4. O magnum mysterium
for 4- till 8-part choir
Jan Sandström (born 1954):
for soloists and 4- till 10-part choir
Soli: Simone Obermeyer (Soprano),
Andreas Gerteis (Tenor I), Mathias Michel (Tenor II)
Wolfram Buchenberg (born 1962):
6. Ich bin das Brot des Lebens
for 8-part choir
Max Reger (1873-1916):
7.-9. 3 Motetten op. 138
for 5- till 6-part choir
7. Der Mensch lebt und bestehet op. 138,1
8. Nachtlied op. 138, 3
9. Du höchstes Licht op. 138, 2
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847):
10. Hora est
Motet for four 4-part choirs
Concert Date: June 17th, 2006
Sound Engineer: Andreas Otto Grimminger
Mastering & Production: Andreas Otto Grimminger & Josef-Stefan Kindler
Photography, Artwork & Coverdesign: Josef-Stefan Kindler