Biber: Vespro della beata Vergine; Kerll: Missa in Fletu Solatium / Cantus Cölln

The sacred works on this disc were composed by two powerhouses of the Baroque. The well-known Austrian composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704) left a seemingly never ending trail of wonderful works, but Johann Kaspar Kerll, who also wrote a great number of outstanding pieces, is virtually forgotten. I truly don’t remember ever hearing of him. When I listened to his Missa, which is excellent, I wondered why there aren’t more recordings of his music out there.

Most of the recordings I saw online of Kerll’s music were either out of print or part of some kind of collection. Even on this recording, he gets second billing on the disc jacket though his piece is the first performed. Kerll lived from 1627-1693. He studied under Carissimi and Froberger. Like many German composers at the time, most of his works were for keyboard or choral. He was highly regarded by his contemporaries. Both Bach and Handel borrowed from his works. It appears that Kerll’s Missa was composed in honor of the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by the forces of Austrian Emperor Leopold I at the Battle of Kahlenberg in 1683. Kerll lost his wife in the Turkish siege. The mass is short, though vocally, very powerful. Cantus Colln is outstanding in their conception of this rarely performed work.

The Biber work is most interesting and well played. The Vespro is a vocal exercise that includes other works in its presentation. The six part cycle also contains motets from Kerll and a sonata of Biber’s. The piece ends with a small Magnificat. Again, Cantus Colln is in top voice and the accompanying musicians play well and with spirit. The sonics are very natural and well balanced.

Biber (1644-1704) was slightly later than Kerll, living into the 18th century. Interestingly, his claim to fame is his violin compositions. Biber was considered a very important master of the violin, well into the Baroque period and beyond. In his sacred music, he might write for large groups of singers or small settings of as few as four voices. This CD was produced by Accent and WDR; it was recorded in March 2013 in Cologne.

Album Overview

Konrad Junghanel and Cantus Colln are featured here in a recording of music by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber and Johann Caspar Kerll. Biber’s Vespro della Beata Vergine is not a single work, but rather a collection of composition assembled to form a liturgical service. It includes works from Biber’s anthology of psalm settings entitled Vesperae Longiores ac Breviores and brief sonatas and solo motets are performed in place of the introductory antiphons. Kerll’s Missa in fletu solatium was likely composed in celebration of the victory at the great Battle at Kahlenberg. His somewhat gloomy mass exhibits astonishing compositional artistry.


Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber

Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber von Bibern (1644 – 1704) was a Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist. Biber was one of the most important composers for the violin in the history of the instrument. He wrote one of the earliest known pieces for solo violin, the monumental passacaglia of the Mystery Sonatas. During Biber’s lifetime, his music was known and imitated throughout Europe. In the late 18th century he was named the best violin composer of the 17th century by music historian Charles Burney. In the late 20th century Biber’s music, especially the Mystery Sonatas, enjoyed a renaissance. Today, it is widely performed and recorded.

Johann Kaspar Kerll

Johann Kaspar Kerll (1627 – 1693) was a German baroque composer and organist. Kerll became one of the most acclaimed composers of his time, known both as a gifted composer and an outstanding teacher.

Although Kerll was a well-known and influential composer, many of his works are currently lost. The losses are particularly striking in vocal music, with all 11 known operas and 24 offertories missing. The surviving oeuvre shows Kerll’s mastery of the Italian concerted style, employed in almost all of his masses, and his highly developed contrapuntal technique. He was influenced by Heinrich Schütz in his sacred vocal music, and by Girolamo Frescobaldi in keyboard works.

Konrad Junghänel

Konrad Junghänel (born 27 February 1953) is a German lutenist and conductor in the field of historically informed performance, the founder and director of the vocal ensemble Cantus Cölln.

Visit his official webpage:

Cantus Cölln

Founded in 1987, the solo vocal ensemble Cantus Coelln established itself in a very short time into the international music scene. A short time later they were certified by the prestigious magazine Diapason, specialists for German and Italian vocal repertoire from the Renaissance and Baroque, to be among the greatest discoveries in the field of early music.


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