Ecco la Musica perform Johann Samuel Welter cantatas credibly

Johann Samuel Welter is the only name on the cover of this release. But he’s not the only composer features. The early music ensemble Ecco la Musica presents a varied program of music from 17th Century Germany. Five of Welter’s choral cantatas are interspersed with instrumental works, by some of Welter’s older contemporaries.

Welter’s considered the most important choral composer between Michael Praetorius and Johann Sebastian Bach. The cantatas in this release showcase his artistry.

The works are mostly straightforward, with the four-square phrasing of hymn tunes. This aspect of their composition looks back to Praetorius.

At the same time, some of the choral passages are quite complex. And Welter is quite purposeful in his accompanying instruments. Those characteristics look ahead to Bach.

Directors Heike Hümmer and Matthias Sprinz opt for a small vocal ensemble of just five voices. It gives the works a lightness and clarity they might not otherwise have.  As soloists, all five singers have mellow deliveries that fit the music well.

Unfortunately, as an ensemble, they’re not consistently together in their attacks. And with one voice to a part, there’s nowhere to hide if the articulation isn’t perfectly in sync.

The instrumental ensemble fairs considerably better — especially with the other works. Paul Hainlein, Johann Nicolai, Johann Schmelzer, and Antonio Bertali are all represented.

The makeup for each work varies, providing some nice contrasts with the program. Hainlein’s  Sonata à 5 Battallia ex C features the full ensemble in a work that resembles Giovanni Gabrielli’s instrumental compositions.

Johann Nicolai’s Sonata 14 à 2 features three violins along with basso continuo. It’s a much more expressive work, with plenty of give-and-take between the three soloists.

I did enjoy this release. When the full complement of winds and brass back the vocal ensemble, the sound is inspirational. Overall, I can recommend this release for lovers of German Baroque music.

Johann Samuel Welter: Gott sey uns gnädig
Choral Cantatas
Ecco la Musica; Heike Hümmer & Matthias Sprinz, directors

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