ACRONYM: Cantica Obsoleta


ACRONYM presents forgotten works from the Düben Collection. The Düben archive consists of approximately 2300 music manuscripts, assembled by and named after a family of composers who served in succession as Kapellmeisters to the Royal Swedish Court in Stockholm. Much of the music within the collection is unique, and the vast majority of it has neither been published in modern edition nor recorded. ACRONYM previously scoured the Düben Collection for sonatas that can now be heard on the ensemble's Paradise (Bertali) and Wunderkammer albums, and for this recording they searched this treasure trove of seventeenth-century music for the most beautiful and fascinating works available. It is likely the first time any of these Cantica Obsoleta have been heard in hundreds of years.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 79:34
01Sonata a5 in D Minor
Sonata a5 in D Minor
02Cantate domino canticum novum
Cantate domino canticum novum
03Doleo et pœnitet me
Doleo et pœnitet me
04Selig, ja selig, wer willig erträget
Selig, ja selig, wer willig erträget
05Sonata a6 in E-flat Major
Sonata a6 in E-flat Major
06Salvum me fac Deus
Salvum me fac Deus
07Inter brachia salvatoris mei
Inter brachia salvatoris mei
08Liebster Jesu, trautes Leben
Liebster Jesu, trautes Leben
09Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe
Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe
10Sonata a6 in G Minor
Sonata a6 in G Minor
11Miserere Christe mei
Miserere Christe mei
12Ich kann nicht mehr ertragen
Ich kann nicht mehr ertragen

The Düben Collection consists of approximately 2300 music manuscripts, assembled by and named after a family of composers who served in succession as Kapellmeister (literally: “chapel master,” the director of music) to the Royal Swedish Court in Stockholm. The largest contributor to the collection was Gustaf Düben the Elder (1628–1690), but others included his father Andreas (1597–1662) and his sons Gustaf the Younger (1659–1726) and Anders the Younger (1673–1738), the latter of whom donated the collection to Uppsala University Library where it remains today.

Much of the music within the archive is unique, and the vast majority of it has neither been published in modern edition nor recorded. ACRONYM previously scoured the collection for sonatas that can now be heard on our Paradise (Bertali) and Wunderkammer recordings, and while doing so our interest in this unmined treasure trove of seventeenth-century music was piqued. This recording consists of some of the most beautiful and fascinating works found within the Düben Collection, and it is likely the first time any of these cantica obsoleta have been heard in hundreds of years.

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (1620–1680), renowned as one of the finest violinists of his era, worked his way slowly through the musical ranks of Vienna. He eventually became the first Austrian Hofkapellmeister of the imperial city—succeeding many generations of Italians—before succumbing to the plague only a short time later. His Sonata a5 in D Minor shows the influence of Giovanni Valentini and Antonio Bertali in its use of irregular meters and surprising harmonic sequences. The opening sections of the sonata also survive (minus the viola parts) in a concordance in the Rost Codex in Paris. ACRONYM’s most recent CD is the first recording of Schmelzer’s oratorio Le Memorie Dolorose.

Johann Philipp Krieger (1649–1725) studied with Johann Rosenmüller in Venice and later traveled to Vienna, where he was ennobled by Emperor Leopold I on the basis of his fine organ playing. He won posts in Bayreuth and Halle and was eventually appointed Kapellmeister of Wiessenfels, a position which he held forty-five years until his death. Cantate domino canticum novum sets a lightly edited excerpt from Psalm 98.

Italian composer Giacomo Carissimi (c.1605–1674) was perhaps the last master of the Roman School of composition, which included several generations of Renaissance composers such as Giovanni Palestrina and Tomás Luis de Victoria. Carissimi is credited with having brought significant changes to the church cantata genre and to recitative singing in general, and he was the first major composer to write baroque oratorio. Doleo et pœnitet me is an example of the Latin Dialogue, an unusual baroque cantata style in which characters engage in a sung conversation on a sacred subject.

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German organist and composer Christian Geist (c.1650–1711) joined the court orchestra in Stockholm in 1670, and he remained there under Gustaf Düben the Elder for ten years. Geist was employed as a composer and keyboardist (and apparently also as a copyist; a Sonata a4 by Johann Philipp Krieger—on ACRONYM’s Wunderkammer recording—survives only in Geist’s handwriting). He spent his later years as organist of several of Copenhagen’s largest churches before succumbing to the bubonic plague along with his entire family. The text of Selig, ja selig, wer willig erträget was written by Johann Frank (1618–1677).

Educated in Vienna and Dresden, Johann Jacob Löwe (1628–1703) was held in such high regard by his teacher, Heinrich Schütz, that Schütz recommended Löwe for appointment as Kapellmeister in Wolfenbüttel when the latter was only twenty-six years old. Löwe would eventually leave Wolfenbüttel for Zeitz, and he concluded his career as organist at St. Nicolai in Lüneburg, where he might have been one of several instructors to a young J. S. Bach. Löwe’s Sonata a6 in E-flat Major has an unusual sequence in which all parts are marked in 5/2 meter, despite each part only containing three beats per measure.

Full program notes available with purchase of this album.

  • Produced, engineered, and mastered by Ryan Streber (Oktaven Audio)
  • Edited by Kivie Cahn-Lipman and Ryan Streber
  • Notes by Kivie Cahn-Lipman
  • Latin translations by Martha B. Alimi (with reference to ESV, NRSV, and Latin Vulgate) 
  • German translations by Chris Lysack (Radeck translation adapted from KJV)
  • Design by Marc Wolf (
  • Cover and booklet cover photo by Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash
  • Back cover photo by Herbert Goetsch on Unsplash
  • Booklet back cover photo by Nicolas Häns on Unsplash
  • Cover images: the bell tower at Reschensee
  • Ensemble photo by Tatiana Daubek
  • Title page of Christian Flor’s Inter brachia salvatoris mei (S-UU vmhs 054:010) and score excerpt from Caterina Giana’s Liebster Jesu, trautes Leben (S-UU vmhs 079:013) reprinted courtesy of Uppsala University Library


Baroque string ensemble ACRONYM is dedicated to giving modern premieres of the wild instrumental music of the seventeenth century. The group formed in 2012 to create the first recording of the "Alphabet Sonatas" of Johann Pezel. ACRONYM's following disc, sonatas by Antonio Bertali, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim; Alex Ross selected it as a CD pick, and Early Music America Magazine wrote "the idiomatic performances and spacious recording by these young musicians are absolutely first rate. This is a disc ... belonging in everyone's collection." In 2015 ACRONYM released a third album—the first recordings of Giovanni Valentini's instrumental works—which was praised in Gramophone for being "played with expertise, enthusiasm, and an almost tactile sense of timbre." In 2016 ACRONYM released its fourth album: Wunderkammer. Upcoming projects include the first recording of Samuel Capricornus's monumental "Jubilus Bernhardi" with the Bach Choir of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.

Hélène Brunet

Canadian soprano Hélène Brunet is hailed by critics as “a singer of tremendous quality” with “a voice of perfect beauty.” Recognized for her interpretations of the works of Bach, Handel, and Mozart, her repertoire also extends to the music of the 21st century. In concert, Hélène sings at the Tage Alter Musik Regensburg, with American Bach Soloists in San Francisco, at Lincoln Center with the American Classical Orchestra, with the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, as well as with ensembles and symphony orchestras across North America. With ensemble l‘Harmonie des Saisons, Hélène has recorded the Juno award-winning album Las Ciudades de Oro, as well as her debut solo album (ATMA Classique). Hélène was a prize winner at the Lyndon Woodside Oratorio-Solo Competition at Carnegie Hall. She has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and Musicaction.

Reginald Mobley

Noted for “crystalline diction and pure, evenly produced tone” (Miami Herald), countertenor Reginald Mobley is a highly sought-after interpreter of baroque, classical and modern repertoire. Recent performances of note include his Paris recital debut at the Musée d'Orsay, Handel’s Messiah with The Handel + Haydn Society of Boston, and a sixteen-concert tour throughout Europe singing Bach’s Matthäus-Passion with the Monteverdi Choir & English Baroque Soloists led by Sir John Eliot Gardiner (which was then recorded on Gardiner’s SDG label). Other recent performances include concerts of Handel’s Messiah with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Purcell’s King Arthur with the Academy of Ancient Music in London, and Mozart’s Requiem with Orkiestra Historyczna in Poland. Reginald’s current season includes his debut with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, a series of concerts with Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, his debut in Hong Kong, and an Australian tour to perform a selection of Bach Cantatas.

Brian Giebler

Praised for his “lovely tone and deep expressivity” by the New York Times, American tenor Brian Giebler has established an impressive career singing virtuosic and eclectic repertoire “with shine and clarity” (Opera News). “The sweetness of Giebler's impressive high tenor” and his "expressive and elegant phrasing" (Cleveland Classical) have been heard recently with The Cleveland Orchestra, The English Concert, Boston Baroque, Boston Early Music Festival, Santa Fe Pro Musica, Grand Rapids Symphony, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Syracuse Symphoria, Naples Philharmonic, Charlottesville Opera, Mark Morris Dance Group, Apollo’s Fire, Handel + Haydn Society, the Trinity Baroque Orchestra, and at Carnegie Hall singing Handel’s Messiah with both the Oratorio Society of New York and Musica Sacra. Mr. Giebler frequently collaborates with prominent living composers such as Julian Wachner (Adam in REV 23 presented by the Prototype Festival), Charles Wuorinen (Iff the Water Genie in Haroun and the Sea of Stories with Boston Modern Orchestra Project), and Ian Venables (featured on Mr. Giebler’s debut solo album, A Lad’s Love).

Jonathan Woody

Bass-baritone Jonathan Woody is a sought-after performer of early and new music across North America. He has appeared as a guest artist with Apollo’s Fire, Boston Early Music Festival, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Bach Collegium San Diego, and Portland Baroque Orchestra. Jonathan is a regularly featured member of the Choir of Trinity Wall Street, earning praise as “charismatic” and “riveting” from the New York Times. Festival appearances include Staunton Music Festival, Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, Portland, Carmel and Oregon Bach festivals, American Bach Soloists Academy, and Amherst Early Music. Jonathan has recently joined Opera Lafayette, Opera Idaho, and Beth Morrison Projects for staged productions, and he has recorded with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street on their GRAMMY®-nominated recording of Israel in Egypt. Other recordings include Boston Early Music Festival’s St. Matthew Passion of J. Sebastiani and New York Polyphony’s Roma Æterna.

02 Oct, 2020

New Focus releases on 2020 Grammy Ballot

Several New Focus releases are on the first round ballot for the 2020 Grammy awards. The relevant albums/tracks are all currently streamable on their New Focus album pages, please take a listen and if you are a voting member, consider voting for these albums! ACRONYM: Cantica Obsoleta on the Olde Focus imprint (Best Chamber Music Performance/Best Engineered Album) John Aylward: Angelus (Best …

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American Record Guide

The title of this release is perhaps misleading. These are not “old, worn out, thrown off songs” since none of these selections could be called “common, ordinary, poor, mean, low”. In many of its earlier recordings Acronym has established a reputation of finding and performing music that has not been heard since the 17th Century, and much of it has not been previously edited (Bertali & Pezel, July/Aug 2014; Valentini, Sept/Oct 2015; and an instrumental collection, Sept/ Oct 2016). More appropriate would have been the title of their New York concert of this repertoire, “Cantica Nova”, at least in the sense that most of these works would be “new” to any listener. Perhaps from the perspective of 2020 these are old songs, but fortunately both in the 17th Century and since the handwritten manuscripts have been carefully preserved. The selections are discoveries from the extensive archive that had been collected by the Royal Swedish Kapellmeister, Gustaf Düben the Elder (1628-90) and were later donated to the Uppsala University Library by his son, Anders Düben the Younger (1673-1738). While this collection has been known for years, it was mostly for its unique autographs and copies of vocal works by Dieterich Buxtehude. On a single recording, Acronym has supplied a thumbnail sketch of the rich contents still to be heard. What might be unexpected is the number of compositions by Giacomo Carissimi, including the miniature oratorio,'Doleo et Poenitet me’. On the manuscript it is titled “in Dialogo”, and the characters are two sinners, who beg Christ to ask mercy from God. Another unexpected work is the soprano solo aria, 'Liebster Jesu, Trautes Leben’, by Caterina Giani (fl.1650-73), the wife of the composer Massimiliano Neri (c.1621-between 1666 and 1670), who was Kapellmeister in Cologne. The short verbal cues in the organ tablature score indicate that the German text was replacing an Italian original. The other composers, while perhaps unfamiliar, were important musicians in central Europe, such as Samuel Capricornus (a bass solo, 'Salvum me fac Deus’) and Johann Philipp Krieger (a vocal quartet, 'Cantate domino’). Most of others are more obscure: Christian Flor (for alto solo, 'Inter brachia salvatoris mei’), Christian Ritter (the quartet, 'Miserere Christe mei’), and Johann Martin Radeck (a tenor solo, 'Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe’). As can be seen, there is a wide variety of scorings (not only vocal but also instrumental) in these selections, and the four vocalists (Helène Brunet, soprano; Reginald Mobley, countertenor; Brian Giebler, tenor; and Jonathan Woody, bass) are expressive and sensitive soloists as well as a tightly balanced quartet. There are two compositions that I found to be especially expressive. The first is by Christian Geist (c.1650-1711), Gustaf Düben’s colleague in Stockholm. His strophic setting of 'Selig, ja selig’ by Johann Franck begins very simply with the quartet of singers over a rather unusual ostinato bass, a descending E-minor scale, which continues under a string ritornello. This is followed by solo strophes for countertenor, soprano, and tenor based on variants of the ostinato, each followed by an instrumental solo. For the fifth strophe, Geist returns to the opening quartet, but repeats the same choral parts for the sixth verse along with a new virtuositic accompaniment from the two violins and gamba. Once heard, this work will be hard to forget. The final selection is by Daniel Eberlin (1647-c.1715), Kapellmeister in Eisenach during Johann Sebastian Bach’s childhood there. To a setting of Anton Ulrich’s dialog between the human soul (soprano) and a spiritual guide (bass) Eberlin adds a quartet setting of the fifth stanza from the chorale 'Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist’, which begins “So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ”, which later appears with a different tune in Bach’s Cantata 31, Der Himmel Lacht! Die Erde Jubilieret. A rousing “Amen” ends the work and the recording. Interspersed among these vocal works are three string ensemble sonatas found only in Düben’s collection, by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Johann Jacob Löwe, and Andreas Kirchhoff. Only in the case of the Kirchhoff Sonata a 6 is there a rival for “first recording” by Concerto Copenhagen (Da Capo 6.220651, to be reviewed). While the performance by Concerto Copenhagen makes more of the many tempo changes in the score, Acronym bring these out through dramatic changes in timbre and with a much more impassioned interpretation and a richer ensemble sound. The booklet essay by Kivie Cahn-Lipman (a gambist in Acronym) offers a concise introduction to each of these fascinating works. To not listen to this recording would be to miss out on a first acquaintance with each of these imaginative compositions.

— Charles Brewer, 10.16.2020


New York Music Daily

Baroque band ACRONYM’s name stands for Archive Crawlers; Researchers Of Niche Yellowed Manuscripts. They share a mission with this blog: to shed light on undeservedly obscure music. Lately the group have been sifting through the Duben Collection, a 18th century archive founded and maintained by a multi-generational family who served as directors of music for the royal court of Sweden. Virtually all this material, a vast range of choral, orchestral and chamber works, is either out of print or previously unpublished; none of it had been recorded until ACRONYM started releasing it. Their third album of these incredibly rare works, Cantica Obsoleta, is streaming at New Focus Recordings. It’s a mix of instrumental and vocal pieces featuring contemporary and period instruments including viols, violone, theorbo, harpsichord, organ and guitar. This isn’t mere esoterica. Everything here deserves a life beyond the confines of this album, and that may well happen once we get rid of the lockdown and early music groups outside of where this music originated begin to discover what’s here.

As you would expect, most of the composers on the album are reaching a global audience for the first time ever; interestingly, very few included on this album are Swedish by ancestry. The ensemble open with an emphatically pulsing take of Sonata a5 in D Minor, by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, a highly regarded Viennese violinist of the mid-1600s. This piece for string orchestra begins as a quasi-canon and eventually morphs into a lushly lilting country dance.

The singers – soprano Hélène Brunet, alto Reginald Mobley, tenor Brian Giebler and bass Jonathan Woody – romp through the ratcheting counterpoint of a Handel-like cantata by Johann Philipp Krieger, a German organist active in the 17th and early 18th century. One of the better-known figures here, Italian composer Giacomo Carissimi, is represented by a lustrous, rather starry, fascinatingly shifting lament.

Another 17th century German organist, Christian Geist is immortalized via a pensively waltzing number built around a stately descending progression. It is plausible that Johann Jacob Löwe might have been one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s first organ teachers: his Sonata a6 in E-flat Major comes across as a dance suite packed with dynamic and rhythmic shifts.

According to the album liner notes, Czech-born organist Samuel Capricornus was a colorful and combative personality; his hymn here gives Woody a real workout. Christian Flor, one of the few Swedish composers on this playlist, has a shapeshifting mini-suite for violas, organ and vocals, sung lyrically by Mobley. Brunet premieres the album’s sparest piece, by one of the archive’s few woman composers, Venetian-born singer Caterina Giani.

The final four works here are especially strong. Anchored by spare bass viol, the album’s arguably most compelling and plaintive piece is a diptych by yet another German organist, Johann Martin Radeck. Very little is known about Andreas Kirchhoff, whose gracefully contrapuntal Sonata a6 in G Minor is also very dynamic and colorful.

The most lushly majestic of the vocal works here is by a final German organist, Christian Ritter. The ensemble close with a moody but very lively cantata by one of the archive’s most obscure composers, vioinist Daniel Eberlin, who supported himself with a variety of dayjobs and possibly a life of crime on the side.

This is obviously a labor of love, and a passionate contribution to our collective musical knowledge from a crew including violinists and violists Beth Wenstrom, Edwin Huizinga, Adriane Post, Johanna Novom and Chloe Fedor; violist Kyle Miller; viol players Loren Ludwig, Zoe Weiss and Kivie Cahn-Lipman; violone player Doug Balliett; organist/harpsichordist Elliot Figg and theorbo player/guitarist John Lenti.

— Delarue, 1.10.2021



Two striking images – one visual, the other verbal – frame this startling recording of “forgotten works” from the Uppsala University Library’s historic Düben Collection. One is the haunting cover photograph of the Romanesque campanile rising from the waters of Lake Resia in Italy: the only reminder of the drowned town below. The other is conjured up by these words, by Johann Frank, of Christian Geist’s Selig, Ja Selig, Wer Willig Erträget (Blessed is he who willingly beareth):

Geist and the rest of his family would later fall victim to the bubonic plague. But to our secular minds at least, he has achieved a kind of resurrection, if not quite immortality, along with the other composers represented here, through the agency of American early music ensemble ACRONYM’s dedication to “giving modern premieres of the… music of the 17th century”. Those other composers include Schmelzer, Krieger, Carissimi, Löwe, Capricornus, Eberlin and Caterina Giani, the latter one of a handful of female composers whose works appear in the Düben Collection.

Instrumental sonatas provide some relief from the solemn, at times lugubrious, but always exquisitely beautiful sacred vocal works. The string band, supported variously by harpsichord, organ, theorbo and guitar, play with a fervent cantabile matching that of the four superb vocal soloists.

And what is ACRONYM an acronym for? “Archive Crawlers; Researchers Of Niche Yellowed Manuscripts.”

— Will Yeoman, 12.23.2020

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