Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Le Memorie Dolorose

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Early-music ensembles TENET Vocal Artists and ACRONYM have joined forces to make the first commercial recording of a sumptuous work by composer Johann Heinrich Schmelzer (1623-1680), a sepolcro set in the tomb of Christ.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 74:19
01Instrumental: Sonata a5 in A Minor (Le Memorie Dolorose)
Instrumental: Sonata a5 in A Minor (Le Memorie Dolorose)
02Trio: Così è morto il mio Signore?
Trio: Così è morto il mio Signore?
03Recit: Forse i queruli accenti
Recit: Forse i queruli accenti
04Trio & Aria: È morto Giesù
Trio & Aria: È morto Giesù
05Trio: Madre purissima
Trio: Madre purissima
06Recit: E quali mi destate
Recit: E quali mi destate
07Aria: Miei Lumi Dolenti
Aria: Miei Lumi Dolenti
08Recit: Ò quali, Pietro
Recit: Ò quali, Pietro
09Aria: Con il Bacio, ch’è pur pegno
Aria: Con il Bacio, ch’è pur pegno
10Recit: Voi pur, Angeli
Recit: Voi pur, Angeli
11Aria: La Morte di Giesù
Aria: La Morte di Giesù
12Recit: Col cruento Holocausto
Recit: Col cruento Holocausto
13Instrumental: Sonata a4 in A Minor (GB-Ob ms.mus.Sch. C.44)
Instrumental: Sonata a4 in A Minor (GB-Ob ms.mus.Sch. C.44)
14Quartetto & Aria: La Vera luce
Quartetto & Aria: La Vera luce
15Recit: Accompagnate pur le mie dolenti
Recit: Accompagnate pur le mie dolenti
16Aria: Come, come s’arrestò
Aria: Come, come s’arrestò
17Recit: Lassa! Vi rammentate
Recit: Lassa! Vi rammentate
18Aria: Mio Giesù, mio Redentore
Aria: Mio Giesù, mio Redentore
19Recit: Da lo spogliarsi il Popolo le Vesti
Recit: Da lo spogliarsi il Popolo le Vesti
20Aria: La Porpora, Ornamento
Aria: La Porpora, Ornamento
21Recit: Udite, udite un altra
Recit: Udite, udite un altra
22Aria: Morte à Christo!
Aria: Morte à Christo!
23Instrumental: Sonata a5 in G Minor (CZ-Kra IV:63)
Instrumental: Sonata a5 in G Minor (CZ-Kra IV:63)
24Duetto: Quel, che nato, e non creato
Duetto: Quel, che nato, e non creato
25Recit: Dal Sepolcro di Christo
Recit: Dal Sepolcro di Christo
26Aria: Per Te, per Te morì
Aria: Per Te, per Te morì
27Recit: A Donna di Samaria
Recit: A Donna di Samaria
28Aria: Quella sete, Christo mio
Aria: Quella sete, Christo mio
29Recit: Ah stella, che apparisti
Recit: Ah stella, che apparisti
30Trio: Christo more!
Trio: Christo more!
31Recit: Sì, sì, affisso ad un Tronco
Recit: Sì, sì, affisso ad un Tronco
32Tutti: Sepolto Christo!
Tutti: Sepolto Christo!
33a8: Sospirate
a8: Sospirate
34Tutti: Se per mè l’Onnipotente
Tutti: Se per mè l’Onnipotente

The grieving Virgin—played by TENET artistic director Jolle Greenleaf— encounters two angels, three Apostles (Saints John, James, and Peter), three Marys (Magdalene, Cleopas, and Salome), Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea. Each character tells her a story about Jesus, “dolorous memories” which only add to her torment.

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From the program notes:

This disc includes the first recording of works by Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, both his oratorio staged during Holy Week, Le Memorie dolorose (first performed in Vienna on Good Friday 1678), as well as two instrumental pieces. After decades as a highly valued violinist and composer of instrumental music to both Emperors Ferdinand III (r. 1637-57) and Leopold I (r. 1658-1705) at the Habsburg court of Vienna, Schmelzer became the head chapelmaster to Leopold for a few years (1677-80) before succumbing to the plague while the court was in Prague.

Since our oratorio was one of about seventy performed in front of a constructed reproduction of Christ’s Tomb in the royal chapels, and because it (like most but not all examples of the genre) is in Italian, it belongs to the subgenre called sepolcri, from the Italian word for “tomb.” Two instrumental works inserted into this recording as interludes come from collections in Oxford and Kromĕřiž (Czech Republic), the latter being the other major source (besides Vienna) for the composer’s music.

Engineering, producing, and mastering: Ryan Streber, Oktaven Audio
Mixing: Jolle Greenleaf and Ryan Streber
Editing: Brock Babcock and Kivie Cahn-Lipman
Modern edition, sonatas: Charles Brewer
Modern edition, Le Memorie Dolorose: Kivie Cahn-Lipman
Translation: Martin Morell
Program notes: Robert Kendrick
Italian diction coach: Charles Weaver
Ensemble photo: Joanne Bouknight
Design: Marc Wolf (

This recording is dedicated to the 172 generous donors who helped crowdfund it. Thank you so much for your support!


TENET Vocal Artists

Preëminent New York City-based early music ensemble TENET Vocal Artists trusts in the power of music to bring joy and peace to our 21st century world. Under Artistic Director Jolle Greenleaf, TENET Vocal Artists has won acclaim for its innovative programming, virtuosic singing and command of repertoire that spans the Middle Ages to the present day.

Highlights of recent seasons include performances of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, St. John Passion, Bach's motets, Handel’s Messiah, a three-year cycle of Carlo Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories, regular performances of music by Henry Purcell and his contemporaries in honor of St. Cecilia, music’s patron saint, and explorations into medieval repertoire. TENET Vocal Artists has also dedicated itself to creating original theatrical performances highlighting works composed by, for, and about women in 17th century Italy.

Renowned for their interpretations of Renaissance and Baroque repertoire, TENET Vocal Artists' distinguished soloists have been praised for their pristine one-voice-to-a-part singing “to an uncanny degree of precision” (The Boston Globe). Under TENET's auspices, the highly praised Green Mountain Project gave annual performances (2010-2020) of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and other reconstructed Vespers featuring music by Monteverdi, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani, Giovanni Gabrieli, Antoine Charpentier, Michael Praetorius, and their contemporaries.

A driving force in cultivating New York City’s early music community, TENET Vocal Artists collaborates regularly with other acclaimed ensembles and organizations including ACRONYM, Dark Horse Consort, Ensemble Caprice, Five Boroughs Music Festival, Quicksilver Baroque, the Sebastians, and many others.

TENET Vocal Artists performs regularly at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Caramoor, Columbia University, Yale University, and numerous other venues in and around New York City. Further afield, TENET Vocal Artists has performed at the Festival Casals de Puerto Rico, Berkshire Bach Festival, Connecticut Early Music Festival, Costa Rica International Music Festival, Montreal Baroque Festival, and many other festivals throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe.


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.



Early Music America

Johann Heinrich Schmelzer died of plague in 1680, only a few months after being awarded the position of Kapellmeister at the imperial court of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I. Schmelzer had worked for many years at the Hapsburg court, first as a violinist and composer for Leopold’s father, Emperor Ferdinand III, and later director of instrumental music and vice-Kapellmeister for Leopold. He was widely known as one of the best violinists in Europe, and was an influential composer of instrumental music, especially the violin sonata.

Yet Schmelzer, as an employee of the emperor, wrote music for all occasions, as befitting the needs of the imperial court. The Viennese court tradition for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday included performances of sepolcri, an oratorio-like genre staged with characters, scenery, and dramatic action in front of a replication of the tomb of Jesus. This album is the first recording of one of Schmelzer’s three sepolcri, Le Memorie dolorose (The Dolorous Memories), first performed on Good Friday in 1678 and containing two recitative-aria sections composed by Leopold himself. Also receiving their first recordings are two of Schmelzer’s instrumental sonatas, inserted into the sepolcro as tracks 13 and 23.

Le Memorie dolorose tells the story of the Passion and burial of Jesus from the perspective of various characters, including the Virgin Mary, the three Marys who were believed to have visited the tomb of Jesus (the Marys Magdalene, Cleopas, and Salome), Joseph of Arimathea, several disciples, and a host of angels. The sepolcro’s libretto, written by court poet Nicolo Minato (lightly edited on this recording to remove anti-Semitic references), pairs ten happy memories of Jesus’ life with ten sad ones, each pair sharing a central theme; the last, for example, contrasts the raising of Lazarus from the dead with the burial of Jesus.

The recording is luminous. The singers of TENET Vocal Artists, both solo and tutti, exude a sense of refined pathos and rhetorical gesture apropos for the work’s original intimate courtly setting. The instrumentalists of ACRONYM more than match them in emotiveness; the continuo is warm, resonant, and supportive, the full ensemble beautifully unified. The enthusiasm and sense of attack in the plucked strings, counterbalanced by the sweet melodic lines of the upper voices, and the full ensemble’s commitment to the different moods of each section, show the first interpolated sonata to be a real hidden gem.

In the pop-music world, a supergroup is a musical ensemble made up of artists well known for their other solo or ensemble work. Although named separately here, both TENET and ACRONYM are stars in early music. Both ensembles have consistently received the highest praise for both their engaging live performances and recordings, which have included everything from warhorses such as the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 to premiere recordings of works by Biber, Valentini, and now, Schmelzer. This album is TENET’s sixth recording, ACRONYM’s ninth, but their first together, and the combination is nothing short of “super.” A highly recommended album, and may we hope that these two ensembles join forces again.

-Karen Cook, 6.17.19, Early Music America


American Record Guide

Recorded here for the first time is Johann Heinrich Schmelzer’s oratorio Le Memorie Dolorose on a text by Nicolo Minato. It was originally performed in Vienna on Good Friday of 1678 before the effigy of Christ’s tomb in the Hofburgkapelle. The drama takes place in the moments immediately following Christ’s burial. There is nothing particularly new in the drama itself. In fact the performance of an Easter play involving Angels, the Virgin Mary, Apostles, the three Maries (Magdalene, Cleopas, and Salome), and Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea—11 parts in all—goes back to the rich medieval history of the Passion play. The tradition continued well into the modern era. What is new is the organization of the drama into ten pairs of meditations, juxtaposing mourning with joyful reminiscences about Jesus’ life. In addition, Acronym inserts three sonatas by Schmelzer at logical breaks between scenes. The program begins with a five-part Sonata in A minor. A four-part Sonata in A minor precedes the scene involving the three Maries, and a five-part Sonata in G minor comes before the scene of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. The drama unfolds in a series of dialogs between characters, mostly in recitative over basso continuo. Arias are simple, strophic pieces with instrumental ritornellos between stanzas. The aria ‘More Christo’ comes at an especially poignant moment at the end of the scene involving the three Maries (Kate Maroney, Elizabeth Baber Weaver, and Dianna Grabowski). In recitative the Virgin Mary (Jolle Greenleaf) sings ‘Udite, Udite un Altra’ as she happily remembers how the people of Jerusalem cheered as Jesus entered the city. She recalls how they cut down tree boughs as a sign of their rejoicing; but joy turned to savagery when only a few days later they cut the tree trunks to make a cross. The aria that follows is gentle, full of pathos, sung over the descending tetrachord in the accompanying violin and continuo parts. The emotion continues, ineffably, into the ritornellos. The end of the final scene, beginning with ‘Christo More’ makes a powerful statement. Here a trio consisting of Mary Magdalene, Maria Salome, and the Virgin Mary balance against an ensemble of Apostles (Andrew Fuchs, Brian Gieber, and Jesse Blumberg). The trio of women acts as a refrain between Mary Magdalene’s exclamations of sorrow. There is a better feminist argument to be made here than the ungainly one that follows, but here goes. Predictably, while the women give voice to the emotion of grief, the apostles declaim the theological significance of the scriptural events. It pits the thundering (low-range) voice of the Petrine church against the emotional (high-range) voice of the Magdalene church. The oratorio concludes with the entire ensemble in a final pietistic statement—essentially, if Jesus did this for me, whatever can I do for him? “In eterno piangero” (I shall weep eternally). The performance is absolutely gorgeous. The singers’ voices are full of expression, and ornamentation is spot on. The instrumentalists play with complete understanding of the performance practice. Texts and notes are in English.

-Peter Loewen, 6.21.19, American Record Guide

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