GMCD 7175 – Zurich Arise!

The Choir of Gonville & Caius College Cambridge, Geoffrey Webber – Director

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The interest of the recording is primarily academic. The repertoire represents some of the leading composers of post-Reformation Zurich: Johannes Schmidlin, Johann Jakob Walder, Hohann Heinrich Egli and Johann Casper Bachofen, together with the so-called ‘Kappel Song’ by the Reformer Zwingli, who was apparently a greal music-lover, despite being responsible for banning music from all Zurich churches. Performances are immaculate, with some lovely solo and ensemble singing. Geoffrey Webber contributes a sequence of Intabulations from the Clemens Hör organ book

American Record Guide May/June Page 257

It is ironic, in a way, that this program even exists, considering the history behind it. In 1523, the Zurich Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli wrote, “Away with the mumbling of your songs, and neither do 1 want to hear the sound of your lyre.” How could this music-loving man, a capable musician who could play 11 different instruments, write such harsh words? Some speculate that Zwingli came to consider the elaborate music of the Catholic Church as part and parcel of the “good works” that Catholics allegedly were using to try to earn their salvation. Whatever caused his impulse, his words were followed to the letter. Within a year, all pictures had been taken from the walls of Zurich churches and hymn- singing was forbidden; and in 1527, all the city’s organs were torn down. Only a few years earlier, Zurich’s two main churches had competed with one another to see who could build the biggest and best organ.

Though music was forbidden in the churches, it flourished outside-or at least, societies were formed for the propagation of music. In 1598, hymn-singing was reinstated in Zurich after Raphael Egli, an archdeacon, wrote that according to the Bible, singing in church was God’s will. That same year, the first post-Reformation hymnbook was published, with the melodies only-no accompaniment. Later the hymnbook was revised, with the hymns set for four parts.

The music here reflects all stages of this sad but fascinating saga. Zwingli himself was a composer; one of his selections is included. Other composers here are Schmidlin, Walder, Egli, and Bachofen. Appropriately enough, the program begins with an a cappella singing of the Aposde’s Creed. Following is a substantial selection of organ pieces and vocal numbers, spanning the years from about 1535 to 1759. Even after hymn singing was reinstated, music inside and outside the Protestant church was kept strictlz separated; still, most of what was composed outside the church was devotional.

This is relatively simple music, well-performed. The sound is verz good: notes are informative; texts and translations


The profile of Gonville and Caius College Choir on disc has been overshadowed by the better-known Cambridge mixed choirs of Trinity and Clare, but Geoffrey Webber’s well-trained singers need fear no comparison. Caius has instead made a name for itself by concentrating on neglected areas of the repertoire, with recordings of music by Wood, Rheinberger, Janácek, Wesley and Child, among others. Here they reach completely uncharted waters, with two discs of church music from Switzerland – every piece here is a recorded premiere.

Church reformer Huldrych Zwingli had banned singing and organs from Zurich churches in 1524.This hiatus – fortunately temporary – cast a shadow over Swiss liturgical music right up to the twentieth century.

The first disc covers the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, with music by the unknowns Johannes Schmidlin, Johann Jakob Walder, and Johann Caspar Bachofen. The major works are a 1759 funeral cantata for Johannes Fries, major of Zurich, by Schmidlin and a selection of Renaissance organ pieces from the Clemens Hör tablature. The capable vocal soloists are drawn from the choir, and have just the right artless style for this provincial repertoire.

Christ Ascended, the more interesting disc of the two, mixes organ and choral music by six twentieth-century Swiss composers, of whom only Othmar Schoeck is at all well known. The style is principally a warm-toned Hindemithian neo-classicism – in the case of the talented Hans Schaeuble’s Five Choruses of 1936, a sound-world not a million miles away from that of Hebert Howells. This disc makes an attractive programme in its own right.
Francis Knights



Verdict: Caius illuminate yet another overlooked musical byway

Neue Zürcher Zeitung ZÜRCHER KULTUR Mittwoch, 05.01.2000 Nr.3   36

Auf, Zürich, auf!

Zürcher Chormusik auf einer neuen CD

MvO. Es mag seltsam anmuten, dass ein englischer Chor Musik aus Zürich von der Renaissance bis zum Barock interpretiert, doch The Choir of Gonville & Caius College aus Cambridge überzeugt als exzellenter Klangkörper mit äusserst agilen Stimmen. Dass die Textverständlichkeit gelegentlich mangelhaft ist, scheint angesichts der Herkunft des Ensembles verzeihlich. Huldrych Zwingli schaffte den Kirchengesang und das Orgelspiel in den Zürcher Kirchen ab, war aber ein begnadeter Musiker, der auch selbst komponierte. «Herr, nun heb den Wagen selb», das sogenannte Kappelerlied, ist seine berühmteste überlieferte Komposition, von der auf dieser Aufnahme drei Versionen vorgestellt werden. Zahlreich vertreten sind die Lieder Johann Caspar Bachofens (1695-1755), die mit gekonntem polyphonem und homophonem Einsatz der einzelnen Stimmen komponiert sind. Johannes Schmidlin (1722-1772), der bedeutendste Zürcher Komponist nach Bachofen, schrieb auf den Tod des Bürgermeisters Johannes Fries eine grosse Trauer- Kantate. Im Wechsel von Rezitativen und Arien erklingt eine Musik von erstaunlicher Dramatik. Gerade hier werden die technisch schwierigen Passagen von den Chorsolisten bravourös gemeistert. So zeigt sich ein vielfältiges Bild Zürcher Musik, das wahrlich grosse Anerkennung verdient, um so mehr, als sich ausländische Musiker damit auseinandersetzen.

Zürich Express – Freitag, 17.12.1999

Zwingli gesungen

Zürich nach der Reformation gilt als Land ohne Musik. Einer der besten Chöre Englands beweist jetzt das Gegenteil: mit Konzerten un der CD “Zurich, Arise!”.

“Thu mir das gmürmel diner gsangen hinweg und das gsang diner lyren will ich nit”, schreibt Huldrich Zwingli 1523 und leitete damit eine musiklose Zeit in Zürich ein. Bis 1598 war in Zürich der Kirchengesang verboten, und noch heute gilt das nachreformatorische Zürich als Land ohne Musik.

Eine CD in der Reihe “Musik aus der Zentralbibliothek” will diesen Ruf verstummen lassen – und zwar ausgerechnet mit Kompositionen und Worten Zwinglis: “Auf, Zürich, auf”, ist nämlich ein weiterer Ruf Zwinglis und wurde in seiner englischen Übersetzung “Zurich, Arise” als Titel für eine CD gewählt, die mit zwei Kompositionen Zwinglis beginnt und Werke von weiteren Zürcher Komponisten von der Renaissance bis im Barock einspielt. Gesungen werden die Werke von einem der besten Chöre Englands, den Members of the Choir of Gonville & Caius Gollege in Cambridge unter Leitung von Geoffrey Webber.
Hélène Arnet