The In Nomine genre, characteristic of the late English Renaissance, took as its point of departure a section of the Benedictus from John Taverner's Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas. That section includes a complete statement of the chant cantus firmus for which the mass was named, and, for reasons that are not entirely clear, spawned an entire tradition of instrumental works in which composers tried to demonstrate their contrapuntal skills by devising new settings of the chant, or of Taverner's own setting, that would stand out from all the others. The subtitle "The Witten in Nomine Broken Consort Book" might lead the listener to expect a little-known collection of perhaps German offshoots from this tradition, but in fact the music is all contemporary. The impressively large collection of 42 pieces heard on these two discs grew from an initial group dedicated to one Harry Vogt, the director of a contemporary music festival in the city of Witten; the tradition, as mysteriously as the original one, has taken on a life of its own. It would be wrong to call the music varied. Composed between 1994 and 2002, it is far from representing the range of styles heard in Germany during that period. The examples of Webern and Wolfgang Rihm, who composed one of the pieces heard here (CD 2, track 22), loom large; most of the the pieces are fragmentary, pointillistic, extreme in instrumental technique, unconnected with tonal centers, and absorbed in the intellectual preconditions of the post-World War II avant-garde, which by now is not avant anything. The settings range from less than a minute to about 11 minutes in length, and Freiburg's ensemble recherche does well at keeping a consistent thread going through music written for various forces. Several works are arrangements of In Nomines by Purcell, Byrd, and their contemporaries, but in most of the music the In Nomine references are fleeting and difficult to identify. That points to the weakness of the whole concept; the In Nomine of the seventeenth century was an elaboration of a piece of musical common language, but in these modern In Nomines the model is not essential to the music in the same way. It is a piece of what fast-food workers call flair. Nevertheless, it provides a common reference point for an unusually large collection of German modernist music, and the production by the West German Radio of Cologne is top-notch.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2
Elegie (Krebskanon in der Quinte, ober- und untertönig koloriert), for bass flute, piano, cello, percussion & additional instruments