The oddly named composer Gallus Guggumos is unknown even to specialists in music of the 17th century. His surviving output, concentrated mostly in a single manuscript, is reproduced in full on this CD. Biographical information on him is scarce, and the brief booklet notes for this German release (in German and English, with the motet texts only in Latin and German) merely summarize what is known about him, making no attempt to put him into any stylistic context. That may be because his music is quite distinctive, and this recording by the south German early music one-voice-per-part group Il Canto Figurato Ulm, while not at a virtuoso level, is a welcome addition to the repertory. Guggumos was apparently the last student of Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice, and, like the more famous Heinrich Schütz, returned to German lands to seek his fortune after Gabrieli's death, spending many years in the employ of a Bavarian noble house. He was born around 1590 and died after 1666, but his music does not have the splendor of Gabrieli or the dramatic style of Schütz's choral motets. Although he certainly lived through and grasped the musical revolutions of the early 17th century, he seems, on the evidence of these pieces, to have remained a contrapuntist at heart. Each of these motets is compact, with a dense harmonic texture nicely tied to a limited harmonic palette. Even the several two-part motets included (confusingly given different titles and numbers in the tracklist) clock in at under six minutes apiece. There is a small continuo group, consisting of some combination of Baroque cello, bass, theorbo, and organ, but it remains unobtrusive, and its structural role in the music is small. Guggumos is at his best in very short pieces like Levavi oculos meos (track 15), where the text is set with an almost Josquin-like economy. A bonus is the group of short organ pieces performed as interludes, on a Venetian organ now housed at the University of Stuttgart. They were recorded separately from the vocal music, and they don't seem of a piece with the rest of the recording, but the trombone registration on the two works by Rocco Rodio, a Neapolitan contemporary of Gesualdo, is quite unusual. Definitely an item for the specialist's or enthusiast's collection rather than that of the general listener, but one of great interest within those spheres.
Gallus Guggumos: Motecta Review
by James Manheim