Bach Was Not Alone!
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 11/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There may still be nice folk who suppose that 'Music' sprang full-grown from the head of JS Bach, an exceptional genius who created his special musical idiom in a vacuum. People with a little more listening experience may wonder about the strange silence in Germany between Schuetz and Bach. And even those who have listened most may be skeptical about the inspiration of four obscure German Baroque composers named Tunder, Kuhnau, Bruhns, and Graupner. If so, you'd wouldn't be alone; I bought this CD with low expectations, mostly because of respect for Philippe Herreweghe, and because of the lovely low price.
I confess that I actually know Kuhnau's work fairly well. I appreciate it technically, but I seldom find it hugely exciting: journeyman Baroque, perhaps a little too safe. That could not be said about the other three composers on this CD; judging by these cantatas, they were composers of great skill and originality, significant figures in a milieu of incredible wealth, a musical forest in which JS Bach was perhaps the tallest tree but surrounded by some very fine timber. I have to imagine that Bach drew energy and technical inspiration from that milieu.
Franz Tunder was the earliest of these four composers, and the one who sounds most like Schuetz. His Latin hymn, Dominus illuminatio mea, has Italian written all over it, as if Monteverdi had taken a summer tour of the North Sea. If you enjoy either Schuetz or Monteverdi, you'll be thrilled by Tunder. Bruhns was a student of Tunder and later of Buxtehude; his single cantata on this CD is enough to make me lament his very early death. The last work on the disk, by Cristoph Graupner, is easily the most astonishing, a dramatic cantata picturing in music a storm at sea in which the Jesus' little boat of the faithful is threatened by waves. It's a very bold work of crashing arpeggios and churning chromaticisms.
The performance is up to Herreweghe's highest standard. What else needs to be said?"