A masterpiece, and a major recording
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Schutz' requiem may not be to everyone's taste for this is early German music at its most deadly serious. The requiem is based largely on texts verbatim from the Luther Bible, a few of them familiar from Brahm's Deutsche Requiem. However this has to rank as one of the major monuments of German music before Bach and if one was restricted to only one pre-Bach CD in one's library this work would have a strong claim. Even among Schutz' work this, his Opus VII, occupies a strong place, for, apart from the Resurrection Oratorio, it is the only individual work to have been published which in part must be due to the importance placed on the work by the composer. While the idiom of the time is more restrained to the texts than Bach, and Schutz sometimes appears to almost be illustrating the texts with music much as Luther's early printers embellished their work with visual art, the composer's personality is expressed at every turn. As for the recording, Harmonia Mundi must know they are on to a good thing as this is at least the fourth time the Herreweghe version has been reissued - this time (referring to HM 941261 released July 14, 1998) in a glossy presentation case at mid-price. There is also no question that this is a great performance. The only serious rival in the 'authentic' movement was the meaty Gardiner recording (Archiv, but no longer available). Of course 'authentic' in the Gardiner and Herreweghe context largely means authentic instruments and brisk tempos, yet there is another kind of authenticity in the analogue recordings (reissued on Berlin Classics) of the Dresden Kreuzchor under Rudolf Mauersberger, who died in 1971. This is the authenticity of echoing cathedral vaults, and boy altos and sopranos, rather than women soloists. Another difference: while Herreweghe and Gardiner fill their disks with small pieces, Mauersberger couples the Exequien with the 7 Words, a mini passion oratorio not well represented in the catalogues."
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The characteristic which, in my eyes, makes this recording so wonderful is the one-voice-per-part approach. I happen to prefer a small chorus composed mainly of the soloists themselves to a large, more impersonal, chorus. Such small "choruses" formed by the soloists singing together were very common at the time most of baroque music was written. In fact, a large free-standing chorus was a rarity. When Handel sometimes employed such choruses, it was newsworthy enough to be reported in newspapers. So Herreweghe's decision to employ his soloists as choristers adds to the "authenticity" of this period performance (by the way, there are two other great recordings that follow the one-voice-per-part approach: Cavalli's Vespro della Beata Vergine (Bruce Dickey) and Monteverdi's Vespro (Andrew Parrott) - buy, buy, buy!). In addition to Musicalische Exequien, this disc contains several motets and mini-cantatas from Geistliche Chormusic and Kleine Geistliche Concerte. Herreweghe recently revisited some of these pieces with Collegium Vocale (the CD is entitled Geistliche Chormusic). This new version is based on choral singing, but the chorus is so responsive and well-blended that it almost feels like one person. Please, do not overlook this recent recording. Only three motets overlap (SWV379, SWV391 and SWV386). One of them, SWV379 (So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ) is so preternaturally beautiful that you will want to own as many versions of it as you can. The soloists on the Geistliche Chormusic CD are Agnes Mellon, Mark Padmore and Peter Kooy. All of them have been performing Schutz's music for years. Combined with Herreweghe's, their collective insight into Schutz's music resulted in a truly outstanding recording. NB: I have recently come by another Schutz recording which I greatly enjoyed: Schutz's Lamenti & Concerti (Musicalische Compagney). I think the group is now defunct, but back in the mid-80's they used to have some pretty impressive vocal group: Padmore, Cordier, Ragin and van der Kamp. Definitely buy it if you find it."