Beloved Schütz Works Radiantly Performed
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The two important works here are the 'German Requiem' ('Musicalische Exequien'), SWV 179-181 and 'The Seven Words of Jesus Christ on the Cross' ('Die sieben Worte Jesu Christi am Kreuz'), SWV 478. The two short works that fill out the CD are the five-part tenth and eleventh motets from 'Geistliche Chor-Musik' ('Sacred Choir Music'): the 26th Psalm ('Die mit Tränen säen' ['They that sow in tears']), and 'So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ' ('So onward I go to Jesus Christ') whose text it taken from a funeral choral 'Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist' ('When my hour is come').
The German Requiem and the 'Seven Words' are well-known and well-loved. They have many recordings. These are done by a a small group of soloists, the Himlische Cantorey, and a small choir, the Alsfelder Vokalensemble Bremen, all dedicated to presenting ancient music. The orchestra is the Barockorchester I Febiarmonici, all conducted by Wolfgang Helbich. All the participants are expert; one notes particularly the purity of tone of the singers. The recording was made at the St. Petri Dom in Bremen and the sound is that of a spacious cathedral whose warm acoustic lends a rich and lovely ambience to the music. It's really quite extraordinarily well recorded.
What can one say about the stunningly beautiful music of Schütz, surely the most celebrated German composer of the 17th century? His use of anguished suspensions, open fourths and fifths and slow harmonic motion all allow for the ringing tone of a cathedral acoustic and yet preserve absolute clarity of text. Having sung just last year in the 'Seven Words,' I can still remember the goosebumps that one gets from performing this serenely beautiful music. Given the stunning performances and recorded sound, along with the budget Naxos price, there is really nothing to keep anyone the least bit interested in this literature from snapping up this CD. It's that good.
Recommended without hesitation.