If the Angels Sing Schuetz in Heaven...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 07/22/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"... I might not find Eternity such a horrifying prospect!
This is the fourth box of Brilliant Classics' "Heinrich Schütz" Edition", all performed by Cappella Augustana, and this is in several ways the most 'brilliant' offering so far. It includes:
* CDs 1&2 - Schütz's second set of "Small Spiritual Concertos", Opus 9 of 1639, all 31 of them, several not available on any other CD
* CD 3 - Musikalische Exequien, Opus 7 of 1636, which is available from other ensembles, none of whom match Cappella Augustana in expressive musicianship!
* CDs 4&5 - Geistliche Chor-music, Opus 11 of 1648. The recording by the Bach Collegium Japan is okay, but it sounds like a 'summer camp' performance next to the polyphony artistry of Cappella Augustana and the interpretive energy of conductor Matteo Messori!
* CD 6 - CD-ROM including amples notes and performer info, and full texts
The early Volumes have been:
* V1 - 5 CDs, with Schütz's "Symphoniae Sacrae I & II" complete, plus his "Weihnachtshistorie". There are several very excellent recordings of the Symphonie Sacrae available, though none better than this.
* V2 - 5 CDs, with the Venetian Madrigals, Opus 1 of 1611; "Cantiones Sacrae of 1625; and the first set of "Small Spiritual Concertos", 24 of them.
* V3 - 4 CDs, with Schütz's three "Passions' and his "Resurrection History", featuring Gerd Türk and Bas Ramselaar along with Cappella Augustana.
The Kleine Geistliche Concerte (Small Spiritual Concertos) and the Geistliche Chor-music were never intended to be performed all in sequence as concert hall music, Schütz published them for practical usage by the musicians of Lutheran congregations throughout the Germany of the Thirty Years War. They are deliberately modest in scope, requiring only small forces and not demanding operatic virtuosity of the singers, yet extremely sophisticated and 'progressive' in the Italianate Baroque style that Schütz disseminated across northern Europe. One CAN listen to them all in a row, especially when they are so affectively varied as they are on these recordings, but really each of the small concerts is a mini-masterwork worth hearing just by itself. The Opus 9 pieces, some sung in German and some in Latin, are accompanied appropriately by organ and/or spinettone. The Geistliche Chor-music motets are supported by and varied by performances of inner lines on cornetto and trombones, a practice approved by Schütz, and for once the trombones are as "vocal" as the voices. Superb ensemble throughout!
The Musikalische Exequien, Opus 7, is in effect a unified "Concert in the form of a German Requiem Mass", with elements of recitativo, aria, and chorus, supported by organ/spinettone continuo and obbligato instruments, again cornetto and alto/tenor/bass trombones. Wow! If I were planning to die any time soon, this is the music I'd request for my memorial service!
There will necessarily be one more large box of performances in the Schütz Edition, including the "Psalmen Davids" (Schütz's first published sacred music) and the Opus Ultimum 'Schwanengesang', Schütz's ambitious doublr-choir setting of Psalms 119, 100, and the Magnificat. Then it seems probable that Brilliant Classics will eventually market the complete works in one box, and that will be the most brilliant of all their completions. But I don't recommend waiting! Life is an uncertain business. You WANT to hear this music now!"