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alternatively Crotchet


Die Vögel unter dem Himmel
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen SWV 29 [7:37]
Ich weiß, daß mein Erlöser lebt SWV 393 [2:37]
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes SWV 386 [4:30]
So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ SWV 379 [2:43]
Die mit Tränen säen werden mit Freuden ernten SWV 378 [3:26]
Aus der Tiefe ruf ich, Herr, zu dir SWV 25 [4:23]
Herr, unser Herrscher SWV 27 [4:37]
Cantate Domino canticum novum SWV 81 [3:22]
Meine Seele erhebt den Herren SWV 494 [7:37]
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied SWV 35 [5:31]
Alleluja! Lobet den Herren in seinem Heiligtum SWV 38 [9:39] **
Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654)
Modus pleno organo pedaliter a 6 [1:22]
Ein kindelein so lobelich [3:28]
Da Jesus an dem Kreuze [2:17]
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott [2:54]
Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN (1595-1663)
Toccata G-dur [5:04]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621)
Puer nobis nascitur [3:07]
The National Youth Choir of Great Britain/Mike Brewer
John Kitchen (organ); Edward Batting (organ) **
rec. 16-17 September, 2006, 12-13 April, 2007, St Alban the Martyr, Holborn, UK; 4-5 August, 2007, Merton College Chapel, Oxford, UK. DDD
DELPHIAN DCD34043 [74:16]

Experience Classicsonline

Not for nothing is Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) often called the greatest German (speaking) composer before Bach. His music has variety, depth, technical acuity and originality, joy, pain, regret, grief, hope - amongst a wide range of emotions, clarity and a felicitous shade of the grave effortlessly balanced between sternness and wisdom. Such equilibrium, when the composer was aware of dread, death and depression of the Thirty Years War, is particularly striking and confers upon his mostly devotional musical output something special and appealing. 

For all that, Schütz is under-performed and under-appreciated. His œuvre all too often gets shunted into a Christmas compilation disc or is talked about without being actually listened to properly. Lovers of Baroque music will all benefit as Schütz gathers many and competent advocates. 

In The National Youth Choir of Great Britain he’s certainly found yet another champion. ‘Die Vögel unter dem Himmel’ is an almost hour long anthology of sacred choral music by Schütz with half a dozen pieces lasting just under a further 20 minutes by contemporaries, Scheidt, Scheidemann and Sweelinck. 

It must be said that the quality of singing by the Choir under Michael Brewer is very high indeed. The recorded repertoire of the ‘NYC’ (founded in 1983) has tended to emphasise living composers … Giles Swayne, Karl Jenkins, Alan Rawsthorne. Maybe it’s comfort in this milieu that gives their approach to Schütz such freshness and clarity. The Choir’s attention to the all-important marriage of words and melody that came as much from Schütz’s Italian experiences as anywhere is exemplary: never forced or self-conscious but deliberate yet benevolent. As if the Choir is singing just for you but without any sense of servility or reticence: the music is exposed in all its fervent polish and delicacy – just as is. The Choir and Brewer see no need to embellish in order to persuade. 

Still, the Choir’s trenchant, engaged and vigorous singing draws the listener into the music without fuss or frills. The pacing is right, the balance both between the way one Schütz item follows another and the way in which the Schütz pieces are set amongst those of Scheidt, Scheidemann and Sweelinck is right; and so is the emphasis which the singers are keen to place on the relationship of text to melody. 

This relationship is important because real sensitivity to Schütz’s Italianate idiom is required. It’s important not to slip into a style more redolent of Monteverdi and St Mark’s than one embedded in Protestant Saxony. It’s also important because the numbers in the Choir (well over a hundred) are much greater than Schütz would ever have expected to use. They preserve detail well. 

So this is a satisfying and stimulating collection of Baroque choral pieces. The organ plays a minor but important rôle and adds a welcome spatial depth. The recording – in two locales - is a good one. The informative booklet contains the texts in German/Latin and English with a useful background essay – and photographs which (with Brewer conducting in shorts) convey the down-to-earth and relaxed accomplishments of this ensemble of young musicians. Because these forces have understood so well that the appeal of Schütz’s sincerity lies more in energy than in maudlin, it is hard to see how this recording can fail to delight. 

Mark Sealey 




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