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Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
The Seven Words of Jesus Christ on the Cross
Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten swv 282
Auf dem Gebirge swv 396
Ich bin eine rufende Stimme swv 383
An den Wassern zu Babel swv 37
Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hölt swv 467
Die mit Tränen säen swv 42
Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott swv 447
Trüstet, trüstet mein Volk swv 382
Die sieben Worte Jesu Christi swv 478
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt swv 380
O süsser, o freundlicher swv 285
Ich bin die Auferstehung swv 324
Christ ist erstanden swv 470

Akademia, Françoise Lasserre
Rec: January 2000, Eglise Notre-Dame du Liban, Paris.
PIERRE VERANY PV700013 [70.32]
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Heinrich Schütz was one of Germany's most important composers of the 17th century. Standing at the crossroads of Renaissance and Baroque music, he profited from a four-year stay in Venice, where he studied with Giovanni Gabrielli, to learn "nuove musiche". This new form of music was to break with the long tradition of music designed solely to reflect the divine order of things and praise God, and to be more appealing to listeners, through more varied melodies and accompaniments.

The difficult conditions of the Thirty Years' War led Schütz to develop a more serious strain in his music. The Seven Words of Jesus Christ on the Cross, dating from 1645, is an expression of his grief. This is a stark, yet melodic work, which stands at the crossroads between the older polyphonic style and the newer instrumental oratorio, where Italianate elements are integrated, such as the recitative, and the lush harmonies of some of the vocal sections.

This medium-sized work, at just over 17 minutes, is the centrepiece of this disc, which also features a selection of other vocal works by Schütz in the same vein. Its tone is one of sorrow and grief. It features a rich accompaniment of viols and brass, together with organ, which give it an intensely sacred sound. The various sections are short, unlike many sacred works with individual movements consisting of arias or chorals. The singers are all clearly committed to this piece; their voices are all fine, although the use of vibrato by some of them is questionable, as is the use of a female evangelist. Unlike Schütz's later passions, this work is very melodic, and features a wide variety of brief arias, polyphonic sections and instrumental parts. This is a beautiful, very dramatic work.

The other works on this disc are all much shorter, but are very similar. There is an assortment of sacred vocal works for ensembles of varying sizes. They cover a vast period of Schütz's career, from 1616 to 1648, and allow listeners to examine the differences in his compositional style over this time. From works with double choir (An den Wassern zu Babel) to richly orchestrated works (Wo Gott er Herr nicht bei uns halt, with viols, theorbo and trombones), to works for solo voice with a lush accompaniment (Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, with countertenor Pascal Bertin singing over a group of viols, organ and vilone).

This wide variety of music makes this recording extremely interesting. While in some ways it is all very homogeneous, there are small differences in style that lead to many discoveries. One can regret, however, the overly succinct liner notes that only talk about the 'title' work, and do not mention any of the others.

A beautiful recording of a variety of Schütz's sacred vocal works. All the musicians and singers are excellent, the recording is perfect, and the music is very satisfying.

Kirk McElhearn

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