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Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Symphoniae Sacrae I SWV 257-276 *
Cantabo Domino in vita mea [5.17]
O quam tu pulchra es [4.56]
Veni de Libano, amica mea [4.16]
Paratum cor meum, Deus [4.07]
Domine, labia mea aperies [4.23]
Fili mi Absalon [5.08]
In lectulo per noctes [5.37]
Invenerunt me custodes Civitates [4.34]
Buccinate in neomenia tuba [3.55]
Jubilate Deo in chordis et organo [2.54]
Jubilate Deo omnis terra [5.36]
Anima mea liquefacta est [3.46]
Adjuro vos, filiae Jerusalem [3.34]
Exsultavit cor meum in Domino [4.51]
In te, Domine, speravi [5.32]
Veni, dilecte mi, in hortum meum [5.10]
Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis [8.18]
Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore [3.26]
Exquivisi Dominum et exaudivit me [3.33]
Attendite, popule meus, legem meam [7.44]
Paratum cor meum, Deus [3.41]

Michael Diedrich, soprano
Norbert Kleinschmidt, soprano
Thomas Nitschke, soprano
Werner Marschall, descant
Reinhart Ginzel, tenor
Albrecht Lepetit, tenor
Peter Schreier, tenor
Ekkehard Wagner, tenor and altus
Gothart Stier, baritone
Hermann Christian Polster, bass
Günther Schmidt, bass
Capella Fidicinia, Hans Grau

Rec: 1984
BERLIN CLASSICS 0092502BC. [101.09]
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Heinrich Schütz was 43 years old, in 1628, when he went on a journey to Italy. Already considered an important musician and composer, he had been the Kapellmeister at the Dresden court since 1617, and would hold this position until his death. While he may not have made his first, earlier trip to Italy with full enthusiasm, he made this second voyage with pleasure. In addition to listening to new music and recruiting musicians for the Dresden court, he also took advantage of this trip to purchase instruments.

Schütz spent most of this trip in Venice, where he composed the first volume of his Symphoniae Sacrae (or sacred symphonies), publishing them under his Latinized name, Henricus Sagittarius, as his opus 6. The 20 songs (these are not symphonies in the modern sense of the word) are mostly based on texts from the Old Testament, and feature from one to five singers and a small instrumental ensemble playing continuo.

There is a clear Italian influence in these works. One immediately thinks of madrigals, such as those by Gesualdo or Monteverdi. Unlike Schütz's passions, more ascetic works for voices only, these pieces exude rich pleasure and emotion, as the voices waft over the instrumental accompaniment, or sing along in counterpoint. While these are songs, where the text is essential, one feels that the accompaniment is just as important, as if it were a separate, unique voice dialoguing with the singer(s).

There is a wide variety of arrangements in these short works. The first piece, Cantabo Domino in vita mea, admirably sung by Peter Schreier, has brilliant sections where two violins play a beautifully elegant melody as Schreier sings alleluia, but also two flutes playing in an interlude. In Domine, labia mea aperies, horns open the piece and dominate, and then the ethereal voice of a boy soprano enters in a duo with a tenor, creating a unique sound with the juxtaposition of the voices and horns.

Jubilate Deo omnis terra is a curious piece, with two piccolos, two lutes and continuo accompanying a bass, providing yet another surprising combination of sounds, recalling the minstrel music of the Renaissance. In te, Domine, speravi is a simple song with a violin providing a counterpoint for an organ and alto; this work has that restrained joyous sound of many English works of the same period.

This was a unique period, when the Italians were making new inroads into musical styles, and the many visitors to Italy discovered these new forms of music and took them back to their countries. Schütz fully explored this new style of music, using every form of instrumentation possible, and later returned to Germany, helping propagate these new sounds and textures, helping to open the door to the music of the 18th century.

The recording is fine, and most of the soloists and instrumentalists are quite good. The boy sopranos are a bit weak, as is often the case, but this gives their songs an authentic feel that is totally acceptable.

An excellent recording of some of Schütz's most varied works. With a clear Italian influence, these pieces represent a key period in Schütz's career. Full of joy, this is beautiful, moving music.

Kirk McElhearn

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