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Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707) In dulci Jubilo
Kommst du, Licht der Heiden BuxWV 66 [9í44"]
Magnificat BuxWV Anh. 1 [7í11"]
Wie soll ich dich empfangen BuxWV 109 [7í52"]
Ihr lieben Christen freut euch nun BuxWV 51 [11Ď00"]
Cantate Domino BuxWV 12 [7í57"]
Das neugeborne Kindelein BuxWV 13 [6í55"]
In dulci Jubilo BuxWV 52 [6í14"]
Alleluja BuxWV 43 [2í10"]
Vocalensemble Rastatt; Les Favorites/Holger Speck
Rec. Altkatholische Aufersterhungskirke, Karlsruhe, 26-30 October 2003
CARUS 83.156 [59í51"]


Itís likely that all the music included here was composed by Buxtehude during his lengthy tenure as organist of St. Marien in Lübeck (1668-1707). As the title suggests, the CD contains music primarily for the seasons of Advent and Christmas. There are some exceptions; the vivacious, celebratory Alleluja with which the programme concludes is taken from an Easter cantata (which may not even be by Buxtehude). Also, itís not certain from the notes whether the setting of the Magnificat was made for Christmas and, of course, the text of Cantate Domino is likewise appropriate to other times in the churchís year. However, all three of these pieces would grace any Christmas liturgy and the remainder of the programme is very definitely seasonal.

The pieces are compact, as will be seen from the track timings. The longest and most elaborate is the Advent cantata, Ihr lieben Christen freut euch nun. It is cast in eight short sections and is richly, even extravagantly laid out for vocal soloists, five part choir and an orchestra that includes three each of cornets and trombones as well as timpani. Thereís a good deal of rejoicing in the music, not least in the exuberant final chorus, and the brass and drums are used to frequent and splendid effect. Indeed so celebratory is the piece that it seems more suited to Christmas itself. I wonder if it was written for the Third Sunday of Advent when, customarily, the church eases up a little in the penitential observance of Advent? Itís extremely well done here.

But thatís true of the whole programme which is executed with stylish finesse by Holger Speck and his musicians. The choir, Vocalensemble Rastatt, which Speck founded, is fairly small, consisting of up to seven sopranos and three each of alto (male), tenor and bass. The soloists are drawn from within the ranks of the choir and without exception they do extremely well. According to the notes the choir performs a wide range of music, ranging from the baroque to the twentieth century. The orchestra, Les Favorites, on the other hand, is a specialist baroque group, 18-strong, which plays on period instruments. It too was founded by Holger Speck. They support the singers most effectively.

Throughout the disc the rhythms are crisply articulated by singers and players alike. The forces are expertly balanced and diction and tuning are excellent. In both Cantate Domino and Das neugeborne Kindelein the light flexible singing is particularly admirable.

This is repertoire which may not be familiar to collectors other than specialists. However, it is well worth investigating, especially as the performances are so expert and, frankly, so joyful. The recorded sound is very good and Carus helpfully provide the notes and texts in English, French and German. This is a most enjoyable CD which offers a welcome opportunity to experience some less familiar music for the Christmas season. Recommended.

John Quinn

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