You can't go far wrong
in 17th Century German repertoire when
you are in the expert hands of Cantus
Cöln. They have also proved themselves
in Monteverdi since this recording was
made and first issued in 1993. The only
difference between that first release
and this re-release is that the latter
has an attractive slip-case with the
CD title in French! In addition I have
heard Cantus Cöln live at the York
Early Music Festival singing Italian
and German madrigals.
This CD marks one of
the first recordings featuring the angelic
counter-tenor of Andreas Scholl. Add
to this the beautiful and expressive
voice of the soprano Johanna Koslowsky.
The only weak link, if this is not a
little too harsh, is the bass Stephen
Schreckenburger. He is sometimes rather
challenged by the very lowest register.
It is incredible that
twenty musicians are listed for this
recording only six of which are singers.
The rest are made up of the continuo
and of the important ritornello players.
Most of the cantatas have intervening
sections for instruments alone. And
not just strings ... we have clarino
trumpets and a dulcian in Kuhnau's 'O
heliege Zelt'. There’s timpani in Knupfer's
'Ach Herr, strafe mich nicht' which
opens the CD.
The texts are all given
in good translations. There is also
an excellent accompanying essay by Peter
Wollny who, we are told, is the editor
of the Schelle pieces and one of Kuhnau
items. The other editors are unnamed.
The texts are mostly
taken from the psalms. However the cantata
by Kuhnau 'O helige Zeit', the longest
on the CD at nearly fifteen minutes,
has an anonymous text. This is in free
verse form whose general outlook would
be suitable for any time or season.
The composers represented
who were all cantors at St. Thomas'
Leipzig, are very interesting. Certainly
they should not have disappeared off
the general musical map for as long
as they have. The problem is that they
were superseded by one of the all time
greats with whom they cannot hope to
compete, the inestimable J.S. Bach.
Each has a somewhat
different style within the narrow confines
of the 'Sacred Concerto'.
Knupfer shows a strong
influence of Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672)
especially in the choral writing. Kuhnau,
on the other hand, is quite classical
in outlook, sometimes a little rococo;
more Italianate. Some of the suspensions
in 'Das ist mir lieb' reminded me of
Corelli. Less strictly contrapuntal
than Knupfer is Johann Schelle whose
sadly all too brief cantata for two
sopranos 'Ach, mein herzliebes Jesulein’,
is delightfully sectionalized so that
each line has a differing idea.
Each cantata opens
with all voices and is then broken up
by solo sections. These sections are
sometimes in definite verses; sometimes
dueting in echo. Often the verses are
divided by ritornello sections. Many
pieces are very expressive, as for example
the setting by Schelle of Psalm 130
'Out of the depths have I cried to thee
O lord' (Aus der Tieffen rufe ich).
This is a very fine
disc of rare repertoire, superbly and
beautifully performed, ravishingly recorded.
The whole enterprise, both in presentation
and in music-making, is of the highest