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Gottfried August HOMILIUS (1714-1785)
Ein Lammlein geht und tragt die Schuld – Passion Cantata HoWV.I.2 (published 1775)
Monika Mauch (soprano)
Bogna Bartosz (mezzo)
Markus Brutscher (tenor)
Hans Christoph Begemann (bass)
Basler Madrigalisten
Neue Düsseldorfer Hofmusik/Friz Naf
rec. Reformerte Kirche Arlesheim, March 2006
CARUS 83.262 [59:30 + 34:17]

Gottfried August Homilius was a pupil of J. S. Bach, whose influence abounds in this notable work first published in 1775. It’s written to a text by E.A.Buschmann which is newly written and not taken directly from the Passion narrative – though it is certainly based on scripture, often the Old Testament. The text, and thus the work, is contemplative in the main, reflective, and it encouraged from Homilius a suitably warm and simple homophonic style framed by some appetising and highly effective instrumental devices. It’s clear that both types of Passion – the strict and the more diffuse – existed in Dresden at the time Homilius set to work on his Passion Cantata Ein Lammlein geht und tragt die Schuld. Given the vast amount of choral music from this period it should not come as so much of a shock to realise that this is its first ever recording – though the quality of the music is such that it makes its appearance highly desirable (see also the review of the St John Passion by Homilius).
The writing is simple, direct and unaffected. Chorales are shorn of artifice and spurious decoration. But Homilius was certainly not a composer devoid of flair or the power of dramatic pointing.  The tenor aria Wie tödlich schrecken die Gerichte is genuinely dramatic. Similarly the prayerful simplicity of the choral writing, the solo arias and recitatives is matched by subtlety of instrumental voicings and voice placement. The uplifting winds in the bass aria Ich bete, zürnet nicht add another layer of colour and significance to the writing. In general though the dramatic is kept within bounds. The crowd’s curses are relatively downplayed – not exactly decorous but mild.
There are times, especially in the later stages when one perhaps feels the lack of absolute melodic distinction in some of the arias but Homilius is certainly a master of the deployment of recitative, which never linger or court boredom. He employs fugal passages sparely. There’s an excellent one however – Drana ist erschienen – that reveals a totally accomplished unflorid and textually astute composer at work. There are no fripperies in this setting – and the wonder is that austerity is easily circumvented.
The soloists do vary in accomplishment. The tenor has a very prominent bleat and soprano Monika Mauch sounds very occasionally taxed by some of the more difficult writing but she’s otherwise impressive. The bass and mezzo are similarly excellent. The choir sounds to have been on absolutely first class form as well, with singing that fuses sympathy with refinement; instrumental strands are always audible and in scale. The direction of Friz Naf is clearly paramount in all this and the ensemble and choir have been most attractively recorded as well. This is a hybrid SACD and comes in a gatefold-type double CD box. It makes its appeal through the most refined and sympathetic of means.
Jonathan Woolf




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