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Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
The Christmas Story  [35:16] (see end of review for full track listing)
Giovanni GABRIELI (1557-1612)
Christmas Motets
Quem vidistis pastores [8:35]
Audite principes [5:44]
O magnum mysertium [3:08]
Salvator Noster [4:17]  
John Mark Ainsley (Evangelist), Michael George (Herod), Ruth Holton (Angel)
The King’s Consort/Robert King
rec. St-Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead, London, 12-14 December 1989. DDD

A reissue on Helios of a 1990 Hyperion recording. This disc presents a lovely combination of Schütz’s The Christmas Story, and four Gabrieli motets for Christmas. An appropriate grouping, given the influence of Gabrieli and Venetian music on the young Schutz who studied under Gabrieli in the early 1600s. There he imbibed both traditional Venetian styles and the new, cutting-edge musical ideas that proliferated in that most musical of cities. Schutz spent most of his life engaged to the Court of Saxony, and wrote his Christmas Story at the grand age of seventy-five, a few years after he had finally been granted the retirement he had long sought. Not all the music has survived. Although some manuscripts discovered in 1908 filled in some of the gaps, much of it still has to be reconstructed.
It is an interesting work from a musicological point of view, as the earliest extant Nativity setting to use recitative for the Evangelist. Yet, more than that, it is a wonderful piece of musical drama – an extremely vibrant and pictorial work, as seen in the vivid word-painting. Add to this the clever use of instrumentation: rustic recorders and dulcian are employed for the shepherds, trombones for the high priests, and two cornetts or trumpets for King Herod.
John Mark Ainsley here makes a well-paced and sympathetic Evangelist, with his beautiful, light and nimble tenor and his sensitivity to the nuances of the text. The Angel is sung by an appropriately sweet-toned Ruth Holton, and Michael George is wonderfully deep and blustering as Herod. The King’s Consort performs admirably under Robert King’s expert direction. Given the fact that the performers include the likes of James Bowman and Mark Padmore and similarly illustrious exponents in the instruments, the calibre is as high as one might expect.
Gabrieli was one of the most important Venetian musicians of his time. His life revolved around producing music for various state and religious occasions. Christmas in particular was celebrated with tremendous pomp and style. Four Christmas motets are presented here – the sixteen part Quem vidistis pastores, Audite principes, the magnificent O magnum mysterium, and Salvator Noster.
Glorious music, excellent performances.
Em Marshall

Full track listing for The Christmas Story
Introduction oder Eingang zu der Geburt unsers Herren Jesu Christi [1:30]
Es begab sich aber zu derselbigen Zeit [3:09]
Der Engel zu den Hirten auf dem Felde Furchtet euch nicht |2:5l]
Und alsbald war da bei dem Engel [0:17]
Die Menge der Engel Ehre sei Gott in der Hohe [1:57]
Und da die Engel von ihnen gen Himmel fuhren [0:19]
Die Hirten auf dem Felde Lasset uns nun gehen gen Bethlehem [1:25]
llnd sie kamen eilend und funden beide, Marien und Joseph [2:48]
Die Weisen aus Morgenlande Woistder neugeborne Konig derJuden? [1:54]
Da das der Kbnig Herodes hbrete, erschrak er [0:41]
Hohepriester und Schritgelehrte Zu Bethlehem im jiidischen Lande [2:34]
Da berief Herodes die Weisen heimlich [0:30]
Herodes Ziehet hin undforschetfleissignach dem Kindlein [1:52]
Als sie nun den Konig gehoret hatten, zogen sie hin [2:22]
Der Engel zu Joseph Stehe auf, Joseph, und nimm das Kindlein [1:32]
llnd er stund auf und nahm das Kindlein [3:30]
Der Engel zu Joseph Stehe auf, Joseph, und nimm das Kindlein [1:34]
Und er stund auf und nahm das Kindlein [2:07]
Beschluss der Geburt unseres Herrn und Seligmachers Jesu Christi Dank sagen wir alle Gott [2:17]


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