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In Dulci Jubilo - Romantic Choral Music for Christmas
see end of review for track listing
Norddeutscher Figuralchor/Jörg Straube
rec. St. Osdag Mandesloh, 27-29 August 2009

Experience Classicsonline

This is a tremendous Christmas disc with a difference. The ever-enterprising Dabringhaus und Grimm has opted to mine the treasures of the Romantic period for this festive offering. For me, the highlights are the Reger (all items) and the single Berg piece, but personal preference will necessarily determine personal highlights. One thing’s is for sure - the choir and conductor have lavished their attention equally on all tracks of this superb collection.
The contrast between the open, Bach-like chorale of Friedrich Silcher’s “Wie soll ich dich empfangen” and the more interior world of Heinrich Weinreis’ “Es kommt win Schiff geladen” is marked, and highly effective. Silcher was President of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Musikverein from 1968. He was a keen editor and sometime composer, and his setting is expertly polished and generally chordal, characteristics also of his setting of “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” and “Lobt Gott, ihr Christen”. Later on the disc, Herbei, O ihr Gläub’gen” is his version of the well-known “Adeste, fideles”. It is followed on the disc by a marvellously tender performance of the equally well-known “Stille Nacht” - or, to English-speaking nations, “Silent Night”.
Heinrich Weinreis, who studied in Cologne and worked in Berlin, provides a poignant harmonisation of his tune. “Es kommt ein Schiff geladen”. His carol was published in the 1915 Leipzig collection, “Volksliederbuch für gemischtern Chor”.
Mendelssohn needs no introduction, and his setting of “O Heiland reiss die Himmel auf” is simply gorgeous. It is typical of Mendelssohn in its restraint, a withholding of emotion that seems to make the result all the more telling. The well-drilled Norddeutscher Figuralchor sings with the utmost delicacy, balance and control. The choir conveys the ecstasy of the Advent carol. “Lasset uns frohlocken”. The piece for New Year’s Day, “Herr Gott, du bist unsre Zuflucht” is more settled, a place of respite. It ends on a held-breath pianissimo, beautifully rendered here.
The music of Max Reger is always worthy of study and reflection. His “Adventlied”, “Macht hoch die Tür” is the height of restrained beauty, and the performance here is faultless. Perhaps the purity of boys’ voices - as opposed to the females we have here - would have enhanced the experience even more, but the whole is so affectionately phrased and so rife with the spirit of the intimate that it remains engaging to the last. Reger was introduced to the Lutheran chorale by his teacher Karl Straube, and it was to inform many of his subsequent works. His setting of “In dulci jubilo” includes some ravishingly altered harmonies. Each phrase is simply ravishingly shaped by the choir. There is an interior element to his “Schlaf’ mein Kindelein” that invokes a memorable warmth, something which also informs the quasi-whispered world of Frans Wüllner’s “Kindelein Zart, du guter Art”. Reger’s “O Jesulein süss” is another example of sophistication - Christmas packaged as innocent simplicity.
Heinrich Kaminski taught Carl Orff in Berlin before he returned to his native Bavaria when the Nazis came to power. His setting of “Maria durch die Dornenwald ging” for the collection Volksliederbuch für die Jugend is expert, as is his setting of “Joseph, lieber Joseph mein”. The prolific self-taught composer Felix Wotsch’s setting of “Auf dem Berge da geht der Wind” is a lovely, gentle piece that seems to waft in the wind of the title. The harmonies of the upper voices when the basses take the melody are particularly effective. In total contrast is the innocence of Riedel’s brief “Kommt, ihr Hirten”.
This is only one of two available recordings of Alban Berg’s motet “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen”; the other, by the Vocal Consort Dresden on Berlin Classics, is reviewed elsewhere on this site. The setting is of the utmost beauty and delicacy - all credit to the upper voices for their exposed work. Berg’s piece dates from 1906-7 and formed part of his studies under Schoenberg.
August von Othegraven’s “Vom Himmel hoch” is a delightful miniature with distinctly contrapuntal leanings. Othegraven studied with Rheinberger in Munich and taught composition in Cologne. Interesting, also, to hear Carl Herner’s “O du fröhliche”. Herner was conductor of the Hanover Court Theatre from 1897-1900. It is here put right next to Riedel’s (brighter) setting.
The antiphonal effects of the anonymous “Als bin ich bei mienen Schafen wacht’” are beautifully rendered here.
The recording is of the very first rank. This is a SACD stereo/5.1 surround and “2+2+2” recording. The last named is for a set-up described in the booklet that involves the installation of an extra set of speakers.
Colin Clarke

Track listing
Friedrich SILCHER (1789-1860)
Wie soll ich dich empfangen [2:23]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland [1:40]
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen [3:32]
Herbei, O ihr Gläub’gen [3:15]
Heinrich WEINREIS (1874-1950)
Es kommt ein Schiff eingeladen [2:44]
O Heiland reiss die Himmel auf [3:01]
Lasset uns frohlocken [1:28]
Frohlocket ihr Völker [1:26]
Vom Himmel hoch [3:28]
Herr Gott, du bist unsre Zuflucht [2:16]
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern [2:56]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Macht hoch die Tür [4:24]
In dulci jubilo [4:41]
Schlaf’ mein Kindelein [3:32]
O Jesulein süss [2:44]
Kommt uns lasst uns [1:27}.
Heinrich KAMINSKI (1886-1946)
Maria durch die Dornenwald ging [2:36]
Felix WOYRSCH (1860-1944)
Auf dem Berge da geht der Wind [1:42]
Karl RIEDEL (1827-1888)
Kommt, ihr Hirten [1:19]
O du fröhliche [1:48]
Als bin ich bei mienen Schafen wacht’ (arr. Friedrich Spee) [2:55]
Franz WÜLLNER (1832-1902)
Kindelein zart, von guter Art [2:32]
Alban BERG (1885-1935)
Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen [5:51]
August von OTHEGRAVEN (1864-1946)
Von Himmel hoch, ihr Engel, kommt! [2:37]
Gustav SCHRECK (1849-1919)/ Eusebius MANDYSZEWSKI (1857-1929)
Stille Nacht [3:14]
Carl HERNER (1836-1906)
O du fröhliche [2:02]



































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