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Johann Herman SCHEIN (1586-1630)
Opella Nova - Fontana D’Israel (1618-1626)
Christ Unser Herr Zum Jordan Kam [4.55]
Wende Dich, Herr [3.41]
Die mit Tränen säen [3.22]
Freue dich des Weibesdeiner Jugend [3.51]
Lieblich und schöne sein [3.55]
Da Jakob vollendet hatte [4.44]
Unser Leben währet siebnzig Jehr [3.36]
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ [2.52]
Was Betrübst du dich, meine Seele [4.55]
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir [2.54]
O Jesu Christe, Gottes sohn [4.37]
Ist nicht Ephraim mein teurer Sohn [4.10]
Erbarm dich mein [2.49]
Vom Himmel Hoch [2.04]
Christ lag in Todesbanden [4.14]
Zion Spricht; der Herr hat mich verlassen [4.46]
Komm heiliger Geist [4.31]
Ensemble Sagittarius (Dagmar Saskova (soprano); Sophie Pattey (soprano); Pierre Sciama (alto); Olivier Fichet (ténor); Marcos Loureiro de Sà (basse); J. Prahmsohler (violon); R. Martin-Alonso (ténor de viole); M. Zeoli (basse de viole); Continuo: J. Griffin (basse de viole); R. Lopes (théorbe); G. Vernhes (basson); J.M. Aristizabal (orgue de tribune))/Michel Laplénie
rec. 21-23 October 2009, Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry Church, Pyrenées-Atlantique, France
HORTUS 075 [66.05]

This release has already been given some attention on this site, with a comprehensive review by Gary Higginson covering plenty of background and content (see review). This is a selection mixing movements from the Opella Nova and Fontana d’Israel, and while there are more complete programmes of the latter are to be found the majority pick choice morsels and place them amongst Schein’s contemporaries. The Ricercar Consort on the Ricercar label RIC254 have a nicely performed handful of movements from Opella Nova on a disc you will find under Samuel Scheidt: Concertuum Sacrorum, and similar snippets have appeared on the CRD label.

With Fontana d’Israel there is more complete competition from Weser-Renaissance on the CPO label (see review) and in the form of Hermann Max’s recording on Capriccio C10290-91, a little of which appears on a crazy compilation reviewed here but is examined more closely here by Johan van Veen. This is a beautifully sung version, but Laplénie’s less homogenous sound is more intimate and lively, Max’s grander scale very nice indeed but with a fairly generalised feel over the span of the whole sequence. Even grander is Martin Flämig on Berlin Classics 0090782BC though we’re comparing chalk with cheese with these releases, the selections of movements by no means overlapping for any kind of useful comparison. If you are looking for a complete version, 83.350 on the Carus label (see review) may well do the trick, though the emphasis is again here on the more rounder sound of a larger choir rather than the emotional impact individual voices can have. Take the rising chromatic lines of Die mit Tränen säen and you will hear what I mean. The Dresdner Kammerchor makes this opening into more into a stately procession, and the quick changes of mood from sorrow to joy are in many ways better suited to the madrigal style of Michel Laplénie’s ensemble. The Dresden voices do however create gorgeous dissonances, spending more time on Sie gehen hin und tragen edlen Samen to great effect.
In the end this kind of release avoids pacing itself against rivals through intelligent and sensitive programming, and of course highly refined and at times strikingly effective performances. Schein’s placing of female against male voices creates its own little dramas and tensions, and a piece such as Lieblich und schöne sein shows this off to perfection. Beautiful clarity of tone and diction make each piece special, and the sequence has been well chosen, the more lyrical forms contrasting with those which have heartrendingly extended passages, with polyphony both slow and swift rising through the soloistic and more choral movements. Each piece explores its own inner worlds of dialogue and variety of expression but in a programme which works superbly. Little touches such as the bells at the end of Vom Himmel Hoch also make all the difference. It pays to linger on one or two pieces to see how Schein sets the texts and draws his expression from the words, though playing the whole thing through is in no way a punishing experience. All of the singers are terrific, and instrumental support very well balanced and perfectly placed. The booklet mentions the set-up for the recording, describing how the performance space was used, at which point we all dive for the final track, Komm heiliger Geist, to hear the tenor singing from up in the gallery.
Dominy Clements  

See also review by Gary Higginson