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Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Symphonie Sacrae I (1629) [90:44]
Dorothee Mields, Isabel Jantschek (soprano), David Erler (alto), Georg Poplutz, Tobias Mäthger (tenor), Felix Schwandte (bass)
Margret Baumgartl, Karina Müller (violin), Friederike Otto, Anna Schall, Julia Fritz (cornett), Anna Schall, Julia Fritz (recorder), Sebastian Krause, Julian Nagel, Masafumi Sakamoto, Fernando Günther (trombone), Clemens Schlemmer, Jennifer Harris, Eva-Maria Horn (dulcian), Andreas Arned (theorbo), Matthias Müller (violone), Ludger Rémy (organ)
Hans-Christoph Rademann (director)
rec. June 2016, Kirche St. Nicolai, Polditz, Germany
CARUS 83.273 [2 CDs: 90:44]

Hans-Christoph Rademann continues his complete survey of Schütz's works on the Carus label, now reaching its fourteenth volume, with the ground-breaking first book of the Symphoniae Sacrae from 1629. It was modelled on the similar sets by Giovanni Gabrieli with which Schütz had become familiar whilst studying and working in Venice, although his collection is more intimate in scale than the larger choral statements of his Italian models. It introduced a new style of religious vocal composition to northern Europe, away from polyphonic choral settings of texts towards a direct declamation of Scriptural words eminently suited to the Protestant emphasis laid upon the promulgation of God's word, even though this collection sets the Latin version of the selected passages.

Yet there is no Protestant austerity in these eloquent, sensitive, and often sensuous settings. This is especially so when more than one voice is used and they intertwine exquisitely, or even seductively, as appropriate in the case of the Song of Songs extracts. The form of expression in many pieces is closer, perhaps, to the style of Italian opera of the period, and Rademann ensures that the singers in this recording do not exaggerate the musical effects. They maintain a consistent clarity and discretion in bringing out the words but by no means neglect emotion.

Georg Poplutz’s interpretation of ‘Venite ad me’ is exemplary in that regard, quoting words of Christ from St. Matthew’s Gospel. With his breathless, expectant opening on the repeated “come”, and following through with the varied pace and mood of the piece’s succeeding sections, he shows care and sensitivity as though it were an operatic scena. His darker shading, akin to that of a baritone, in an otherwise bright interpretation of ‘Domine, labia mea aperies’ likewise adds character. Dorothee Mields’s insistent repetitions of “awake” and bright melismas in ‘Paratum cor meum’ is another instance, providing localised points of interest within the generally consistent demeanour of a given movement. Music such as this can only make one regret all the more that Schutz’s own opera, Dafne, no longer survives.

The settings from the Song of Songs encompass a suitably greater degree of passion, as the singers follow the rise and fall, the expectation and satisfaction, of physical desire. For example they ratchet up the tension in the triple time section on “but I found him whom my soul loveth,” in ‘Invenerunt me costudes civitatis’, which is then released in the succeeding duple time passage. Similarly the palpable rhythmic tread of the continuo in ‘Veni de Libano’ creates anticipation and excitement. This is enhanced by the increased speed towards the climactic ‘presto’ section. This Poplutz and Tobias Mäthger achieve with an almost breathless alacrity particularly in their delivery of the famous words “rise up my fair one”. After these, Isabel Jantschek sounds comparably more chaste in the joyous, confident prayer to God of ‘Exultavit cor meum’, as also in the succeeding Song of Songs setting ‘Veni dilecte mi’, with Mäthger and the delicate instrumental support of three trombonists.

As that implies, this recording does not present the twenty pieces of this collection in the sequence of their publication, but they are ordered intelligently (see track listing below). After a few Psalm settings the first disc mainly features the selections from the Song of Songs, with the paired settings following each other as appropriate. There is almost no pause between the tracks, in accordance with the presentation of Schütz’s composition. The second disc is taken up with various Scriptural settings, ending with an uplifting series of canticles from the Psalms. That draws together the varied themes and musical textures more coherently than would have been the case had the items been presented in their published order.

The instrumentalists who perform on this disc seem to be an ad hoc assemblage who are not described as forming any particular named ensemble. They make a cohesive group, however, contributing introductions and interludes to the movements which do not become vehicles for display in their own right, but set the mood for each piece. Nevertheless they are executed sensitively and some distinctive timbres are produced, for example the soft blend of the trombones in ‘Attendite, Popule Meus’ which sound like an organ, or the low reedy warble of the dulcians elsewhere.

Capella Augustana under Matteo Messori add just a frisson more excitement and colour in their performances overall, which tend to make the music more dramatic. The probing but somewhat dry manner in which Felix Schwandte enunciates the wailing reiteration of “Absalom” in David’s lament ‘Fili mi, Absalom’ for Rademann, in contrast with the more effusively projected equivalent in Messori’s recording is an instructive comparison. The availability of the latter on Brilliant Classics, at less expense, may also prove an attractive incentive. But some listeners may well prefer the relatively cooler, inward approach taken by Rademann which brings a convincing stylistic unity to a sequence of pieces which are, after all, religious reflections. As such it should still appeal to Schütz fans, as well persuade audiences less familiar with this repertoire as to the central importance of this composer to European musical culture in the 17th century.

Curtis Rogers

Track listing
CD 1
Attendite, Popule Meus, SWV270
Paratum Cor Meum, Deus, SWV257
Anima Mea Liquefacta Est, SWV263
Adjuro Vos, Filiae Jerusalem, SWV264
In Lectulo Per Noctes, SWV272
Invenerunt Me Costudes Civitatis, SWV273
O Quam Tu Pulchra Es, Amica Mea, SWV265
Veni De Libano, Veni, Amica Mea, SWV266
Exultavit Cor Meum in Domino, SWV258
Veni, Dilecte Mi, in Hortum Meum, SWV274

CD 2
Benedicam Dominum, SWV267
Exquisivi Dominum, SWV268
Venite Ad Me Omnes Qui Laboratis, SWV261
Fili Mi, Absalon, SWV269
In Te, Domine, Speravi, SWV259
Domine, Labia Mea Aperies, SWV271
Jubilate Deo Omnis Terra, SWV262
Cantabo Domino in Vita Mea, SWV260
Buccinate in Neomenia Tuba, SWV275
Jubilate Deo in Chordis, SWV276



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