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Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Dorothee Mields, Isabel Jantschek, Ulrike Hofbauer, Magdalena Kircheis (soprano), Aneta Petrasová, David Erler, Stefan Kunath (alto), Georg Poplutz, Tobias Mäthger (tenor), Martin Schicketanz (bass)
Dresdner Kammerchor
Dresdner Barockorchester/Hans-Christoph Rademann
rec. 2006-16, Weinbergkirche ‘Zum Heiligen Geist’, Dresden-Pillnitz; Trinitatiskirche, Zwönitz; Lukaskirche, Dresden; Stadtkirche ‘Zum Heiligen Namen Gottes’, Radeberg
Full German text
CARUS 83.016 [74:50]

This is not a single complete set of Psalm settings which Schütz made in any of his published collections, but rather a compendium of assorted compositions from various volumes, drawing upon the complete edition of his music performed under Hans-Christoph Rademann’s direction and recorded on the Carus label. Schütz compiled two collections of Psalms – the Psalmen Davids, op. 2, and the ‘Becker’ Psalter, op. 5 – but this disc also includes other Psalm settings which happen to feature in his Kleine geistliche Konzerte, op. 8, and the Geistliche Chormusik, op. 11. This release orders its selections by theme, framing the set with the two versions of Psalm 98 from the op. 2 and 5 collections: its opening phrase ‘Sing to the Lord a new song’ therefore acts as a joyful motto for the whole compilation.

This recorded compendium comprises an eclectic range of styles and genres which Schütz cultivated in his long and fruitful musical career. The Dresdner Kammerchor sing the simpler, chorale-like settings from the Becker Psalter with a generally brisk efficiency, ringing the changes in the repeated strophic structure by alternating full choral verses with others which feature differing combinations of solo voices singing their given vocal lines rather than taking the soprano line, thereby revealing the counterpoint inherent in the homophonic textures. That is particularly helpful in the long 25 verse setting of Psalm 136, although use of the full choir throughout Psalm 137 becomes enervating in comparison, but arguably it makes sense of the communitarian nature of this great affirmation of the Israelites’ hopefulness and faith during the desolation of their exile in Babylon – and perhaps, by extension, that of the beleaguered Protestant cause during the long, bloody Thirty Wars’ War which raged when Schütz assembled this set.

In the concertato settings for just a couple of parts and continuo, the vocal soloists bring a suitable restraint and intimacy, matched by the close recording which mimics the atmosphere of private devotion. In comparison there is a more resonant, open acoustic for the a cappella settings of Psalms 19 and 71 which are like a Palestrina motet in their polyphonic textures, but are sung by the choir here with more fervour and earnestness than is ordinarily encountered in the serene Latin church music of the latter. However, they share with such repertoire a crispness and clarity of timbre, and an organic fluidity of tempo.

The more small-scale settings do not entail any less degree of interest, in either the music or the performances they receive here. ‘Bringt her dem Herren’ for soprano, and conflating verses from Psalms 29 and 66, virtually constitutes an operatic arioso with its free rhythmic structure devoid of bar lines. Ulrike Hofbauer evinces a pleasing variety of colours in her interpretation as well as an edgy dramatic sensibility that comes close to the world of the theatre. In the delicious suspensions of ‘Erhöre mich, wenn ich rufe’ Hofbauer and Dorothee Mields produce the ravishing sort of tonal lustre which looks ahead to the melismas in the third part of Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres for example, whilst Psalm 27 for two tenors proceeds in an almost pompous manner in George Poplutz and Tobias Mäthger’s reading.

The full eight-part setting of Psalm 98 which rounds off the disc makes for an ideally arresting conclusion, sung with a grandeur that befits the scope and ambition of a score which virtually equals Bach’s motets more than a century later, and those by Bruckner a further century still, in the breadth and boldness of its homophonic chordal sequences. It contrasts strikingly with the almost madrigalisan charm which Rademann brings out of the version of the same Psalm at the opening of the CD. In short, the release makes a good introduction to the achievement of perhaps the greatest German composer before Bach, but also serves as a useful sample of Carus’s complete edition of Schütz’s works for those who do not want to commit to the whole cycle.

Curtis Rogers

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Psalm 98) SWV 196 [2:13]
Wohl dem, der nicht wandelt im Rat der Gottlosen (Psalm 1) SWV 290 [3:18]
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren (Psalm 103) SWV 201 [4:00]
Der Herr ist groß (Psalm 145) SWV 286 [2:13]
Wie sehr lieblich und schöne (Psalm 84) SWV 181 [4:35]
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (Psalm 19) SWV 386 [4:20]
Erhöre mich, wenn ich rufe (Psalm 4 & 5) SWV 289 [2:19]
Schaffe in mir, Gott, ein reines Herz (Psalm 51) SWV 291 [2:02]
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir (Psalm 130) SWV 235 [3:44]
Jauchzet dem Herren, alle Welt (Psalm 100) SWV 198 [1:22]
Bringt her dem Herren, ihr Gewaltigen (Psalm 29 & 66) SWV 283 [3:01]
Mit Dank wir sollen loben (Psalm 8) SWV 104 [2:59]
Was haben doch die Leut im Sinn (Psalm 2) SWV 98 [5:07]
Eile mich, Gott, zu erretten (Psalm 70) SWV 282 [3:09]
An Wasserflüssen Babylon (Psalm 137) SWV 242 [5:39]
Herr, auf dich traue ich (Psalm 71) SWV 377 [2:51]
Eins bitte ich vom Herren (Psalm 27) SWV 294 [2:20]
Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt (Psalm 23) SWV 120 [2:29]
Danket dem Herren, gebt ihm Her (Psalm 136) SWV 241 [9:02]
Lobt Gott in seinem Heiligtum (Psalm 150) SWV 255 [2:32]
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Psalm 98) SWV 35 [5:22]



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