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Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Sacred Choral Music 1648
Knabenchor Hannover/Heinz Hennig
rec. 1981-84, St Osdag Church, Mandelsloh, Germany
RONDEAU ROP7021/22 [2 CDs: 154:40]

Some 35 years ago the Knabenchor Hannover recorded the complete set of Geistliche Chormusik published in 1648 by Heinrich Schütz. I have to confess that I missed it at the time, nor have I ever come across it until now, but I read that it was very much a landmark recording in the field of early music; as the publicity for this re-mastered release of the original recordings puts it, “In 1984, the disc constituted a pioneering effort in the field of historically informed performance practice and…has remained a benchmark recording ever since”.

Before commenting on the recording and performances, it might be wise to introduce the music. In 1648 Heinrich Schütz published this collection of 29 motets in five to seven parts titled Geistliche Chormusik (“Sacred Choral Music”). The meaning of the word “Chor” (choir) has rather changed since then. For Schütz it referred not only to a vocal ensemble, but also to a wider group of musicians both vocalists and instrumentalists. In his own foreword to the publication, Schütz suggested that all the parts of the motets could be performed vocally and/or instrumentally. That flexibility gives scope to the performers to add much variety and, in this case, to fill two CDs when the 29 motets themselves amount to not much more than 90 minutes of music; the extra tracks being alternative versions using a variety of vocal/instrumental combinations.

Originally released by Harmonia Mundi as an LP the remastering is excellent, and while the sound is sometimes a trifle hard-edged and the balance sometimes a little askew, there is no real feeling of age about these recordings in the actual sound quality. There is, however, a strong feeling of age about the performances themselves. In an age when English cathedral choirs (still, then, all boys) had moved away from the warm, hooty English style to what was euphemistically called “Continental Tone”, here we have a vivid example of that “Continental Tone” before it was, in a strange process of reversal, rather modified by the influence of English choirs and choirmasters. It is a brittle, sharply focused sound, feminine in its brightness and with its latent vibrato, often assertive and concerned more with projection than blend, with diction less obvious than rhythmic impetus and unfailingly invigorating in its energetic delivery. It does not suit every style of music, but it seems wholly appropriate for this repertory.

Heinz Hennig (1927-2002) was a visionary choir trainer and created in his Hannover boys’ choir a very accomplished musical ensemble which sung with remarkable precision and control. He injected much energy into the music, moulded the dynamics subtly and gave a fine sense of structure to the musical phrases. The polyphonic lines were crystal clear, while the chording was superbly balanced. I particularly take to the way he ends phrases, letting them fade but never overplaying his hand. If I were to choose a single track to demonstrate both the choir and Hennig’s approach to the music at their best, I think I would go to the six-part O lieber Herre Gott, wecke uns auf, a motet which goes through a whole range of rhythmic, melodic and textural devices and could, in less conscientious hands, sound bitty and incoherent. Hennig drives it onwards, embracing all the switching musical gears without any hint of a wobble.

Supporting the full choir in this motet is a chorus of six viole da gamba which only make their presence felt on occasions. Another six-part motet, Ich bin eine rufende Stimme is presented by six solo voices doubled by a brass choir, which puts an entirely different complexion on the music, and by adding a sextet of flutes to Ein Kind ist uns geboren, Hennig adds a delightfully Christmassy feel to this famous text. It is that continual modification of the performing resources, carefully devised to reflect the spirit of the texts themselves, which gives this disc such a refreshing and stimulating edge.

Marc Rochester

Contents
Disc 1 [76:31]
Es wird das Zepter von Juda nicht entwendet werden (SWV 369) [3:25]
Er wird sein Kleid in Wein waschen (SWV 370) [2:40]
Es ist erschienen die heilsame Gnade Gottes (SWV 371) [4:06]
Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich (SWV 372) [2:21]
Gib unsern Fürsten (SWV 373) [2:10]
Unser keiner lebet ihm selber (SWV 374) [3:26]
Viel werden kommen von Morgen und von Abend (SWV 375) [2:46]
Sammlet zuvor das Unkraut (SWV 376) [1:37]
Herr, auf dich traue ich (SWV 377) [3:09]
Die mit Tränen säen (SWV 378) [3:48]
So fahr ich hin zu Jesu Christ (SWV 379) [3:32]
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt (SWV 380) [2:41]
O lieber Herre Gott, wecke uns auf (SWV 381) [3:24]
Tröstet, tröstet mein Volk (SWV 382) [3:47]
Ich bin eine rufende Stimme (SWV 383) [4:06]
Ein Kind ist uns geboren (SWV 384) [3:59]
Das Wort ward Fleisch (SWV 385) [4:19]
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (SWV 386) [4:37]
Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr (SWV 387) [8:24]
Das ist je gewisslich wahr (SWV 388) [5:00]
Ich bin ein rechter Weinstock (SWV 389) [3:34]
 
Disc 2 [ 78:09]
Unser Wandel ist im Himmel (SWV 390) [3:51]
Selig sind die Toten (SWV 391) [4:19]
Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit (SWV 392) [4:06]
Ich weiß, dass mein Erlöser lebt (SWV 393) [2:57]
Sehet an den Feigenbaum (SWV 394) [4:56]
Der Engel sprach zu den Hirten (SWV 395) [3:00]
Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehöret (SWV 396) [4:42]
Du Schalksknecht (SWV 397) [4:21]
Es wird das Zepter von Juda nicht entwendet warden (SWV 369) [3:18]
Er wird sein Kleid in Wein waschen (SWV 370) [2;41]
Gib unsern Fürsetn und aller Obrigkeit (SWV 373) [2:08]
Die mit Tränen säen (SWV 378) [3:44]
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (SWV 386) [4:44]
Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit (SWV 392) [3:49]
Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit (SWV 392) [3:22]
Sehet an den Feigenbaum (SWV 394) [4:46]
Der Engel sprach zu den Hirten (SWV 395) [2:55]
Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehöret (SWV 396) [4:57]
Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehöret (SWV 396) [5:01]
Du Schalksknecht (SWV 397) [4:32]

 



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