Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585–1672)
Madrigale und Hochzeitsmusiken
(German Madrigals and Wedding Music) - Complete recordings, Vol. 19
Details after review.
Dorothee Mields (soprano) Isabel Schicketanz (soprano) David Erler
(counter-tenor) Georg Poplutz (tenor) Tobias Mäthger (tenor) Felix
Dresdner Kammerchor and Instrumentalists [Margret Baumgartl, Wolfgang von
Kessinger (violin); Juliane Laake, Frauke Hess, Sarah Perl (viola da
gamba); Friederike Otto, Anna Schall, Thomas Friedlaender (cornet);
Sebastian Krause, Julia Nagel, Masafumi Sakamoto (trombone); Clemens
Schlemmer (dulcian); Andreas Arend, Stephan Rath, Magnus Andersson (theorbo
and lute); Matthias Müller (violone); Beate Rölleck (organ)]/Hans-Christoph
rec. Stadtkirche „Zum Heiligen Namen Gottes“ Radeberg, 20–24 June 2018.
Texts and translations included.
Volume 19 already and counting; the end
of the first complete Schütz edition is nigh! Volume 20 is already in the
offing (Psalmen und Friedensmusiken, 2 CDs). Hans-Christoph
Rademann is also something of a pluralist: see my
review of his recent recording with the Gaechinger Cantorey of four Bach
Cantatas (Accentus ACC30466).
Volume 18, in the Summer
of 2018, contained recordings of his Symphoniæ Sacræ II –
– but the new album brings a change from the usual sacred settings. All the
recordings to date – at least, the ones that I have heard – have been
first-rate; the new CD is no less so. Johan van Veen thought Rademann a
little too unadventurous in his recording of the Christmas story, Weihnachtshistorie –
– but I would exonerate volumes 18 and 19 from
any such reservation.
For a composer as open as Schütz to the latest music from Italy to compose
madrigals is hardly surprising. Carus have already given us his Op.1
Italian works, in which within the terms of his own North German resources,
he often seems to out-Gabrieli and out-Monteverdi those Italian masters
review). That recording of madrigals performed by a full choir,
however, was one of the
least successful in the Carus series; better is to be found from Sette Voci
(actually nine singers) on CPO 777660-2 –
There’s also a super-budget Harmonia Mundi recording from Concerto Vocale
and René Jacobs (HMA1901162, download only, no booklet). The
Italian madrigals are really not Schütz at his best – like his teacher, Giovanni Gabrieli, he’s more
noted for his sacred choral music. I’ve owned the Harmonia Mundi for years
and, to be honest, forgot that I had it.
Volume 19 gives us less the well-known but more interesting German madrigals
and wedding music, performed by a smaller ensemble than the Italian
madrigals. The surprises are that Schütz didn’t compose more such music and
that it has not been more frequently recorded: a CPO recording by
Weser-Renaissance Bremen and Manfred Cordes seems to be the only currently
alternative, of which more below (Schütz Secular Music, 9995182). Two of
the works on the new Carus are receiving their first recordings.
So similar is the secular music on these two recordings to Schütz’s
better-known and more copious sacred music that a spot of ‘innocent ear’
comparison would often find it hard to distinguish between the two. Again,
this should not be surprising: not only did composers of the time fail to
see a great dichotomy between the two, but most of the music here uses a
text from the Bible, much of it from the Song of Songs or a German poetic
paraphrase thereof. That was fashionable, too, with Palestrina composing a complete set
of sacred madrigals to texts from that source.
The complete set of the Palestrina from the Hilliard Ensemble, on a
budget-price 2-CD is a convenient place to find the whole set together. Better
still is a recording from Magnificat (Linn BKD174). The Sixteen are
currently ticking them off in smaller collections on their continuing
series of Palestrina’s music, now nearing its completion. For
these and other recordings of music from the Song of Songs by Palestrina
and his predecessors, please see my
of a collection from Cappella Mariana (Et’cetera KTC1602) and Volume 7 of
the Sixteen’s project (Coro COR16155).
As I was completing this review, I received a press preview of a recording
of Motets by Schütz’s Italian contemporary Alessandro Grandi (1590-1630) performed by Accademia d’Arcana and
the UtFaSol Ensemble, directed by Alessandra Rossi Lürig (Arcana A464). It
contains settings of three texts from Song of Songs: O quam tu pulchra es (How beautiful thou art), Surge propera
(Rise up promptly, my beloved) and Veniat dilectus meus (Let my
beloved, my bridegroom, come).
Despite his name and though he, too, studied the music of Giovanni
Gabrieli, Grandi’s music is mostly less grand in scale than Schütz’s. The
short setting of O quam tu pulchra es is much more intimate and inward
than anything on the Carus recording. Surge propera sets the same
text as Schutz’s Stehe auf, meine Freundin. The specific occasion
for which the German text was set is not known, though the notes in the
booklet speculate, reasonably, that like most of the rest of the programme
it was composed for a wedding.
Though Lutherans, like Anglicans, regarded the
Virgin Mary with respect as the first and greatest of the saints but no more, the
Schütz setting would not have been composed with any votive intention, like the
setting of the Roman Catholic Grandi. Yet, like O quam pulchra es, Surge propera receives a comparatively simple setting, a dialogue
for cantus (soprano) and bass, with organ and theorbo continuo.
is a much longer and more elaborate work for double choir and continuo,
the latter here provided by violone, theorbo, dulcian and organ. It sets some of the most
beautiful poetry in the Song of Songs, announcing the end of winter and the
coming of Spring when the voice of the turtle [dove] is heard in the land.
Schütz relishes the text, with much repetition of meine Schöne … meine Taube (my beauty, my dove) and Rademann and his
team relish the music, too, as I’m not entirely convinced that Accademia
d’Arcana do the music of Grandi.
Comparison with an older Capriccio recording entitled Schütz und Venedig, Schütz and Venice, from the Schütz-akademie,
shows how far we have progressed in the performance of the music of this
period. A dreary performance of Stehe auf there, taking a whole minute
longer, makes Rademann’s interpretation sound all the more joyous.
Grandi’s setting of Veniat dilectus meus
expresses the longing of the bride for the bridegroom, traditionally
interpreted as the longing of Mary or the church for Jesus, though in truth
the Song of Songs is a love poem that got into the Bible by some unknown
route. Four soloists are involved, cantus, alto, tenor and bass,
though once again the setting is comparatively simple, with just organ and
That’s not to say that there isn’t some more extrovert music here in the
manner which we expect from Monteverdi’s deputy at San Marco, but even the
Vespers psalm Nisi Dominus, which closes the Arcana recording, a
work for double choir, with organ, theorbo, two cornetti, two tenor
sackbuts and one bass sackbut, is surprisingly lacking in exuberance by
comparison with the setting of the same psalm by Monteverdi in his 1610
Vespers. In fact, the music comes to life more in the concluding Gloria than in the body of the work,
where the album begins to approach the liveliness of Rademann’s Schütz.
The Arcana notes refer to ‘expressive music that depicts passions with both
emotional intensity and sensuality’, but the sensuality is more apparent
than the intensity in the music chosen here and the performances of it. By
comparison with the Carus recording of Schütz, I was a trifle underwhelmed.
There are not many alternatives for the Grandi: a Carus recording features
the ‘bad old’ Gaechinger Kantorei before the change of spelling
and switch to period practice –
– though Robert Hugill was charmed by it –
Nor was Johan van Veen too delighted with a Divine Art recording –
– which I thought worth a go until something better came along –
DL Roundup March 2011/2.
Listening to the Carus from Naxos Music Library and to the new Arcana, I’m
not sure that we have yet found that better recording, though I shall
listen again to the Arcana and report in Second Thoughts and Short Reviews
if I see any reason to change my mind.
An early René Jacobs recording with Schola Cantorum Basiliensis is probably
not the answer, either, with rather too much expressiveness (Deutsche
Harmonia Mundi, Presto CD or download only). Perhaps Rademann and his
Dresden team ought to have a go at Grandi.
Schütz set music from the Song of Songs in Latin, too. Vulnerasti cor meum features on a recent Linn recording of his Cantiones Sacræ, sung by Magnificat (CKD607, 2 CDs) I gave that a
measly mention in
so let me be more wholehearted now about both it and the rival Carus
recording of these works (83.252 –
DL News 2013/2). Don’t expect blazing cornets and sackbuts; with just two lutes, two
violone and organ, the music in the Cantiones is more inward, closer
in spirit to the Grandi, but the performances on both sets are more varied and
enjoyable than the Arcana Grandi.
As well as Stehe auf, some of the other German texts on the new Carus recording
come from the Song
of Songs or a paraphrase. Ich beschwöre euch, ihr Töchter zu Jerusalem, charges the daughters
of Jerusalem to find the beloved ‘and tell him that I am sick of love’. It
receives a dramatic setting, for four sopranos, alto, tenor and bass, with
violone, theorbo and organ providing a discreet continuo. Discreet the
continuo may be, but the music and the performance are replete with an
energy and sense of delight in the beloved who has gone down into his
garden, the hortus conclusus, or walled garden that is at the centre
of medieval Courtly Love poetry from Roman de la Rose onwards, though
it’s usually the lady of the poet’s desire who is to be found there.
Three works, Nachdem ich lag in meinem ödem Bette, Lässt Salomon sein Bette nicht umgeben and Liebster, sagt in süßem Schmerzen are settings of poems by Martin
Opitz, themselves paraphrases of or inspired by the Song of Songs. All
three are simple but attractive settings for two singers, soprano and bass
or two sopranos, with a light accompaniment from violin and three gambas or
two violins, with violone, theorbo and organ continuo.
You may be wondering where the cornets, trombones and dulcian listed come
in. Don’t worry – they do feature and impressively so. Yet, the simple
settings of the music from or paraphrased from the Song of Songs furnish the
most interesting music here, well varied within its own terms and very well
performed. Dorothee Mields may be the only well-known singer, but the others are well up to scratch, and Rademann directs with his usual
authority in Schütz.
It’s as much the quality of the performance as of the music that makes
Stehe auf the stand-out work.
The brass instruments are in plenty of evidence
in the opening setting of Siehe, wie fein und lieblich ist’s, Psalm 133’s exhortation for
brothers to live in unity. There’s another recording of this on that
slightly different selection of Schütz’s secular music from
Weser-Renaissance and Manfred Cordes which I mentioned (CPO). In this piece honours are about
even between the two recordings, but overall my preference is for Rademann,
both for the performance and for
the Carus recording, wherever the two programmes overlap. That’s especially
the case in the next piece.
The brass appears, too, in Freue dich des Weibes deiner Jugend, the
final track on Carus. John Eliot Gardiner recorded this in 1988 with his
Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and His Majesties Sagbutts and
Cornetts for DG Archiv (4234052, Presto CD or download only). That’s the
opening item on a recording valuable for the funeral music, Musicalische Exequien, and three other pieces. It’s a joyous opening
to an often sombre programme, but the brass is sometimes allowed to
dominate the voices and the recording of the Exequien has since been
overshadowed by Vox Luminis and Lionel Meunier (Ricercar RIC311: Recording
of the Month –
DL Roundup June 2011/1).
On Carus, not only is the balance between the voices and the instruments
better than on Archiv – what sounds like an odd blip in the brass is actually correct –
but the sense of rejoicing in the wife of one’s youth is more palpable,
yet Rademann’s tempo is only marginally faster than Gardiner’s. It’s not
often that I find a Gardiner recording being bettered. Cordes takes this
work faster than either, but doesn’t thereby achieve a more joyous feeling
– Rademann sounds the most cheerful of the three.
A few of the texts are truly secular as we normally understand the word. Ach, wie soll ich doch in Freuden leben bemoans the absence of the
beloved, Die Erde trinkt für sich is a song in praise of drinking –
what beverage is not specified – and Glück zu dem Helikon is in
praise of the arts. But I must repeat that it’s the settings of Song of
Songs that make this latest volume in the Carus Schütz series well worth
having. It may not merit the most urgent recommendation of the very fine series, but
it certainly doesn’t let the side down.
Siehe, wie fein und lieblich ist’s
Saget den Gästen
Itzt blicken durch des Himmels Saal
Nachdem ich lag in meinem öden Bette
Lässt Salomon sein Bette nicht umgeben
Ich beschwöre euch, ihr Töchter zu Jerusalem
Ach, wie soll ich doch in Freuden leben
Die Erde trinkt für sich
Liebster, sagt in süßem Schmerzen
Stehe auf, meine Freundin
Wohl dem, der ein tugendsam Weib hat
Haus und Güter erbet man von Eltern
Glück zu dem Helikon
Wie wenn der Adler sich aus seiner Klippe schwingt
Freue dich des Weibes deiner Jugend
* first recordings.