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Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Psalmen & Friedenmusiken
Dresdner Kammerchor and Instrumentalists/Hans-Christoph Rademann
rec. 2018, Stadtkirche “Zum Heiligen Namen Gottes”, Raderberg, Germany
Complete Schütz Edition Volume 20
CARUS 83.278 [2 CDs: 138.55]

The recording of the complete music of Heinrich Schütz is a mammoth undertaking, especially when you already publish the music. Contained in 20 volumes on 27 discs, this set has taken ten years to complete and has become a pinnacle for the interpretation of Schütz’ music. Sadly, I do not have all the volumes, but I am working on that, as I now have nearly half the volumes. This release is the final part of the Carus complete edition, and what a fine conclusion it makes, containing as it does nine psalm settings and those ceremonial pieces that did not fit well into other editions. As a result, this two-disc set adds to what is already an impressive achievement and the most comprehensive survey of Schütz’ music, with some pieces here being recorded for the first time.

As with the other discs in this edition, the music is expertly sung by the Dresdner Kammerchor under the guidance of Hans-Christoph Rademann, who tells us in his introduction of his first experience of Schütz’ music when he was a choirboy in the Dresdner Kreuzchor and how this final volume serves as the culmination of a lifetime’s fascination with the composer, saying, “I feel deeply grateful that we were able to master such a large project. Furthermore, I feel enormously enriched – and all musicians would surely feel the same – because Schütz’ music testifies to the greatest mastery. The term ‘father of German music’ is absolutely justified. Schütz is able to express an enormous amount with his music; he is, so to speak, an ‘illuminator’ of the word – with powerful musical images. Painting and music move very close together, one learns to see with one’s ears, so to speak.”

Despite this being the final disc in a series bringing together such works as did not easily fit on to any of the other volumes, there are some real gems here, which, depending on your point of view, are chosen as ‘highlights’ by Oliver Geisler in the booklet, there not being room to cover all the pieces featured on this 2 CD set. However, he has it right when he singles out the opening work, a setting of Psalm 127, “Wo der Herr nicht das Haus bauet”, Its opening stanza is first sung by a soloist before being taken up by the double choir and it is quite wonderful; but there are also works which deserve mention and not covered in the booklet notes, such as the setting of Psalm 15, “Herr, wer wird wohnen in deiner Hütten”, especially in the way that it pits a number of soloists not only against the chorus, but also against the brass and strings of the ensemble; thrilling. It is a similar story with Veni Sancte Spiritus, not picked out as a highlight in the booklet but a real gem; it reminds me in part of Praetorius’ Lutheran Mass for Christmas, even though the text does not fit. This is not to say that that the booklet is wrong in highlighting just half the pieces in the set to discuss; when space is tight, that is probably correct, especially in the case of “Herr, der du bist vormals genädig gewest” (Psalm 85), but I would have liked the booklet to have provided more information.

The same is true of the second disc, although more of the pieces there featured are discussed. The opening track, Da Pacem Domine, which is highlighted in the booklet, is wonderful, as is “Tugend ist der beste Freund”, which isn’t. However, there is no doubting that “Vater Abraham, erbarme dich mein”, is rightfully documented, as this is the true mini-masterpiece of the set as a whole. Its use of soloists gives this piece the feeling almost of a mini oratorio. Probably dating from between 1620 and 1630, it utilises all the forces at Schütz’ disposal and the result is something special, especially in the way that he uses the soloists and chorus in a dialogue, while heightening the dramatic tension and colour, which shows that he was a composer of real distinction. I just wished it lasted twice as long as its eleven minutes.

The performance is equal to this wonderful music; all the soloists are excellent. Unfortunately, although the booklet tells us who sings in which piece, it doesn’t say what part they take, or, for that matter, what voice-type they are, which would have been nice. As already indicated, the Dresdner Kammerchor live up to the very high standards that Hans-Christoph Rademann has demanded throughout this series. The instrumentalists are equally fine, adding greatly to the music presented here. The recorded sound is excellent and quite atmospheric. My only niggle, as you will already have gathered, is with the booklet, which not only misses out vital information about the pieces not covered, but also provides abridged translations. The sung texts are given in the original as well as a sympathetic and seemingly accurate English translation, but for me, it would have been better to do what they did in the collected volumes, the second of which (CARUS 83.042) I have, and make the translations available only online, thus giving more space for information about the works.

Stuart Sillitoe 

Disc 1
Wo der Herr nicht das Haus bauet (Psalm 127), SWV 473 [6:17]
Herr, wer wird wohnen in deiner Hütten (Psalm 15), SWV 466 [6:39]
Veni Sancte Spiritus SWV 475 [6:22]
Wo Gott, der Herr, nicht bei uns hält (Psalm 124), SWV 467 [4:47]
An den Wassern zu Babel (Psalm 137), SWV 500 [5:58]
Herr, der du bist vormals genädig gewest (Psalm 85), SWV 461 [11:42]
Das ist mir lieb (Psalm 116), SWV 51 [12:40]
Herr, unser Herrscher (Psalm 8), SWV 449 [5:14]
Auf dich, Herr, traue ich (Psalm 7), SWV 462 [8:45]
Disc 2
Da Pacem Domine, SWV465 [5:16]
Gesang der drei Männer im feurigen Ofen, SWV 448 [7:58]
Tugend ist der beste Freund, SWV 442 [5:38]
Danklied „Fürstliche Gnade zu Wasser und Lande“, SWV 368 [5:51]
Teutoniam dudum belli, SWV 338 [4:48]
Syncharma musicum „En novus Elysiis“, SWV 49 [5:09]
Vater Abraham, erbarme dich mein, SWV477 [10:52]
Osterdialog „Weib, was weinest du“, SWV 443 [4:04]
Mit dem Amphion zwar, SWV 501 [15:48]
Trostlied, SWV 502 [3:56]

Gerlinde Sämann, Isabel Schicketanz, Stefan Kunath, Tobias Mäthger, Felix Schwandtke, Margret Baumgartl, W. von Kessinger, Juliane Laake, Frauke Hess, Sarah Perl, Friederike Otto, Anna Schall, Sebastian Krause, Julia Nagel, Fernando Günther, Stefan Maass, Stephan Rath, Matthias Müller, Michaela Hasselt

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