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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient music for modern ears., 14 Feb 2012
This review is from: Schutz: Musikalische Exequien (La Chapelle Royale/Herreweghe) (Audio CD)
This was the first of what became a three-disc tribute to the "father of German music,"Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672)by Philippe Herreweghe and his family of singers and musicians before he left Harmonia Mundi to found his own record label.The final offering - Schutz's astonishing Opus Ultimum (Schwanengesan)in 2007 - is one of my Desert Island discs.Given that that is a necessarily long,and profound, meditation on Psalm 119,in Schutz's beautifully austere style,readers may be justifiably questioning what it is about this music that can possibly still be of interest to a contemporary audience.In this sumptuously produced 2009 re-issue of the Musikalische Exequien,Herreweghe himself offers us some clues in his typically illuminating liner notes.Schutz - whose career embraced both the Renaissance and the Baroque - composed during a century haunted by the spectre of death."Successive plague epidemics,dysentery,the ravages of a brutal war and clashing ideologies,not to speak of personal tragedies in the form of the death of his wife and other close family members in quick succession,all combined to create an atmosphere of almost Apocalyptic horror.Added to which,Herreweghe reminds us,there were "internal upheavals" created by scientific discoveries potent enough to compound existing insecurities,and pose profound questions about the place of human beings in the Cosmos.If anything,those questionings and insecurities have simply multiplied in the intervening years - and so has the private obsession with death amidst a public taboo.
What then does Schutz bring us in an age of febrile insecurity? Certainly gorgeous music - a mixture of the then new musical style being developed by the likes of Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Monteverdi in Italy, where our composer spent two long sabbaticals from court life in his native Saxony,fused with "the very soul of German music," to quote Herreweghe again.But Schutz's real ambition was to communicate religious texts by the intensification of the written word through music.And his principal text was of course the Bible in which,we are told,he was deeply immersed throughout his long life.This disc,framed as it is by "a concert in the form of a funeral mass," and a Motet (SWV 386) - a sublime meditation on Psalm 19 - provides us with examples of the genius of both the composer and the interpreter.Listen,for example,to the Motet (SWV 380) where there is an almost dance-like,joyful play on the German word "alle" in the Johnannine text,"And God so loved the world that he gave his only Son...;"or,again,in (SWV 287),where Herreweghe's exquisite gift for matching timbre of voices with musical intention,finds his sopranos singing with almost choirboy freshness and purity.
For those prepared to submit themselves to Schutz's demanding style,with it's spurning of anything approaching showy virtuosity - preferably as part of an early-morning meditation - delivered by a true master of the genre,there will be no cavilling with the BBC Radio 3 Building a Library recommendation of this account as its first choice.
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5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unqualified expert!, 26 Feb 2010
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Mr. Peter Hammond (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schutz: Musikalische Exequien (La Chapelle Royale/Herreweghe) (Audio CD)
Heard this disc on BBC recently and decided to buy it. I am not a trained musician but I think this is a superb piece and excellently performed. PJH.
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