This wonderful recording won the Recording of the Year at the Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2012. I've long admired Heinrich Schutz' music and I was delighted to be able to get this wonderful work on Schutz' reflections on death. Composed at the request of the widow of the prince Heinrich Posthumus von Reuss who died in 1635, von Reuss was a humanist who had protected his regions from conflict during the Thirty Years War and earned the respect of all who knew him. He had planned his own funeral ceremonies in much detail, and indeed the cd cover of this recording shows a detail of von Reuss' own coffin, made of solid copper and decorated with liturgical texts selected by him for the purpose.
I don't pretend to be able to offer a more musical analysis of the recording or the work itself than the earlier review by Mr Stephen Midgley, who has done a fine job of covering the bases. For my own part, I like to be able to hear works of a historical nature that are placed in their context - authentic and empathetic interpretations of early, renaissance and baroque music. Given that Schutz was only around 50 years of age at the time that he wrote this music, it seems to have a sadness beyond his years; however, any portrait of Schutz that I've ever seen seems to show a very sad man, bowed down with sorrow.
This work makes fine use of the organ and keyboard, which to me sounds reminiscent of Gabrieli, who influenced Schutz' composition. But it has Schutz' own Netherlandish twist surrounding the music. Many of the texts are from the Lutheran Mass, or from religious texts selected by von Reuss himself. There are solo soarings, and choral intonations that flow unresolved while the keyboards play in the background. The music is sad, yet triumphant, and this really is a masterpiece of Schutz. I'm really glad that I purchased this cd; it will remain a treasured part of my collection.
Not for the first time, I come to review a disc and find that Stephen Midgley has provided an extremely thorough review of both music and performance with which I agree. I won't repeat it all but will add this personal note.
I have never found Schütz an easy composer to love. I admire him, certainly, but even recordings by great musicians like The Purcell Quartet and Emma Kirkby haven't really moved me. This disc did. I think the performance has a lambent beauty and genuine spiritual depth which really speaks to me and I can see why it won the prestigious Gramophone Recording Of The Year award.
I suggest that you read Mr Midgley's review, listen to a few samples and then add this to your collection. It's a beautifully presented disc of superb music which is excellently performed and recorded, and I recommend it very warmly.
on 29 December 2013
I'm still trying to make up my mind between this recording, bought on the basis of reviews, and the Naxos one, also bought on the basis of reviews. I used to have an enjoyable LP of this work, many moons ago, and thought I should update. I found the Naxos very good indeed and very enjoyable. Vox Luminis give a much more serene performance, technically impeccable, but I'm not yet sure I prefer it to the Naxos. I tend not to think of the works of the great Venetians (and their pupil Schutz) in terms of serenity. So I need to listen more before discarding or recommending one of these two recordings...