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.