Composers: Heinrich Schütz
Performers: Dresden Chamber Choir/
Catalogue Number: Carus CV83278
As Dresden Chamber Choir director Hans-Christoph Rademann writes in his notes to the 20th and final volume in this magnificent recording project (over 500 works!), “To what can the effect of this wonderful music be attributed? When listening to the music of Heinrich Schütz we can see with our ears – and hear with our eyes.”
Championed by Moritz, the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, in whose care he had been placed by his father in 1599 as a talented 14-year-old, Schütz would, after formative studies in Venice especially, over the next decades produce some of the most refined, dramatic and innovative vocal and choral music of the 17th century, from madrigals and psalm settings to occasional works as well as passion settings.
The larger works in particular demonstrate the profound influence of the Venetian school, especially Monteverdi – the dramatic declamation, the florid solo ensembles, the spectacular polychoral effects, the antiphonal brass choirs, the contrast between syllabic and melismatic treatment of texts, the vivid word painting…
Rademann again writes: “With Schütz, music and language create a wealth of images which not only our minds can absorb, but also our bodies. So, a perception of clarity is created which can also be described as a form of truth or of discovery. In this music we admire the combination of words and music, we hear a sound world of images and are transported in the most beautiful sense into a harmony of intellect and feeling”.
There is certainly a spaciousness, a splendour and a grandeur emblematic of infinity in Schütz’s settings, in which arrows fly (Wo der Herr nicht das Haus baut), tears gush forth (An den Wassern zu Babel), prayers are sent heavenward (Das ist mir lieb) and more.
But the last work in this final volume of what is a major achievement and gift to music lovers everywhere, finds Schütz sounding a more intimate tone, with the Trostlied, for a cappella choir, bewailing the death of an infant while submitting
to God’s will.
And what of the performances, by the choir, a large team of soloists including soprano Gerlinde Sämann, mezzo-soprano Dorothee Mields, tenor Georg Poplutz and baritone Martin Schicketanz, and an orchestra comprising violins, gambas, recorders, sackbutts, cornets, dulcian, violone, theorbo and organ?
These are performances as perfectly passionate, and passionately perfect, as Schütz’s music itself. But be warned: after listening to this, you’ll want, as I have, to collect all 20 volumes.