Schutz - Musicalische Exequien
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Cat No: RIC311
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 13th June 2011
WorksWir glauben all an einen Gott
Das ist je gewisslich wahr, SWV277
Herr, nun lassest du deinen Diener, SWV432
Herr, nun lassest du deinen Diener, SWV433
Ich bin die Auferstehung, SWV464
With the Thirty Years’ War raging around them, Lutherans considered death to be the true fulfillment of their earthly life. Prince Heinrich von Reuss organised all the details of his funeral in advance, from the music that would be sung - to be composed and then performed by Heinrich Schütz during the funeral ceremony - to the coffin itself.
Our programme includes not only the renowned Musicalische Exequien but also other funeral motets by Schütz, one of which was composed on the death of his friend Johann Hermann Schein.
1. Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Friede Fahen, SWV 432
2. Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben, SWV 464
3. Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Friede fahen, SWV 433
4. Das ist je gewißlich wahr, SWV 277
5. Wir glauben all an einen Gott
6. Mit Fried und Freud fahr ich dahin
7. Musicalische Exequien, SWV 279: Concert in Form einer teutschen Begräbnis-Missa: Nacket bin ich
8. Musicalische Exequien, SWV 279: Concert in Form einer teutschen Begräbnis-Missa: Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt
9. Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe, SWV 280
10. Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener in Friede fahren, SWV 281
The Europadisc Review
Schütz’s Musicalische Exequien (musical funeral rite) is suffused with Lutheran theology on mortality from an age when Death was a more present part of daily life, an often welcome release from the toils of earthly labours. It stands at the head of a great musical tradition of setting German biblical texts that flows through Bach to Brahms's German Requiem and late motets. Ever since its 'rediscovery' in the late nineteenth century, Schütz's work – composed for the funeral of Count Heinrich Posthumus von Reuss in February 1636 – has become a staple of the early baroque choral repertoire. Its fusion of Lutheran sensibilities with the influence of Venetian polychoral writing is uniquely powerful.
The first and longest of the Exequien's three parts is described as being 'in the form of a German burial mass', paraphrasing and expanding upon the Kyrie and Gloria sections of a conventional mass setting. This is followed by the short central section, a double-choir motet to be sung directly after the sermon. Finally comes an extraordinarily haunting combination of the German Nunc dimittis with a setting of Selig sind die Toten, the latter directed to be sung at a distance, evoking the soul's heavenward journey. All the texts were selected by Count Heinrich himself, yet knowledge of the liturgical niceties is hardly necessary to appreciate the luminous beauty of Schütz's music.
With its multi-sectional combination of biblical and chorale texts, solo and choral writing, imitative polyphony and block-chord homophony, the Musicalische Exequien can be a tricky work to bring off in performance. Paradoxically, many of the best recordings have come from non-German ensembles, yet remarkably few are wholly satisfying. This is because an ideal performance needs to combine and hold in balance a number of elusive qualities: a keen responsiveness to the text, accomplished solo singing, well-blended ensemble, beauty of tone, a sense of expansiveness coupled with intimacy, and an eager but not hurried pace.
This recording from the Belgian-based ensemble Vox Luminis under the direction of Lionel Meunier ticks all the right boxes, and does do with much more besides. Pacing and phrasing are ideal, as too is the sense of scale, achieved by just twelve singers plus continuo, in a warmly resonant acoustic. The continuo section itself dispenses with the lute, ubiquitous on other recordings, so that the instrumental contribution is just organ and bass viol, a simple but effective scoring suggested by Schütz himself. The beautifully blended sound achieved by this small combination of voices and instruments never once sacrifices the sense of the words. Texts are keenly pointed but never laboured, and the positive, consolatory nature of the work as a whole is perfectly captured. Sensitive handling of the rich sonorities in tutti passages is matched by solo singing of exquisite tenderness.
Just as impressive are the fillers. Four more funeral motets by Schütz include two alternative versions of the Lutheran Nunc dimittis, the double-choir motet Ich bin die Auferstehung, and Schütz's moving tribute to his great contemporary Johann Hermann Schein, Das ist je gewisslich. They are further supplemented by a chorale prelude on the creed by Samuel Scheidt, and Luther's chorale Mit Fried und Freud as a prefatory hymn to the Exequien itself. The booklet includes stunning colour photographs of Count Heinrich's sarcophagus, lavishly decorated with the same biblical texts set by Schütz.
Unquestionably, this disc is now one of the very finest in this repertoire. If you have no other Schütz recording in your collection, you must have this. A more than worthy winner of Gramophone’s Recording of the Year award: highly recommended!
1Herr, Nun Lassest Du Deinen Diener in Friede Fahren (Swv432)
2Ich Bin Die Auferstehung Und Das Leben (Swv464)
3Herr, Nun Lassest Du Deinen Diener in Friede Fahren (Swv433)
4Concert in Form Einer Teutschen Begrabnis-Missa: Nacket Bin Ich (Swv279)
5Herr, Wenn Ich Nur Dich Habe (Swv280)
6Herr, Nun Lassest Du Deinen Diener in Friede Fahren (Swv281)
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