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Henrich SCHÜTZ (1585 - 1672): Symphoniae Sacrae I & III

[I] Symphoniae Sacrae I (SWV 257-276)
Isabel Jantscheka, Dorothee Mieldsb, soprano; David Erler, altoc; Tobias Mäthgerd, Georg Poplutze, tenor; Felix Schwandtke, bassf
Instrumental ensemble
Dir: Hans-Christoph Rademann
rec: June 12 - 16, 2016, Polditz, Kirche St. Nicolai
Carus - 83.273 (2 CDs) (© 2016) (1.30'45")
Liner-notes: E (abridged)/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

Paratum cor meum, Deus (SWV 257)b; Exultavit cor meum in Domino (SWV 258)a; In te, Domine, speravi (SWV 259)c; Cantabo Domino in vita mea (SWV 260)d; Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis (SWV 261)e; Jubilate Deo omnis terra (SWV 262)f; Anima mea liquefacta est (1. Pars) (SWV 263)de; Adjuro vos, filiae Jerusalem (2. Pars) (SWV 264)de; O quam tu pulchra es (1. Pars) (SWV 265)de; Veni de Libano (2. Pars) (SWV 266)de; Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore (1. Pars) (SWV 267)bef; Exquisivi Dominum (2. Pars) (SWV 268)bef; Fili mi, Absalon (SWV 269)f; Attendite, popule meus (SWV 270)f; Domine, labia mea aperies (SWV 271)be; In lectulo per noctes (1. Pars) (SWV 272)bc; In venerunt me custodes civitatis (2. Pars) (SWV 273)bc; Veni, dilecte mi (SWV 274)abd; Buccinate in neomenia tuba (1. Pars) (SWV 275)def; Jubilate Deo (2. Pars) (SWV 276)def

Friederike Otto, cornett; Anna Schall, Julia Fritz, recorder, cornett; Sebastian Krause, Julian Nagel, Masafumi Sakamoto, Fernando Günther, sackbut; Clemens Schlemmer, Jennifer Harris, Eva-Maria Horn, dulcian; Margaret Baumgartl, Karina Müller, violin; Matthias Müller, violone; Andreas Arend, theorbo; Ludger Rémy, organ

[II] Symphoniae Sacrae III (SWV 398-418)
Ulrike Hofbauera, Isabel Jantschekb, Dorothee Mieldsc, soprano; Maria Stosiek, mezzo-sopranod; David Erlere, Stefan Kunathf, alto; Tobias Mäthgerg, Georg Poplutzh, tenor; Martin Schicketanzi, Felix Schwandtkej, bass
Dresdner Kammerchork; Dresdner Barockorchester
Dir: Hans-Christoph Rademann
rec: July 20 - 25, 2014, Radeberg, Stadtkirche 'Zum Heiligen Namen Gottes'
Carus - 83.258 (2 CDs) (© 2015) (1.59'30")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Der Herr ist mein Hirt (SWV 398)aehk; Ich hebe meine Augen auf zu den Bergen (SWV 399)ehjk; Wo der Herr nicht das Haus bauet (SWV 400)abjk; Mein Sohn, warum hast du uns das getan? (in dialogo) (SWV 401)adcdijk; O Herr, hilf, o Herr, laß wohl gelingen (SWV 402)abh; Siehe, es erschien der Engel des Herrn (SWV 403)aghjk; Feget den alten Sauerteig aus (SWV 404)aegj; O süßer Jesu Christ (SWV 405)acehk; O Jesu süß, wer dein gedenkt (super Lilia convallium, Alexandri Grandis) (SWV 406)bcgh; Lasset uns doch den Herren, unseren Gott, loben (SWV 407)abhjk; Es ging ein Sämann aus, zu säen seinen Samen (SWV 408)cehjk; Seid barmherzig, wie auch euer Vater barmherzig ist (SWV 409)dehjk; Siehe, dieser wird gesetzt zu einem Fall (SWV 410)bcehj; Vater unser, der du bist im Himmel (SWV 411)afghjk; Siehe, wie fein und lieblich ist's (SWV 412)abehj; Hütet euch, daß eure Herzen nicht beschwert werden (SWV 413)bceghj; Meister, wir wissen, daß du wahrhaftig bist (SWV 414)bdehjk; Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich? (SWV 415)abehijk; Herr, wie lang willst du mein so gar vergessen (SWV 416)bdfghj; Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (SWV 417)ceghijk; Nun danket alle Gott (SWV 418)abeghjk

[DK] Birgit Jacobi-Kircheis, Isabel Jantschek, Magdalena Kircheis, Albertine Selunka, Nicola Zöllner, soprano; Bernadette Beckermann, Franziska Neumann, Maria Stosiek, contralto; Stefan Kunath, alto; Samir Bouadjadja, Tobias Mäthger, Claudius Pobbig, Cenek Svoboda, tenor; Dirk Döbrich, Georg Güldner, Georg Preißler, Martin Schicketanz, bass
[DB] Friederike Otto, Anna Schall, cornett; Sebastian Krause, Frank van Nooy, Kentaro Wada, sackbut; Clemens Schlemmer, dulcian; Margaret Baumgartl, Karina Müller, violin; Frauke Hess, Juliane Laake, Marthe Perl, Julia Vetö, viola da gamba; Matthias Müller, violone; Stefan Maass, theorbo; Michaela Hasselt, organ

For many centuries Venice was one of the main musical centres of Europe. Young members of the aristocracy did not pay the city a visit as part of their grand tour without a reason. The musical life in the city and the many performers and composers of repute who worked in Venice, also attracted musicians from above the Alps, in particular Germany. The first German composer who travelled to Venice in order to broaden his horizon was Hans-Leo Hassler. The best-known representative of the next generation who followed in his footsteps, was Heinrich Schütz. He lived in Venice from 1609 to 1613, where he was a pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli, whom he would hold in high esteem all his life.

The fruits of his stay in Venice manifest themselves in his first printed collections of music. In 1611 Schütz published a set of madrigals, which bear witness to the art of counterpoint, which was one of the main aspects of Gabrieli's teachings. At the same time we observe here a connection between text and music which bears witness to Schütz' being aware of what was written by the Italian madrigal composers of the late 16th century. In 1619 Schütz turned to sacred music: in the Psalmen Davids we find another feature of Venetian music, the cori spezzati technique. During Schütz' time in Venice the stile nuovo was born, and one of its main elements, the monodic style, manifests itself in the solo episodes in these psalm settings.

For non-Italian composers there were several ways to become acquainted with the latest trends in Italy, for instance through printed editions and through manuscripts which disseminated across the continent. Even so, Schütz felt the need to witness the latest trends in music on the spot. In 1628 his employer, Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony, allowed him to travel to Italy. He stayed some time in Florence and also went to Venice. According to the Dresden court poet David Schirmer he met Claudio Monteverdi there. In the second part of his Symphoniae Sacrae he would pay tribute to the Venetian master with his concerto Es steh Gott auf (SWV 356), an arrangement of two secular pieces by Monteverdi. The first part of the Symphoniae Sacrae came already from the press in 1629. It was printed in Venice, which indicates that he composed most of these sacred concertos during his stay in Italy, although some of them may have been conceived before. They show how much the modern trends in Italy had influenced him. He described the collection as the fruits of his encounter with the "fresh devices" used by the newer Italian composers "to tickle the ears of today".

The fact that this collection was printed in Venice explains why all these concertos are settings of texts in Latin. Except one they are all from the Old Testament: ten are from the Book of Psalms, seven from the Song of Songs and two from the two Books of Samuel; the exception is Venite ad me, whose text is taken from the gospel of Matthew. This allowed Catholic maestri di cappella in Italy to use them, if they so wished. Half of the twenty concertos in the collection have the addition Prima pars and Secunda pars, indicating that they belong together. Unfortunately these indications are entirely omitted in the booklet to the Carus recording. One of the novelties in this collection is the specific indication of the instruments to be used. But as not all instruments which Schütz had in thought may have been always available to performers, he often suggested alternatives. For German Kapellmeister this was certainly helpful, as their chapels experienced the effects of the Thirty Years' War. Although there is not always a clear connection between the instruments and the lyrics, in some cases Schütz deliberately uses the instruments to emphasize textual elements. In this collection he effectively mixes the new concertante style with the traditional stile antico, for instance in Fili mi, Absalon, one of the most famous pieces in the collection.

When Schütz died in 1672 he was 87 years old. That was an exceptional age for that time. In the late 1640s Schütz was already looking towards the end of his activities as a composer and his departure from worldly life. Only a few weeks after the publication of the third part of his Symphoniae Sacrae (1650) he addressed a 'Memorial' to his employer, then Johann Georg II, in which he asked for an easing of his duties and release from service. In the light of this one can consider this collection of sacred concertos as well as the collection of motets, which he published in 1648 under the title of Geistliche Chor-Music, as his musical heritage. In the latter collection he turned to what he considered the 'foundation of music': counterpoint. It also offered him the opportunity once again to pay tribute to his revered teacher Giovanni Gabrieli. In the Symphoniae Sacrae III he summarized his experiments with the new music which had developed in Italy: the monodic style, the use of instruments in a virtuosic manner, and the expression of text in music.

The concertos are scored for five to eight favoriti (solo voices), divided into three to five vocal and two instrumental parts. However, Schütz indicated that these forces can be reinforced by 'complementary choirs': groups of singers and instrumentalists of varying composition, deployed separately from the favoriti. This way Schütz incorporated another feature of Venetian music in Gabrieli's time, the polychoral style.

The collection can be divided into four sections, according to the scoring. The first five concertos are for five obbligato voices; these are followed by another five for six obbligato voices. The next two groups consist of four concertos for seven and seven concertos for eight obbligato voices respectively. In his instrumental scoring Schütz mostly follows what had become the standard in Germany: two violins and bc. In some concertos he uses cornetts and sackbuts - mostly with the indication ad libitum - or a bassoon. In Wo der Herr das Haus nicht bauet the cornett is suggested as an alternative to the second violin. Es ging ein Sämann aus zu säen and Meister, wir wissen, daß du wahrhaftig bist include parts for bassoon.

In contrast to the Symphoniae Sacrae I, the texts in this collection are all in German. The majority is from the New Testament, especially the gospels. The first three are taken from the Book of Psalms; these are followed by two in which texts from the gospels are mixed with verses from Psalms. Next are pieces on texts from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the first letter to the Corinthians and two Psalms. Schütz also includes a hymn, Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, but the chorale melody plays a minor role. One of the most dramatic pieces in Schütz's entire oeuvre is Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich, on a text from the Acts of the Apostles. For two pieces Schütz used the German translation of the hymn Jesu, dulcis memoria, attributed to Bernhard of Clairvaux (O süßer Jesu Christ; O Jesu süß). The collection ends with Nun danket alle Gott from the Book of Sirach, one of the Apocrypha of the Old Testament.

The Symphoniae Sacrae belong among Schütz' most frequently performed works, and they are available in various recordings. However, independent of the quality of the performances, there are often various options in regard to scoring, both in the vocal and in the instrumental parts. In the first volume it is mainly the latter: in several concertos Schütz offers alternatives. It goes beyond the scope of this review to compare in detail the choices made in the recordings available right now. Most performers tend to go for the line-up which Schütz may have preferred. That is probably the case here as well. It would be interesting, if the alternative scorings would be recorded some time. As far as the quality of the interpretations is concerned, there is nothing to complain here. With Dorothee Mields and Georg Poplutz little can go wrong, and the other singers, who may be less well-known, are of the same standard. The small instrumental ensemble also leaves nothing to be desired.

In the Symphoniae Sacrae III Schütz offers even more different options in regard to scoring, in this case also in the vocal line-up. Performers can restrict themselves to the basic scoring of solo voices, two instruments and bc, but they also can decide to perform these concertos - or some of them - with 'complementary choirs'. Hans-Christoph Rademann has opted for a mixture of small and larger scorings. Some of the soloists also take part in the tutti, performed by the Dresdner Kammerchor. Even so, there is some separation between soli and tutti here. It is an interesting issue whether Schütz would have preferred a strong amount of unity or rather an audible separation between the favoriti and the 'choir(s)'. Here the balance seems to be in favour of the latter. The singing and playing here is again first-class.

These two volumes are further good additions to a project which nears its completion and can be considered one of the most interesting and important ones of recent years.

Johan van Veen (© 2018)

Relevant links:

David Erler
Ulrike Hofbauer
Georg Poplutz
Martin Schicketanz
Felix Schwandtke
Dresdner Kammerchor
Dresdner Barockorchester

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