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GRAMOPHONE ( 04/ 2019)
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Reviewer: Alexandra Coghlan

Now on its 19th volume and approaching completion, Carus’s complete Schütz cycle – the first on record – has proved itself a consistently superb guide to the composer’s music. But while the project is giving us fine new accounts of the major works, it is at its most interesting when it strays off the main musical path. Schütz’s three Passions, his

Christmas and Resurrection stories and Seven Last Words have been thoroughly (if not extensively) covered on disc. But the same is scarcely true of the smaller vocal works, two of which receive their premiere recordings here.

The more familiar Op 1 Italian madrigals give a taste of a composer alive to musical colour and drama, playful as well as sophisticated. This is the Schütz we meet again here in this assortment of early madrigals, cantatas and wedding songs, both sacred and secular. The mood is lively, ranging from the open irreverence of the drinking song Die Erde trinkt für sich to settings of the Song of Songs – urgently sensual – and dignified choral rejoicing of Siehe, wie fein und lieblich ist’s.

The two premieres are both appealing, if minor works. The short wedding song Saget den Gästen anchors its dancing strings with a fruity dulcian (Clemens Schlemmer), while Ach, wie soll ich doch in Freuden leben is a statelier affair painted in the darker shades of male voices. It’s the two Song of Songs settings – Liebster, sagt in süssem Schmerzen and Stehe auf, meine Freundin – that really capture the ear here. The latter, with its insistent refrain, is a graceful motet for double choir, while the former’s delicate chromatic touches capture the pleasure-pain of desire.

As Fabrice Fitch has found earlier in the cycle, though the Dresdner Kammerchor under Hans-Christoph Rademann are crisp and clean, it’s the soloists that really elevate these performances. The team is now well established and anyone following the series will be delighted to see the return of familiar faces, including the sopranos Dorothee Mields and Isabel Schicketanz and the softgrained countertenor David Erler.

Once again with this series the comparison is with Manfred Cordes and Weser-Renaissance Bremen (CPO, 2001), and once again Rademann and his musicians just pull ahead, thanks to their warmer acoustic and the quality of the solo voices.

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