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GRAMOPHONE (08/1988)
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Harmonia Mundi
HMG 501261

Code-barres / Barcode: 0794881854929

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SCHUTZ. SACRED CHORAL WORKS. La Chapelle Royale Soloists, Philippe Herreweghe. Harmonia Mundi ® HMC1261


Chiaroscuro; Basle Boys' Choir; Schola Cantorum Basiliensis Instrumental Ensemble I Hans-Martin Linde. EMI Reflexe

Abridged version:

Admittedly Herreweghe's disc has some clear advantages. It is considerably better filled, with a good selection of full and solo motets-largely of a funerary nature-making up the playing time virtually to a full hour. On Linde's much shorter record the Musicalische Exequien is complemented only by Schütz's spectacular Psalm 136, SWV45, a sharply contrasted piece resplendent with trumpets and drums but somewhat roughly performed. Herreweghe wins hands down, too, in the quality of the recorded sound; Linde's performance appears dull and unsophisticated by comparison, lacking presence and clarity.


In almost every other respect, however, Herreweghe and his performers do not really satisfy. Their interpretation of the Musicalische Exequien itself, cautious and tending towards the anaemic, has a chamber feel about it that denies the music its true sense of liturgy or occasion. The soloists, gentle-voiced and inscrutable, pay more attention to delicacy of tone than to eloquence; neither their words nor those of the (mixed-voice) choir have the distinctness or emphasis needed to push home the message of such a remarkable funeral oration as this. No thrust, no real momentum is built up in the performance. As for Schütz's extraordinary final section-the words of the "Nunc dimittis", troped by distant solo singers with the words "Blessed are the dead who died in the Lord"-the sound of Herreweghe's choir either masks or merges into that of the soloists, frustrating yet another potentially magic moment.

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