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GRAMOPHONE (09/2023)
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Reviewer :
Fabrice Fitch

This selection of works by the composer of the well-known Membra Jesu nostri showcases a range of vocal scorings against a much more stable instrumental set-up. The disc’s theme, ‘Salvator mundi’, privileges the Lutheran emphasis on personal connection with the Saviour. The scene is set in the opening number, Jesu meines Lebens Leben, a gentle, devotional prayer alternating soloists and chorus (most of the pieces have instrumental introductions, with just strings and continuo). In Herzlich Lieb hab ich Dich, o Herr, whose text Schütz so memorably set, Buxtehude sets the three stanzas separately and very differently. Here as elsewhere he favours reflective, contemplative statements, turned inwards, an attitude barely inflected by the participation of cornetts. There is a little more animation in the solo bass motet Ich bin die Auferstehung; otherwise the mood changes little from number to number, but taken on its own terms the music is very affecting. Much depends here on the singers, who are united by a shared intent. I hope that it’s not unkind to say that the ensemble is more than the sum of its parts, for pretty much across the board the individual voices are less confident and secure than one would like. The litmus test is the first section of Herzlich Lieb, whose single vocal line is given to the two sopranos: their unison singing fails to gel, because the tuning never quite locks in. Comparisons are invidious, but it is hard not to call to mind Vox Luminis in this repertoire. Although the Ricercar Consort suffer by comparison, those unfamiliar with Buxtehude’s music will find in them committed advocates.

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