Biber/Muffat/Bertali

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Biber/Muffat/Bertali
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Litaniae de sancto Josepho; Sonata sancti polycarpi; Missa in Labore Requies; Sonatas
PERFORMER: Maria Cristina Kiehr, Hedwig Westhoff-Duppmann (soprano), Elisabeth Propien, Henning Voss (alto), Gerd Turk, Wilfried Jochens (tenor), Stephen Schreckenberger, Matthias Gerchen (bass); Cantus Colln, concerto Palatino/ Konrad Junghanel
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901667
The opulence of the 17th-century ecclesiastical court at Salzburg demanded music for huge forces. This disc contains stunning contributions by Biber and Muffat, given life-enhancing performances by Junghänel’s magnificent team.

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In Biber’s Litany, solo ensemble, choir and instruments are in constant dialogue. The music itself is simple enough – predictable chordal harmony, charming contrapuntal episodes. But it is illuminated by coruscating tone colours from voices and instruments topped by dazzling trumpets. In the following Sonata, Biber demonstrates remarkable ingenuity with brass and drums, repeating the tonic chord for a riveting 50 seconds.

Muffat’s only surviving choral work is for two vocal and three instrumental choirs, standard forces for Salzburg feast days. The effect is shattering: first, as jolly a Kyrie as you’ll ever meet; the ‘Laudamus…’ of the Gloria, passed through each pair of soloists, sopranos to basses, captivating in its simple logic. A bitingly angular fugue portrays the anguish of the crucifixion, charming imitative counterpoint the reassurance of the Benedictus. A striking moment of repose is the sopranos’ meditation on the incarnation.

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This is a recording triumph as well. Despite the spaciousness of a six-second reverberation, every note, every syllable is immaculately clean. Exceptional in every respect. George Pratt