JS Bach • Helmschrott: Lumen, etc

Simon Mayr Chorus; Concerto de Bassus/Franz Hauk, et al (Naxos)

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JS Bach • Helmschrott
JS Bach: Magnificat; Helmschrott: Lumen
Siri Karoline Thornhill, Sophia Körber (soprano), Theresa Holzhauser (mezzo-soprano), Markus Schäfer, Robert Sellier (tenor), Andreas Mattersberger (bass); Simon Mayr Chorus; Concerto de Bassus/Franz Hauk
Naxos 8.579049   65:57 mins


Lumen, which makes up most of this disc, is described by the composer Robert Maximilian Helmschrott (b1938) as ‘an interfaith dialogue for soloists, chorus and orchestra’. Based on a complex of texts taken from the Bible, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Latin Mass, Brecht, Goethe and beyond, it seeks to create a commonality between religions too often perceived as conflicting. A major task, indeed, and the result is often intriguing; the style is occasionally reminiscent of Stravinsky and Messiaen, but at times shows considerable individuality in the handling of timbre.

Lumen’s three movements tackle the past, present and future: the first comprises vigorous dissonant motion and frequent lyrical, tonal interludes for the voices and ends on a note of resolution. There is a pervasive sense of mystery and, perhaps unsurprisingly, a certain amount of anxiety in the ‘present’ movement. The substantial final movement, depicting the future, is more fragmented, but seems to end optimistically. The performance is assured but the listener is not helped in navigating an evidently complex work by the lack of a libretto and translation in the accompanying booklet notes.

Bach’s Magnificat which precedes Lumen is given by an ensemble of ten voices accompanied by Concerto de Bassus. There is some nicely nuanced singing from the choir, but the solos are variable in quality and occasionally undependable. As a whole this performance is hardly a front runner in a field well stocked with fine readings, not least the Dunedin’s Consort’s triumphant rendition on Linn Records.


Jan Smaczny