A Christmas Collection

COMPOSERS: Gabrieli,Schutz,Usper
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Works by Schütz, Gabrieli, Usper,
PERFORMER: Academy of Ancient Music Choir & Orchestra/Paul Goodwin


A tradition of another kind asserts itself in the next three discs. Between them, Heinrich Schütz (b1585), JS Bach (b1685) and Johann Heinrich Rolle (d1785) spanned 200 years of Saxon music: Rolle’s father (and teacher) Christian Friedrich once applied for the post of Leipzig Thomaskantor that eventually went to Bach, while JSB once hankered after the post of Dresden Kapellmeister that was formerly filled by Schütz.

Paul Goodwin’s A Christmas Collection (his debut disc with the Academy of Ancient Music) offers an anthology of Schütz’s shorter dialogues and motets by way of an alternative to the composer’s own Christmas Oratorio.

Anyone who has ever endured that drily austere work will be pleasantly surprised by the rich textures and vocal expressivity of much of the music here, and by the dramatic wit, say, of the little Annunciation scene, ‘Sei gegrüsset Maria’, for male alto Angel and soprano Mary, in which the mother-to-be can’t help interrupting her heavenly visitor, first in sheer amazement, then in her eagerness to confirm her unblemished virgin state.


Even better, perhaps, are the purely instrumental sonatas and canzonas included by Schütz’s Venetian master, Giovanni Gabrieli, and his younger contemporary, Francesco Usper – music that captures the very spirit of La Serenissima in its ceremonial flourishes for cornetts, and slow, stately processionals for trombones and sackbuts.