Collection: The Muses of Zion

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COMPOSERS: Bach,Scheidt,Schein,Shütz,Tunder
LABELS: Dorian
WORKS: ‘Komm, Jesu, komm; Komm, heiliger Geist
PERFORMER: Cambridge Bach Ensemble/Scott Metcalfe; Peter Sykes (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: DOR 93168

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‘Music is to be praised as second only to the Word of God because by her are all the emotions swayed.’ This new significance accorded music by Martin Luther sparked a remarkable flowering of sacred composition in Germany in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Taking its title from a collection of chorale treatments by Praetorius, The Muses of Zion samples this Lutheran repertoire to highly impressive effect. The Cambridge Bach Ensemble (from Cambridge, Massachusetts) sings and plays one-to-a-part, a choice that underlines the clarity, vigour and precision of their performances, if adding an occasional hint of severity. Still, it would be churlish to criticise.

Their urgent, tersely imploring version of Bach’s ‘Komm, Jesu, komm’ is very different from John Eliot Gardiner’s ethereal account on Erato, but it’s no less moving. And they sing Schütz’s old-school, formal counterpoint as persuasively as they sing Schein’s ‘Da Jacob vollendet hatte’, its flowing lines derived from the Italian madrigal.

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Other highlights include Scheidt’s strikingly beautiful, intricate setting of ‘Komm, heiliger Geist’, for two sopranos and dulcians, and two extended pieces for solo organ by Tunder and Buxtehude, played on Wellesley College’s Fisk organ, a historical reproduction based on 17th-century North German design. Graham Lock