Hohes Lied

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Daniel-Lesur,Debussy,Fasch,Ravel,Schumann (arr. Gottwald)
LABELS: Carus
WORKS: Works by Daniel-Lesur, Ravel, Fasch, Debussy, Schumann (arr. Gottwald)
PERFORMER: Stuttgart Chamber Choir/Frieder Bernius
CATALOGUE NO: 83.222

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It’s tough that this in many ways estimable new performance of Daniel-Lesur’s Le Cantique des Cantiques has to compete with The Sixteen’s classic 1996 recording, a tour de force of unaccompanied choral singing now reissued on the group’s own Coro label. Frieder Bernius’s Stuttgart Chamber Choir yields nothing to The Sixteen in terms of accurate pitching in the taxing 12-part writing, but at almost every point comparisons reveal the English choir more able to sophisticatedly vary stress and dynamics in response to conductor Harry Christophers’ subtle, sentient direction. Christophers’ consistently slower tempos give elbow-room for a wider range of expressive gestures, distilling a markedly more distinctive sense of idiom from Daniel-Lesur’s score.

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Bernius’s couplings are, however, very different, and his account of Fasch’s Missa a 16 voci (composed 1783) has strong attractions. The deployment here is four choirs of four parts each, and the mood is predominantly buoyant (try the dancing ‘In terra pax’), with highly florid passages for soloists regularly interjected, giving the work what note-writer Clytus Gottwald calls ‘close proximity to a concerto’. Gottwald himself provides the sympathetic arrangements of a piano piece and songs by Ravel, Debussy and Schumann which complete this warmly recorded album. Terry Blain