Buxtehude: Vocal Works, Vol. 1: Das Jüngste Gericht, BuxWV Anh.3

COMPOSERS: Buxtehude
LABELS: Challenge
ALBUM TITLE: Buxtehude
WORKS: Vocal Works, Vol. 1: Das Jüngste Gericht, BuxWV Anh.3
PERFORMER: Caroline Stam, Orlanda Velez Isidro, Johannette Zomer (soprano), Robin Blaze (alto), Andreas Karasiak (tenor), Klaus Mertens (bass); Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir/Ton Koopman
A complete survey of Buxtehude’s vocal music is long overdue, so Ton Koopman is to be congratulated on taking on such a project which he launches with the oratorio Wacht! Euch Zum Streit gefarset macht (‘Awake! Prepare for battle’). The text is concerned with The last judgement which has provided the work with its subtitle ‘Das jüngste Gericht’. That, however, was the invention of its first editor, Willi Maxton who published his version of the piece in 1937. Though it has not been conclusively proved that this fine work, preserved in a not quite complete set of parts in the University Library of Uppsala, is the product of Buxtehude’s pen, it does seem likely on stylistic grounds. As is so often the way with recordings, after a period of over 40 years since the oratorio was issued on LP in Maxton’s edition, not one but two new versions on CD have been made within a month of each other, in the early autumn of 2005. The other is with Roland Wilson, La Capella Ducale and Musica Fiata (Sony). Both versions have returned to the Uppsala source for a fresh evaluation of the work but the Sony recording is not at the moment available in the UK. Koopman’s recording is stylish, warmly communicative and, generally speaking polished. He fields a choral strength of 20 voices from among which the three solo sopranos are drawn. They perform the many short solo sections with fluent if, at times somewhat undercharacterised singing. Better that, though, than any over-theatricality which can quickly become tiresome on repeated listening. Only moments of astringent upper string playing interrupted my enjoyment of music that is well worth getting to know. Nicholas Anderson