Buxtehude: Membra Jesu nostri; Cantatas, BuxWV 102 & 103

COMPOSERS: Buxtehude
ALBUM TITLE: Buxtehude
WORKS: Membra Jesu nostri; Cantatas, BuxWV 102 & 103
PERFORMER: Christina Kaiser, Astrid Werner, Anja Zügner (soprano), Alexander Schneider (countertenor), Tobias Hunger (tenor), Matthias Lutze, Marek Rzepka (bass); Dresden Chamber Choir & instrumentalists/Hans-Christoph Rademann
Last year’s 300th anniversary of Buxtehude’s death prompted some redress to the long-term favouring of his organ music at the expense of a rich seam of vocal works. One exception to this former trend has been the seven vocal concertos which form the profoundly meditative Membra Jesu nostri, there being by my reckoning at least 14 different versions on disc. Though each of the seven concertos of the cycle is musically autonomous, they are linked both by their Latin texts and by their sharply defined focal point which is the contemplation of seven parts of Christ’s body on the Cross.Compared with the finest performances, this new disc with the Dresden Chamber Choir is disappointing. Hans-Christoph Rademann favours brisker tempos than most of his competitors, making too little allowance for an inner fervour to emerge. Rademann’s instrumental ensemble, too, is not all that it should be, sounding meagre and tonally undernourished in exposed passages. For a more rewarding homogeneity among voices and instruments there are versions by Bach Collegium Japan (BIS), The Sixteen (Linn) or Cantus Cölln (Harmonia Mundi); two further excellent performances are those by The Netherlands Bach Society (Channel Classics) and Currende (Eufoda), both of which are redolent with expressive sensibility. The new disc, though, features two of Buxtehude’s chorale-based cantatas in what are identified as world premiere recordings.