Praetorius/Scheidt/Schein

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COMPOSERS: Praetorius/Scheidt/Schein
LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Lutheran Mass for Christmas Morning
PERFORMER: Gabrieli Consort & Players,Roskilde Cathedral Congregational & Boys’ Choirs/Paul McCreesh
CATALOGUE NO: 439 931-2 DDD
Following his two recordings of Venetian music, Paul McCreesh has turned his sights northwards in this ambitious project to reconstruct a Lutheran Mass for Christmas Morning as it might have been celebrated around 1620, with music by Praetorius, Scheidt and Schein. If all that sounds rather dry and scholarly, don’t be put off: the Lutheran Christmas service is a joyful and festive affair, and this recording presents a kaleidoscope of constantly changing colours, textures and sounds.

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Congregational involvement is essential to Lutheran worship and, to avoid too pristine and Protestant a sound, the Gabrieli Consort and Players have joined forces with the Boys’ Choir and Congregational Choir of Roskilde Cathedral, Denmark. The result is fresh and vigorous, and will no doubt please critics of the ‘emasculated’ English choral tradition. The performers were placed around the cathedral to maximise Praetorius’s splendid polychoral writing – to delightful effect in ‘Quem pastores’, where four solo choirboys sing from galleries high in the cathedral to represent the host of heavenly angels on Christmas Day; and with impressive results in the Recessional, ‘In dulci jubilo’, Praetorius’s lavish setting for four choirs, six trumpets and drums. Hard to imagine a better stocking-filler. Kate Bolton