Schelle: Sacred music

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Sacred music
PERFORMER: Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram, Lisa Beckley, Julie Cooper (soprano), James Bowman, Robin Blaze (countertenor), Charles Daniels, James Gilchrist, Angus Smith, Matthew Vine (tenor), Peter Harvey, Charles Pott (bass); The King’s Consort/Robert King
Robert King and his King’s Consort continue their rewarding survey of sacred vocal music by Bach’s north and central German contemporaries and predecessors with a disc of pieces by Johann Schelle. He was in every sense a predecessor, having died when Bach was only 16, after serving as Cantor of St Thomas’s, Leipzig, from 1677 to 1701. Schelle had been taught at Dresden by the great Schütz, whose influence can be felt strongly and frequently in these splendidly varied works. Later on, Schelle studied under his Thomaskantor predecessor, Sebastian Knüpfer, whose music is featured in the preceding volume of King’s series. Lovers of this underexplored German repertoire will find little to disappoint them in a well-constructed programme of arias, motets and cantatas. The most colourful of them is the radiant Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele for two vocal choirs, strings, timpani and an imposing phalanx of brass. This resonant piece, like some others here, receives its first recording on disc. The choral blending is fresh, vital and alert, with particularly alluring contributions from the soprano voices. The big brass arsenal is arresting and provides an effective foil for more contemplative pieces, of which Aus der Tiefen and Herr, lehre uns bedenken are but two outstanding examples. Thanks, King and Co. Nicholas Anderson