Schütz: Lukas-Passion, SWV 480

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Schutz
LABELS: Ars Nova
WORKS: Lukas-Passion, SWV 480
PERFORMER: Johan Linderoth (tenor), Jakob Bloch Jesperen (bass); Ars Nova Copenhagen/Paul Hillier
CATALOGUE NO: Ars Nova DACAPO 8.226019

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The liner notes entitled ‘Hearing Schütz in a Bach World’ dwell at some length on what is not here – chorales, continuo-accompanied recitative, arias and large-scale framing choruses. Better perhaps to leap straight to 1666 and immerse oneself with an innocent ear in the narration of Luke’s account of Christ’s Passion.

It is delivered in chant-like monody, its leisurely pace allowing time to contemplate each event of the story, and is totally unaccompanied (instruments were silenced in the Dresden Court during Holy Week). The limited pitch-range, virtually never beyond an octave, the formulaic melody and the unimpassioned narrative approach of tenor Johan Linderoth are strangely moving. In such a largely syllabic setting, brief melismas become significant events, as does the long silence after Jesus gives up the ghost.

The bass Jakob Bloch Jespersen is finely cast as Jesus, his voice and range sonorous and his pacing thoughtful and restrained. The 12-voice choir plays the roles of disciples, high priests and crowds baying for blood, and provides brief opening and closing choruses. Their intonation is superb, creating a rich tone in a reverberant Copenhagen Church.

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For non-German speakers, this needs determined listening, with text to hand. But the reward is to share the deeply-felt meditation of Dresden’s Good Friday congregation. George Pratt