SchŸtz, Schein, Weckmann

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Schátz,Schein,Weckmann
WORKS: Historia, der freuden- und gnadenreichen Geburt Gottes und Marien Sohnes, Jesu Christi; Hodie Christus natus est; Mach dich auf, werde Licht, Zion; Gegrüsset seist du, Holdselige
PERFORMER: Claire Lefilliâtre (soprano), Hans-Jörg Mammel (tenor); Namur Chamber Choir, Ensemble La Fenice/Jean Tubéry
Schütz visited Venice twice, learning in turn from Gabrieli and Monteverdi. The former inspired the intermedii, subtly coloured tableaux describing events in The Christmas Story – angels in triple time with violins, earthlings in 4/4 with wind, shepherds scampering to recorders and buzzing dulcian, high priests pronouncing to pompous brass. Later, Monteverdi was to provide the model for carrying dramatic action forward in a single melodic line – recitative: Schütz himself claimed a first here for using this modern Italian technique for setting German words. Jean Tubéry colours recitative imaginatively – the opening section unexpectedly has a trombone as its bass line – while Hans-Jörg Mammel is an expressive narrator, bending tone and tempo to the words. The intermedii are less successful, clouded by a resonant acoustic and overly close organ continuo. Penetrating this density, singers sometimes lack the ingenuous ease which the scriptural text invites. Instrumental playing – of strings, cornetts, trombones and recorders – is finely polished, but in pastel shades rather than vivid, highly differentiated hues. The King’s Consort (Hyperion) has survived nearly 15 years as my benchmark. Listening to it again, I’m riveted by its teasing rhythms and witty characterisations: a nasally insincere Herod, the purest of angels, shepherds running helter-skelter to the stable. Instrumental colours are as vivid as John Mark Ainsley’s narration, bringing the drama magically to life. Tubéry characterises four shorter pieces of nativity music more tellingly, especially Schütz’s Magnificat, ‘the proud… scattered’ in rattling concitato repeated chords, ‘the hungry’ pleading ardently for food and Monteverdian snatches of quick dialogue thrown between instruments and voices before the final Gloria. George Pratt