WORKS: Geistliche Chormusik
PERFORMER: Tölz Boys Choir, Musicalische Compagney/Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden
CATALOGUE NO: 10 858-59
A key question here is of authenticity, not of performance but of our listening practice. Schütz, at 63, demonstrated in these 29 motets his conviction that facility in equal-voiced counterpoint was a core skill for composers, in an age favouring polarised continuo below affective solo lines. Hearing a single motet sung a cappella, in its liturgical context, is a profoundly enriching experience. But an extended succession on CD palls, and Schmidt-Gaden opts for variety. Schütz himself invited instrumental participation, replacing or doubling voices. Here, the choice has been quartets of cornet with trombones, and reedy dulcians. They finally combine (No. 29) in a deep-hued sextet, though around a rather under-supported tenor indulging in tiresome syllabic stresses. Suzuki’s sound, a glorious tenor soloist bathed in a wonderfully spacious viol consort, could hardly be more different.
The Tölz choirboys are admirably secure, barring forgivable moments of over-enthusiastic sharpness. They are matched by the astonishingly vocal quality of cornet with the lower brass and reeds, creating that depth of sonority which comes from impeccable intonation.
In places, Schmidt-Gaden allots unexpected inner parts to voices. So the five-part Viel werden kommen, boy treble on top, has an isolated tenor mingling with cornet and trombones. However refined a composer’s contrapuntal skill, such inner lines lack soloistic distinctiveness. Suzuki’s choral sound, if less adventurous, is more convincing – and his direction throughout more fluid than Schmidt-Gaden’s sometimes heavy-handed accents. Yet, for extended listening, I suspect I will often be returning to this new kaleidoscope of colours and textures. George Pratt