WORKS: Psalmen; Two Pavans
PERFORMER: Oxford Camerata/Jeremy SummerlyLaurence Cummings (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553044
The musical establishment of the Dresden Court was among the most sumptuous in Europe when Schütz joined it in 1615. He published 26 Psalm settings there in 1619, some calling for very extravagant forces – solo and choral singers and a grand array of instruments – reflecting what he had learned from his studentship with Giovanni Gabrieli in Venice. With only 12 voices and one instrument (organ), Summerly has chosen the less flamboyant settings which, at his leisurely speeds, present a rather one-sided view of this potentially spectacular repertoire. Contrasts between the divided choirs are restrained too, in both texture and stereo spacing. Yet the young Oxford Camerata voices are wonderfully refined, with moments of exquisite beauty.
They come into their own in some later settings: the Thirty Years’ War had taken its toll of Dresden’s magnificence and Schütz wrote for much reduced forces. The fresh, totally unaffected voices of two sopranos plead engagingly with the psalmist: ‘Hear me when I call’. Michael McCarthy’s solo bass is finely focused across the demandingly wide range of ‘I lay down and slept’. Two Pavans by Schein, ‘playable,’ he wrote, ‘on any instruments but preferably on viols’, here provide timbral relief on the organ. George Pratt