Tunder • Kuhnau • Bruhns • Graupner

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bruhns,Graupner,Kuhnau,Tunder
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Before Bach
WORKS: German cantatas
PERFORMER: Deborah York, Susan Hamilton (soprano), Daniel Taylor (alto), Jan Kobow, Benoit Haller (tenor), Peter Kooy (bass); Collegium Vocale/Philippe Herreweghe
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901703

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At last, there seems to be a sustained interest in rediscovering the treasure trove of north and central German sacred vocal music of the mid to late 17th century. Philippe Herreweghe has put together a fascinating programme of pieces by Franz Tunder, Johann Kuhnau, Nicolaus Bruhns and Christoph Graupner.

The disc’s title, Before Bach, is not strictly accurate since Graupner was Bach’s contemporary and the chosen work written well after Bach had composed and performed the greater number of his cantatas. The expressive vocabulary of this repertoire, containing various elements of motet, chorale and strophic aria is rich and rewarding. Herreweghe approaches it with sensibility, fielding one of the strongest teams of vocalists and instrumentalists that I have yet heard from him.

The two excellent sopranos, Deborah York and Susan Hamilton, also feature in a Kuhnau programme directed by Robert King (Hyperion), and the cantata Gott, sei mir gnädig nach deiner Güte is common to both releases. But assiduous collectors may find some of the remaining items in the programme much harder to find in rival performances. Doubtless, in the course of time there will be Tunder and Graupner blockbusters but, meanwhile, this miscellany, discerningly chosen and performed with finesse – the intimate Bruhns funeral piece affords an affecting example – deserves to win friends.

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Nicholas Anderson