Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Final Schütz Project Release (really!)

courtesy of Naxos of America

Apparently, my announcement this past February of the conclusion of Hans-Christoph’s Rademann’s project to record the complete works of Heinrich Schütz was, to appropriate the words attributed to Mark Twain, “greatly exaggerated.” This past Friday, Carus-Verlag released the twentieth volume in the series; and I feel a bit more confidence, on this occasion, in citing the words of Bullwinkle J. Moose (not quite in Twain’s league), “This time, for sure!” One compelling piece of evidence is that the final track in the second of the two CDs in this collection, “Trostlied” (song of consolation), is marked as a “world premiere recording” and has the catalog number SWV 502, one higher than the highest number in the SWV (Schütz-Werke-Verzeichnis) itemization on the List of Compositions by Heinrich Schütz Wikipedia page.

The title of the two-CD set is Psalmen & Friedensmusiken (psalms & peace music); and, as of this writing, has only released it as an MP3 album (whose download, fortunately, includes the PDF file of the accompanying booklet). Those interested in purchasing a physical copy will be able to do so through a Web page on the Carus Web site. The contents do not fit conveniently into the categories on the SWV Web page; and they cover an extended period of time, from 1618 to 1648. Those who know their history (if any are left) may recognize these as the years that mark the beginning and ending of the Thirty Years’ War.

While Schütz made Dresden the base of his operations in 1615, he was astute enough to evade the threats of devastation that haunted Central Europe for 30 years. He is probably best known for having taken refuge in Venice, where Claudio Monteverdi was both teacher and colleague. However, he also made two extended visits to Denmark. The booklet does not give a thorough account of when each of the nineteen selections on the album was composed, but there are no particularly informative records that can be consulted for these matters. To the extent that the Thirty Years’ War involved conflicts between Protestants and Catholics, it is worth noting that only four of the selections on this album set Latin texts and are probably associated with Schütz’ time in Venice. Similarly, there are polychoral selections, which may well have been inspired by the physical layout of St Mark’s Basilica and the exploitation of that layout by Schütz’ earlier teacher, Giovanni Gabrieli.

In spite of his impressive influences, this final release makes it clear that Schütz was definitely master of his own compositional voice. This is evident not only through the exchanges among the vocal lines but also the interplay of the voices with instrumental resources. These account for strings, winds, and brass in different selections, while the continuo is managed by theorbo, violone, and organ. Taken as a whole, these nineteen selections make for very satisfying “last words” in a collection whose releases have been consistently satisfying since the recording sessions for the first volume began in November of 2006.

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