Before Bach: German Cantatas. Franz Tunder: Dominus illuminatio mea;
Wend' ab deinen Zorn; Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Johann Kuhnau: Gott
sei mir gnadig nach deiner Gute. Nicolaus Bruhns: Ich lieger und schlafe.
Christoph Graupner: Herr, die Wasserstrome erheben sich. Collegium
Vocale, Philippe Hereveghe, conductor. Harmonia Mundi, HMU 901703.
With the work of Johann Sebastian Bach towering over nearly every composer
of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, it is easy to forget about the
generation that preceded him. Fortunately for us, this vast repertoire of
German church music from the pre-Bach era is gradually being rediscovered,
and what a treasure trove it is.
Franz Tunder is regarded by historians to be one of the most significant
Organists and composers of the early seventeenth century. He presided
over the music at the Marienkirche in Lubeck, future home to one Dietrich
Buxtehude. Three of Tunder's fifteen or so surviving church cantatas are
presented here. Simple, pious and elegant, these works, one in Latin and
two in German reflect a deep spiritual commitment and a careful attention
to text setting. The clarity of the writing allows the listener to focus
on the words and derive inspiration from them.
Of particular interest is the cantata Herr, die Wasserstorme erheben sich
by Christoph Graupner. A work of striking contrasts, Graupner's depiction
of the contrasts between the sea's harsh waves and the peace-giving Christ
are depicted on a musical canvas, the vividness of which would rival a
Rembrandt painting. Johann Kuhnau, Bach's predecessor in Leipzig and
Nicholaus Bruhns are represented by one elegant cantata each, rounding
out a collection of works that is not only enjoyable and exciting, but
inspiring and useful as well. Each of these pieces would be equally at
home in the church or the concert hall, and could be sung beautifully by
either professional or amateur choirs.
Philippe Herreweghe has given us a vast library of fine recordings over
the years, and this one is no exception. His Collegium Vocale sings with
flawless intonation and clarity of texture and line that is rivaled by very
few choirs indeed. If one were to criticize anything, it is the current
tendency amongst European choirs (and the trait is spilling over to the
colonies too!) to sing with an incessant straight tone. To my ears, this
leads to a lack of expression and a delivery that becomes tiresome and
mannered in short order. These performances, although pristine, can make
the listener physically tired after only a short while as the colorless
tone, decorated only with a rather persistent messa di voce grates on the
ears (and the nerves.) That little caveat aside, this is a disc that will
be of interest to many a singer and conductor. Harmonia Mundi gives us a
recording that is spacious, clear, and perfectly balanced. Highly
recommended to all lovers of fine, tasteful music making.