Heinrich Schutz, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Paul Hillier - Lukas Passion

Published Wednesday 1st July 2009
Heinrich Schutz, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Paul Hillier - Lukas Passion
Heinrich Schutz, Ars Nova Copenhagen, Paul Hillier  - Lukas Passion

STYLE: Choral
RATING 6 6 6 6 6 6
LABEL: Dacapo 8226019

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Ars Nova Copenhagen and Paul Hillier here present the first recording in a series devoted to the narrative works ("Historia") of Heinrich Schutz (1585-1672). The Danish vocal ensemble thus celebrate Denmark's connection with this great German composer who was appointed Kapellmeister to King Christian IV and worked at the Danish court for 11 years. This is a labour of love: the presentation of the CD case and booklet is immaculate and the singing and production quality first class. But is it worth it? Frankly, if asked to think of a Passion oratorio most of us would go straight to Johann Sebastian Bach and if we approach Schutz expecting Bach we will be in for a surprise and possibly a disappointment. Schutz predates Bach by the best part of a century and things were done differently back then. Schutz takes Luke's account of the death of Jesus and sets it to a form of chant to allow the words to be heard and understood (for those who have German). Thus he gives us something between Gregorian chant and operatic recitative interspersed with some splendid choral singing. The two featured soloists are the tenor Johan Linderoth who is the Evangelist and the bass baritone Jakob Bloch Jespersen who sings Jesus. Both do a superb job and when the choral crowd join them the music is inspiring but, for me, there was too much chanting. When I followed along using the translation in the CD booklet I found it too slow and when I tried to listen without reading I got lost. No doubt this release will be welcomed by specialists but for the general listener or worshipper it is too obscure.

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