Review By Peter Loewen,American Record Guide,March 2011
In these recordings of two Passiontide pieces by Heinrich Schütz, I can hear in the Ars Nova Copenhagen the same clean, bright timbre I associate with the Hilliard Ensemble and the Theatre of Voices (Hillier’s ensemble at UC Davis). The diction is crisp, and intonation is spot on.
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Review By James A. Altena ,Fanfare,November 2010
The three passion settings of Heinrich Schütz, all written in 1666, constitute an intermediate step between the traditional medieval plainchant settings and the elaborate choral passions of Bach. Overall they are closer to the former than the latter, in both structure and forces required for performance. The text consists only of the Gospel narrative without poetic reflections and interjections from other sources; the Evangelist narrator and Jesus dominate, with choral parts limited to the introductory title and the turba exclamations of the throng; the entire text is still sung a cappella without instrumental accompaniment. However, the vocal lines that Schütz writes for the two protagonists are far more varied in inflection than the traditional chant, aimed at
Here, the very logical filler is Schütz’s Die Sieben Worte (The Seven Words), a catena of the Biblical texts of Jesus’ words from the cross. Paradoxically, despite being an earlier composition (prior to 1658), it is closer in style to the later Baroque oratorio. The choral introduction and conclusion set texts of Protestant hymns, and are respectively followed and preceded by instrumental interludes; the voice of Jesus is accompanied by two instruments, anticipating Bach’s technique in the St. Matthew Passion; and the part of the Evangelist is assigned to more than one solo voice, with some lines even sung by a vocal quartet.
This is the third disc of music by Schütz released by Paul Hillier and the Ars Nova Copenhagen on the Dacapo label. J. F. Weber highly praised both previous outings: the Lukas-Passion in Fanfare 33:2, and the combined Weihnachtshistorie and Auferstehungshistorie in 33:5. Comparing the former to the recording by Matteo Messori in the ongoing Heinrich Schütz edition being issued by Brilliant Classics, he preferred “Hillier’s subtler approach” to Messori’s “more forceful interpretation” and also remarked that Hillier’s 1983 recording of the Matthäus-Passion was “notably lighter and more delicate than anything heard before.” (Hillier has now rerecorded this work for Dacapo for future release.) Weber has captured the matter perfectly; transparency and gracefulness are hallmarks of these excellent renditions. While several alternatives—Messomore....
Review By Ronald E. Grames ,Fanfare,November 2010
I never cease to be amazed at the range of musical styles that Paul Hillier and his always brilliant choirs can bring delightfully to life. One wonders if there is any period in which the peripatetic English conductor is not in sympathy. As it is, he works primarily from the Baroque backwards and the 20th century forward, but his limited forays into the Classical period (Bortniansky, for instance) and Romantic (the part-songs of Schubert, Schumann, Reger, et al.) show him equally at home. As this may be, the prolific German (and sometimes Danish) early-Baroque composer Heinrich Schütz is well in Hillier’s usual range of operations, and Hillier has been making a series of recordings of this master’s larger-scale liturgical works with his Copenhagen ensemble. This
Both of these works come from Schütz’s later years, when old age, personal tragedy, and the privations of the Thirty Years War had stripped his music of most of its earlier Renaissance and Italian influences, leaving a directness of expression and an emotional austerity that is profoundly moving. Listeners coming to the Johannes-Passion from Bach’s dramatic work will be struck by this relative restraint in Schütz’s version. The setting is unaccompanied, in keeping with the performance expectations of the Dresden court for such works, and there are none of Bach’s solo reflections on the text. Rather, this concise liturgical reading, built on the patterns of the text, inspires by heightening the emotional impact of the passion story itself. A solo tenor, here the sweet-toned, expressive Adam Riis, carries the narrative as the Evangelist, Jesus’ words are sung nobly by bass Jacob Bloch Jesperson, and four members of the 13-voice chorus take the brief solo statements of Peter, Pilate, the maid at the door, and the High Priest’s servant. The crowds are portrayed by the pure-toned chorus with ringing conviction. The closing prayer is heart-breakingly beautiful.
The somewhat earlier Die Sieben Worte is more overtly dramatic, for while the Evangelist’s recitative-like narration, shared among members of an SATB quartet, is again austere, Jesus’ statements are written with more expressive freedom for the tenor soloist. Where the organ accompaniment provides a relatively static bass line for the narration, Schütz’s setting of the words of Jesus is made richer with an independent basso continuo role for the orga
Review By Johan van Veen,musica Dei donum,October 2010
This is the second recording in what seems to be a Schütz project by the choir Ars Nova Copenhagen, directed by Paul Hillier. In 2009 the first disc was released which contained the St Luke Passion. This time it is the St John Passion, which is combined with the setting of The [Last] Seven Words of Jesus. They are stylistically very different, although they were both written at the later stage of Schütz’ life. Whereas The Seven [Last] Words is a typically baroque piece, with instruments and basso continuo, the Passion looks back to the renaissance, as it is set for voices without instruments and without support of a basso continuo part.