Heinrich Schütz: Die Sieben Worte; Johannes-Passion
12 October 2012
This is an extremely interesting disc from the musical point of view. Heinrich Schutz’s more overtly dramatic Sieben Worte (The Seven Words of Christ on the Cross) forms an effective contrast with the far sparser and simpler Johannes-Passion, a later and rather austere work.
The excellent booklet provides texts and fascinating notes by Daniel R. Melamed, who writes particularly well on the Johannes-Passion. Melamed explores Schutz’s compositional technique and the ways in which he interprets and narrates the text through his use of pitches. The first section of recitative is examined in some detail, which allows the listener to analyse subsequent passages using the same parameters and thus heightens appreciation of Schutz’s skill when then listening to the complete work.
The performances feature soloists and players who are outstanding throughout. The players provide a wonderful warmth of sound and Paul Hillier ensures that a good pace is maintained - nothing ever feels rushed. Phrasing is good, intonation secure, ensemble pleasing, and communication excellent. The vocal soloists have all been well-chosen; their voices suit the music and they are good advocates.
One might perhaps wish that the Sieben Worte had been imbued with a little more dramatic declamation at times, but this does not really detract. The Johannes-Passion is well-realised without the dramatic element becoming incongruous with regard to the musical setting.
Deeply moving performances of some intriguing works.