Purcell Quartet / Emma Kirkby

Buxtehude: Membra Jesu Nostri

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Dietrich Buxtehude's Membra Jesu Nostri, BuxWV 75 ("The Body Parts of Our Jesus"), can be sung by a choir and soloists, but the case for the one-voice-per-part performance heard here is unusually strong, and most of the available versions feature a "chorus" consisting merely of the four soloists together. It is not known for what occasion Buxtehude intended the music, but it has no liturgical use; it consists of a group of poetic meditations, with relevant biblical verses interpolated, on (in order) Christ's feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face. This intrinsically philosophical concept seems intended for the contemplation of a small group of musicians and listeners. It also invites a kind of graphic emotion, which this group of English musicians largely avoids. Compare a bit of this recording with the more emotionally intense reading by Konrad Junghänel's Cantus Cölln group to see which you prefer. The work's modest dimensions flatter the voice of veteran soprano Emma Kirkby, but it is the rich countertenor of Michael Chance that stands out among the singers. An unusual feature of the performance is the mixed group of strings, with violins on top, from the Purcell Quartet, and old-style viols on the bottom from the ensemble Fretwork; the combination may or may not be historically justifiable, but the viols darken the sound in an attractive way and work well in the resonant acoustic of London's St-Jude-on-the-Hill church. The booklet is superior, with full translations from Latin into English, German, and French. Not the only choice for this fascinating piece, but worth consideration for those favoring a soberer approach.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Membra Jesu nostri, BuxWV 75
1 0:45 Amazon
2 1:14 Amazon
3 4:59 Amazon
4 1:17 Amazon
5 0:59 Amazon
6 1:04 Amazon
7 1:34 Amazon
8 3:44 Amazon
9 1:39 Amazon
10 0:57 Amazon
11 1:59 Amazon
12 5:07 Amazon
13 2:15 Amazon
14 0:27 Amazon
15 1:45 Amazon
16 4:40 Amazon
17 1:59 Amazon
18 0:41 Amazon
19 2:20 Amazon
20 5:21 Amazon
21 2:40 Amazon
22 1:48 Amazon
23 2:22 Amazon
24 3:04 Amazon
25 2:28 Amazon
26 0:51 Amazon
27 1:47
28 3:52 Amazon
29 1:26 Amazon
30 4:56 Amazon
31 8:44
blue highlight denotes track pick