Thomas Quasthoff

Consider, My Soul: Sacred Arias

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The recital of sacred arias is rarer than the disc devoted to operatic or art song selections, and it carries its own special challenge: in sacred material, the singer can't get away with relying on sheer vocal beauty to the detriment of communication of the text. This selection of arias from larger works by Bach, Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn thus is ideally suited to the talents of bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, who combines smooth, perfectly controlled technique with a broad, instantly attractive Germanic warmth. "Music is my religion," Quasthoff said, and indeed he includes a pair of selections from Haydn's Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons), not conventionally considered a sacred work (for pagans, it works perfectly well as one). But listen to Quasthoff's rendition of "Mache dich, mein Herze, rein" (Make yourself pure, my heart) from Bach's St. Matthew Passion (track 6), which seems to proceed from a feeling of absolute conviction in its quiet mix of determination and sweetness, and from a basis of rock-solid technique in its gentle procession from note to note. All the Bach arias, which open the disc, are gorgeous, and listeners who have immersed themselves in historical Bach performances may wish to pause and hear what a modern operatic singer can do with Bach's vocal lines that run rapidly upwards and leave the singer perched over a cliff. Quasthoff does well with the English-language works on the disc, including "The trumpet shall sound," from Handel's Messiah -- he doesn't exactly sound like a native, but he obscures his German accent into something of indeterminate origin. This is true even in the bonus track (classical albums never used to have bonus tracks, but perhaps silly marketing devices are an inevitable result of multinational corporate control of the big labels), the African-American spiritual Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; the listener is advised to avoid performances of spirituals by all-German ensembles, but Quasthoff's sense of conviction helps him bring this one off. Quasthoff shifts gears effectively from Bach into the humor of Die Jahreszeiten and the more relaxed religion of Mendelssohn. The Staatskapelle Dresden (and occasionally the Staatsopernchor Dresden) under Sebastian Weigle provides sensitive and restrained support. In all, if you've heard about Quasthoff and are looking for a good introduction to his talents, this disc provides a fine one.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas Oratorio), in six parts, BWV 248 (BC D7)
4:45 Amazon
7:34 Amazon
St. John Passion (Johannespassion), BWV 245 (BC D2)
2:31 Amazon
4:08 Amazon
St. Matthew Passion (Matthäuspassion), for soloists, double chorus & double orchestra, BWV 244 (BC D3b)
6:19 Amazon
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons), oratorio, H. 21/3
4:25 Amazon
4:42 Amazon
Die Schöpfung (The Creation), oratorio, H. 21/2
4:50 Amazon
Elijah (Elias), oratorio, Op. 70
3:28 Amazon
5:15 Amazon
Paulus (Saint Paul), oratorio, Op. 36
5:51 Amazon
3:07 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick