La Chapelle Rhénane / Benoît Haller / Maîtrise de Garçons de Colmar

Dietrich Buxtehude: Membra Jesu Nostri

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Dieterich Buxtehude composed his Membra Jesu nostri in Lübeck in 1680, and the work, drenched in emotion in a most un-Bachian way, has become increasingly popular in the 21st century. The title might be translated "Limbs of Our Jesus," but actually the Latin texts, of considerable antiquity, describe seven wounds supposedly suffered by Jesus Christ on the cross, and the work thus falls into a group of works in which the number seven takes on mystical significance. Various interpretations have been offered, with the majority adopting the one-voice-per-part technique, sometimes in a severe way, sometimes carrying a feeling of intimate chamber reflection. It is not known why or for what setting Buxtehude wrote this group of cantatas, which makes the work open season for quite a variety of performing groups. This release, from a live 2007 recording by the French ensemble La Chapelle Rhénane and the boychoir La Maîtrise de Garçons de Colmar, ranks near the top. It is choral, which is preferable in bringing out the cantatas' structure: each one contains a "concerto," with contrasting solo and choral sections, and an aria. La Maîtrise de Garçons de Colmar is a small choir, more delicate than John Eliot Gardiner's Monteverdi Choir and perhaps not as tight, but it catches the devotional intensity of the work while keeping to a choral sound. Sample almost anywhere, but perhaps the beginning of the fourth cantata, "Surge amica mea." Nothing is said in the packaging about how this recording happened to be released or re-released after 12 years in 2019, but one may be thankful that it has been.

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