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 00:45 Amazon
2 01:14 Amazon
3 04:59 Amazon
4 01:17 Amazon
5 00:59 Amazon
6 01:04 Amazon
7 01:34 Amazon
8 03:44 Amazon
9 01:39 Amazon
10 00:57 Amazon
11 01:59 Amazon
12 05:07 Amazon
13 02:15 Amazon
14 00:27 Amazon
15 01:45 Amazon
16 04:40 Amazon
17 01:59 Amazon
18 00:41 Amazon
19 02:20 Amazon
20 05:21 Amazon
21 02:40 Amazon
22 01:48 Amazon
23 02:22 Amazon
24 03:04 Amazon
25 02:28 Amazon
26 00:51 Amazon
27 01:47
28 03:52 Amazon
29 01:26 Amazon
30 04:56 Amazon
31 08:44
blue highlight denotes track pick