Vox Luminis / Bart Jacobs / Lionel Meunier

Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott: Luther and the Music of the Reformation

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A number of recordings have explored how Catholic masses and motets functioned in liturgical context rather than simply featuring performances of the music as an independent entity. Such recordings are rarer for Lutheran music, however, in spite of the fact that, generally speaking, the chorale-based music of the Lutheran church is more closely tied to specific liturgical functions than is the more abstract music of Catholicism. This handsomely packaged release by the Belgian early music choir Vox Luminis under Lionel Meunier, with Bart Jacobs on organ, aims to improve the situation, with a generous selection of music by composers beginning temporally with Martin Luther himself and running through much of the 17th century. You get two lenses on the repertory: the first disc is devoted to the liturgical year, and the second to the distinctive larger forms that emerged as Lutheranism differentiated itself. These include the German Mass and German Requiem, the latter having resonances centuries later in the music of Brahms. The section designated "Das Domga" on disc two actually refers to pieces addressing aspects of dogma; this also is distinctive to Lutheranism. The music by Schütz on the second disc is perhaps the most imposing, but sample instead one of the pieces on disc one by Scheidt that pertain to Christ's Resurrection (tracks 11-13); it is here that the tone one associates with Bach is clearest despite the difference in musical style. The choristers of Vox Luminis are clear and communicative in spirit, although they might have done well to bulk up to the size of the choir depicted in the drawing on pages eight and nine of the booklet; at the smaller size the music is a bit homogeneous. The booklet itself is a superb piece of work, and the engineering, in the Eglise Notre-Dame in the small Walloon town of Gedinne, is very fine. Recommended.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:06
2 4:29
3 6:01
4 4:21
5 2:41
6 5:50
7 2:43
8 3:02
9 2:19
10 2:51
11 4:46
12 1:45
13 3:39
14 7:53
15 3:02
16 1:11
17 11:04

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 7:19
Missa super Christ unser Herr
2 3:03
3 4:59
4 8:51
5 3:30
6 5:08
Die Deutsche Passion nach Johannes
7 4:53
8 6:05
9 6:42
10 1:17
11 2:20
12 0:39
13 3:13
14 3:18
15 3:42
16 3:08
17 4:14
18 1:18
19 5:28
blue highlight denotes track pick