The polychoral style associated with St. Mark's cathedral in Venice, and with the German composers who went there to soak it up, depends on a specific sonic environment that is extraordinarily difficult to reproduce on recordings. A composer like Heinrich Schütz wrote music for specific occasions, with use of space counterbalanced against the range of styles, from formal German polyphony to nearly operatic effects, that he had inherited and heard around him. Those factors are displayed in an exemplary way in the Musikalische Exequien that forms the centerpiece of the program here, a funeral work composed for the burial of one Heinrich II Posthumus Reuss, who picked the texts for the work before he expired. The performers, including the veteran historical-instrument group Musica Fiata under Roland Wilson, and the underexposed Stuttgart Hymnus Boys' Choir, are fully competent here, but the real stars of this recording are the engineers of Germany's MDG label, working in the Christuskirche Stuttgart. They capture the balances in Schütz's music to a hitherto perhaps unexcelled degree. It's not just that neither the brasses of Musica Fiata nor the youthful choristers are not permitted to drown each other out. It's that each effect in the Musikalische Exequien and in the shorter motets on the album seems to come alive. The configurations of different voice groupings in, especially, the last part of the Exequien are rich in symbolism (souls in heaven consoling the community of mourners, for example) suggested by the texts. These in the past have required familiarity with the music to divine; in this extraordinary performance they seem to leap off the disc. Credit conductor Wilson, who has gotten extremely sensitive performance out of his young singers. But credit engineer Holger Schlegel above all for sterling execution in this black belt of engineering in the classical repertory.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener, for soprano, alto, 2 tenors, bass & continuo ad lib, SWV 432-433|
|Suite No. 10 (from Banchetto musicale)|