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German 17th-Century Church Music

David Vernier

Artistic Quality:

Sound Quality:

There probably are snazzier titles for a CD featuring one of the world’s most exciting countertenors and rare sacred repertoire by both big names (Buxtehude, Schütz, Rosenmüller) and unknowns (Christian Geist, Christoph Bernhard, Melchior Hofmann). However, Hyperion never has stood for “hype”, so we know pretty much that what we’re getting here is, well, German church music from the 17th century. What we don’t know for sure from the title is exactly what kind of church music it is–cantatas, arias, masses, instrumental pieces–or for what uses the music was composed.

Mostly, this program consists of extended settings of Lutheran chorale tunes intended for performance by an adult alto singer, along with two five-part instrumental sonatas by Heinrich Bach, ancestor of Johann Sebastian. The musical style is based on Italian models of the period, which demanded a certain solo virtuosity set against a texturally simple accompaniment. Most of the works and composers on this program are obscure–but not for reasons of inferior quality. It’s simply that this sort of gentle, purposeful music has, in our modern world, lost its original place and function.

Except for the very charming instrumental sonatas, the focus of the music is on the expressive capacity of the countertenor voice, the character and quality of the melodic writing, and the manner in which the voice is complemented by the various accompaniments–strings, theorbo, spinet, and chamber organ. The Parley of Instruments is an experienced early music ensemble that’s totally at home in this repertoire, providing tasteful support and stylish ornamentation. Of course, the main attraction here is countertenor Robin Blaze, whose clear, well-focused, agile instrument easily and artfully spins these unassuming yet pleasing melodies into golden musical threads.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

Works by Buxtehude, Schütz, Rosenmüller, Melchior Hofmann, Heinrich Bach, others

  • Record Label: Hyperion - 67079
  • Medium: CD

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