Review by: David Vernier
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
Listeners familiar with early-17th century Venetian music will immediately recognize in the motets of Viennese composer Christoph Strauss stylistic similarities with Gabrieli–particularly the antiphonal brass writing, but also the rich textures in the vocal scoring and the bursts of florid ornamentation. But you’ll be surprised to discover that this virtually unknown master created some of the more superbly crafted and profoundly beautiful sacred works of the early Baroque. The pieces performed here–11 motets and a mass–are not of minor interest in any respect. They show the work of a mature composer with impressive facility for melody, harmonic invention, and for the intricacies of vocal and instrumental part-writing. Strauss employs such variety in using his relatively small numbers of singers and brass instruments that it’s easy to believe we’re listening to a much larger ensemble. The fullness of the homophonic sections–not only due to the writing but also to the exceptional quality of the brass playing–contrasts perfectly with frequently lighter-textured polyphonic sections. The most dramatic moments are truly stunning; the more delicately expressive vocal passages are so tender and lovely and perfectly sung, you wish they were longer. This recording reminds us not only that there is much music yet to be re-discovered, but also of the high standard of performance we enjoy today, even from ensembles and soloists that aren’t the most famous and most recorded.
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CHRISTOPH STRAUSS - Missa Maria Concertata; Motets