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1944 albums sorted by Date: from newest to oldest and filtered by Sacred Vocal Music
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet
The rediscovery of Dietrich Buxtehude, whom Bach walked across Germany to hear, continues to yield fascinating new masterpieces. Membra Jesu nostri (The Body Parts of Jesus), known only to a handful of specialists a decade ago, has attracted no fewer than three strong recordings from major early music ensembles: the Sixteen under Harry Christophers performs its framing ensemble sections with a small choir, while Konrad Jünghänel's Cantus Cölln and the present performance, by the Netherlands Bach Society under Jos van Veldhoven, simply join the four soloists together to form the chorus. Normally that's a questionable decision, but in this case it seems to work: this was experimental music, written for a small group of initiates and set down in a very odd tablature notation, a specimen of which is reproduced in the booklet for this disc. The Latin texts of these seven thematically linked cantatas, drawn from a medieval mystical poem, are devotions addressed to body parts of the crucified Christ: feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face. These texts are sung by soloists, with a different soloist taking each verse in music that changes but remains harmonically consistent with the other verses. Buxtehude frames each text with a choral setting of a line from the Bible that refers to the same body part. He alters the mode of expression in these little framing choruses; some are direct and passionate, others coolly contrapuntal. And he finds other ways of varying what could be a tedious sequence of seven similar cantatas; the work reaches a climax in the sixth cantata, on the theme of the heart, where the alto, tenor, violins, and cellos drop out and throw the remaining forces -- soprano, bass, and a group of gambas -- into sharp relief. This extraordinary cantata suggests the confluence of sacred and secular love found in both the Latin poem and in the Song of Songs text Buxtehude chooses from the Bible to frame it, and the suggestion is made without the recourse to Italian operatic language found in Bach. The music as a whole is intimate, personal, and intensely devotional; it may well appeal strongly to those whose religious impulses are stimulated by close consideration of individual biblical passages. There is a dramatic quality that lurks in Buxtehude's vocal music, and the soloists here choose to bring it out even as they keep to a generally quiet level -- in this performance the music is a quietly impassioned, private prayer. The other available performances are a bit warmer. Preferences among the three may be individual, but the acoustics of this recording bring out its subtleties and its general hushed, intense mood. This disc is strongly recommended for anyone who loves the passionate yet concrete quality of Bach's smaller sacred pieces.
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 10, 2018 | Channel Classics Records

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Hi-Res Audio
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Sacred Oratorios - Released August 31, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
There is no shortage of parallels to be drawn between Caldara and Vivaldi: both Venetians, both boasting an impressive body of work running to several hundred pieces of all genres, both died in Vienna (in the same street and in the same penury!), although Caldara had written more operas and oratorios than the Red Priest. And here is one of these very 32 known oratorios, Maddalena ai piedi di Christo written in Venice around 1698; it is "oratorio volgare", that is, recited in Italian, rather than Latin. Originally written as an accompaniment to spiritual exercises, the oratorio came to replace profane operas when the theatres were closed, especially from November to Lent. It took on the guise of opera, and used many of its techniques: naves and altars were (re)decorated and mechanisms and costumes were employed. In reality, it was nothing but an opera with a religious theme... The words and the plot of Maddalena ai piedi di Christo are perfectly suited to these months of penitence. It is a drama of the moral breakdown that tortures the sinner who has to choose between worldly and heavenly love, between living a life of luxury and truly promising herself to Christ. The Le Banquet Céleste ensemble, led by Damien Guillon (who also sings the alto part of Divine Love), takes to this rare piece with fervour. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released June 8, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
In 1668, Dietrich Buxtehude, then thirty one years old, took up the very sought-after tenure of organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, then a Hanseatic metropolis of considerable relevance; the organist had at that time one of the most desirable social statuses. He soon caused a sensation with the church concerts he held outside of religious services and that happened every year, in the early evening, on the five Sundays preceding Christmas. During these “Abendmusiken” (vespertine music), as they were called, were sometimes performed great works falling withing the oratorio genre, but more often was performed a mix of instrumental pieces, church tunes, psalm arrangements and cantata-like works. From the 1700s, these series of concerts had become a major cultural event of the city. Released from the daily handling of religious music handled by the Marienkirche’s Cantor—as was often the case at the time in North Germany—, Buxtehude only composed works on his own initiative, which allowed him to give them a quality level noticeably higher than that of the Cantor, for example, forced to compose non-stop, from one Sunday to another. The cantatas recorded here demonstrate the high artistic ambitions of these vocal works: they often digress from stylistic and generic conventions of their time and answer the tasks imposed by the texts with bold musical solutions, daring and absolutely splendid. The sonatas from Buxtehude completing the vocal program of this disc are also characterized by their markedly experimental character. Olivier Fortin’s Masques Ensemble—recorder, strings, positive organ—and Lionel Meunier’s Vox Luminis join forces to offer us these gems from the turn of the North German 18th century, such gems that the young Bach didn’t hesitate, in 1705, to travel on foot from Arnstadt—a 100-league trip—to come listen to Buxtehude, his organ play and probably his famous Abendmusiken. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released May 25, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Bach's "Dialogue Cantatas" generally portrayed Jesus in dialogue with the human soul, first tormented and then at peace. The three cantatas selected here by Berlin's Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, which has, over the years since 1982 (with over a million records sold!) brought together musicians from the city's different orchestras – first those under Soviet rule and then all orchestras following the fall of the Wall – are a part of this genre; all date from the great Leipzig period, specifically the third cycle written by Bach for Leipzig in 1726. It will come as no surprise, hearing these cantatas, that the essence of the first arias is desperate, heart-rending: and as they go on, they move towards relief and joy. It is in these first moments that we see Bach at his most intense, most pained, most chromatic, terribly modern as well as at his most romantic, profoundly lyrical and yet rigorous in the musical discourse. The most superbly original piece is surely the Cantata BWV 49, which begins with a Sinfonia with obbligato organ – in which the listener will recognise the final movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in E Major, when Bach recycled it a dozen years later – and continues with an aria with cello and oboe, both soloists immersed in the soprano's joyous voice; and we finish on a magnificent chorale with an aria – the aria being for the bass of the solo organ, while the soprano part sings the chorale's theme from on high: a staggering display of modernity. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released May 25, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice
In the 17th century, Roman churches were competing to put on the greatest show to celebrate their patron saints. On these occasions, extraordinary services were performed, where many different artists would be brought together, singers and instrumentalists alike, alongside ordinary musicians, for sumptuous pieces performed by several vocal and instrumental choirs. One contemporary description gives an idea of the scale: ten choirs and ensembles played together, two on fixed stages, and eight others distributed symmetrically right along the nave, on platforms built for the occasion. Every additional stage was provided with a positive organ, while many other instruments added to the sonic splendour. So that all the musicians could play well together in spite of the distance, "capi di coro” or time-keeping drummers, would play in unison. Orazio Benevolo (1605-1672) was one of the most remarkable architects of these extravagant, multi-choral monuments. Benevolo was a choirboy at the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome before he entered the upper echelons by taking the job of Chapel Master in 1638. The composer has left behind him an abundant set of works, containing no fewer than 34 motets for a range of players, including Regna terrae, written for twelve soprano parts distributed across six vocal choirs, each with its own basso continuo. We are also indebted to him for twelve versions of the Magnificat, for between eight and 24 voices, including one for 16 voices, in quadruple choir, which appears here. Hervé Niquet and his Concert Spirituel have made use of the ample acoustics in the Notre-Dame-du-Liban church in Paris, perfectly structured to hold several choirs distributed across the building, to create the sensations of immersion and spatial plenitude that the composer aimed for. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released May 18, 2018 | DUX

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
One might well say: this is just yet another recording of Rachmaninov's Vespers. And while, objectively, that's what this is, it’s also a reading which differs markedly from the norm – the norm in question being to drown the discourse in an intense reverberation, natural or artificial, and to record it at a distance, to create a "churchy" feel. None of that here: the choir – exemplary, superb – of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic in Poland, an institution based in Białystok, is recorded here quite close up, almost intimately, with no added reverb and in a comfortable acoustic location: the European Art Centre in Białystok. The result is that the listener hears every word and almost every counter-punctual line – and Rachmaninov had a field day with this, adding up to eleven real voices into the most harmonically intense passages. We bet that for many, this will be a real discovery, of an immense masterpiece of Slavic religious music. We also note that the soloists are of great quality and that the basso profundos demanded of the choir at points are real basso profundos, not unfortunate bass baritones in danger of asphyxiation. Hats off. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Oratorios - Released April 27, 2018 | deutsche harmonia mundi

Booklet
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released April 20, 2018 | Audax

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Continuing their research into the vast hinterland of German cantatas from the early baroque period, Johannes Pramsohler and the musicians of his excellent Diderot Ensemble here dive into the austere and strange music of Biber, but also the less-well-known works of Johann Christoph Bach, great uncle of Johann Sebastian and musicians like Pachelbel, Bruhns and Eberlin. Johannes Pramsohler brings a particular fire and mystical sensuality to this new album (heavenly and earthly delights never being so far apart), and intense celestial flights to his violin playing. A range of international singers have left behind opera and dived with staggering ease into a completely different repertoire. The architects of this success, the supply and airy voice of the Canadian mezzo Andrea Hill, the perfectly gloomy timbre of Spanish tenor Jorge Navarro Colorado and the dark colours of the Argentine bass Nahuel di Pierro, sound the depths of this music driven by a great piety. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 30, 2018 | Ligia

Hi-Res Booklet
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 30, 2018 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet
Today, only three remain out of the nine Leçons de ténèbres that François Couperin has seemingly written. Composed for the “Religious Ladies” who belonged to the Order of the Poor Clares in the Abbey of Longchamp, near Paris, which was completely destroyed during the French Revolution, these Leçons represent the height of Baroque pietism from the end of Louis XIV’s reign, still completely permeated by the Jansenism from the previous century. As the abbey was open to the public, it became usual to give these Leçons de ténèbres not at night, but on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. This was a society event that the Parisians came to attend. Very popular in the second half of the 17th century, these lessons of darkness became a genre very sought-after by many composers, among whom Marc-Antoine Charpentier who composed at least thirty of them, but of those very few survived to the present day. If François Couperin covers this slightly archaic genre at the beginning of the 18th century, he managed to breathe into it a new form by blending the proper austerity and a very Italian expression of pain which give his pieces a troubling sensuality. The Troisième Leçon (Third Lesson), for two voices, is particularly ornamented with coloraturas filled with affectation. Thanks to the genius of François Couperin, this exacerbated expression of pain isn’t very far from the opera, whose representations were forbidden during Lent. You could therefore follow the delicious spectacle of the most feverish and subtle human passions under the pretext of religion. The ensemble Les Ombres, co-headed by Margaux Blanchard and Sylvie Sartre, offers us this new album the Leçons de ténèbres and extracts from Couperin’s masses and motets, in a chiaroscuro mood which skillfully blends the French rigor spirit and the sweet Italian theatrics. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 23, 2018 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
From the start of the 18th century, Lutheran Germany has kept the tradition of performing an oratorio for the Passion in Holy Week. In Hamburg, where Telemann is said to have spent 46 years as musical director, he would have overseen as many Passions. But if we include his previous jobs, that would take the number of works by Telemann for this theme alone to over sixty! These Passions could be strictly liturgical, that is, they could closely follow the text of one of the Gospels; but they could also liberally paraphrase the story of the Passion, following a version by a contemporary author; or they could represent a meditation on the events. And so Seliges Erwägen by Telemann, whose full title leaves no doubt as to the content: Oratorio of the Passion, or Spiritual Contemplation on the bitter suffering and death of Jesus Christ, to inspire prayer, in several meditations taken from the account of the Passion. Not a linear account of the Passion, as with Bach: but a series of individual meditations set to music. The work was first composed in 1719, and then reviewed and completed three years later for Hamburg, where the first performance took place on 19 March 1722 the success was considerable, and the work was performed again and again many times throughout the following decades. This was probably the most-performed work on the Passion in the 18th century, out ahead even of Telemann's Brockes Passion... There is no evangelist here, nor storyteller, but rather an evocation of the main events of the Passion. That is why there are only two main "roles" here: Christ, with six airs and six recitations, and the allegory of the Devotion (soprano or tenor) as the mouthpiece for the thoughts of the faithful, with eight airs and eight recitations. The sole narrator is Peter, with his denial and despair, and Caiaphas, the high priest who condemns Jesus, comes on for a single, very violent, air. This is very much a series of individual devotional meditations. The instrumentation in particular is extraordinarily rich. Alongside the strings, the continuo and the standard woodwind, a dash of colour is added by two horns, two chalumeaux, ancestors of the clarinet – what a pity that Bach never made the most of this sound – echoing recorders, a magnificent bassoon solo that intermingles with the soprano's voice; in short, once again, Teleman proves to us that far from being a mill for middle-of-the-road baroque, he is in fact one of the most imposing musical minds of his age. The Freiburger Barockorchester and a lovely soloists come together to perform this work.. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 23, 2018 | Pan Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Every single note of this astounding mass of the Holy Virgin from Ghiselin Danckerts (1510-1567) is from the hand of the composer. The remark is by no means trivial, because at the time a good part of the Gregorian repertoire was the subject of thousands of improvisations, unannotated by definition. Yet, Danckerts annotated them, with a luxury of details, so we know precisely what the choirs and the soloists were singing and what they were improvising on the Gregorian sections of his mass (the introit, the hallelujah,…), a great rarity then, all the more so that the composer doesn’t hesitate to reproduce a few singular dissonances coming from implacable melodic logics. He is incidentally known for a few writings in which he clarifies with exactitude the art and the way to sing the sharp notes and the flat notes, to unfold the melisma, etc. Naturally, the polyphonic acts themselves (Kyrie, Credo, etc.) are also the subject of an extravagant harmonic and melodic profusion. It is hard to believe that this music is almost already half a millennium old. Danckerts was accepted as a singer in the papal chapel in 1538 and only left in 1565, not exactly his own choosing since according to his firing letter, he was accused of not having a voice anymore, to indulge in the pleasures with women, to be insanely rich and to be too sick to continue. Well, he wasn’t completely abandoned by the Church since, despite being a vile sinner, he kept on receiving his salary until his death two years later. The magnificent ensemble Cantar Lontano recorded this wonder in the captivating acoustics of two Italian baroque churches, in Pesaro and Castelbellino, neither too resounding nor too dry. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 16, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
Mass by Bernstein, first performed in 1971, defies classification. It is not really a mass in the strict sense, but more of a kind of deconstruction of a traditional mass; after all, the full title is MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers and the theme resembles a divine service which turns sour before finally discovering universal peace. At the outset, the world seems to be at one, but then "street musicians" begin questioning the need for, or even the very existence of, a god. Cacophony reigns until the cataclysmic elevation of the host, when finally peace breaks out, when the Celebrant brings everyone together around the holy spirit, before intoning a final "go in peace". Bernstein's score brings together all the myriad elements of 20th century music: jazz, blues, rock, Broadway, expressionism, dodecaphonism, modernism with a hint of Britten, street music, fanfares, classical song mixed with rock and jazz voices and Gospel recitations: a veritable Tower of Babel which is hard even to list in a single breath. But Yannick Nézet-Séguin can be trusted to knit all these disparate elements together. Note also that this is a live concert recording, with a breathtaking spatial distribution. Putting history aside, the FBI – never one to miss out on a chance to look ridiculous – decided that Mass was pacifist, anti-establishment propaganda and begged Nixon to boycott its opening night. After all, the work had been commissioned by Jackie Kennedy for the inauguration of the Washington Kennedy Center for the Arts, when America was in the middle of its Vietnamese quagmire...© SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 15, 2018 | Art House Records

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 9, 2018 | Arcana

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason découverte
Why yes, even now, in the 21st century, there are still some works by Pergolesi which are yet to be recorded! It's hard to believe that these works have been neglected for three hundred years; it's almost as if his tremendously famous Stabat Mater had thrust the rest of this composer's ample output into the shade! But here they are: these two religious works date from the end of his tragically short life, from 1730 to his death six years later. Remarkably, his Mass in D Major from 1732 or 33 (the era of La Serva padrona) was written for two choirs and two orchestras, a deliberately stereophonic effect which is very well-executed in terms of the spatial distribution of the sound and the music. But that doesn't keep the composer from deploying all the dynamic options at his disposal, rather than taking the mass as an excuse to just blast away. As for the motet Dignas laudes resonemus, it is a great Neapolitan concert motet: a monumental form, which here also uses a double choir and two distinct orchestras. The score had been lost until some contemporary orchestral material resurfaced which made it possible to reconstruct the entire work. Here we discover a more lyrical side of Pergolesi, who, let us not forget, composed ten operas, and had he not died at 26, would have surely composed dozens more pieces of even greater quality. © SM/Qobuz
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 9, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released February 16, 2018 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Diapason d'or / Arte
The cantata Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (Jesus gathered the twelve to Himself) BWV 22, holds a historic place in Bach’s work. Indeed he composed it while still in Köthen, as an audition piece for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig, and then conducted it on February 7th, 1723, maybe even singing the bass part himself. Famously the city council, unable to convince its preferred composers – Telemann, Graupner and two others –, decided to settle with “mediocre” Bach… The gospel of the day first announces his death and his resurrection by Christ and his disciplines. A modest orchestra: voices, strings, one oboe and continuo, but the musical content is – like in almost all of Bach’s cantatas – amongst the best he’s ever written. For the same celebration, Bach composed a new cantata the following year, Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott (Lord Jesus Christ, true Man and God) BWV 127. But it has almost nothing in common with the previous piece: here Bach offers a very impressive reflection on physical death. Throughout his cantatas he called for a blessed death to free himself from the vicissitudes of life on Earth, but this now reveals how much he may have feared physical death itself. The aria ”Die Seele ruht” is one of these sublime moments suspended in time, an ineffable tintinnabulum, in which the soprano and the oboe dialogue on a harrowing theme while the flutes and string pizzicatos symbolise the passing of time with incredible beauty. Finally it’s with Die Elenden sollen essen (The miserable shall eat) BWV 75 that Bach started off his work in Leipzig, in St. Nicholas Church this time, as the cantatas were alternately performed in both churches. Probably because he wanted to start with a bang, he designed this cantata on a huge scale: fourteen numbers, divided in two parts. Of course Bach would have never been able to produce such vast and powerful partitions on a weekly basis, but there is a real substance to this Passion… and it’s with great passion that Philippe Pierlot, his Ricercar Consort and the soloists perform these masterpieces. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released January 26, 2018 | Warner Classics

Distinctions Diapason d'or
Michel-Richard de Lalande was the leading composer of sacred music at the French court during the 17th Century. His Grands motets – he composed 77 – dominated the repertory of the Royal Chapel during his lifetime and after, until the 1770s in the programmes of the Concert Spirituel in Paris. His works are marked by both expressive harmonic vocabulary and contrapuntal mastery, which is exemplary in this set. Edward Higginbottom (b. 1946) developed a particular interest in French baroque music and spent time in France (1970-1972), studying the organ with Marie-Claire Alain. His love of French culture has borne fruit in many recording projects featuring French music. He has been Director of Music at New College Choir Oxford from 1976 to 2014 with which he recorded the bestseller albums "Agnus Dei I & II". The French conductor and chorus master Olivier Schneebeli studied with Pierre Dervaux and Jean-Claude Hartemann. In 1987, on the occasion of the rediscovery of Atys by Lully, he created with William Christie the chorus of Les Arts Florissants. He has made it his specialty to rediscover French sacred masterworks of the 17th and 18th centuries. © Warner Classics