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Classical - Released February 28, 1997 | BIS

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Classical - Released May 1, 2011 | K&K Verlagsanstalt

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K&K Verlagsanstalt's Maulbronn Monastery Edition documents the concerts given at Maulbronn Monastery, a UNESCO heritage site that, from the sounds of it, has a cavernous resonance. So devoted are K&K to presenting the concert exactly as given that there is a separate track devoted to the applause at the start of the concert; a measure that seems hardly worth taking, but at least in Hamburger Ratsmusik: Wach Auf Mein Geist it is not irresolutely connected to the first musical performance. This is a highly desirable performance, as Hamburger Ratsmusik is an ensemble headed up by superb bass-baritone Klaus Mertens featuring a simple continuo consisting of gambist Simone Eckert and Ulrich Wedemeier on theorbo. The program consists of some the earliest accompanied German lieder in the repertory -- songs by Johann Schop taken from Rist's Himlische Lieder published in Lüneberg in 1641, and others by Christoph Bernhard from his posthumously published appendix to the Dresdener Gesangbuch that initially appeared in 1649. Some of these sacred German lieder, written for performance in pious courts and not for church use, are quite long and have many verses. To break up the program, Hamburger Ratsmusik adds some appropriately sober instrumental pieces by Schop, Gottfried Tielke, Christian Herwich, and August Kühnel. Although the source is not given for Johann Rudolf Ahle's brief canticle "Alles vergehet," it certainly belongs here and provides a neat conclusion to what must have been an excellent concert. From a performance standpoint, everything about Hamburger Ratsmusik: Wach Auf Mein Geist is right; Mertens is in terrific voice and sings with his usual transparency and sensitivity, and the continuo is rhythmically flexible, bending and shifting with Mertens' delivery of the text, yet performing all of the music with a finely balanced, restrained, and tasteful sense of style. K&K Verlagsanstalt's direct to two-track recording is certainly very kind to these quiet instruments, but the reverberation in the Maulbronn Monastery carries Mertens' delicate baritone seemingly down a football field's length. By the time it reaches the end of the hall, he has well moved on in the music, and the reverberated image, brightened rather harshly by its long traversal, competes with the lied Mertens is trying to put over. It is a very hard acoustical anomaly to get used to -- in fact, one simply can't get used to it -- and comprehension of the material is made all the more difficult by the lack of texts for these works in the boutique-style booklet. K&K Verlagsanstalt's Hamburger Ratsmusik: Wach Auf Mein Geist is both exhilarating in what it offers and aggravating in what one has to put up with in listening to it, and most listeners will probably choose to forego the exhilaration in order to avoid the aggravation. © TiVo