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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released January 4, 2019 | Glossa

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Johannes Brahms’ consolatory Ein deutsches Requiem receives a fresh and considered interpretation from Daniel Reuss and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. This renowned orchestra took the decision – following the death, some years back, of Frans Brüggen – to retain its founder’s dynamic process of alternating concert tours with recordings. And dispensing with the need for having a principal conductor, the orchestra now works with a range of musicians according to the repertoire being performed. Such a conductor is Daniel Reuss, who is also the artistic director of the Cappella Amsterdam, the choir which has frequently been appearing alongside the orchestra in recent times. A well-received reading of the Beethoven Missa Solemnis involving Reuss and the orchestra was issued by Glossa in 2017 and these musical forces have now turned their attention to Johannes Brahms’ pillar of religious music. Taped in the Rotterdam De Doelen concert hall this new recording involves Carolyn Sampson (soprano) and André Morsch (baritone) as its two soloists, in a version which attempts, as far as it is possible, to get close – in terms of tonal colours, interpretation and tempi – to Brahms’ original intentions. This extraordinary work, here maintaining a sweeping and moving spirit for some 70 minutes, contains texts from Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible and, it is thought, was inspired by the loss of both the composer’s mother and also that of Robert Schumann. © Glossa
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released November 2, 2018 | Herald

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 28, 2018 | Editions Jade

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Sacred Vocal Music - Released September 28, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
It's thanks to a complete stroke of luck that several of Pierre Bouteiller's rare works have been preserved for posterity, including this Messe à cinq voix. During a long journey from Paris to Strasbourg, Sébastien de Brossard – who was relying on the collegial hospitality of chapel masters at various churches along the route – found himself lodging with Bouteiller, who was working at Châlons-sur-Marne. The two musicians exchanged manuscripts, including thirteen motets and the Messe pour les défunts by Bouteiller, which have been found in Brossard's private library. In order to bring these works by Brossard and Bouteiller to life, and to perform them in the manner that they were sung in their day, during funerals, Paul Agnew, leader of the Arts Florissants has chosen to insert plain-chant sections to mark different points along the cortège and the funeral rites. In the reconstruction offered in this recording, Brossard's Miserere comes sandwiched between two organ pieces – the instrumental Kyrie by André Raison – which figures in the procession towards the tomb, and then the return to the church. The time of the Sun King is reconstructed with care, right down to the choice of acoustics (the Abbey of the Holy Trinity in Lessaye, Manche) and the selection of vocalists. © SM/Qobuz
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released September 21, 2018 | Phi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
For the fourth time on the Phi label, Philippe Herreweghe presents three cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach – Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4, Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild, BWV 79, and Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80. Written at different moments in the composer’s life and based to a large extent on the works of Martin Luther, these cantatas reflect a marked taste for dramaturgy, vivid word painting and an invariably astonishing use of instruments and voices. Philippe Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale Gent give us an accomplished version of these masterpieces, confirming, if further proof were needed, their stature as ardent champions of Bach. © Outhere Music
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Cantatas (sacred) - Released June 22, 2018 | Ricercar

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Most of the works presented here by the Clematis Ensemble and countertenor Paulin Bündgen come from the rich Düben collection held by the Uppsala University. In the 17th century, Gustaf Düben was kapellmeister at the Swedish court; he had mostly gathered manuscript scores of compositions from numerous German, French, Italian and Baltic authors. It is one of the largest sources of Lutherian repertoire of the 17th century, particularly as it contains numerous in unicum scores. Among the composers featured in this piece, some were Schütz’ successors or disciples, but it’s worth mentioning that the German composers of that time – particularly Schein, Franz Tunder (who was Buxtehude’s master) and Johann Fischer – were considerably influenced by Italian baroque. You’ll notice the presence of two Bachs on this album: Johann Michael (1648-1694) and Johann Christoph (1642-1703), two second-degree cousins of Johann Sebastian. Johann Christoph Bach’s Lamento − whom his cousin described as a “deep composer” – is without a doubt one of the best-known compositions of the sacred German repertoire of the time. Like in the entire repertoire, the role of strings remains essential. This sacred piece relies on the text’s numerous descriptive effects, like a “painting in musical form”: the sharpest terms (crying, sighing, sinking…) are underlined by similar vocal and instrumental effects. This Lamento is without a doubt the perfect example of the aria à da capo form that Johann Sebastian Bach so frequently used in his sacred works. This vocal music programme is accompanied by a few instrumental pieces that can be assimilated to church music. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released June 8, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
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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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

Sacred Vocal Music - Released May 18, 2018 | DUX

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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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

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 23, 2018 | Pan Classics

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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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

Sacred Vocal Music - Released March 15, 2018 | Art House Records

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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 9, 2018 | harmonia mundi

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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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Sacred Vocal Music - Released February 23, 2018 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik - 5 étoiles de Classica
What a fascinating assembly work this is by Simon-Pierre Bestion, like creating a Grand Cru from already sublime sources. On the first hand he took The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, by Heinrich Schütz, performed as a whole – but “interspersed” with a dozen wonderful madrigals from Johann Hermann Schein’s Israelsbrünnlein. Knowing both works were made in 1623 and that Schütz and Schein were good friends, one born in 1585, the other in 86, the stars really did align perfectly. But the distinctive feature of this recording is that for Schütz’s Resurrection, the singer in the role of the evangelist is no less than Byzantine cantor Georges Abdallah, whose unique voice, elocution, magnificent art of ornamentation and micro-deviations confer this partition − deliberately designed in an archaic way – an unsuspected richness. As for Israelsbrünnlein, Bestion selected nine madrigals out of the twenty-six featured in the collection and interspersed them between each numbers of The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, thus creating a sort of new piece, co-authored by Schütz and Schein. Furthermore he redistributed Schütz’s instrumentation, initially designed for four viols, but which benefits greatly from the addition of cornets and sackbuts – creating a subtle play of sound exchanges, from one musical cell to the other. Regarding Schein, the partition was originally designed for voices, with no indication on instruments, but in line with the customs of the era, nothing prevented a line, part or cell to be assigned to an instrument or instrumental group and to exchange freely with the voices, according to the interpreters’ imagination. Some madrigals were exclusively given to the orchestral ensemble – which became a proper orchestra a-la-Gabrieli –, others were a blend of instruments and voices. As the listener may guess, here is a truly exciting album, granted very unusual and original, but extraordinarily well crafted. And of course let’s not forget the exceptional acoustics of the chapel of the Palace of Versailles, which further adds to the musical mystery of the recording. © SM/Qobuz

Sacred Vocal Music - Released January 15, 2018 | naïve classique

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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It might be hard to believe that there could still exist a "discographic world first" when it came to the works of Gounod, and harder still to imagine that it could be such a substantial piece as this. And yet… Saint François d’Assise, a little oratorio in two parts first performed in 1891, has remained obscure up until now, to the point that its very existence has proved something of a surprise. And then all of a sudden, in 1996, the manuscript came back to light quite by accident: and here is its first recording, although several recordings had been made since its rediscovery. Gounod's last oratorio, of rather more modest proportions than Rédemption or Mors et Vita, with its great unity and flavoursome, carefully-tailored archaisms, conjures up both Franciscan austerity and that fullness of sound for which Gounod had such a knack. According to the composer himself: "I wanted the first of the two tableaux to be a musical translation of that beautiful tableau by Murillo showing Christ on the cross leaning over to St. Francis and putting his arm around his neck. The second tableau would be a translation of that fine work by Giotto, The Death of St Francis, surrounded by his brothers. " Let the listener be guided by his own lights. The album is rounded off with Hymne à Sainte Cécile, also by Gounod, and then Légende de Sainte Cécile by Liszt, written in 1874; and it should come of no surprise that the work is sung in French: it is, after all, the work's original language. © SM/Qobuz

Sacred Vocal Music - Released December 1, 2017 | BIS

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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We can only welcome the appearance of new recordings of Bach's Motets: these unique works which defy classification are also often difficult to date accurately. The common factor shared by those Motets which have survived to the present day (because many were lost) appears to be the purely choral conception of the musical discourse, from end to end, the absence of instrumentation - if they are played with instruments, the latter only back up the choral parts (excluding the BWV118, initially believed to be a cantata as it was written with a small musical accompaniment, but the form remains that of a short motet, hence the uncertainty about which classification to give it) - the deliberate archaism  of the words, and the likely funereal purpose of most of the works. The Norwegian Soloists' Choir (Det Norske Solistkor) is one of the foremost Norwegian musical ensembles and one of the best chamber choirs in Europe. The choir is just as comfortable with the classical/romantic repertoire as with contemporary music and makes frequent forays into music derived from romantic national folkloric works. The ensemble was founded in 1950 by the composer Knut Nystedt, who led it for four decades. In 1990, he was succeeded by Grete Pedersen, and she now directs the group - with the help of the Allegria Ensemble, also Norwegian - for this fine recording. © SM/Qobuz

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released October 13, 2017 | SDG

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Le Choix de France Musique - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
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So much can be said about this new recording featuring among others − but as the pièce de résistance − Bach’s Magnificat, performed by John Eliot Gardiner, that we simply don’t know where to start! In 1983 – already 35 years ago! – Gardiner gave his first vision of Magnificat BWV 234 in D major; here the version in question is the BWV 234a in E flat major, the original and initial version, the – extended – one Bach wrote as soon as 1723 while the BWV 234 version (more often played nowadays) only arose from adjustments made ten years later. Of course one can debate on the advantages of one over the other but for this recording, Gardiner put emphasis on the brilliance, vibrancy and stunning virtuosity imposed by the E-flat major tone and vigorous tempi, in other words: undeniably modern! Magnificat is preceded by the Mass in F major, one of Bach’s four Lutheran masses, proper gems that are too rarely performed. It’s worth noting that most movements are recycled from previous cantatas, but with thorough rewrites of course! You’ll also find one of Gardiner’s favourite cantatas, Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet comfort, my Jesus comes), BWV 151, composed for the Christmas period. With his English Baroque Soloists, his Monteverdi Choir and a broad group of soloists (the alto parts are given to a male voice, it’s worth mentioning in case… it’s not your cup of tea), Gardiner is once again standing on top of a great success.
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 13, 2017 | Arcana

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Less famous—at least these days—than his colleague, “rival” and almost contemporary Giovanni Gabrieli, Giovanni Croce also worked in Venice, but wrote less in the sacred polychoral style and more in madrigals for four or five voices (often profane, carefree and happy) than Gabrieli. That being said, here’s some of his works for eight voices—often polychoral then—released in Venice in 1596 for the motets, and in 1605 for the Sacrae Cantiones, testimonies of his consummate art of melody and harmony. By comparison, the ensembles Voces Suaves—vocal— and Concerto Scirocco—instrumental—have chosen to include some works from the two Gabrielis, Andrea and his nephew Giovanni, and also from Guami and Merulo, all tight contemporaries going from the middle of the XVIth century to the start of the next one. Cornets, sackbuts, viols, dulcians and organs (the one built in 1565 in the Church of Mantua, in which the album is recorded, for that matter) answer to the voices in the very rich and yet intimate acoustics of the place. © SM/Qobuz
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Sacred Vocal Music - Released October 12, 2017 | Antonio Cospito