17 December 2008

Schütz: Geistliche Chormusik, 1648

I've not mentioned music much on this blog, which has been primarily devoted to politics. As part of an occasional foray into other topics, I introduce my few (or is it zero?) readers to my eccentric musical tastes. I tend to look askance at conventional popular music. I like a lot of it, especially from before about 1950, but it just isn't interesting enough to me to spend time with. Some so-called "World Music" and Jazz (especially with piano) is interesting, but for me, the mainstream of Western music is my main bread and butter, starting in the early Renaissance and running up to, say Bartok. I'd mention a certain disdain for the later Romantics (except Wagner and Mahler), and an emphasis, compared to most Classical music aficionados, on music before 1750.

You may have noted the famous portrait of the very serious 17th century composer Heinrich Schütz on the sidebar. Schütz was tremendously gifted, but all of his instrumental, and most of his other secular music, was lost, so we have only his formal vocal church music to go on. He was, I think unquestionably, the most talented German composer of his century, and probably second only to Monteverdi in Europe of the time (Monteverdi was about 20 years older). Oddly, although he lived until just over a decade before Bach's birth despite being almost exactly 100 years older, Schütz had next to no influence on Bach.*

I recently bought a fairly new recording of the Geistliche Chormusik of 1648, one of Schütz's most spare and serious sets of choral compositions, performed by Hans-Christoph Rademann, cond; Dresdner Kammerchor; & Cappella Sagittariana [CARUS 83232, 2 CDs, about $36]. A 1962 recording by Mauersberger is a bit too stolid for my taste, and I believe it's out of print. There are quite a few recordings of just some of the motets, but few complete sets.

There was a pretty decent 1970s era recording made (still available last I checked), by the Westfälische Kantorei under Wilhelm Ehmann. Some of these suffer from a thick texture owing to Ehmann's theory that all the vocal parts were to be doubled by instruments (there are no independent instrumental parts in these conservative, even for their time, motets). Rademann's approach, and the recording itself, are clearer and preferable, except for one or two of the motets, where his tempos seem a bit too fast to me.

See this for a review, mentioning several recordings, by J.F. Weber in Fanfare.
*(Bach was more influenced by lesser lights like his own uncle, Johann Christoph Bach, and Buxtehude and Pachelbel. Compare Bach's Motets, which are very conservative compositions for his time, to the Geistliche Chormusik, to hear the point).


  1. Greetings. I recommend the version of the Tölzer Knabenchor and the Musicalische Compagney, it's wonderful! More infos about this Cd. And I profit the occasion to recommend another Schütz-Cd with soloists of this choir. Infos here. Thank you very much.

  2. I appreciate your recommendations. I have one of these already, but I will check into the other. Some of these can only be ordered directly from Europe here in North America, where, unfortunately, this music is not particularly popular.

  3. But you can try it in the site of the choir, <a href="http://www.toelzerknabenchor.de>Here</a>
    I recommend the little sacred concertos too, you will find it at the online-shop.
    Sorry for the late reply...


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