SCHÜTZ: Psalmen Davids – Dorothee Mields & Marie Louise Werneburg, sop./ David Erler, alto/ Georg Poplutz & Tobias Mathger, tenors/ Stephan MacLeod, bass/ Felix Schwandtke, bass/ Dresden Chamber Choir/ Dresden Baroque Orch./ Hans-Christoph Rademann – Carus multichannel SACD 83.255 (2 discs), 1:65:48, [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The Psalms of David, 26 pieces for chorus, soloists, and orchestra, represent somewhat of a milestone for the composer in 1619. Schutz was always a forward thinker—a student of Gabrieli’s polychoral structures in Catholic Italy transferred to the climes of protestant Northern Germany, he was ever on the lookout for the newest trends in sacred music wherever they came from, and adapted much of what he found to his own use and liking. These pieces, comprehensive in their theological import and sturdily Lutheran in their assigned usage, find their home in the hearts of believers who desire most of all assurance and comfort, not in the sense of absolute salvation or easy-living Christianity, but instead of a kind of “rugged individualism” common to the Lutheran ethos at that time—only slightly so now—that yet manifests itself in a basically singing community. The pieces were widely distributed, universally praised, and though we today are familiar with only a few of the more famous—and bombastic—ones, they as a whole represent a significant development in the work of sacred music at the time and certainly a strong mile marker in the assessment of the composer’s development.
Conductor Rademann has thought through many considerations in the presentation of these pieces, not least the way that historically informed performance should sound in a spatial capacity using the means of modern technical ability, regarding the original setting as something important yet not sacrosanct, and making the requisite adjustments in that regard. Here he chooses an alternative venue similar to the original (the Castle Church in Dresden) but with more desirable space and a similar height (the Stadtkirche in Radeberg) that has marvelous quiet as well as thrilling dynamic properties, and is very much adept in the emphasis of spatial declarations among the three main groups of winds, strings, and singers, all blocked out accordingly, and beautifully presented on this marvelously engineered recording. This is high art beautifully presented, and should find an audience far beyond the confines of the early Baroque. Thus Volume 8 of the Carus complete Schutz catalog comes to a fitting conclusion.