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Schelle: Sacred Music / Sampson, King, King's Consort

Schelle / Sampson / King's Consort / King
Release Date: 09/13/2011 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55373   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Schelle
Performer:  Robin BlazeCarolyn SampsonPeter HarveyJames Gilchrist,   ... 
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

If you didn’t get this recording when first released this is your chance to make up for lost time. Don't miss it.

The vocal music which was written in Germany in the second half of the 17th century has long been neglected. One has the impression that hardly anything valuable was composed between, say, Heinrich Schütz and Johann Sebastian Bach. The best-known composer of this period was Dietrich Buxtehude, and even his sacred output has only been discovered fairly recently. Around 2000 Robert King devoted a series of discs to three composers who were the precedessors of Bach as Thomaskantor in Leipzig: Sebastian Knüpfer (1633-1676), Johann Schelle (1648-1701) and Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722).
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Schelle spent his formative years in the electoral chapel in Dresden, which was then under the direction of Heinrich Schütz. At the age of 16 he entered the Thomasschule in Leipzig, and he continued his studies in music with the then Thomaskantor Sebastian Knüpfer. Just 22 years old he was appointed Kantor in Eilenburg and in 1676 was elected to succeed Knüpfer as Thomaskantor. The Leipzig town council had made an excellent choice as Schelle's reputation soon spread throughout central Germany. "One contemporary witness reports that listeners 'flew in like bees' for the 'sweet honey' of Schelle's church music", Peter Wollny writes in his liner-notes. He connects it with Schelle's style of composing. "What was presented to the audience was a new style - a sweet and delightful sound, combined with carefully-chosen texts and performed with a well-developed sense for big effects and refinement".
 
The programme which Robert King has chosen for this disc represents various aspects of church music of the late 17th century. It is true that melody plays an important role in Schelle's music but that doesn't mean that he breaks away from the German tradition of counterpoint. The funeral motet Christus ist des Gesetzes Ende is an impressive example of Schelle's mastery of counterpoint. A motet like this fits well into the tradition of motet-writing by German composers of the 16th and 17th centuries, but in this piece it is enriched by a more up-to-date expressive language. Another tradition is the use of hymns in various ways. In the early 17th century Michael Praetorius composed small-scale and large-scale pieces about the hymns which had been written under the inspiration of Martin Luther. A piece like Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar, with its scoring for one vocal and three instrumental choirs is strongly reminiscent of Praetorius' large-scale chorale arrangements. Christus der ist mein Leben is also based on a hymn, but here the melody is treated in a quite different way.
 
In Herr, lehre uns bedenken various elements of 17th century German sacred music come together. It begins with a dictum, a literal quotation from the Bible. This is followed by a free poetic text in four stanzas, reflecting on mortality. Every stanza is followed by a ritornello in which the violin or the viola da gamba play a chorale often associated with death and used as funeral music. Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist (When my hour has come) and Herzlich tut mich verlangen (Very sincerely am I yearning for a blessed end) are examples. Speaking of death, one of the most moving pieces is Komm, Jesu, komm, on a text which Johann Sebastian Bach also used for one of his motets. Like Bach’s motet, Schelle's setting from 1684 - for five voices, here performed with full choir and organ - was composed for a funeral.
 
The two first pieces reflect different practices of sacred music writing in Germany. Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele is for forces comprising 25 vocalists and instrumental musicians with an alternation of tutti and solo sections. This kind of music was strongly inspired by the style practised in Venice, and is present in the oeuvre of Schütz and later Rosenmüller. It is followed by a sacred concerto for solo voice and instruments, Wohl dem, der den Herren fürchtet. The scoring for solo voice allows an evocative setting of the text, with sometimes detailed depiction of single words. Schelle's interest in melody comes especially to the fore in Gott, sende dein Licht, where he manages to keep the texture of four voices and five instruments transparent, for instance through parallel motion of various parts.
 
It is very likely that a considerable part of Schelle's oeuvre has been lost. Later generations of musicians in Leipzig treated his music with scant respect or care. It is a matter of good fortune that due to Schelle's great reputation his music was disseminated through central Germany and that about 60 cantatas from his pen have been preserved.
 
It was a great idea of Robert King to record this selection of sacred works by Johann Schelle. Not only is he an historically interesting and significant composer, his music is also of high quality and is versatile in character. The performances do full justice to Schelle's oeuvre. It seems that King has a good feeling for the character of this repertoire. The rhythmic pulse - which is quite important in this music - is well exposed. The splendour of the large-scale compositions comes off perfectly thanks to the brilliant playing of the strings and wind. The vocalists deliver fine performances too, and their voices blend very well in the tutti sections. Their phrasing and articulation in the solo sections is quite good. It is also noticeable that the pronunciation of some singers is less than perfect. That is also the case with Robin Blaze, who gives an expressive reading of Wohl dem, der den Herren fürchtet.
 
It is great that this disc has been reissued in the Helios series, like the other discs in this project, with music by Knüpfer and Kuhnau. If you didn’t purchase this recording when it was first released, this is your chance to make up for lost time. Don't miss it.
 
For those who want to hear more from Schelle I refer to these recordings:-
 
Schelle: Sacred Concertos and Cantatas - La Capella Ducale, Musica Fiata/Roland Wilson (CPO)
 
Schelle: Actus auf Weyh-Nachten, Christmas Music - La Capella Ducale, Musica Fiata/Roland Wilson (deutsche harmonia mundi)
 
Thomaskantoren vor Bach (Knüpfer, Schelle, Kuhnau) - Cantus Cölln (Harmonia mundi)
 
-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele by Johann Schelle
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1688; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 10 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Language: German 
2. Wohl dem, der den Herren fürchtet by Johann Schelle
Performer:  Robin Blaze (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 7 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Language: German 
3. Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir by Johann Schelle
Performer:  Robin Blaze (Countertenor), Carolyn Sampson (Soprano), Peter Harvey (Bass),
James Gilchrist (Tenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 10 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Language: German 
4. Herr, lehre uns bedenken by Johann Schelle
Performer:  Peter Harvey (Bass), Robin Blaze (Countertenor), Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 9 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Language: German 
5. Gott, sende dein Licht by Johann Schelle
Performer:  Peter Harvey (Bass), Robin Blaze (Countertenor), Carolyn Sampson (Soprano),
James Gilchrist (Tenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 17th Century; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 10 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Language: German 
6. Komm, Jesu, komm by Johann Schelle
Performer:  Gary Cooper (Chamber Organ)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1684; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 5 Minutes 42 Secs. 
Language: German 
7. Christus, der ist mein Leben for 5 Voices, 4 Violins, 4 Violas, Bassoon and Basso continuo by Johann Schelle
Performer:  Robin Blaze (Countertenor), James Gilchrist (Tenor), Peter Harvey (Bass),
Rebecca Outram (Soprano), Carolyn Sampson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1688-1689; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 9 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Language: German 
8. Christus ist des Gesetzes Ende by Johann Schelle
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1684 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Language: German 
9. Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar by Johann Schelle
Performer:  Carolyn Sampson (Soprano), James Gilchrist (Tenor)
Conductor:  Robert King
Orchestra/Ensemble:  King's Consort
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1688-1689; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/2000 
Venue:  St. Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, England 
Length: 8 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Language: German 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 A Feast for the Ears July 4, 2013 By Edward Greene (Bath, ME) See All My Reviews "We refer to the big Lutheran church pieces of 18th century Germany as Cantatas, but the composers themselves were more likely to use the term Concertos. This delightful and varied selection of Schelle's music shows us why the latter term is so appropriate, because these pieces are indeed spiritual concertos. Soloists alternate with the full ensemble, allegros follow adagios. Schelle is an excellent craftsman, and his counterpoint is limpid and lyrical in the manner of Corelli or Handel. The last concerto is almost a set of variations on the familiar tune Vom Himmel Hoch; each of the verses is in the same key but with constantly varying textures and settings. It's the same plan adopted by Bach in one of his earliest cantatas (No. 4: Christ lag in Todesbanden). And it works just as well." Report Abuse
 Remarkable Project from King!!! August 25, 2012 By Clifford H C. (Thompson, MB) See All My Reviews "
Schelle: Sacred Music - King's Consort

A remarkable fusion of traditional Lutheran choral with Venetian baroque. What is really remarkable is how different Johann Schelle is from his predecessor Sebastian Knopfer. In some ways Schelle sound like a throwback to a previous age. His music sometimes sound older fashion that Knopfer. This is an illusion. The depth of his writing shows remarkable restraint and refinement. He has polished his craft so well that the purity of the musical line is never lost or overshadowed. When you listen to Schelle, one sees the unbroken line of talented German composers from Heinrich Schutz to Johann Sebastian Bach, each perfecting his craft. Schelle shows his talent in its fullest in both quiet little moments when the Violin and Gamba play or when the choir sings in its full glory.

The performers show remarkable ability and sympathy for the music. Robert King gets remarkable performances from the soloists, instrumentalists and choir. Kings program of Cantors before Bach (Knupfer, Schelle and Kuhnau) is a breath of fresh air. Each recording is astonishingly polished and beautiful. Each is well worth the purchase price!!!
"
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