SCHÜTZ Geistliche Chormusik • Hans-Christoph Rademann, cond; Dresden CCh; Cappella Sagittariana • CARUS 83232 (2 CDs: 102:29 Text and Translation)
Of the 11 collections of music that Heinrich Schütz published between 1611 and 1657, the set that has been most often recorded complete is op. 11 (1648), here presented in its ninth complete recording. Mauersberger of 1962–63 (17:6), Hennig of 1981–84, and Schmidt-Gaden of 1998 (24:4) used the formation of men and boys familiarRead more to the composer, the earliest of these having been recorded by his own Kreuzchor in Dresden. Behrmann of 1970, Smith of 1992 (17:2 and 22:4), and Suzuki of 1997 (21:5) used adult mixed choirs. Ehmann of 1968, Cordes of 1997 (22:3), and now Rademann used solo vocal ensembles, though only Cordes uses no supplementary choral voices. Mauersberger and Smith used instrumental accompaniment only in the five pieces (SWV 392, 394–97) where they are essential. Ehmann in his notes argued strongly that Schütz required instruments to play colla parte throughout, the method followed by the rest of the sets that I have heard. At least three sets, including Ehmann, Smith, and Cordes, are programmed for contrast rather than following the order of the published book. While Behrmann and Hennig have never been issued over here, the other sets have all come in for their share of praise in these pages. There is not a weak set among those I have heard.
That is not to say that there is no basis for choosing one over another. Some sets, like Rademann, have short playing time; Suzuki and Cordes add extra works, but the most significant filler is on the unheard Schmidt-Gaden, which offers alternative versions of nine pieces displaying a different choice of voices or instruments. Mauersberger has a big choir of men and boys and Smith has a big mixed choir, both without instruments (except as noted). Schmidt-Gaden has a small choir of men and boys and Suzuki has a small mixed choir, both with instruments. Cordes and Rademann have solo voices with instruments, but Rademann adds a small choral group, while Cordes occasionally assigns some parts to instruments, as in SWV 371, where he uses soprano, tenor, gamba, cornetto, and trombone, and even the big SWV 394, where he uses soprano, tenor, and five brass parts. In terms of availability (the unheard Behrmann has never even appeared on CD), one of these six versions will satisfy anyone who can decide which method of interpretation is preferred. As my changer revolves again and again, I find all six of them more than satisfactory, but Rademann is especially attractive right now.