Notes and Editorial Reviews
A most attractive chamber-size interpretation of Schütz's Christmas Story, with an emphasis on light, airy textures and brisk tempos.
Although the Christmas Story is surely one of Schutz's most popular and frequently performed works, it has not often been recorded. For this anniversary year, Louis Devos has produced a new and most attractive chamber-size interpretation, using period instruments and a modest team of singers, with an emphasis on light, airy textures and brisk tempos. To my mind, his solution seems better suited to the music than does Norrington's Decca recording of 1971, with its somewhat grander scale, curious mixture of old and modern instruments, more distinguished ensemble of soloists, and its
generally expansive speeds, some of which border on the sluggish.
The central figure in this oratorio is of course the Evangelist, whose gently undulating recitatives and arioso passages serve to link the more colourful choruses and intermedia. Here the role is taken by Kurt Widmer, a quietly-spoken baritone rather than the ''good, bright tenor voice'' that Schutz specifies in his preface to the 1664 edition of the recitatives. Admittedly Widmer's reading of the part more effectively communicates the plain facts of the story than it does the drama of the situation; but this is clearly part of Devos's overall plan, which has been to play down the theatrical element and emphasize the narrative. For the shepherds, we have three excellently matched (male) altos; for the wise men, three light tenors who again blend perfectly; and the chorus of high priests and scribes is also taken by solo voices. Only Bernadette Degelin as a somewhat unimaginative and plainly terrestrial Angel is marginally disappointing. The small chorus and orchestra perform splendidly throughout.
So compact is this Christmas Story that there is room to follow it with three of the Christmas motets from Schutz's Geistliche Chormusik of 1648. These are wonderfully joyous pieces, full of subtle, slippery shifts of accent that give rise to a constantly changing sense of metre. Again, the talented Scola Cantorum Bruxelliensis perform with great flair.
-- Gramophone [10/1985]
Works on This Recording
Featured Sound Samples
Historia der Geburt Jesu Christi (Christmas Story): Zu Bethlehem im jüdischen Lande
Geistliche Chormusik: Ein Kind ist uns geboren
Be the first to review this title