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Praetorius: Mass For Christmas Morning / Mccreesh, Gabrieli


Release Date: 10/11/1994 
Label:  Archiv Produktion (Dg)   Catalog #: 439250   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Martin LutherAnonymousSamuel ScheidtJohann Hermann Schein,   ... 
Performer:  Timothy RobertsTom PhillipsTessa BonnerSarah Pendlebury,   ... 
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli ConsortGabrieli PlayersRoskilde Cathedral Boys' Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A refreshing antidote to all those unimaginative festive compilations, this beautifully presented disc demands your attention this Christmas.

Most seasonal CDs probably end up as coasters or gathering dust on a shelf somewhere but this is one festive disc that can be played all year round. As the cover points out it’s a reconstructed Lutheran Christmas service ‘as it might have been celebrated around 1620’ and it includes contributions from Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654) and Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630). But it was the prolific and talented Praetorius (born Michael Schulze) who single-handedly produced much of the Lutheran church music heard in northern Germany in the early 17th century.

What Paul
Read more McCreesh has achieved here is remarkable. He chose Roskilde Cathedral because it provides the ideal setting for this collection of hymns (chorales) and polychoral motets; the choirs and instrumental groups are arrayed on the ground floor and galleries, the congregation gathered in the nave. This attention to detail pays off handsomely, producing a realistic and airy soundstage that is as deep as it is wide. Couple this with committed playing and singing and the result is nothing short of revelatory.

The opening Processional: ‘Christum wir sollen loben schon’ is based on a melody by Luther himself, and begins with the distant treble of Anders Engberg-Pedersen, soon joined by the choir. It sounds magical, as if heard from across the fields on a still and frosty Christmas morn. The unaccompanied choir is rich but not too resonant and the Introit: ‘Puer natus in Bethlehem’ brings in the congregation – very much at the centre of the Lutheran service – as well. It is gravely beautiful music and the transition from one segment of the mass to the next appears seamless, a striking characteristic of this performance as a whole.

The soloists are very well recorded and the cathedral organ (apparently close to the sound Praetorius would have known) is powerfully felt yet always discreetly played. Surprising, perhaps, is the animation – even jollity – that this music conveys; it’s more bright-eyed and apple-cheeked than one might expect from this Reformed liturgy. Indeed, the congregation and organ really raise Roskilde’s vaulted roof with their lusty singing.

As with the Introit the Kyrie and Gloria are taken from Praetorius’s Polyhymnia caduceatrix & Panegyrica of 1619; they mark a change of emphasis, employing just the instrumentalists, organ and soloists. Austere it may seem but McCreesh ensures the rhythms are always supple, the balance between players and singers carefully judged. And for those sceptical of period performance this disc demonstrates – in abundance – just how revealing such an approach can be when it comes to detail, rhythm and overall lucidity, yet without sacrificing warmth and body (just listen to the full-blooded ‘Amen’ that ends the Gloria).

The Collect and Epistle are intoned from afar with responses from the organ and choir. It’s at moments like these that the spatial effects McCreesh strives for are most clearly audible. There is just the right amount of resonance to the voice, echoing throughout the vaulted space, and in the organ prelude that follows Timothy Roberts adds real splendour and weight to the service without turning his brief solo into a showpiece.

The Gradual hymn ’Vom himmel hoch da komm ich her’ has a robust contribution from baritone Donald Greig and some warm, full-bodied singing from the congregation. What a palpable sense of celebration there is at this point, the organ underpinning it all with such authority.

After the intoned Gospel comes Scheidt’s Credo ‘Wir glauben all an einen Gott’, again based on a melody by Luther. As the very core of the mass the Credo is sung with a deep sense of devotion, the largely unaccompanied prayer rising and filling every last corner of the cathedral. After the gentle organ prelude the congregation and organ launch into the rousing Pulpit hymn ‘Quem pastores laudavere’. As before there is a highly effective antiphonal ‘dialogue’ between the distant trebles and those gathered in the nave.

Johannes Hermann Schein’s Sonata: Padouana a 5 for cornetts, sackbuts and organ has a strange, ethereal quality, no doubt heightened by the distinctive timbres of these instruments playing together. It is reflective, a perfect precursor to the intoned Lord’s Prayer and Words of Institution that follow. Again one is struck by how expertly McCreesh weaves these disparate threads into the overall tapestry.

The Sanctus motet: ‘Jesaja dem Propheten das geschah’, culled from the Polyhymnia caduceatrix, has some bright, crystal-clear singing from the sopranos in particular, aided and abetted by the flutes, recorders and, for emphasis, that magisterial organ. The motet ends in a great panoply of sound from all the assembled forces. Quite a contrast compared with the ensuing organ prelude and Communion motets: ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ and .Uns ist ein Kindlein geborn’, which are on a much smaller, more intimate scale. Sarah Pendlebury’s still, pure soprano is ideal in the serene second motet, the harp adding an aura of warmth to both singer and choir.

The intoned Post-Communion: ‘Der Herr sei mit euch’ and the Benediction: ‘Der Herr segne dich und behüte dich’ – the latter with a sustained and radiant ‘Amen’ for choir over organ – signals the service is near its end. The congregation joins all the various forces for the ebullient final hymn ‘Puer nobis nascitur’ and the organ voluntary – with its appropriate bell-like figures – heralds the start of the Recessional: ‘In dulci jubilo’. This is the musical high point of this magnificent performance, the raised trumpets and thunder of drums bringing a distinctly martial air to the proceedings. The sopranos and organ add to the jubilant mood and the mass ends in a blaze of affirmation.

This is a disc that certainly won’t be filed away once the festivities are over. Indeed, it’s one of those rare recordings in which one seems to be eavesdropping on a live occasion, such is the warmth and spontaneity of the music making. The engineers must be commended for ensuring it all sounds so natural in terms of balance and blend; ditto Paul McCreesh and Robin A. Leaver, whose scholarly notes put the music into its historical context.

A refreshing antidote to all those unimaginative festive compilations, this beautifully presented disc demands your attention this Christmas. And at just £6-£7 it’s not just a cracker it’s also a steal.

-- Dan Morgan, MusicWeb International
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Christum wir sollen loben schon by Martin Luther
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Germany 
Language: German 
Notes: Arranged: Lucas Osiander (by 1586) 
2.
Praeambulum for Organ by Anonymous
Performer:  Timothy Roberts (Organ)
3.
Wir gläuben all an einen Gott by Martin Luther
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Germany 
Notes: Arranged: Samuel Scheidt (by 1650) 
4.
Resonet in laudibus by Anonymous
Performer:  Timothy Roberts (Organ)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: circa 1470 
5.
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern by Samuel Scheidt
Performer:  Timothy Roberts (Organ)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1650; Germany 
6.
Banchetto musicale: Canzon a 5 in A minor by Johann Hermann Schein
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Players
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1609; Leipzig, Germany 
7.
Puer natus in Bethlehem by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players,  Roskilde Cathedral Boys' Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1619; Germany 
Language: Latin 
8.
Polyhymnia caduceatrix et panegyrica: Missa gantz Teudsch - Kyrie by Michael Praetorius
Performer:  Tom Phillips (Tenor), Tessa Bonner (Soprano), Sarah Pendlebury (Soprano),
Angus Smith (Tenor)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1619; Germany 
Language: German 
9.
Polyhymnia caduceatrix et panegyrica: Missa gantz Teudsch - Gloria by Michael Praetorius
Performer:  Julian Podger (Tenor), Simon Grant (Bass), Tom Phillips (Tenor),
Sarah Pendlebury (Soprano), Angus Smith (Tenor), Robert Horn (Tenor),
Tessa Bonner (Soprano), Stephen Charlesworth (Bass)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1619; Germany 
Language: German 
10.
Musae Sioniae, Book 8: Der Herr sei mit euch by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1612; Germany 
Language: German 
11.
So schreibt der heilig Propheten Jesajas by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Germany 
Language: German 
12.
Musae Sioniae, Book 5: Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her by Michael Praetorius
Performer:  Donald Greig (Baritone), Simon Grant (Bass)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players,  Roskilde Cathedral Boys' Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1607; Germany 
Language: German 
13.
So schreibt der heilige Lukas by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Germany 
Language: German 
14.
Quem pastores by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players,  Roskilde Cathedral Boys' Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: Germany 
Language: Latin 
15.
Vater unser im Himmelreich by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1612; Germany 
Language: German 
16.
Polyhymnia caduceatrix et panegyrica: Jesaja dem Propheten das geschah by Michael Praetorius
Performer:  Simon Grant (Bass), Mark Le Brocq (Tenor), Donald Greig (Baritone),
Sarah Pendlebury (Soprano), Constanze Backes (Soprano), Angus Smith (Tenor),
Susan Hemington Jones (Soprano), Tessa Bonner (Soprano)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1619; Germany 
Language: German 
17.
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1619; Germany 
Language: German 
18.
Musae Sioniae, Book 6: Uns ist ein Kindlein heut geborn by Michael Praetorius
Performer:  Sarah Pendlebury (Soprano), Hannelore Devaere (Harp)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1609; Germany 
Language: German 
19.
Missodia Sionia: Der Herr segne dich und behüte dich by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1611; Germany 
Language: German 
20.
Musae Sioniae, Book 6: Puer nobis nascitur by Michael Praetorius
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players,  Roskilde Cathedral Boys' Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1609; Germany 
Language: Latin 
21.
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren by Michael Praetorius
Performer:  Timothy Roberts (Organ)
Period: Renaissance 
22.
In dulci jubilo by Michael Praetorius
Performer:  Tessa Bonner (Soprano), Mark Le Brocq (Tenor), Susan Hemington Jones (Soprano)
Conductor:  Paul McCreesh
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gabrieli Consort,  Gabrieli Players,  Roskilde Cathedral Boys' Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1619; Germany 
Language: Latin 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 A great recording for any time of year December 15, 2011 By clifton b. (Baltimore, MD) See All My Reviews "The singing is full of energy and polish. A delightful recording" Report Abuse
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