World-premiere recording! In this exceptional and essential release, the choir, orchestra, and soloists are so thoroughly in command of the music we hear this work as it likely hasn't been heard since Homilius' time.
Dresden church composer Gottfried August Homilius was a pupil of J.S. Bach and for a time even sang in his choir in Leipzig, so it's not surprising that his cantatas and oratorios show a strong influence. Happily, this influence was not in the manner of simply copying or imitating, but rather shows itself well integrated into a personal style that seems most concerned with clarity and simplicity of expression, even in the context of extended arias and the occasional choral number.
Interestingly, in this nearly two-hour-long Passion setting there are no major choral movements until the very end--there are several very effective and tightly written shorter choruses--and even the beginning consists of two conventional chorales separated by a brief recitative. The vocal soloists, who represent various characters in the drama, carry most of the weight, consisting of numerous recitatives, occasional ariosos, and several substantial arias.
Of these last, most remarkable is a duet for sopranos, "Wir weinen dir und deiner Tugend" (We weep for you and your goodness), a miniature masterpiece that's so agreeably written (and expertly sung here) that we don't notice its more than nine-minute length. Also worth noting on the soloist front is tenor/Evangelist Jan Kobow, whose every aria (especially his first, "Dein Wort ist Geist und Kraft und Segen") is a delight to hear. And no one will be left without a surprised reaction to--and even amused appreciation for--Homilius' unusual-bordering-on-outlandish chorale setting of "Gloria sei dir gesungen" (Let a Gloria be sung unto you). Certainly no church composer from this period ever conceived such a raucous reveille of horns as an obbligato choir to a hymn tune!
The dramatic aspect of Homilius' St. John Passion doesn't even come close to that of Bach's masterpiece, but it nevertheless offers a fine example of alternative and equally popular 18th-century liturgical treatments of the crucifixion story. And because, in what Carus claims to be a world-premiere recording, the choir, orchestra, and soloists here are so thoroughly in command of the music (the choir is a boys' choir whose origins go back 700 years), we have the advantage of hearing this work as it likely hasn't been heard since Homilius' time. The sound, from Dresden's Lukaskirche, couldn't be more suitably vibrant and complementary to voices and instruments. Exceptional, and essential!
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
Also Available - Homilius: Passion Cantata
A world-premiere recording of elegant, sophisticated, and immediately ingratiating music by one of the greatest church composers of his time.