Notes and Editorial Reviews
Martin Luther’s self-description as an “insignificant and ungifted tenor” was modest to the extreme. Schooled in the artes liberales of his time, he had a command of music theory and composition, was a skilled lutenist, and had such a gifted voice that Hans Sachs termed him the “Wittenberg Nightingale.” Whether at table or in the liturgy, music belonged to his life and his faith. As so we are now setting out on a musical journey with top soloists, the Bach Choir of Siegen, and the Johann Rosenmüller Ensemble, all under the renowned music director Ulrich Stötzel, on this CPO release for the Luther Year 2017 featuring works by his friends and by composers active in his environment, with him, or shortly after his life: Werner Fabricius, Hans Neusiedler, Thomas Stoltzer, Heinrich Schütz, Johann Eccard, Michael Praetorius, Johann Sebastian Bach, and others. The four-part cantus firmus motet based on Psalm 118: 17 is even by Luther himself.
The performances are actually very good. Fabricius’ motet that opens the disc is full of bounce and jubilation, as befits the tone of the Psalm setting. The texture and tone reminded me a bit of Monteverdi, the cries of “Jauchzet!” putting me in mind of the more jubilant elements of the 1610 Vespers. ‘Non moriar, sed vivam’ has Luther’s own setting of words from Psalm 118, and blending it with plainchant reminds you that Luther was a man steeped in the Catholic musical tradition of his time.
The climax of the disc is a cracking performance of Bach’s early cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden. It’s a prime candidate for inclusion because the text consists only of the words of Luther’s Easter hymn, and every movement uses, in some form or other, the chorale hymn that Luther wrote for it; not that you’d guess that from the booklet notes. It's brightly sung with impeccable diction, and with sparkling orchestral playing that brings to life all of Bach’s (dazzling) interpretations of Luther’s meanings.
– MusicWeb International