Notes and Editorial Reviews
Litaniae de Venerabili Sacramento. Regina caeli laetare. Salve Regina, mater misericordiae. Officium defunctorum:
Robert King, cond; Carolyn Sampson, Rebecca Outram (sop); Robin Blaze (ct); James Gilchrist (ten); Michael George, Peter Harvey (bs); King’s Consort; King’s Consort Ch
HELIOS CDH55424 (73:52
Text and Translation)
This is a rerelease of Hyperion CDA67350, recorded in 2001. The three complete works on this disc don’t appear elsewhere in the current U.S. catalog, so they are welcome, indeed.
Litaniae de Venerabili Sacramento
was completed in 1727 for a Corpus Christi procession that was performed in the Saxon court’s Catholic church, so as not to anger the largely Protestant public. It is a work that packs great textural variety and contrapuntal ingenuity into a relatively short time. Passing dissonances between the vocal parts (Kyrie I) add to the theatrical character of the music, which never misses a sudden shift of tone to vary the emotional effect (
Praecelsum et admirabile
; the contrasts of mood and pacing between chorus and soloists in
Peccatores, te rogamus
). Zelenka’s deftly smiling
Regina caeli laetare
(pre-1728) is a Marian antiphon in augmented movement on three high voices, against a quickly walking bass line. The two sopranos and countertenors engage in a mix of three-part harmony to excellent effect. The five-movement
Salve Regina, mater misericordiae
of 1730 is actually an arrangement by Zelenka of an anonymous work he first copied in 1719. The scoring is attractive, but the piece as a whole lacks the distinctive style of the composer.
Four excerpts from the
conclude the disc. Composed in 1733, its 19 movements comprise a stark
followed by nine pairs of Lessons and Responses. The entire work is available with Václav Luks directing the Collegium Vocale (Accent 24244), and it furnishes strong enough competition to make that recording mandatory, if you enjoy what King does in this one. The soloists are pretty much a wash, but Luks takes a considerably faster pace than King in the
and second Lesson, along with stronger accents and a more theatrical approach to the text’s interpretation.
Five out of six of the soloists are excellent, with fine enunciation and agility, and firm tone. I am no more convinced by Michael George’s tight, congested sound in the
, however, than I was in the Philip Pickett recording (Decca 473713) of Blow’s
Venus and Adonis
. Robert King shapes the music carefully, bringing out its contrasts and intense lyricism with a subtle touch. Textures are always transparent, and due attention paid to expressive variety. With excellent timings, and a fetching new budget price, this reissue is very welcome.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal