Buxtehude: Membra Jesu nostri

La Maîtrise de Garçons de Colmar, La Chapelle Rhénane, Benoît Haller
60:35
Christophorus CHR 77436

This is a recent re-issue of a live recording made in October 2007. It is made with single strings, six single voices (one soprano – Tanya Aspelmeier – only sings in cantata 6), a very large basso continuo section including harp, theorbo, organ, harpsichord, bassoon and violones in both G and D. In addition it has a choir, La Maîtrise de Garçons de Colmar, employed largely to give weight to the biblical texts in some numbers.  This is a possibility suggested by Gilles Cantagrel, an excerpt from whose biography of Buxtehude published in 2006 in French forms the essay in the liner notes, and is translated into German and English. The text in Latin is translated into German and English as well.

I find the contrast between the sections with single voices and those that use the whole choir unconvincing. The single voices of Stéphanie Révidat, Salomé Haller, the haute-contre Rolf Ehlers, Julian Prégardien (T) and Benoît Arnould (B) are well blended, and are capable of fine expressive singing, occasionally marred in the sopranos by vibrato on the weak notes. The lower parts are cleaner on the whole – 12 years later, standards have changed vocally more than instrumentally. The playing is splendid, and the key progression from C minor to E flat major, G minor to D minor to A minor to E minor and then to C minor to finish give a fine series of distinct tunings (though details of instruments, pitch and temperament are not given).

The final Amen is light and bright, and has more of the vocal quality I would have liked in some of the sections with single voices. The recording balances the different vocal and instrumental lines well, though the Maîtrise is toned down till the final Amen. Who is this choir of youngsters and their director Arlette Steyer? There is nothing about them (or indeed anyone else!) in the notes.

David Stancliffe