Funeral Music from Gottorf

Weser-Renaissance, Manfred Cordes
cpo 555 010-2
Förtsch: Ich vergesse was dahinten ist, Unser Leben währet siebenzig Jahr
Michael Österreich: Ich habe einen guten Kampf gekämpfet
Georg Österreich: Plötzlich müssen die Leute sterben, Unser keiner lebet ihn selber

This is the fourth CD that Manfred Cordes and his excellent team has devoted to music in Gottorf. Alongside music by two of the composers already featured there is a very fine work by the more famous Georg Österreich’s older brother, Michael. The opening piece is Förtsch’s lavish “Unser Leben währet siebenzig Jahr” with seven voice parts, four violins, two violas, four gambas, bassoon and continuo! The fact that it survives only in a copy might explain the rather odd passages in some verses of the central aria where the duetting alto and bass occasionally sing in octaves (a fact that the otherwise informative booklet notes fail to mention).

It is followed by the older Österreich’s setting for more modest forces of one of “the standard” funeral texts, “I have fought a good fight”, which reveals the former Thomaner’s considerable skill. The final work – the longest on the disc at over 19 minutes! – adds a pair of oboes to the ensemble. It ends with a “tremolo”-accompanied setting of a verse from “Herzlich tut mich Verlangen” (known to English speakers as “the Passion chorale”). Throughout the singing and playing as excellent, the balance between individual voices and vocal and instrumental groups is well managed, and the sound quality is very high. All in all, another success for this typically enterprising cpo series.

Brian Clark