Georg Österreich: Psalms, Cantatas

Floral design

Weser-Renaissance, Manfred Cordes
cpo 777 944-2
Der Gerechten Seelen sind in Gottes Hand, Dixit Dominus, Herr Jesu Christ wahr’ Mensch und Gott, Sie ist fest gegrünget, Und Jesus ging aus von dannen

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is the third installment of a cpo series devoted to music for the court of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf, a small but relatively influential establishment especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. After Augustin Pfleger and Johann Philipp Förtsch (both favourably reviewed in EMR) comes a disc devoted to Georg Österreich, whose “claim to fame” has hitherto been the fact that his vast music collection (or perhaps only half of it, since there is a theory that one part of his legacy followed one of his sons into the Baltic lands…) constitutes a major portion of the famous Bokemeyer Collection in the German State Library in Berlin, through which an extraordinary amount of 17th-century music has survived at all. Weser-Renaissance Bremen, who specialise in this repertoire, present five varying and substantial works, ranging from a funeral cantata at seven and a half minutes to a setting of Dixit Dominus that lasts nearer 20! Solo voices (up to five of them) combine with strings and a continuo group of bassoon, chitarrone and organ to produce rather a dark palette, throwing the often angular vocal lines into the limelight. The booklet notes try to disguise Österreich’s pseudo-counterpoint (which falls far short of the sophistication of his contemporaries) as an attempt to give the words more prominence; the fact that this is all very much 17th-century music (he died in 1735, aged over 70) weakens such an argument – perhaps he just was not interested in writing polyphony. This is – as with all of Cordes’s projects – an interesting and well worthwhile recording, with much fine singing and playing to admire. I fear it may not rescue the composer from the footnotes of musicology, though.

Brian Clark