Johann Crüger: Wach auff mein Hertz und singe

Musikalische Compagney, Holger Eichhorn
Querstand VKJK1527

The 21 tracks of this documentary CD are divided into five sections: hymns for “morning and evening”, Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and “psalms and Gloria”, separated by organ music (three pieces by Crüger’s Berlin contemporary Wilhelm Karges, and a fourth anonymous work). For each hymn, Holger Eichhorn (whose comprehensive booklet notes are full of valuable information) has chosen which verses and which versions will be performed, so different combinations of voices and instruments are heard within single tracks as well as through the sequence. While the four other sections have three hymns each (not all to texts by Paul Gerhardt, although he was Crüger’s most famous collaborator), Christmas has six (“because everyone loves singing them”, as Eichhorn puts it!) The CD consists of chorale tracks laid down in 1984 and others from 2015, while the organ music was recorded on an original instrument elsewhere in 2014. With solo voices (including boy sopranos) throughout, and “world premiere of the original scoring” printed everywhere, it seems Eichhorn believes that chorale singing was the reserve of professional singers and not congregations. While it is interesting to hear the music with the obbligato instruments, I am not convinced that that necessarily procludes proper choral singing, or indeed adults singing the melody in octaves while the “choir” sang the multi-voice settings; nor am I actually persuaded that this is how Crüger intended it to be performed/heard. Surely his books were printed and reprinted because they were used; at least some of the tracks should have explored other performance approaches. Perhaps a second disc is already in the making?

Brian Clark