La Tempête, Simon-Pierre Bestion
This account of Schütz’s Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi intercut with items from Johann Hermann Schein’s Israelsbrünnlein is not without its controversial aspects. Firstly the idea of presenting the music by the two composers in alternating numbers, one piece often emerging seamlessly from the previous one, is a radical idea. I can’t think the music would ever have been performed in this form at the time, but to my mind it works very well. Also controversial is the choice of the Lebanese singer Georges Abdallah for the Evangelist in the Schütz. He is described as a ‘chantre Byzantin’ and decorates Schütz’s simple recitative with an encrustation of decorative ornaments in the manner of Byzantine chant. Again, there will be those for whom this crosses a red line, but I have to say I found that Schütz’s rather long workaday recits were remarkably animated by this unorthodox (or rather orthodox in its truest sense) approach. The accompanying instruments in both the Schütz and Schein were wonderfully sonorous and expressive, and not backward in decorating their lines and even graphically evoking the dramatic quakes, storms and other circumstances of the text. This is an account which has been much thought about and meticulously prepared and, while I can see that certain aspects are difficult to justify academically, I found the resulting performance powerful, expressive and musically convincing. The wonderfully warm acoustic of the Chapel Royal at Versailles enhances the sound, and I found myself drawn into a remarkably involving account of this great music. My only two gripes are that the Schütz is not performed in its entirety, and that the programme note is in the annoying form of an interview with the director – I find that the disembodied interviewer never asks the questions I would like to have answered.
D. James Ross
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