Kammerchor Michaelstein, Sebastian Göring
119:58 (2 CDs)
cpo 777 778-2
Though nowadays considered a secondary figure in the history of music, Johann Heinrich Rolle was actually widely respected in his own day. His oratorios were very widely disseminated and performed (even enjoying the relative luxury of being printed in vocal score format) and it is not difficult to see why – in an age that saw musical language simplified to a certain degree (complex baroque counterpoint giving way to a more tuneful style), Rolle’s works manage to combine elements of both. The 31 motets on these two CDs are perfect examples of this – and more, since they show that Rolle also understood how to vary the textures and styles within relatively short works to give them all a satisfying overall shape. The discs are taken from different recording sessions (2004 and 2006 respectively) but there is no discernible difference in the quality of the performances. If I am brutally honest, I do find the alternation between the solo ensemble and the tutti on the first disc a little unbalanced – the choir is simply too big (22 singers with single strings doubling, while the second disc has two singers per part and only lute or guitar accompaniment). Otherwise, this is a fine achievement and convincingly demonstrates that choirs need not simply jump from motets by Bach to those by Mendelssohn!