Schütz: Johannespassion

Jan Kobow Evangelist, Harry van der Kamp Christus, Dresdner Kammerchor, Hans-Christoph Rademann
56:16
Carus 83.270
+Ach Herr, du Sohn Davids SWV-Anhang 2, Litania, Unser Herr Jesus Christus SWV496

This excellent projected edition of the complete works of Schütz reaches volume 13 and the composer’s St John Passion. A superb line-up of soloists and exquisitely accurate and idiomatic singing by this first-class German chamber choir have produced authoritative accounts of some of the composer’s lesser-known masterpieces, and the series has grown in authority as it has progressed. The CD opens with Schütz’s lovely setting of the Litania ‘Kyrie eleison’, an unfamiliar gem of the highest order of invention, beautifully sung by the soloists and choir and unbelievably receiving its premiere recording here. It concludes with two haunting motets, Unser Herr Jesus Christus in der Nacht  and Ach Herr, du Sohn Davids, another gem receiving its premiere recording. The Passion itself, of course, consists for liturgical reasons largely of unaccompanied recitative, which for those expecting Schütz’s evocative polyphony throughout may sound a little bare. In fact, the excellent Jan Kobow as the Evangelist and Harry van der Kamp as a compellingly expressive Jesus keep the momentum going, and the Johannespassion is at least interspersed with a number of choral interjections. If this liturgical peculiarity prevents Schütz’s Passion settings from numbering among his most admired works, as for example those of J. S. Bach do, it is important to understand their role in the composer’s output, and the stunning effect when the choir chimes in with polyphony after an extended monophonic episode is truly powerful. Besides which there is more than enough stunning polyphony to enjoy on this CD. Brief mention should be made, beside the excellent soloists and choir, of the continuo team, who, of course, play no part in the Passion, but have made a consistently valuable contribution to the project.

D. James Ross